Warners

An American Icon

 

This picture says it all. The late 1920's were one of the many periods when America has lead the world in innovation, enterprise and marketing, and at the forefront of the foundation garment trade was Warners. That they exists today, and that their garments were made under licence all over the world is a testament to their iconic position in the history of corsetry.

Warners were truly great innovators, and many pioneering inventions of the foundation garment industry have been (not always correctly) attributed to them. One of their earlier adverts proclaimed the rust-proof corset. This idea had been around for a short while, but was a boon to the lady distressed by the rust marks on her garters and stays. Whalebone did not rust and many women lamented its passing until the advent of rust-proofing.

Warners released this film clip in the 1920's showing their innovative use of perforated rubber. It is also a classic example of 'what lies beneath!"

Famously, they did pioneer the 'Merry Widow' corset, sometimes referred to as a basque (in Britian) and rather more charmingly a 'Guipère' in France. This garment was made famous by Lana Turner in 1952 when she starred in the film of the same name. Miss Turner's enviable figure hardly needed any enhancement, but, like her peers, she would have worn such a garment for any evening function.

The alphabetical naming of brassiere sup sizes is usually attributed to Mrs. Leona Lax of the Warner Company in 1944. Again, the invention occurred about a decade earlier, but it was Warners that publicised it and extracted maximum mileage. It was in fact a great idea that will last as long as women of different sizes wear brassieres.

 

Warners cunningly used the word elegant, and produced the brand name 'le gant' (the glove). This sounded so French, so chic, that women flocked to buy their corselettes and girdles. The fact that 'le gant' is masculine only serves to show that most foundations were invented by men. As one famous actress quoted on disembarking from her girdle one evening, "This just had to invented by a man. No woman would do this to another woman!"

 

 

As is so often the case, it is the attitude of the models that draws attention rather than the excellence of the design. Having a cup of tea, looking for the postman, farewell to the husband (her own, one hopes), and looking for the dreaded 'ladder'.

 

The 'le gant' was publicised as the girdle most American women wanted to wear, and wear it they did since they sold in their millions. This picture comes from Vogue UK in 1953 and explains that this quintiscential American girdle has been manufactured (under licence) in Britain from British materials. It sold very well in Britain, and this in a country that has a burgeoning and well established girdle trade.

The emphasis placed by the advertisement on 'British materials' is interesting. A Spencer corsetière once told me that Spencer used different materials on each side of the Atlantic. Whether this was due to availability, weather or marketing preference, she could not say. Still in 1953, we see a panty-girdle, however, this would not catch on in Britain until the late 1960's, by which time foundation garments were showing a marked decline.

 

 

Warners, although innovative, kept up with the mainstream (a clue to their marketing success) and produced an excellent selection of panty-girdles, the mainstay of Mrs. America for several decades.

 

 

Warners Corsetières

 

A group of Warners trainee corsetières poses just after the war. In a week, they will begin to learn the principles of fitting foundation garments (right). Most rarely is a list of the participants.