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1918 Underwear for Ladies and Children

Updated on June 11, 2017
Virginia Allain profile image

I'm carrying on my mother's research into our family history. I've self-published some family memoirs & learned a lot about different eras.

Lingerie for Women and Children in 1918

I have a Summer 1918 catalog for the John Wanamaker, Philadelphia store. The artwork is a delight and the prices will make you smile. The fashions look light and innocent. It was the year when World War I ended, Woodrow Wilson was president and the Spanish flu swept the nation.

Let's focus on pages 36 - 46 in the catalog which features "dainty nightgowns" and "summer undermuslins." Here are examples showing what the well-dressed lady of 1918 wore under her dresses and what she wore for bedtime and around the house.

The photo is from our family album and shows my grandmother, Ruth Vining, in 1918 with her friends.

Camisoles and Chemises from 1918 - in the John Wanamaker catalog

chemise and camisole 1918 catalog
chemise and camisole 1918 catalog
1918 nightgowns clothing
1918 nightgowns clothing

A 1918 Summer Nightgown

Take a look at the delightful descriptions from the Wanamaker 1918 catalog and how about those old time prices too. Keep in mind that the average family income in that year was just $1518. More families were living in towns and cities than before.

Description from the catalog:

P-5008 - Fine muslin nightgown with hand embroidery and ribbons. $3.50

P-5009 - Fine quality muslin nightgown, with hand embroidery, ribbons and novel sleeves. $2.75.

Crochet Pattern for Vintage Nightgown Yoke

Vintage Crochet PATTERN to make - Antique Filet Crochet Nightgown Yoke Diamond Design. NOT a finished item. This is a pattern and/or instructions to make the item only.
Vintage Crochet PATTERN to make - Antique Filet Crochet Nightgown Yoke Diamond Design. NOT a finished item. This is a pattern and/or instructions to make the item only.

I don't crochet, but it might be worth learning, just to be able to make this. Isn't it delightful with the diamond design!

It seems like a cool, airy gown for summer wear.

 

The Evolution of Corsets and Ladies Lingerie 1900 to 1950 - Slideshow of lingerie ads year-by-year shows the changes in styles

Nainsook is cotton fabric of a plain weave that is heavier than batiste.

Camisoles, Chemises and Petticoats from 1918

1918 underwear chemises
1918 underwear chemises | Source

Batiste is a fine weave fabric from cotton or linen that is thin and light, but not opaque.

Vintage Crochet PATTERN to make - Antique Butterfly Filet Crocheted Nightgown Yoke

If you're looking for patterns for vintage nightgowns, check out my friend's page.

Pattern for Crocheting Decoration for a Vintage Style Nightgown

Vintage Crochet PATTERN to make - Antique Butterfly Filet Crocheted Nightgown Yoke. NOT a finished item. This is a pattern and/or instructions to make the item only.
Vintage Crochet PATTERN to make - Antique Butterfly Filet Crocheted Nightgown Yoke. NOT a finished item. This is a pattern and/or instructions to make the item only.

Imagine the hours spent by our grandmothers or great-grandmothers as they crocheted the yoke for a night gown like this. Look closely to see the butterflies that frame the open work.

 

More 1918 Nightgowns

from the John Wanamaker catalog

1918 Wanamaker Catalog Description:

P-3701 - Nainsook nightgown, smartly trimmed with lace, embroidery and ribbon. $2.50.

P-3702 - Embroidery and ribbons trims this dainty nightgown of nainsook. $2.25

Vintage Graphic of a Bath-Robe

American Dressmaking Step by Step tells how to make a robe like this.
American Dressmaking Step by Step tells how to make a robe like this. | Source

Vintage Crochet PATTERN - Antique Filet Crochet Nightgown Yoke 1917

Cambric is a closely woven, firm, cotton fabric that has a slightly glossy surface.

Nightgowns of Batiste and Nainsook - 1918 Wanamaker Catalog

1918 nightgowns
1918 nightgowns

Descriptions of the Gowns Shown Above

P-3700 - Daintily trimmed with embroidery and tucks is this nightgown of nainsook. $2.

P-3704 - Nightgown of nainsook, attractively trimmed with embroidery and ribbon. $1.65

P-3705 - Nainsook nightgown, prettily trimmed with lace, embroidery and ribbon. $2.50.

P-3706 - Embroidery and tucks are most effective as trimming on this nightgown of soft cambric. $1.50.

P-3707 - Dainty nightgown of pink batiste, trimmed attractively with lace and ribbon. $1.85.

P-7308 - Prettily trimmed with lace and ribbon is this nightgown of nainsook. $2.65.

Underwear and Nightwear for Children in 1918

Description from the 1918 Wanamaker catalog:

P-4606 -- This child's sleeping garment is made of cambric, and finished down the front with silk frogs. Sizes 2 to 10 years. $1.

P-4607 -- This small girl's petticoat of nainsook, is made in princess style, fastens on the shoulder, and is finished at the bottom with a full ruffle of embroidery and lace insertion. Sizes 2 to 6 years. $1.

A Child's Nightgown from the WWI Era

This 1917 book is in my personal collection.
This 1917 book is in my personal collection. | Source

Corsets from 1918

Would You Have Worn a Corset in 1918?

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Patterns to Crochet Corset Covers & Nightgown Yokes

Sophie T. LaCroix #9 c.1920 - Old & New Designs in Crochet - Corset Covers & Nightgown Yokes
Sophie T. LaCroix #9 c.1920 - Old & New Designs in Crochet - Corset Covers & Nightgown Yokes

15 Pages. This crochet work is more advanced and not recommended as a project for beginners. The book contains yoke patters to make for corset covers or to use making nightgowns.

 

Ladies Wrappers from 1918

ladies wrappers 1918
ladies wrappers 1918

I love the descriptions of these robes. The first one is described as "A dainty one-piece wrapper of dotted crepe voile trimmed around the edge with lace, beading and ribbon at waist. $3.85.

What a Delightful Wrapper for the WWI Era Lady to Wear

This is called a "bath-robe" in the 1917 book American Dressmaking Step by Step. It looks similar to the "wrappers" in the 1918 catalog above.
This is called a "bath-robe" in the 1917 book American Dressmaking Step by Step. It looks similar to the "wrappers" in the 1918 catalog above. | Source

What Interests You about 1918 Fashion?

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© 2011 Virginia Allain

I'd love to hear your opinions on the fashions of 1918

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 4 years ago from Canada

      What a fun page. You sure did a fabulous job on ladies vintage underwear fashions. Love it. Really though the fashions are not all that different from what is available today.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      My 16 yr old granddaughter wears similar styles, but NOT as undergarments. Come to think of it, I have a couple of Summer dresses very close to the 'Ladies' Wrappers'.

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: Chris - click on my avatar picture here. Then you will see my profile with the CONTACT button under it. We can continue the discussion there using email.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Thank you for the encouragement, Vallain.

      Many of the 1918 mail order items are both Chicago and New York.

      I inventoried them at one time and have a list somewhere. Of course, there is Sears and Montgomery Ward, but there are many other fashion mailings. Most of them look like new. I am a builder and in 1979 I was ripping down a building that had sawdust for attic insulation. Under the saw dust was junk mail from 1918, Most of it was still in the sleeves or envelopes. I just don't know what it is worth or who to show it to. If you are interested, is there a direct email address that I can send a list to? Or maybe I can email some photos. Thanks. Chris

    • Virginia Allain profile image
      Author

      Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

      @anonymous: Chris - I hope you stop back to read my answer. I'd recommend looking up similar items on eBay to see how popular they are and what prices they are bringing. There's another site called OnlineAuction.com. Flyers, catalogs and other paper items like this are called ephemera and are quite collectible.

      If you don't want to bother with auctions, send a photo and description of the pieces to my CONTACT button on my profile. I might buy them from you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have a number of 1918 Mail order flyers and catalogs, mail order ads, WW1 ads celebrating the end of the war, and many other types of paper goods from 1918. What collectors may be interested in the historical material?

    • kimbesa2 profile image

      kimbesa 6 years ago from USA

      How classy...thanks!

    • profile image

      momsfunny 6 years ago

      I could not have lived back then, I would have been a nudist!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I would love to still wear this stuff. Its so classic, I love it. Great lens!!!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 6 years ago from UK

      I find fashions of the past fascinating. The nightgowns and camisoles look pretty. I'm glad we don't still have corsets though!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 6 years ago from So Cal

      Adding this as a featured lens on My Rhea's of Sneedville lens. Great job and just fun.

    • profile image

      jseven lm 6 years ago

      My daughter would love this, she is very much into dressing this style. :) Cool lens!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I think they combined style, fashion and modesty at the same time. Very beautiful, and this lens is a wonderful look back at the history of undies.

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 6 years ago from Royalton

      I just sent this lens to my daughter. She is minoring in costume design and will love the info you have presented here.

      Blessed!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Oh wow, this was fascinating. Some of the nighties haven't changed much but other things really have. I sure am glad that I wasn't around for the Corset.