Wednesday, July 21, 2021

52 Ancestors - FASHION: Over and Under

In the world of fashion, fur never goes out of style. Of course, attitudes about wearing animal skin swing from year to year and from person to person. Historically, fur was a practical reality, both convenient and warm. More recently the wearing of fur has been viewed as barbaric and cruel. “Fur” sure, it is not a neutral topic.

But those who appreciate fur wear it proudly for its warmth, its beauty, and its prestige. Nothing says “luxury” like a fur, 

whether it’s a full coat

Grandaunt and Granduncle - Herbert and Helen Killen Parker 
Grand Canyon 1927

Grandaunt Lillie Killeen 1931

A jacket or stole

Helen Killeen Parker at the bank 

A collar or cuff

Grandaunt Helen Killeen Parker
and Friends 1940s

Mary Neville Peluso Jollett and
Lewis Lloyd Jollett
(my maternal grandfather's cousin)

A hat

Grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis
and her sister-in-law
Janice Foltz Rucker

Or a mink, fox or ermine complete with head and feet dangling around one’s neck.

Grandaunt Violetta Davis Ryan about 1936

Mary Theresa Sheehan Killeen Walsh
before 1939

When my mother was in college, she and her roommates were not in the position to purchase fur. Besides, they were preoccupied with other matters, mainly boys and parties and their hair. A couple of letters from her roomies Peggy and Jeanne alerted me to something that was new among the co-eds: girdles. The latex girdle was introduced in 1940, but production ceased during World War II since the bombing of Pearl Harbor and invasion of Japan cut off supplies of latex. In 1946 the Playtex company was launched along with “the Living Girdle.”

Playtex girdle ad 1940s

In the summer of 1948, Peggy wrote to my mother:

Are you wearing a pla-tex panty girdle? Only $3.95. Pla-tex girdles slim you. (Announcement on the raiator, nice, huh?

In January of 1949, Jeanne wrote about her experience with the girdle:

I wish you could see me getting into the new girdle I bought, or rather see me squirming into it. I bought it on sale so it can't be exchanged. It's size 25 (my waist measurement) but tight --oh brother! It took me twenty minutes to get it on and fifteen to get it off. It's fine once it's over my hips --but on those hips. My hips are actually black and blue from tugging it on. I probably never would have gotten it on but I had had a couple of short ones with my girl friend right before I tried it on so I had a little artificial energy to help me. I have it stretching over a chair back now.
Now that I have told you the interesting history of "the girdle and my hips" I'll let you rest in peace.
Love, Jeanne

What a funny story. But I wonder if looking 5-lbs thinner in a girdle was negated by wearing a fur that added 10 lbs to the figure.

Amy Johnson Crow continues to challenge genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” 


© 2021, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. My grandmother loved her furs! When we cleaned out my parents' home one was stashed in a closet and out it went at the estate sale.