Underwaists were another type of support garment. Underwaists (sometimes called panty-waists) were worn by younger boys and girls to support additional underwear (such as bloomers or panties) or outer clothing (such as trousers or skirts). These bodices tended to be worn by boys only until about age 10, although some models came in ages for boys as old as 12. Some models were specifically for girls and others for boys, but the great majority of styles could be worn by both boys and girls. They tended to be made of elastic knitted fabric (and therefore rather form-fitting) or of cambric material and a bit looser. They nearly always were equipped with reinforcement straps, waist buttons, and garter tabs for attaching hose supporters. The popularity of underwaists declined in the later 1930s and early 1940s although they were still available, usually in the preferred knitted style, up until about 1945. When long stockings stopped being worn by school children, the main function of the underwaist ceased to exist.
Underwaists were another type of support garment. The purpose was to support other garments. The most important garment to be supported appears to have been long stockings, but thry were also used to support pants as well.
Underwaists were sometimes called just waists. Another term was panty-waists. This was the origin of the modern derisive term for a weak boy. We note that in the advertising for these garments, that their appropriatness for active play and sports is often sressed. See for example the ad for the Best & Co. Rugby waist. These garments are often just refered to as waists. We also notice a company referring to underwaists as corset waists.
The first underwaists that we note are in the late 19th century. This corresponds to the growing popularity of kneepants and long stockings. Knee pants and long stockings were standard boys wear in the 1890s. Girls also wore long stockings. Thus period catalogs offer stocking supporters and underwaists are one of the most important types. They were also very common in the early 20th century. Boys and girls of all ages wore long stockings and thus stocking supporters like underwaists were needed and offered in all major catalogs as well as commonly advertised in magazines. After World War I long stockings became more often worn during the Winter and by younger boys. They were also wore as dress wear to some extent. We note underwaists still prominenrly featured in the 1920s catlogs. The last prominent ads we note are from the early 1940s. Some small ads continue into the early 1950s.
Underwaists were worn by younger boys and girls to support additional underwear (such as bloomers or panties) or outer clothing (such as trousers or skirts). These bodices tended to be worn by boys only until about age 10, although some models came in ages for boys as old as 12.
Some models were specifically for girls and others for boys, but the great majority of styles could be worn by both boys and girls. The Best & Co. Rugby waist is an example of a boys underwaist.
Underwaists tended to be made in two different types of material. Some were the relatively elastic knitted fabric (and therefore rather form-fitting) like underwear. Other underwaists were made in more substantial material like cambric or denim material and therefore had a looser fit. Knitted waists were like knit underwear--elastic and close-fitting to the body like union suits and undershirts. They also served as an
extra layer of underwear for warmth in the winter time, but could be worn all year round. Cambric or jean underwaists were a bit looser and didn't cling to the body. These were also worn in both summer and winter, but were cooler and therefore perhaps preferred for summer. Older children, especially boys, seem to have preferred the knit style of underwaist. The cambric or non-knitted style was often designed for younger children (up to about 8 years) although both styles could be had in regular sizes up to 12. Both styles had the regular features of waist buttons for bloomers, for additional outer clothing such as trousers and skirts, and garter tabs
for the attachment of supporters. The garter tabs, usually at the sides, could be either tape loops or tapes with pin tubes for the safety pins of pin-on supporters. A few early waists had garter buttons
at the sides rather than tabs with loops or pin tubes.
Most boys at the turn-of-the 20th century wore black hose supporters, but white was an option for girls and younger boys. White hose supporters may have been preferred by the carriage trade. Most of our ads for supporters in the first decade and a half of the 20th century seem to show black hose support garments, perhaps because black long stockings were so common. By the 1920s and 30s white had become more popular than black--more like the color of underwear. And in the 1940s we hardly see black at all.
Underwaists nearly always were equipped with reinforcement straps, waist buttons, and garter tabs for attaching hose supporters.
The different kinds of under and support garments in the early 20th century can be confusing.
Underwaists: Underwaists should not be confused with "waist suits" (a union suits with the features of a waist) but are simply a particular kind of "underwaist" for boys. Underwaists and waist suits are different items and shouldn't be confused with each other.
Grter waists: Some what more complicated is the difference between underwaists and garter waists. Many people would use the terms interchangeably because underwaists almost always serve also as garter waists. But the term "garter waist" came into general use in the 1920s and was prominently used by the Sears and Wards catalogs to refer to two different kinds of garment during the 1930s and 1940s: (a) the classic underwaist which had garter tabs for hose supporters but not necessarily the garters themselves and (b) garments with shoulder straps of which the garters were already an integral part (such as the Dr. Parker model). On HBC we refer to the first type simply as "Underwaists" and to the second type as "garter waists" although, logically speaking, there is a certain overlap because both fulfill the same function. In the first two decades of the 20th century the term "waist" (meaning "underwaist" in this case, not a boy's blouse or shirt with waist buttons, which was another meaning of the word "waist" not relevant to our discussion) was simply assumed to have as one of its functions the attachment of hose supporters and therefore the holding up of long stockings. So an underwaist in the period 1890-1920 was obviously a kind of garter waist, although not called by that name. Underwaists were sometimes sold with supporters attached and sometimes not, but it was assumed that supporters would be worn with the garment even if sold separately. But underwaists also had other functions such as the support of additional underwear, short pants, panties, skirts, etc.; remember that underwaists were sometimes called "pantywaists") The catalog ads for waists (or underwaists)--see the Stuart Co. waists or the later Wards waists (1923, 1929)--show various kinds of sleeveless bodices. This is what HBC means by underwaist. The Best & Co Rugby waist is an example of an "underwaist" in 1903 although the same type of garment might be referred to later (say, in 1938) as a "garter waist". Our major distinction on HBC is between underwaists and garter waists. But under the latter category, we also have "Dr. Parker's Garter Waists" (a subcategory). Another category, the "Suspender Waist" also overlaps with the garter waist, but we have kept it in a separate category because it is only partially in the underwear category as the trousers suspenders are exposed and worn over the boy's shirt and only the supporters which don't show underneath the knee pants are really underwear. The real problem, of course, is that all these garments have one function in common--the support of long stockings. So the types tend to blur into each other. Also, historically, different terms have been used for the same garments, which makes things a bit confusing. I think the term garter waist started to be used in the 1920s and became very common later because, by then, underwaists were thought of mainly as stocking supporters. They had always been stocking supporters of course, but earlier in history, waists were important for other reasons also. In other words, the button-on function of waists became less and less important in the 1930s and 1940s. Notice, for instance, that waist union suits of the late 1930s and early 1940s (they served as substitutes for underwaists) have only one waist button at each side usually for the attachment of pants because the buttons weren't used very much except by very small children. The original waist union suits had more waist buttons. The main reason for buying a waist union suit in the 1930s and 1940s was for the garter tabs, not for the buttons for holding up outerclothes.
The primary purpose of an underwaist was to support long stockings. But to support the stockings, garters designed to grip the stockings had to be attached. Many mothers used safty pins, but this was not very satisfactory because it led to wear and tear on the shirt/blouse or other garments as well as the stockings. Not only was the regular material not strong enogh to stand dtress, but there was no elasticity in the arrangement. So gradually companies began to desiign more efficebt garments to support the long stockings. This was a huge potential market as virtually all American children wore long stovkings. Quite a number of individuals and companies designed a variety of items and refinements to address this problem. These garments became nore and more important as long stockings became increasingly important for both boys and girls. One of the garments created was the undewaist. This provided a sturdy garment for supporting hosery and other garments. Another step was creating the garters designed to grip the stockings with out tearing them. And finally it was necessary to design a way of attaching the garters to the waist. They were also used on waist union suits. Several methods were invented for this: 1) pin tubes, 2) eyelets, 3) and tape loops. So we are speaking here of various styles of garter tabs, i.e., ways of attaching the supporter to an underwaist or waist union suit. One of the most important methods was the pin tunbes. We note they were also called "metal garter tabs".
The popularity of underwaists declined in the later 1930s and early 1940s although they were still available, usually in the preferred knitted style, up until about 1945. When long stockings stopped being worn by school children, the main function of the underwaist ceased to exist.
An early example of the underwaist is the Best & Co Rugby waist offerred in 1903. Another example were the the underwaists Ward offered in its 1915 waist page.
Several brands of suspender waists were widely marketed in the early 20th century. One of the most popular, at least based on the extent of the advertizing, was the Kazoo suspender waists. Mostly these adds emphasized the strength and durability of these garments. For some reason we notice that in 1919 the Kazoo advertisements stressed that kazoo suspender waists were prefereed by boys than the waists suits which were depicted as a sissy garment for girls and younger boys. The ads made the point that if mothers did not get the Kazoo suspender waists for their sns, they would be teased or get into fights with other boys. We note ads in Good Housekeeping, but they may appeared in other magazines as well. Other Kazoo ads made this point, but in 1919 the Kazoo ads were much more explicit. We note one add stressing the point about teasing. Another ad made the point about fighting. We are unsure to what extent such teasing took place, but suspect it was not a fiction created by the company. These advertisements for Kazoo Boys' Suspender Waists are very valuable for HBC purposes because it illustrates older boys' attitudes toward the underwaists that they had had to wear at younger ages and that they were growing out of. Apparently the company reconsidered this ad campaign because they did not continue to promote this approach. We have no details as to why this corporate decession was made.
Most of the underwaists we have noted havebeen found in American clothing catalogs. We think this is because they were most widely worn in America, but also because we have more access to American than European catalogs. They were, however, also one in Europe. We note examples in a Paris Galaerias Lafayette catalog during 1937. The French referred to them as gilet-corset.
Children rarely write about their clothing. As adults some adults mention their childhood clothing. Almost usually this involves their outer clothing. Rarely do we find accounts of underwaists. One account we do find is that of John Espey, the son of Protestant missionaries in China. An American reader provides us details on the underwaists that he wore as a boy during the 1930s. We also note a mother in Canada describing the unkeep on undewaists for her son Emerson.
We notice corset waists being advertized in the late 19th century. An example is a newspaper advertisenent from 1890. Another example is an advertisement for a corset waist in a Good Housekeeping advertisement (1889). We are not entirely sure just what a corset waist was. We thought they might be a juvenile type of corset. We were not at first sure if there was any essential difference between a corset and corset waist. We were unsure if this was a type of corset. We are not etirely sure, but they seem to be basically an underwaist rather than a corset-like garment.
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