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From the Dry Goods Economist 1909: Corsets & Undergarments

a lone woman is standing in flowing robes that is working on tying here corset that is in front of her

Cover of the Corset Section, Dry Goods Economist. November 13, 1908 (p. 11).

The previous post focused on fashion and beauty elements of the Dry Goods Economist, but fashion is more than just clothes and shoes. It also includes those things that go on under clothes. This post is not a discussion about corsets and other undergarments; it is about the business of selling them, and I decided that deserved its own post.

Trade publications like Dry Goods Economist were filled with material targeting dry goods store owners – advertisements were all about luring owners into buying their company’s products while articles and pictorials were intended to help owners sell more products by providing information about trends and new ways of doing things.

Like today, many of the advertisements and discussions related to under-the-clothes items were mostly for women’s products. In newspapers and the Dry Goods Economist there were many ads for stockings from a variety of manufacturers including a two-page spread in the November 20th issue from Louis Hermsdorf Dyer who touted his “fast blacks” and warned about “stockings that stain.” Other undergarments advertised were the triple combination from Kugel Underwear Co., the Perfect Contour Co.’s “Perfect-Contour” to create the “permanent straight-front form,” and vests sold by companies like Maline’s.

There was of course, quite a bit related to corsets.

many small images of corsets shown from both front and back back as some with the supporters with one lone model on the right posed with arms out to her side wearing white fabric wrapped closely around her with one shoulder bare

“Models in corsets and corset accessories from leading Paris makers.” Dry Goods Economist. November 13, 1909 (p. 118-119).

The November 13th issue included the “Corset Section” that featured a number of advertisements from various companies like Chas. R. De Bevoise Co., Jackson Corset Co., H. W. Gossard Company, and Royal Worcester to name just a few. However, there were also articles. One small piece discussed the considerations related to selling to “over-stout figures” (defined as “those figures requiring a corset of more than 30 inches waist measure” p. 116) where “beauty lies in proportion” while another looked at the complicated business of selling corsets where fitting was a very important part of the process. It had this to say:

The retailing of corsets becomes more complex daily, but though the work is more difficult, the results are more satisfactory. Corsets are not the hit-or-miss affairs they used to be. Every corset is designed for some type of figure and it is the retailers’ problem to properly distribute these corsets to the consumers.

The manufacturer’s work is to construct the corset according to the various requirements of the current fashions and of the different types of figures. The retail fitter’s work is to select from the stock purchased such corsets as have been particularly designed for the types of figures in question.

As a matter of fact, the retail corset department has just fully awakened to this responsibility. The many clever women employed in this business have through persistent efforts gained some recognition of their arduous labors in establishing corset retailing on its present basis, for it is now both an art and a science. (November 13, 1909; p. 113)

Men’s products weren’t ignored. The November 20th issue has a full-page advertisement for the B.V.D. Company in New York (they also sold women’s products) advertising coat cut undershirts, knee length drawers, and union and sleeping suits. That same edition also had full-page ads from the Oneita Knitting Mills, Roxford Knitting Company, Taunton Knitting Co, and the Bradley Knitting Co. There were articles as well, including a full column discussing men’s and boy’s wear.

seve photographs 6 feature a woman getting fitted for a corset and one doing the fitting

“A corset-fitting demonstration.” Dry Goods Economist. October 23, 1909 (p. 10-11).

The November 20th issue had much more. This included an eye-catching two-page ad spread from Nazareth Waist Co. that featured children’s union suits. The Knit Goods column offered a series of brief reports on knit underwear, specifically best-selling lines, as well as women’s and children’s products. There was also content related to hosiery including an article on hosiery conditions and ads for companies like Chattanooga Knitting Mills.

This is the end for corsets and undergarments but not for this publication. I have one last post in this series coming soon, so stay tuned.

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2 Comments

  1. SharonM.
    August 24, 2022 at 7:06 am

    And to think that with a 29-in. waist I’m considered to be skinny! I’m really almost over-stout! Nice to see that the Munsingwear and BVD brands still exist.

  2. Gail M
    August 29, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for the interesting article. Just looking at the photos makes my back hurt!

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