Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Finding of An Early 1900's Brassiere

Sorry I can't be more specific. Early 1900's is quite in general. But I cannot really get more specific than that due to my lack of knowledge. I'm not even totally sure this really *is* what I think it might be; but I really do think it is. A brassiere, from the 1900-1920 period. (again, sorry, I can't be more specific. If anyone can help me out, pleeeeaasseeee!! Do so!) Possible other things it could be: Corset cover (but it is not very long; it ends just below the bustline so would not really do much for covering a corset.) Camisole for under a blouse (but again, it ends right below the bustline). Any other ideas?

Anyway, on Saturday we took Judah to participate in some inter-church sporting competition for the Bible club he is part of. (His team got first place! So proud of my guy!) Then after that we went to a local site that makes and sells maple syrup. (They do not distribute it, and they make it in limited quantities and it's so. awesome.) Then after that we stopped by an antique mall on the way home and the boys had fun shrieking out "Mommy! Daddy! Look at this!" every few minutes whenever they found something that interested them. I didn't see much to interest me, and the baby was squirmy and over-tired and fussy, but then, I spotted this:

Doesn't it really look like a brassiere from this period? I mean, doesn't it?! And only $3. I got it and brought it home. I tried it on. (carefully.) It fits me perfectly and it definitely fits like a bra. The bottom band goes right below the bust, the shoulder straps and neckline fit perfectly and the whole garment contains the bust but does not offer anything by way of support. Just contain-ment.

I plan to take a pattern off of it and make a reproduction of it at some point. Soon. And when I do, I'll post about how I do it. But for now, here are some pictures to show it and how it was constructed. It is really a simple little thing. Almost all rectangles.

That's all for now. We had snow again a few days ago. Just when I thought the weather had turned permanently warm. But ah well. It was a very pretty snowfall and we did not have much of that this winter. 



  1. From what I've seen, there was a wide variety of styles of bras in the early 1900s. I have seen garments exactly like this pop up on etsy. From how it fits you, it sounds like an early brassiere. This pin board has a whole bunch of extant ones:

  2. Even if it isn't a bra, it is a pretty thing. :)

  3. Wow! What a special find! You have an awesome antique mall. All I can ever find are linens, napkins, and place mats. I look forward to seeing how you reproduce it.

  4. Since it offers nothing by way of support, perhaps it's a corset/bra cover. Many 1910's dresses were very sheer, and lacy pretty undy covers were all the rage.

  5. Hi Sarah,
    So sorry this comment does not pertain to your wonderful post...but I have a question about 19th century baby clothes and you are the first person to pop into my head who probably has the answer!

    Do you know at what point an infant graduates to "short clothes?"

    Would this be when the child is getting ready to walk or to crawl?

    I'm reading some historical letters and trying to figure out an approximate age of an infant.
    Hope you have an idea because this is something that's elluding me on search engines.

  6. Hi Robin!

    Well, from what I have been led to understand babies were shortened when they started to move around and the long dresses they wore in early infancy began to be cumbersome to them. However, this age seemed to vary quite a bit. . .from a few months old to quite a bit older. When I read your question I immediately thought of the Anne of Green Gables books. . .they mention shortening at least twice. One is in Anne's House of Dreams where she shortens Jem. I *think* is around 7 months but I cannot find my copy to look it up and find out for sure. The other mention is in Rilla of Ingleside and she shortens Jims at 5 months of age.

    Just from practical experience, I put my babies in shorter dresses as soon as they start becoming more mobile. My son David went into short dresses at 7 months, Judah into short dresses at 5 months, Malachi at 6 months. Anne would be in short dresses now, if we were doing reenactments at the moment (its been too cold, so our season is off right now). The degree of shortness of skirts I do not know. I have read some accounts where shortening just meant to bring the skirt length up above the foot and pictorial evidence indicates any length from that to just below the knee. . .I guess it all depends, which is not really an answer. :P

  7. Based on the shoulder straps and the crochet yoke, I would put this as 1920's. There was this interesting period where people got all interested in DIY again, and that's when you start to really see these types of yokes coming back into vogue. Before that, it's more store-bought, ribbon strap stuff.

  8. Completely a different thing, but in German folk clothing, a blouse that length but with sleeves would be worn under the dresses - serve the camisole (why is camisole not in my phone's dictionary??) function without messing up the line of the dress around the waist. So just being short doesn't discount that option. (In fact, I have a brassiere with a lace panel across the top that's designed to be worn under slightly-too-low v-neck tops - very useful when I was teaching at a Catholic school!)


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!