Retrofitting Vintage

November: Vintage Underwear Challenge

People try to do things in November. There’s NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month), there’s No-Shave November. So I decided to also try to do something in November. Something challenging, and a little silly, to fight the ridiculous drear of the fade from autumn to winter.

I decided to wear vintage or style undercrackers every day in November.

“Ha! Hahahahahaha!” said my mother. “Are you going to wear girdles? ” and then she started giggling again.

“…Okay?” said my boyfriend. (He’s not a big fan of this idea, ya’ll. A lady wearing garters and stockings might be some people’s fantasy, but not this guy.)

For the purposes of the challenge, “vintage” consists of 1940’s- early 1960’s in style. I’ve decided tights are allowed, even though they didn’t get popular until the late 60’s, because I live in the Midwest, and it’s November. And I’m wearing regular modern panties, because we don’t have our own washing machine, and I can’t justify purchasing the volume I’d need to be hygienic.

So yesterday, I got ready.

During October, in preparation for the challenge, I supplemented my underwear collection. One bra and girdle are not sufficient for daily wear. So I stalked some eBay auctions, and landed enough underwear to keep me covered (Ha, covered!) through the month.

Yesterday, I washed and fixed things, to get them in top shape (Ha, shape!). I’ve discovered that my bra size does not  translate to vintage proportions. I had a couple bras I didn’t quite fill. Okay, real talk, I filled them exactly half way. (Gentle reader, are you uncomfortable that we’re talking about my bosom?  I apologize, but this is for science.) The tops were sadly empty. Part of this is just the different shape of the cups, part is the shape of me, but some alterations were necessary. I looked up a quick alteration solution, and was pleased to find a simple solution.

Basically, you put on the bra (not pictured), pull the fabric of the cup down to where an underwire would be, if there were an underwire, and pin it. The hardest part of this is not sticking a pin directly into your breast. Be careful! Don’t do  it! That would suck! Then you take off the bra, and hand stitch the cup down. Voila! You are now filling those cups!

 

Pin the bra, not yourself.
Pin the bra, not yourself.

 

Obviously, the best solution is a well-fitting bra in the first place. If I decided to wear this kind of underwear forever, I’d get a bra that fit properly without alterations. But for the purposes of this experiment, I don’t mind a quick fix.

I followed my alterations with a little laundry. I double washed, ’cause some of my eBay finds are a little musty. I first hand washed with Lovelast Coldwater Cleanser, a lingerie soap I purchased a couple years ago at Harp’s in Birmingham, Michigan (someday I will post about Harp’s, where you can still have an actual expert bra fitting). I followed this wash up with another handwash in a great deal of  homemade laundry soap, rinsed, and hung everything to dry.

Wash, wash, wash!
Wash, wash, wash!

All set!

Here we go!

What do you think?  Is this going to be a girdled disaster?

 

 

10 comments

  1. Ha! Hahahahaa!
    Oh. What I meant to say was, this is going to be interesting. I can remember my mother struggling into one of those girdles. One of the things I am curious about is how much time this will add to your getting dressed. Keep track of that, because our inquiring minds want to know!

    1. Will do! Today it didn’t take too long. Just a girdle and a long line slightly bulleted bra.

      Planning ahead will be crucial, I think.

  2. For reals, though, I love vintage undies. Any dress that you think you may have too much bust for will automatically fit better in a bullet bra. It’s like magic. That said, elastic doesn’t age super well so I’ve had to refurb bands for a better fit and have oftentimes just accepted the necessity of the vintage rerpo.

    1. Repro is delightful. The vintage pieces I have seem like they were worn twice and then carefully stored. What are your favorite repro sources?

  3. I am very very impressed! I have to say that the only month long challenge I have even considered is not wearing jeans for a month. But my wardrobe is sadly lacking and i dont have the resources to supliment. Good for you! I wish I could see some photos of your new garments up close! Obviously though, not modeled. 🙂 I am curious about the difference between now and then and what kinds of contraptions you will be test driving

  4. This is fantastic! I’m catching up chronologically, so sorry if you’ve already answered this one, but – are underwires new? Do vintage undies not have those, or was it just the particular styles/sizes you had? (Maybe I’m more glad than I know to be part of the modern era. I’m afraid I would not last without some severe shoring up.)

  5. Hi Liz! Underwires got popular in the 1950s, though proto-versions existed before that. My vintage pieces don’t have them, but my repro bullet bra does.

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