Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baroness Goes Under Cover, Solves Deco Brassieres Mystery

Being slightly indignant that vintage starlets with such clearly ample bosom could be so much more innately perky than I, I decided to do more research relating to my questions about what 30s women were wearing as undergarments while donning backless dresses for sport or for evening wear. Perky breast envy aside, I'll tell you why I did so: as I was reading everyone's comments for my last post, I remembered something from yesterday, when I was doing a listing for a sheer 30s evening gown that has a very open back. As I was taking the dress off, I noticed a really unique detail at the top inside portion of each shoulder: basically, they are bits of fabric with a snap at one end. These snaps fit into a snap sewn into the top inner seam of the shoulder. My immediate revelation: HEY, these are to keep a woman's bra and slip straps in place. As I was sitting here, I thought: Hmmm, maybe the slips were cut with low backs and enough under bosom support to serve in place of bras. Well, after even more sleuthing, you won't believe what I've uncovered in the way of images of actual 30s bras....I don't know how readily available these items were, but perhaps not all 30s women went au naturelle? I am absolutely astonished by the ingenuity of the lingerie designers of these items! These look like pieces of architecture!!!

This first image below is from the site It is a picture of a "Scandale" bra by Soutien George (from France). The bra came with an original package which has the following information on it: "The Scandale bra is an absolutely new conception. The cups are independent, they model the bust and are a perfect shape for the breasts. It doesn't move about and is ideal for sport. It's light, perfectly moulded, leaving the back bare, it is also ideal for the evening." Now THAT's what I need!

Next images: French brand Ferraro Paris bra with really low back. The cups are sheer and soft, thereby perhaps giving the look of bralessness? Maybe this was Myrna's Secret?

Next, the Kestos style bra, circa 1936, from Symington's Avro range. Apparently, according to the Leistershire County Council's website (which is where I got these two images), "the Kestos bra was very popular during the 1930s as it was very brief, light, and comfortable. The simple cups are constructed with a simple dart and the fit was adusted across the back." The back straps look low enough to wear under sporty or dressy backless frocks.

Next up: images of a 1930s bustier already sold online. Again, the back looks like it could be low enough for wear with a backless dress.

Last image from Dandelion Vintage. This is an asymmetrical bra. Not sure what the back looks like, but apparently the one cup design was for dresses with one strap. Just another example of deco bra ingenuity!

If I find anything more, I'll be sure to share! Oh, by the way, I understand the divine Wearing History is going to be putting out some 30s lingerie patterns for sale on Etsy soon, so we may be able to make our own deco knickers!


Miss Go Lightly said...

Thanks for solving the mystery! I was looking around like crazy for answer too ;) Oh my these little things would not have been able to hold up my bosoms! lol Hope you're having a great day doll!

sarah said...

I've always wondered about that too! Thank you for educating us! Vintage lingerie is so much prettier than modern.

va-voom vintage said...

That's very interesting! Lingerie makers really are ingenious! I wonder about the one-strap bra, though....don't you think the gal wearing it would look a bit lop sided?

Anonymous said...

Brilliant detective work- Nora could do no better! I've never seen a "kestos" but want one now! Oddly, I was looking for 30s-inspired modern bras the other day, and came across this design by Mary Green that's sort of like that - can't see the back, though:

BaronessVonVintage said...

Va-voom Vintage: I thought the EXACT same thing!

1930s Girls: ooh, checking out the Mary Green bralette now. Thanks!!

The Dreamstress said...

I love the snap thingees! I sew them into so many of my blouses and frocks so that my bra straps don't slip!

I love seeing all these images of 30s bras. I've seen a lot in person, but there are so many varieties!

Andi B. Goode said...

OMG. I have dresses with those snaps on them and didn't even realise what they are for!!! Thank-you. Haha.
Also, this is really interesting. Thanks again. =D
-Andi x

Jessica Cangiano said...

What amazing discovers, Baroness, I truly had no idea that any of these bras (save for the very last "single cup" style, which I had seen elsewhere once before) existed at the time. You did an amazing job with the research for this post and I really appreciate that you shared all of your finds with, honey.

Oodles of thanks & hugs,
♥ Jessica

BomshellShocked said...

Spectacular post!

I had a modern Wonder Bra years ago that was perfect for backless dresses. It had the wrap around the waist shown above and could be worn over the shoulder, strapless or as a halter. I bought it when I had my back tattooed to wear during the healing process and then it was perfect for all my vintage halter dresses. Worth its weight in gold!

BaronessVonVintage said...

Now that I've actually put them to use, I agree: those snap thingies ARE the best!

Thanks, Jessica!

oh how I wish for something similar, BombshellShocked! The quest continues.

BomshellShocked said...

Hi Baroness. I tried to find an email address for you. I did a quick search at for backless bras. Natori 731025 is a good looking one. Not quite as light and sheer as the one in your picture, but it looks pretty functional. They have many other options too!