Thursday, January 5, 2012

5 January 1933 “Under things and Dainties: What to Wear Under There and The Beginning of Youth Worship”

I took time yesterday to go to a few of our local bookshops hunting down some vintage cooking and other 1930’s era books. I found a few lovely little books which I will share with you as well as awaiting some things in the mail.

Here I am already five days in and I feel a bit behind in all I want to do and share. I still feel, myself, a bit 1950’s. I would like to get my hair bobbed soon and get a few dresses sewn in more Art Deco/1930’s fashion and print. This lead me to think about my girdle.

My old friend has been with me now these past three years. I actually have a few, one that is legged and two open bottomed. I actually prefer the legged for winter and also when I rode my bike in the cooler weather (my bathing suit often being the undergarment for my summer dress when my bike ride was destined for the beach. Which, this Summer, was often the case.)

I recall how odd it felt, that first time and even an hilarious situation with one of my more cinching girdles, when some vintage gals and I headed to a local 50’s Diner after shopping and I had to retreat to the little gal’s room to alleviate myself of it, discreetly rolling it into the arm of my coat, thank goodness it had been winter! But, overall, she and I have had some fun and glamorous times. Though she often followed me into some of the daily drudgery of my chores, sometimes forgetting to take her off for the ease of cleaning. It is a funny thing how quickly we become accustomed to things, we humans, and much as the ladies of the Victorian age with their corsets, I often just forget about it.

Now, the looser look of the 1920’s, quite liberating from previous decades, has lead to a more streamline higher waist-ed look. The ‘return of the waist’ it was touted in the early 1930’s. 1933fashion 1930sfashion Yet, in the drawings of the time we see almost modern model thin bodies being portrayed with no hips at all.  Nary a hip is to be seen and the rail thin boyish figure is still the desirable one, though not often attainable. katherinehepburn And many of the stars of the day were a bit fuller with the exception of Katherine Hepburn who was the epitome of the natural lanky easy glamour of the thirties with just a bit of rugged cheeked Yankee stoicism thrown in.

Well, back to my old faithful girdle. I thought, “Well, old gal, do we continue on or do we part ways for a year?”  I wasn’t sure. Did women wear girdles in the 1930’s. I know there was a sort of flattening corset sometimes worn in the 20’s for we fuller figured gals to press us into the straight tube required for the lower waist.

So, I found this interesting little film from 1929. And the the ‘bra’ and full bloomers look so loose and, well, comfortable. In fact one pair look considerably a lot like my husband’s boxers! Let’s watch:

I get the feeling I will be a bit freer in the waist line this year. Of course, I must remember I am an ‘older’ homemaker and would certainly remember corsets. In fact, in doing the math I realized that at my age in 1933 I would have been a young woman in the 19teens. I would most certainly have worn corsets, had long hair most likely in a Gibson style before the lower styles, but still long, came into fashion. That got me thinking about 1912 fashions.

1912 Though here we see some newer haute couture looks of 1912 here (including a hint at hat and low waist styles to come in Vogue in the 1920’s) these would have most likely been worn by the upper classes who could afford a yearly trip to Paris and the House of Worth and their ilk. For an upstanding middle class gal, one would still have kept a bit of the early 1900’s in her wardrobe, even a bit Gibson girl, like these pictured here also in 1912.middleclass1912

And I certainly would recall such fun winter sports as skating and hockey with my friends in long skirts and certainly corsets, as these rugged girls in 1912 are sporting. skating1912 So, again, putting myself into the context of the time with age considerations really throws in more to think about. Would I still be wearing a corset type garment? Yet, being younger in WWI, perhaps getting rid of them would have seemed normal as well?

An interesting and rather tongue and cheek look at this parallel of the old corset wearing aged and the free spirited youth is portrayed in this ironic and a bit risqué little film here, entitled how to undress. Though made at the time as a funny comedy, there is much in it for the historical recreationist or time traveler as myself. What goes under the clothes is as important as what goes over them.

Certainly the worship of youth and veneration for the young over the old took off like blazes in the 1920’s. The Bright young things and the new youth had access to cars and booze and cigarettes, things never done nor imagines in their parents generation. The Great War was a liberator in many senses, but it also liberated a bit of sense from the common psyche in my opinion. Of course, this might just be me becoming ever more the old Yankee curmudgeon, but I do think the youth worship and almost complete ignoring and invisibility of the old in our culture leads many young people to feel they know more than they might and for middle aged people to fear, every day, the drawing times of humiliation in aging.

In this farce film from we can see this. Thus, I wanted to share it first for the great display of 1930’s undergarments and evening clothes, but also to show the growing worship of youth coming of age in these changing times.

We see the older woman, ostensibly the ‘wrong way to undress’ had that shape we often see portrayed in old 30’s films of the older stout woman.  They always showed a great sweeping bosom rather low a tucked in lower waist area. This, actually, is simply the aging physique and the continued look once thought all the fashion of the Gibson Girl era.

1900fashion Here we see the full sweep of the breast set low to a tightened corset below the bosom and also jutting the backside out. This was called the “S” curve and the older actress in this film in 1937 would have been this lovely lady in her 20’ in 1900. The last of the corset crew, really, and we can see, as would have been the norm. the older ladies would have held onto their corsets in many ways. In early 1930’s films we often see the 1930’s slim line natural waist-ed look simply built over this 1900 S curve corset in the larger older woman. But that older stout matronly woman was once the vibrant young Gibson Girl of her era:

I find it fascinating how ones youth fashion often carries over to the present. This, today, may no longer be the case as the actual ‘style or shared look’ of the time seems to have sort of left us in the middle 1970’s. Certainly we can see a film and identify it as 70’s 80’s or 90’s by the fashion, but the idea of a shared look all women strive for and a foundation to build that look on really left us after the 60’s, I think. There wasn’t, per say, a foundation look of the 70’s or 80’s most women shared.

So, the jury is still out, but I might find simply I wear a girdle some of the time, but I am determined to make a pattern to make some of these under things for myself.

Now, all this talk of clothing has made me feel a bad homemaker. Here we are five days in and I haven't even shared a recipe yet. Well, so many things to do and so much to write about, I do promise we shall get into the kitchen to talk about more than just decorating it. But, a gal likes to do a job thoroughly. While I am still on the topic of one’s appearance however, I have also been contemplating my hairstyle. And thinks something along the lines of this picture of Joan Bennet in 1935 would be lovely. I will, of course, share my hair cut/style with you which I am sure may be a first time mess, but I shall get the hang of it in time.

Just so I don’t feel a total lout of a homemaker, I will share one of the more exotic or actually really basic foods I am beginning to see in my older cookbooks. This is not canned, cheese whiz cooking of the 1950’s that is for sure. This recipe, Swedish in origin, is from one of my ‘new’ late 20’s cookbooks. It was put out by the First Swedish Lutheran Church of Brockton, Mass.

Despite its rather unfortunate sounding name,  it actually sounds quite good and I will try it. I adore liver, but I suppose one could substitute another meat. But I think offal is so rich that it often imparts flavors not quite achieved with muscle meat.


Soon we can begin delving into more cooking and cleaning 1930’s style. And do excuse my initial days here in the hard hit Depression with flights of fancy concerning kitchen decor and fashion. But, I think, even the most hard hit had to have some joy and this often was simply dreaming for an hour in the pictures. It isn’t a surprise most of the films of the Golden Era of Hollywood dealt with the fun and frivolity of the upper class and elegantly rich. An hour of cooled or heated air and no worries must have been a much need balm to the fevered brows of many during these hard times.

goldendatebridge1 And, in the news, today in 1933, the Golden Gate bridge begins its construction in San Francisco CA. That must have been a sight to behold, I am sure. I want to begin recording more of the news and happenings of the day as well. Now, I must get back to work, there is much to do.

Happy Homemaking.

 Search The Apron Revolution