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Russian women's underwear, 1940's.
eat some sushi get fat
metafictionally wrote in little_details
Time: Basically the 1940's, though it's AU, so the timeline is a little wronky.
Place: A larger city in Russia, say .. St. Petersburg.
Googled: "vintage underwear," "40's underwear", "vintage 40's underwear", "what women wore for underwear in 1940's" (I was getting desperate).


So basically, what's happening is this. There's a party happening, and a soldier and the general's daughter meet on the balcony. The general's daughter is wearing a fancy gown-type thing, very elegant but also semi-tight. After a brief moment of witty repartee, the two depart for the general's daughter's room, where they proceed to get down and dirty.

My question is thus -- considering this image, which are panels from the comic on which the story is based (for those of you concerned, yes, I do have permission), what would the general's daughter -- the one on the bottom -- be wearing as far as underwear? She appears to be wearing some variety of garter belt, which leads me to believe that it's something like this, but I am uncertain. Help me, little_details, you are my only hope!

edit: Two things, for clarity. First, the St. Petersburg reference was a size comparison, nothing more. It doesn't take place during WWII, necessarily, nor even necessarily in Russia. Second, this is very much an AU story, so .. as much as I appreciate learning about invasions during WWII, it isn't relevant to the question, which is simply regarding undergarments.


There are two main options; she could be wearing a garter belt (aka suspender belt, if she's English) which will look something like this, which will probably be worn with panties/knickers, or she could be wearing a girdle like the one you've linked to (or like this one). If she;'s American, it might be a pantygirdle rather than an open-bottomed one, but pantygirdles apparently didn't catch on in the UK until much later.

If you search for "lingerie" rather than "underwear" you'll probably get more helpful hits.

Can you explain pantygirdles a bit more? UK: I wore a girdle in the early 1960s (which is what the garter belt/suspender belt in your link looks like - a suspender belt, which I also wore, was literally that; a belt with lacy bits coming down from it to which the suspenders were attached) and abandoned both girdles and suspender belts with a great deal of relief in the late 1960s when tights (pantyhose) became readily available and affordable, but no other such garment.

A pantygirdle is like a combined girdle with knickers; there are some here. They're basically the old version of Brigit Jones pants, sometimes with suspender clips attached. I have absolutely no idea how one would go to the loo while wearing one; they look like they'd be a major operation to get in and out of, but I think perhaps they'd have a side zip? The 1944 one there looks as though it may have one over the left hip.

Interesting .. the second link looks like the more promising of the two. For clarity's sake, perhaps I should specify that the characters don't actually have a nationality -- I just chose Russia because one of them is named "Petrova" and there is a reference to a Red Army. I don't know if that changes your answer at all, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

She also will most likely be wearing a slip, either full-length (with straps & bodice), or a half-slip (just a skirt); these things were very much in fashion well into the 1960s, especially if you were going for "ladylike".

You might also want to look at some of these images: search term was "French knickers, 1940. Caution, some pictures may be considered NSFW!

Not so much in fashion as seen as essential, either for added warmth (in winter) or to avoid the skirt being seen through (in summer) - and that's just the UK!

I know -- my grandmother made me wear one until I was 15 or so. Total pain in the ass.

I still wear one when required - sometime for warmth, but also to make clothes look or fit better, or to keep them clean. They're very useful!

I've seen half-slips here in Germany (usually they come with dresses/outfits that benefit/require them), but no full slips recently. Then again, I haven't actually looked for slips, mainly because I hated them so much ...

No woman would dream of stepping foot out the door without a slip under her dress/skirt for the better part of the 20th century. It wasn't so much fashion as much as analogous to not wearing underpants or a bra in this day and age. It's just not done.

Since your character's a general's daughter, she'll likely have better underthings than a lot of other women. Depending on how far into the war this takes place -- 1940s doesn't narrow it down enough -- she might have underthings that were made in France or Germany, basically, 'war trophies', for the lack of a better term. For Soviet women in the 1930s and the early 1940s it wouldn't be out of place to still wear really old-fashioned, pre-revolution style underwear -- although the 1940s in particular saw a change towards the more modern underwear, from petticoats and buttoned pantaloons to panties with elastic bands. My mother and aunts (kids and teens in the 1940s and 50s) recall wearing a lot of underthings at a time -- pantaloon-type things over panties, garterbelts, hose, slips -- warmth plus heavy coverage. It wouldn't be out of place for a less well to do woman to be wearing underwear she'd sewn herself (often out of other clothes, sheets, what have you). When one of my grandmothers got married (in the late 1930s), she only had one "good" pair of proper, store-bought undies -- she'd sewn the rest herself.

That's interesting, that less well-to-do women would wear hand-sewn underwear. In fact, I think I might use that piece of information .. thank you!

During the war, lots of women made their own undies out of parachute silk (or parachute nylon, in some cases).
Home-made clothing was much more common back then in general, not just lingerie; with rationing affecting the availibility of clothing as well as food, it was even more common during the war, and people got pretty creative in terms of sourcing materials!

Parachute silk? (Wtf, I just typed 'slink,' Freudian slip much) That's .. really intriguing actually *___*

Yep; a torn parachute is no use as a parachute, but it'll make a _lot_ of very nice underwear, and the fabric itself is fine and light but also quite strong (useful if you want to make something supportive, like a bra or a girdle), so army surplus stuff got sold off, sometimes on the black market. Very little gets thrown away if it can be re-used when you've got serious rationing! :-)

I've read of soldiers bringing their silk parachute home for their bride-to-be to make a wedding dress out of.

Ooh, that's neat really. I might want to use that somewhere.

This is a Russian-language link (The Body Memory exhibit -- a history of Soviet-era underwear), but's got a ton of catalogue pics (drawings, all of various underwear pieces) from 1937 -- they should be fairly self-explanatory: http://leggies.narod.ru/telo/catalog/catalog37.html

Edited at 2009-05-26 12:21 pm (UTC)

Aish. Cyrillic is so intimidating-looking. That is very helpful, though -- thank you!

(Deleted comment)
No, I meant St. Petersburg. It was a size comparison, nothing more.

If this is set in a Soviet-era style society (unless it's very AU), remember that times were exceptionally hard in that society through the 40s for all but those at the very pinnacle of power.

Leningrad (absolutely NOT St Petersburg) was subject to an appalling siege by the Nazi invaders from Autumn 1941 to January 1944 and the privation experienced by the inhabitants was appalling and indeed the city was emptied towards the end. There are heart-breaking mass graves in the suburbs - I've visited them. For the rest of the decade the city suburbs were being extensively rebuilt.

Trappings of wealth, such as expensive clothes, for the later part of the decade would be the almost exclusive province of the families of political leaders only - for example, members of the Politburo. Even when the war ended, there were still sporadic times of great fear under Stalin. It's doubtful your soldier would have attended a party at a general's apartment unless he had splendid connections himself.

All right, one at a time.

First, the story is indeed very AU. The comic on which it's based is a whopping sixteen panels long, none of which actually give any backstory on either of the characters. In fact, the only similarities between this story and any kind of historical truth regarding Russia is that the general's daughter is named "Petrova" and there's a reference to a Red Army.

Second, the reference to St. Petersburg was a size comparison alone. "A larger city in Russia, say .. St. Petersburg." The city is never actually mentioned in the story, so whether it's called St. Petersburg or Leningrad is irrelevant.

Third, like I said -- very AU. And I'm not the creator of the original comic, so I have no say over whether or not the soldier attends a party at a general's house. She (not he -- another historical inaccuracy, I suppose) did so in the comic, and I'm just writing it like it happened.

Apologies for over-geekage, in that case!

(Russian history is a bit my thing, you see, hence the neurotic accuracy - however, you clearly have things sorted!)

Haha, it's quite all right! I like learning about random bits of history, but I also just really wanted to know what was up under the skirts of all those elite women ):

I think Russia is the one country whose history we never touched in high school.

Completely unhelpful, but what comic is that image from? The art looks really nice. :D

It's from a sixteen-panel short by HamletMachine called "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik." It's phenomenal, you should read it!