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Seeing Past Black & White Film To The True Colors Of Vintage Lingerie

By , 31 March, 2009, 3 Comments

Deanna, of Kitsch-Slapped (and about a million other blogs), just posted about how she and her sister could see color even though they only had a black & white TV, which reminded me of a few things…

One being how I perplexed my dad by comparing women on television to past glamour icons. I too had compared some woman or other to Rita Hayworth and he asked me how the heck I knew who she was (and when I knew who Fatty Arbuckle was, he just about fell over). Mom countered with a, “Just about the only things your daughter reads or watches were made before 1960,” in that don’t-you-even-know-who-your-daughter-is? tone that made him both flush & squirm.

That weekend he came home with an armload of classic films he’d rented — just for the two of us to watch — and when we watched them, he chased mom out of the room or shushed her so “we film buffs” could be left alone to enjoy our movies in peace. *wink*

The second thing Deanna’s post reminded me of was how I sometimes see or imagine the color in black & white films — especially the fashions. But mostly I just wish I could see them in all their glory. *sigh*

Unless it’s lingerie and the film is from the 1920’s or 1930’s.

Still from Our Blushing Brides featuring lingerie

Still from Our Blushing Brides featuring lingerie

Whenever I see lingerie in films from that period, like Joan Crawford & gals in Our Blushing Brides, then I happily “know” that what they are wearing is either peach, pink or ivory — with ecru laces.

I know that there may occasionally be other colors (black, for instance, was popular — and easy to ‘see’ on screen, and other pastel shades in blue and green), but when shopping for vintage lingerie or loungewear, the evidence in old catalogs and on vintage clothing store racks supports my visions of ivory, peach, blush & pastel pink lingerie.

1924 Lingerie Catalog Page

1924 Lingerie Catalog Page

There are several likely reason for this.

It has been noted that soft & dreamy pastels were favored by high society at this time (along with an influx of Oriental colors & design influences; mainly seen in dresses, not so much with lingerie); pastel fashions require light colored lingerie. The popularity of pastels at this time is seemingly a combination of a response to the somber dreary wardrobes of WWI and the fact that wearing such light colors was surely impractical to the lower classes who had to work — hard toil would soil soft shades easily, leaving distinct marks of classes.

Pastel Blush COlored 1920s Lingerie

Pastel Blush Colored 1920s Lingerie

I also suspect that home sewing had its affects on color too. Because construction of flapper’s dresses & the lingerie worn beneath them (and the fashions which followed) were based on a straight shift, they were less complicated to make than earlier fashions. This meant it was much easier for women to produce the latest fashions at home using a simple — but fashionable — dress pattern. (Modifying a single pattern slightly, or embellishing it, to create more individual looking dresses.) Those sewing at home would likely copy the fabrics & colors of the days fashions as well, with the middle classes especially emulating high society’s love of pastels. However, fabric would still be costly — especially silks — and likely one made the most of the bolt of fabric they had. A household’s fashions would literally be cut from the same cloth, leaving all the women to have their lingerie in the same shade.

Lace and Silk Creme Cami

Lace and Silk Creme Cami

Another reason for the popularity of lingerie in pastel shades during the 1920s and 30s is a practical one. Many lingerie pieces, panties, shifts, slips, camis, & chemises, did dual duty as nightwear and foundation garments, worn under clothing and off-white & peachy-pink shades would match or blend with most flesh tones — if you were “white”, anyway. (And fashion was — and still is — primarily made for white women.) Such neutral fleshy shades would be very practical, diminishing color lines beneath the sheer and lightweight dresses of the time.

1920s Peach Silk Chemise with Ecru Lace

1920s Peach Silk Chemise with Ecru Lace

Such fleshy shades were also in and of themselves sexy — in an age of “dare to bare” flapper fashions, clothing was not only cut to expose arms and legs, but the colors suggested nudity. This would be especially enticing on the more natural-than-forced curves than the past fashion silhouettes where the even looser fitting garments would evoke a peek-a-boo feeling, if not actual body parts.

Lace Bodice on Pink Vintage Full Slip

Lace Bodice on Pink Vintage Full Slip

These are my theories, based on what I know of the times. But what clearly remains of lingerie from this time period are these pastel pieces in peach, pink, blush and ivory shades; and most with lace, crochet and/or tatting accents in ivory and ecru.

If and when you spot authentic vintage lingerie from the 1920s & 1930s in other shades, you should expect to pay more. I suggest you do it — happily. You don’t know if or when you’ll find anything else like it to hug to your chest (or to drape over it later!) *wink*

Vintage Ivory Silk Tap Panties With Ecru Lace

Vintage Ivory Silk Tap Panties With Ecru Lace

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3 Responses {+}
  • Atomic Mama

    Thanks! this was most helpful and fun to read.
    great pictures you have found!!

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