Month of Vintage Underwear: Sourcing True Vintage Lingerie

“Where do you even get those things?”

Since you can’t pick up a 1950 girdle at Target, I often get questions about just where my underwear comes from. The short answer is: “Dead people. Almost every time.”

Ebay finds, 2014. I.e. most of my true vintage underthings (the black one is repro).
Most of my true vintage underthings (the black one is repro)..

The longer answer is the following sources:

Continue reading “Month of Vintage Underwear: Sourcing True Vintage Lingerie”

Day 12: In Which I Discover a Valuable Resource

You guys. Someone has uploaded all of the images from lots of Sears Christmas catalogs.

"A festive array of panties." Enough said.
“A festive array of panties.” Enough said.

This is fantastic news, because the Sears catalog is an excellent look at what ordinary people were buying, wearing, and using in their respective periods. Sears sold basically everything, so the catalogs are great for researching everything from sweater styles to toy fire engines to rifles. And it’s great for researching underwear.

Since most people didn’t get their pictures taken in their underwear, there are limited pictorial sources for the average woman and her underpinnings. While photos of burlesque performers and pin-up girls in underwear certainly provide us with some information, those are…very curated ensembles. Give me the Sears catalog for the inside track on the American woman and her underwear.

And oh, such underwear have I found.

So much that I’ve created a Pinterest board of it all. Yes, a Pinterest board. Hush, ye naysayers!

Here are a few of the highlights:

The bras of 1944. Note the variety of cup shapes.
The bras of 1944. Note the cup shapes. Hollywood is more va-voom and bulleted, Maiden Form a little more demure.


1962 Pettipants.
1962 Pettipants.


1952. So many varieties of stocking heel--look closely.
1952. So many varieties of stocking heel–look closely.

I’ll be adding to the board as I work my way through the archives!


Five Things Not to Do in Vintage Underwear

No pictures today, because I’ve been forgetting to have my official photographer take my picture when I get home. Also, it’s dark when I get home, which makes for lousy pictures. Living on the eastern edge of the central time zone means that Daylight Savings knocks us flat in November. “Whhhhhhhhy is it sooooooo dark?” we, the people of Chicago, collectively wail.

Anyhow, I’ve been active and wearing my underpinnings since last we updated, and I have compiled the following list of ten things not to do in vintage underwear.

1. Don’t attend a football game in a girdle.  I wore my light, hardly at all compressing one, and a long line bra, and it was okay. At first, I was going to wear much tighter foundations, and then I thought about sitting in bleachers and came to my senses. On the plus side, I was probably much warmer than people who didn’t cover their cores so effectively.

2. Don’t wear stocking with garters to an audition when you’re doing a monologue you usually perform while sitting slouchily. (On the other hand, perhaps I increased my air of mystery with my garter flashing.)

3. Don’t make out with someone while wearing a girdle. It’s mean to try to make another person take it off.  Take it off yourself. Also, you might make a slight popping noise when it’s removed, much like a Pillsbury canned biscuit, which could kill the mood.

4. Running is just out. Don’t even.

5. I haven’t tried it, but I imagine cartwheels wouldn’t go well.

Vintage Underwear Challenge Days 3-5

Just a little check in.

On November 3, I wore:

  • A brand new long line black bullet bra.
  • The same vintage stretch girdle as day 2.
  • Long johns turned into knickers.
  • Stockings clipped to garters.
My bra is repro, my table and chairs are not.
My bra is repro, my table and chairs are not.

In This Getup I:

  • Went to my job.
  • Sat at a desk most of the day.



  • Perfectly comfortable.
  • Had one moment when I thought my garter had come undone. False alarm!


Day 4

On November 4th I wore:

  • Same repro bra.
  • The heavy duty girdle from the first day.
  • Leggings.

    This is an entirely appropriate situation for dancing with toddlers.
    This is an entirely appropriate situation for dancing with toddlers.

In This Getup I:

  • Drove a car
  • Voted!
  • Taught a toddler music class.
  • Went to my office job.



  • Teaching class was surprisingly possible.
  • My bra did eventually get uncomfortable, but only after I’d been wearing it eight hours.
  • I did not wear these things during my dance rehearsal that night, because that just seemed silly.
  • But I did put them back on after.


Day 5

Today I wore:

  • A Rago girdle that is probably a little older, but I’m not sure it qualifies as vintage. Rago is a vintage brand–they’ve been manufacturing shapewear forever, in pretty much the same styles. This is the most constricting of my garments–it does not mess around.
  • My nice soft pretty long line bra.
The slip is a lie. I was wearing pants today, and didn't want to try to get a pair of leggings under the girdle, or show my underpants to the Internet.
The slip is a lie. I was wearing pants today, and didn’t want to try to get a pair of leggings under the girdle, or show my underpants to the Internet.

In This Getup I:

  • Went to work.
  • Went shopping (more on that later).
  • Went home.



  • Again, I was squished, but it really didn’t bother me most of the day.
  • This was constricting enough that I didn’t keep it on once I got home.
  • The girdle may even be slightly too small, it’s hard to tell. There’s some tug on the hooks, but man, does it work.
  • I had to change pants this morning, because the ones I put on were too big over the girdle. This is a piece of machinery.

What is the most constricting garment you own? How often do you wear it?

Vintage Underwear Day 1 & 2: It Begins

November 1,  2014. The Dawn of the Girdle.

Okay, so it isn’t that dramatic. Yesterday was the first day of the Vintage Underwear Challenge. It went pretty well.

I wore:

  • A pretty serious girdle, of unknown date, of possibly French or Canadian manufacture. I got it at a clothing swap a year or so ago. It has a u-shaped piece of boning on the tummy panel, and fastens at the side.
  • A long line bra of a sort of bullety variety, that I had altered. From eBay. Probably from the 50’s. Heavy elastic waist band.

I wore leggings over my girdle, because it was cold. I have decided that is legit. I wore it underneath for photos, because the world (or at least my mother) does not need to look at pictures of my bits.

I am making a ridiculous face, so as not to appear sexy.
I am making a ridiculous face, so as not to appear sexy.


Activities Completed in This Get Up:

  • Rode in a car.
  • Saw a play.
  • Walked a bunch.
  • Ate a lot of nachos.
  • Wore it for a good 10ish hours.


  • It really wasn’t uncomfortable. It felt like a gentle hug around my middle, without being terribly obtrusive.
  • Running to cross the street requires adjustment. I had to bring my legs straight up and down like a show pony, rather than extend my legs in front of me. I am sure this looked super dignified.
  • This ensemble definitely created more of a waist than I actually have, a teensy bit lower than my actual waist. I am unsure of what I think of this.


November 2, Return of the Girdle

Today, I wore:

  • A much lighter “roll on” style girdle, with heavy-duty stocking clips. Obtained from eBay.
  • Long-line bra, from a clothing swap.
  • Vassarette stockings (from eBay, in original packaging).

Activities Completed in This Get Up:

  • Walked short distances.
  • Went to a party.
  • Wore about 8 hours.


  • It was warmer today, but not warm enough to just wear stockings. I think I’ll eventually make a pair of bloomers, but for now, I chopped off the legs of an old pair of long johns. They came down to my stocking tops, and kept me quite comfy.
  • Real stockings are way, way sturdier than the kind sold for costumes.
  • Again, nothing felt too confining or uncomfortable.
Long john solution!
Long john solution!

So far, so good. Of course, it’s only been two days!