American Mail Order Catalogs with Boys Clothings: Sears Fall-Winter 1940-41 Catalog--Garter Waists

Figure 1.-- Here are two of the garter waists offered by Sears in 1940, the all lastic and the Kern's style. Notice the buttons at the waist which could be used for button-on clothing.

Sears garter waist is a device to support long stockings. Sears in its 1940-41 Catalog, Fall and Winter catalog (p. 695) offered garter waists. Sears offered three different styles of garter waist. Interestingly, the models are all for boys (about 8 to 10 years of age, apparently) although these waists are designed for girls as well as boys. Actually both long stockings and these garter waists in 1940 were more commonly worn by girls, so the illustration is a bit misleading. These styles were on offer at the beginning of World War II in the U.S.


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. In 1895 Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) bought Roebuck's interest 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 te first expropriated store in 1960. The Sears-Roebuck 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.


These long stockings were offered in the Sears 1940-41 Fall and Winter catalog. They would thus be purchased primarily for going back to school.

Garter Waists

Sears offered three different types of garter waists.

Type 1: All Elastic Garter Waist

The Sears ad copy reads "All Elastic Garter Waist. Sturdy mercerized elastic. Button at waist. Adjustable at shoulders and garters for a perfect fit. All elastic construction gives maximum comfort. Even Sizes: 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12. Washable. Shipping weight, 3 ounces. 25 F 5434--Each 42 c." This is the only waist shown that has four individual garters, two in back and two in front, instead of the more usual Y-shaped arrangement at either hip. In this respect this waist resembles the German Leibchen as illustrated in the German film, Aimee and Jaguar, which shows four individual garters attached to a bodice. [HBC link here]. There is no chest strap in this model, but the straps do cross in back. Slipping from the shoulders was less of a problem, apparently, because of the all-elastic construction. Note that the boy wears a short-sleeved but long-legged union suit under his garter waist. The long underwear would have to be very form-fitting under the stockings to prevent a lumpy appearance. No buttons are provided for the attachment of additional clothing. The only button is the one on the front for the purposes of closure.

Type 2: Kern's Child's Waist

This is the Sears version of Dr. Parker's garter waist, here referred to as "Kern's Child's Waist." This model has two straps across the back to prevent slipping plus the traditional one across the chest. There are buttons around the waistband for "outer garments" such as short pants. The Y-shaped supporters are fastened to the waistband by means of safety pins and are presumably detachable. Notice that this style is for boys and girls as old as 14, although the boy in the image looks as though he were about 9 or 10. Unlike the other models shown, he wears a short legged union suit rather than long johns with his long stockings. In addition to the closure button in front, there is an additional lower button which secures the waistband of the garter waist to a front button on his union suit. The ad copy reads: "Kern's Child's Waist. Adjustable at shoulders and garters. Straps prevent slipping from shoulders. Buttons for outer garments. Even sizes 2 to 14. State size. Shipping wt. 4 oz. 25 F 5433 Each 39c. Above style, lighter weight. Even Sizes: 2 to 12. State size. Shipping weight, 3 ounces. 25 F 5432 Each 23 c."

Type 3: Kern's `Dandy' Cotton Tape Garter Waist

This type of garter waist emphasizes durability and strength, underlining the claim that the supporters won't break or easily give way under the kind of strain that hyperactive boys would inevitably put on them. Two of the wearer's playmates in winter union suits are tugging on the as yet unattached supporters of the boy's right side, while the boy in the garter waist reacts to their teasing with the slogan, "Pull--Pull--Pull--But you Fellows Can't Break My Garter Waist." An insert then explains the reasons: "Here's Why: Stretchy Live Elastic; Best Closely Woven Tape; Strongly Sewn Throughout." The ad copy underneath the picture reads: "Kern's `Dandy' Cotton Tape Garter Waist. Strong cotton tape with live elastic adjustable hose supporters. Saves mother's time ... no buttons, any tot can slip it on without help. Light, comfortable, hangs entirely from the shoulders ... allows your child complete freedom of movement, does not hinder circulation. Straps across front and back prevent slipping from shoulders. Easy to wash. 25 F 5431--Shipping weight, 3 ounces. Each 35 c."

Pin-on Garters

Pin-on Garters in two qualities are also offered separately on the same Sears page. These can be worn with standard underwaists/pantywaists or with waist union suits both of which had metal pinning tubes or tape loops for their attachment. They can also serve as replacements for the detachable supporters on the Dr. Parker style of garter waist.


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Created: 12:13 AM 9/21/20043
Last updated: 12:13 AM 9/21/2004