Advertisements for Boys Clothings: Sears Free-Play Supporters/Waists (Fall-Winter 1937-38)

Figure 1.-- This is the Dr. Parker style waist, mentioned on previous HBC pages, but here labeled simply as "Kern's 'Daisy' Waist". They were offered in two styles in sizes 2-14 and 2-12 years. I'm not sure why there was a difference,

Children, mostly younger children were still wearing long stockings. Sears offered several styles of waists for use as stocking supporters in its Fall-Winter 1937-38 catalog.


The Sears, Roebuck and Co., huge merchandising firm centered in Chicago was founded by Richard W. Sears (1863-1914) and A.C. Roebuck (1864-1948). Sears had begun a career in mail-order business in Minnesota 1886. In Chicago he and Roebuck joined resources and formed a corporation in 1893 as a mail-order business under title Sears, Roebuck and Company. The catalog by the 1890s included just about any imaginable item. You could even purchase a complete house--all you had to do was assembkle it. In 1895 Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) bought Roebuck's interest the in firm and became president on Sears's retirement 1908. A retail-store system was added 1925. The first foreign store added in Havana, Cuba during 1945 and becane the first expropriated store in 1960. The Sears-Roebuck catalog brought the production of industry to the fartherest corner of rural America, opening the cornucopia of the consumer age to rural America. All the new things that were changing American life danced across their pages. Through it, a huge Chicago warehouse offers to modernize the farms and small towns of the Midwest.


The hosiery seen here was offered in the Sears Fall and Winter Catalog, 1937-38.

Garter Waists

This category applies to a broad variety of devices for holding up long stockings. Theoretically it would apply to any garment worn on the upper body used for this purpose (including underwaists, pantywaists, and suspender waists). But HBC uses the term to apply specifically to waists with hose supporters already attached, even though in some cases these supporters are detachable. Most of these garments are designed to have the strain of the garters carried by the child’s shoulders. Some have waistbands and some do not, but all are worn under the outer clothing and therefore as a species of children’s underwear. One of the first such garments we notice was in the Sears 1902 catalog Sears refers to a "combination belt and supporter, but the garment was essentially a garter waist. The use of different terms somewhat complicates the assessment if the garments. Interestingly, even when the wearing of long stockings was supposedly declining in the late 1930s and early 1940s, a proliferation of styles of garter waist became very prominent in the Sears and Wards catalogs of this period. We have more different styles for this period than for any other on HBC. A good example is the Sears 1939 garter waists.

Figure 2.-- The style here is Kern's "Dandy" Child's waist. The model is a girl, but the waist was meant for both boys and girls.

Long Stockings

In 1937-38 boys and girls continued to wear long stockings. The boys wore them with both short pants and with knickers (in the latter case because their mothers preferred the more formal look of plain colored stockings that stayed up rather than the patterned knee socks that tended to fall down and look untidy). So garter waists were still sold in a variety of styles.


One of the styles is the "Dr. Parker" style but doesn't get called this. The Sears term is "Sears Daisy". It is interesting that, again, two out of the three models are boys rather than girls (which seems to be the trend in the Sears ads in the late 1930s and early 1940s). Also note that the title for the ad is not "Garter Waists" (although this is what they are) but "Free-play Supporters". I suppose that is the term to be used for the general heading, although garter waists is just alternative language for the same thing. Here we have three styles advertised by Sears. Although garter waists were essentially unisex--worn by both genders, it is interesting to note that two out of the three models are boys. The age levels for these waists was from 2 to 14 although in one case the oldest age available is 12. The general heading for the ad reads "Children's Freeplay Supporters--Adjustable--Light-- Comnfortable." One interesting feature of the advertisement is that the children are all shown wearing short-leg union suits rather than long-legged ones even though the season of the catalog is Fall and Winter. The practice of wearing long stockings over long underwear continued in some rural areas or in northern climates where the weather could be severe, but, increasingly, the wearing of long stockings was less for warmth than for reasons of dressiness and formality.

Kern's "Daisy" Button Waist

This is the Dr. Parker style waist, mentioned on previous HBC pages, but here labeled simply as "Kern's 'Daisy' Waist" (figure 1). The Sears ad cooy reads, "For boys or girls. Durable white cotton tape with adjustable elastic hose supporters. Extra buttons on sides, back, and front [for the attachment of outer clothing]. Straps across back and front prevent slipping. White. Sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 years. State age size. Shipping weight 4 oz. 25 F 5433. 39 c." This style of waist has detachable supporters fastened to the waist by passing the safety pin of the supporters through a pin tube. On this model, therefore, the supporters could be replaced if they wore out.] Style as above but of lighter weight white cotton tape. Sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 years. Shipping wt., 3 oz. 15 F 5432. 23 c. each." We suspect that by 1937-38 that most of the older children 12-14 years of age wearing long stockings and these waists were girls.

Figure 3.--This is the Double Sateen Button Waist. It was the most expensive waist offered by Sears. It was for boys and girls and done in sizes 2-14 years.

Kern's "Dandy" Child's Waist

The Seas ad copy read, "Such an easy fitting style, it's no wonder children like wearing it. Strong white cotton tape with adjustable elastic hose supporters. Light, comfortable, hands entirely from shoulders--no strain elsewhere. Allows perfect freedom of movement--also acts as shoulder brace. Straps across front and back to prevent slipping. Scientifically designed for children. White only. Sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 years. State age size. Shipping weight, 3 ounces. 25 F 5431. 35 c. each." [HBC note: This style has no buttons for the attachment of outer clothing and therefore functions only as a supporter for stockings.]

Double Sateen Button Waist

The Sears ad copy read, "Kern's best quality at a Sears low price. Double thickness of soft sateen--firmly-stitched and reinforced at points of greatest wear. More comfortable because the soft sateen is over hips where supporters often pull or rub. Suitable for boy or girl. Extra buttons at sides, back and front for fastening bloomers or panties. Adjustable hose supporters. White only. Sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 years. State age size. Shipping weight 3 ounces. 25 F 5430 59 c. each." The supporters on this model are not detachable. Notice that the chest strap has a button closure, unique to this model. This waist is clearly for the more upscale market, emphasizing, as it does, the special comfort feature of soft sateen over the hips to eliminate any uncomfortable chafing."


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Created: 3:23 AM 10/5/2004
Last updated: 3:23 AM 10/5/2004