This page covers three different categories of support garments in 1938--pin-on garters, underwaists, and garter waists. That there are several grades offered in all three categories seems significant to me. Notice also that boy and girl models are equally represented. 1938 was a year in U.S. culture when support garments for long stockings began to be very prominently advertised in both Sears and Wards catalogs. Ads for long stockings were also featured saliently during the same years. This prominence lasted until about 1943-44 and then very quickly died away after the war came to an end.
Although the word "consumerism" has a modern ring, it was personal concern for an early consumer movement, the "National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry," That inspired a young traveling salesman named Aaron Montgomery Ward to start the world's first general merchandise mail-order company in 1872. Aaron Montgomery Ward was born on February 17, 1844, in Chatham, New Jersey, to a family whose forebears had served as officers in the French and Indian Wars as well as in the American Revolution. Looking for something more compatible, Monty left home and followed the river to Lake Michigan and the town of St. Joseph, county seat and market for outlying fruit orchards. Chicago was the center of the wholesale dry goods trade and in the 1860s Ward joined the leading dry goods house, Field Palmer & Leiter. As a retailer, Potter Palmer had previously built a reputation for fair dealing. Ward absorbed these principles while working as a clerk for $5. The Chicago City Directories for 1868 through 1870 listed Ward as a salesman for Wills, Greg & Co. and later for Stetthauers & Wineman, both dry goods houses. In 1870, after canvassing territory in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ward was again footloose. The plan shaping in Ward's mind was to buy goods at low cost for cash. By eliminating intermediaries, with their markups and commissions, and cutting selling costs to the bone, he could offer goods to people, however remote, at appealing prices - for cash. Since its founding in 1872, the company has literally "grown up with America" and has had a major impact on the shopping habits of a nation of consumers. Montgomery Ward & Co. discontinued its catalog operations in 1985 as part of its restructuring effort to change itself into a modern, competitive chain of value-driven specialty stores, a move which for a time saved the company. week.
We do not know a great deal about boys' hosiery in the early 19th
century. This is because boys wore long trousers covering what they
wore on their legs. We assume that boys during this period didn't need
to wear stockings above the knee (since they wouldn't show), but it is
possible that in some cases long stockings were worn anyway for warmth.
This is a subject HBC needs to pursue. Even smaller boys before
breeching didn't need long stockings because with shorter dresses they
often wore pantalettes. Our knowledge of long stockings for boys in
the second half of the 19th century is considerably fuller for two
reasons: (1) the growth of photography provides better evidence about
what boys were actually wearing and (2) the increasing popularity of
knee pants (approximately 1870 and later) made the wearing of long
stockings almost mandatory, at least for boys older than about six
years old. Bare legs and knees were thought immodest and inappropriate
for children older than five or six. Elastic hose supporters for women
and children were invented about 1875 and became the commonest means of
holding up long stockings, although round garters worn on the upper
thigh were sometimes substituted. In the later decades of the 19th
century and well into the 20th century, boys normally wore underwaists
to which the supporters were fastened by buttons or safety pins.
Alternatively, boys wore various kinds of suspender waists or skeleton
waists consisting, usually, of shoulder straps with belts or waistbands
on which the hose supporters were anchored. Boys did not wear tights
with their knee pants. After the turn of the 20th century
knicker-style trousers became popular for boys, gradually displacing
knee pants. But long stockings were still worn with knickers because
the knickers tended to be fastened above the knee. By the 1920s it
became fashionable to buckle knickers below the knee rather than above,
and knee socks often replaced long stockings. In the 1920s, short
pants (less formal than knee pants) came into style and were sometimes
worn as an alternative to knickers. Knee socks were often worn with
the new short pants (as was the common style in Great Britain). But
long stockings did not entirely die out during the 1920s, 1930s, and
early 1940s. Some mothers required their sons to wear long stockings
with short pants either for warmth or for formal or dress-up occasions
such as weddings, funerals, first communions, and the like. And since
knee socks were often hard to keep in place (they tended to fall down
even when the tops were elasticized or when worn with round garters),
some mothers insisted that long stockings with supporters be worn with
knickers or shorts for a smoother, neater, and more formal look. Long
stockings were almost invariably a single color--black, tan, or
beige--and looked more dressy with short pants or with below-the-knee
knickers than the sporty, patterned knee socks commonly sold. The
stockings also had to be knitted much longer in the 1930s because short
pants were being worn shorter and the advertisers made a point of the
supporters not showing under the new short clothes. Long stockings worn
with short pants, especially for older boys, became much less common in
the 1930s and 1940s in the United States, although they were still
prominently advertised during this period and were still worn by a
minority of boys from conservative families. But by 1945 nearly all
American boys had ceased to wear long stockings at any age, and they
suddenly disappeared from the clothing catalogs. The style persisted
in Canada a few years longer. In Europe, particularly in Germany,
Poland, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, long stockings continued to be
worn with short pants by schoolboys up until the age of about 14
although knee socks were equally common. Some boys in Germany, in more
remote areas, continued to wear long stockings into the 1960s, but they
were gradually replaced by tights, which were invented for children at
the end of the 1950s. Tights never became popular for boys in the
I am not sure when childrens stocking supporters first appeared but believe regular usage probably began in the 1870s when boys, especially older boys first began wearing kneepants--necesitating stocking supporters. Only some younger boys wore knee pants in the 1860s, but by the 1880s it was very common for boys-- even older boys to wear knee pants. As it wasn't considered proper for boys and girls, especially older ones to appear bare legged, these kneepants were mostly worn with long stockings. This led to a problem. How to hold the stockings up. This was a special problem for active boys. To address this problem, stocking supporterd were developed in both shoulder and waist styles.
This page covers three different categories of support garments in 1938--pin-on garters, underwaists, and garter waists. That there are several grades offered in all three categories seems significant to me. Notice also that boy and girl models are equally represented. 1938 was a year in U.S. culture when support garments for long stockings began to be very prominently advertised in both Sears and Wards catalogs. Ads for long stockings were also featured saliently during the same years. This prominence lasted until about 1943-44 and then very quickly died away after World War II ended.
I'm not quite sure how to explain the changing popularity of long stockings during the World War II era. We do know that long stockings were still widely worn with short pants in continental Europe at the time--especially in eastern
and northern Europe (Germany and Russia being the chief examples). Our
many photographs from Europe confirm this. Were American styles influenced by European customs just before and during the war? The same phenomenon seems to be noticeable also in Canada, although conservatism in Quebec plus the colder climate there could well have had something to do with the style. There was certainly no equivalent in Britain and France, however, countries that continued to dress boys
in short pants but that favored knee socks rather than long stockings. This was also the period in America when knickers for boys up to about 16 reached their zenith and then rapidly declined. Both long stockings with short pants and knickers with patterned knee socks (a non-European style) died out at about the same time--by 1945. One point that HBC has already mentioned elsewhere is that elastic products (such as hose supporters) became difficult to come by during the war years. Elastic at the time was made from natural rubber. The Japanese seized control of the vast proportion of the wirl's production of natural rubber when they took Malaya, Singapore, and neigboring areas (1942). This
shortage may have had something to do with the decline of long stockings, but it doesn't explain why there seems to have been a brief revival of the style in the late 1930s in America. It may be primarily fashion, but I have a feeling the War Production Board may have been involved. Les material was needed or socks than long stockings and knickers required more material than shorts, although I am not sure about longs. This combined with the shortage of elastic may have been important. Actually many knickers in the late 30s and early 40s were made with elaticised leg hems rather thn buckles. I have never been able to find any write up on the WPB regulations on such matters. I think this is a subject that deserves some wider discussion. Perhaps our HBC readers will have some opinions worth recording.
Wards in 1938-39, the period just before World War II, Wards devoted an
entire page of its Fall and Winter catalog to support garments--an
indication that long stockings were still being worn by boys and girls
between the ages of 2 and 12--and apparently fairly widely worn. The
sheer variety of products advertised here is revealing. It could be
argued that girls more than boys were wearing long stockings in the
late 1930s. Several of the ads for garter waists, for instance,
mention that waist buttons provided were for the use of "panties," and
yet we see boy models used in the advertisements as frequently as girls.
This page displays three different categories of support garments in
different styles and grades--(1) pin-on hose supporters, (2)
underwaists, and (3) garter waists. Three different grades of
detachable garters were on offer, the "thrift" type at only 9 cents a
pair, a better grade at 16 cents a pair, and finally the famous Hickory
brand (the best and most widely advertised brand name) at 18 cents a
pair. It is worth noticing that the two cheaper grades of supporters
were availalbe in white only, while the Hickory brand could be had in
either white or black. This is a good indication that white supporters
had become the standard color in the mid and late 1930s although black
was still available. The preference for white hose supporters seems to
have paralleled the shift from black to beige or tan long stockings.
One feature worth noting here is the claim that the metal fittings of
the garters were "rust proof," an indication that they were expected to
be washed from time to time in the laundry. We know, however, that
supporters and other elastic products that were frequently washed,
especially in hot water, lost their elasticity fairly quickly and had
to be replaced.
Ward's offered several garters or hose supporters. Because the image we have was cropped, we can not see all of them.
The ad copy read, "Hose supporters of sturdy mercerized Lisle elastic. Flat buttons won't show. Pivot type non-elastic pendants. Rust proof metal fittings.
White only. Age-Sizes 2-4, 4-6, 6-9, 9-12. State age size. Shipping
weight 2 oz. 31 A 2081 Pair, 16 c."
The Ward's ad copy read, "Famous quality Hose Supporters. Firmly sewn, long-wearing Lisle elastic tops. Easily adjustable rustproof metal fittings. Non-elastic pendants. Our very best. Colors: White, black. Age-Sizes 2-4, 4-6,
6-9, 9-12. State age-size, color. Shipping weight 2 oz. 31 A 2082
Pair, 18 c."
The ad copy for this item is unfortunately cropped.
Two kinds of Underwaists are offered here, no doubt juxtaposed to the
ads for garters because mothers would often buy the underwaists and the
pin-on garters for attachment to them at the same time. The first
underwaist is made of cambric, has reinforced straps over the shoulders
to support the buttons and garter tabs, and buttons down the back. This
garment was designed for boys and girls from 2 to 8. The alternative
was a knitted style of Underwaist, also reinforced with tapes over the
shoulder, that came equipped with taped-on buttons for outer clothing
and metal pinning tubes for attaching supporters. The knitted waist
came in age sizes from 2 to 12 but seems to have been favored by older
children. It was also warmer for winter wear and served as an
additional layer of underwear over the chest.
The Ward's ad copy read, "A fine Cotton Underwaist that's strongly reinforced from the shoulders. Taped-on buttons. Strongly made, comfortably cut. Gathered in
front. Button back. Color: White. Even Age-Sizes 2-8. State age
size. Shipping weight, each 3 oz.; two 5 oz. 31 A 2042 Each 23 c. Two
for 45 c."
The Ward's ad copy read, "Fine elastic knit Underwaist, warm and stretchy. Firmly reinforced shoulder straps. Taped-on bone buttons with metal pinning tubes for garters. Color: White. Age-Sizes 2-12. State Age-Size. Shipping
weight, each 4 oz.; two, 7 oz. 31 A 2000 23 c."
Four different styles of garter waist are also advertised for mothers
who preferred to purchase a waist with garters already supplied. One
of these is a style of shoulder garters with no other function than to
support long stockings and comes in sizes to fit both children and
"Misses". A boy of about 8 or 9 models it in the illustration. The
other three garter waists all feature waistbands with buttons for
additional clothing and have detachable hose supporters that fasten
onto a waist band by either buttons or safety pins. One of these
garter waists, worn in the illustration by a boy of about 10, can be
buttoned either in front or in back according to choice. Rather
curiously, the boy in the ad wears his waist buttoned in back. One
supposes that most boys would have preferred the front opening as much
easier to manage. But this waist is shown buttoned in back perhaps only
to indicate to the buyer that both options were available to wearers.
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