Hot! Ask A Reenactor: Where can I get 1940s lingerie?

I got a great question yesterday over at Daily Reenactor, and its answer is one that I feel could be very useful for those of you among my readers who are involved in WWII-era reenacting.  So, here was the question, which came from a female reenactor who does a Soviet impression:

As a girl that does reenacting/ living history other than civil war or rev war, I’m running into the issue of undergarments for my impression. Doing research for my impression I found out that women where don’t issued bra’s in the red army and would resort to making them out of old gas mask bags or keeping the lingerie from back home. Not being able to find a pattern for said gas mask bras, I’m trying to find cheap 40’s lingerie and I was wondering if you had any sources?

That is crazy about the gas mask bags!  I know that Soviet soldiers tended to repurpose them, but that’s definitely a unique use!

For what it’s worth, I’ve met very, very few women who go authentic with the underwear at events, for various reasons.  It’s difficult to obtain, expensive, and uncomfortable by modern standards.  I’m a 34DD, so I wear a sportsbra to most events to keep from being in pain.  I’ve looked into repro vintage bras before and I just couldn’t find anything supportive enough for me to be active in.  If you’re larger than a C, I’d really strongly recommend sticking with your modern lingerie.

However, if you want to be authentic all the way down, there are a few options.  There is a lot of 1950s repro lingerie around thanks to the pinup phenomenon but not much from the 1940s, and especially not what you would have seen in Russia. However, the links below offer a few options that are as close of an approximation as you’re going to get to a period bra.  To help you, I’ve also attached a small gallery of images of original 1940s bras at the bottom.  Here you go:

Lisa’s Folly Luxe Intrigue Silk Bra – This one is the best, I think, as before the 1960s, bras did not have underwires and were not terribly supportive.  This looks most similar to what I’ve seen in photos of lower class undergarments from the period – think of a structured, somewhat supportive camisole rather than what we really think of today as a bra.

L6036 CCO9 Bra – This one is based off a 1940s pattern but has been updated for comfort and modern women.  I’ve actually considered getting this one myself, and will reconsider it if I ever do anything that requires me to be in a dress and thus to have the right silhouette.

Rago 2190 Pink Satin & Lace Bandeau Bra – A bit more like the late 1940s/early 1950s, but probably a bit more comfortable.

Vintage White Lace Long Line Bra – A long-line bra such as this one is relatively accurate but is pretty fancy for something your average Russian would own.

Jolie Peach Longline Bra – Another long-line bra.

I hope that helps!  If you’re interested in the history of the bra, wikipedia has a pretty decent article.

7 Comments

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  1. Sounds cool, but even having a small chest, I would not want to do that… xD Hahaha~

  2. If you wanted to try making your own, there are several patterns in Jill Salen’s latest book, Vintage Lingerie, for late 30’s-40’s bras.

  3. Just like other periods, wearing the proper undergarments makes your clothing fit and lay so much nicer. The desired shape for breasts in the 40s was much different from the rounded and cleavage bearing breasts that are considered fashionable today. High waisted panties along with tap-pants smooth out muffin tops, help flatten the tummy and don’t show panty lines… all necessary for a smooth silhoutte. I disagree on your advice for “busty” girls to sport their modern lingerie in the field, reproduction ’40s lingerie is easy to find and costs no more than a decent department store bra. Check out Secrets in Lace for some amazingly comfortable undergarments. I am a 34DD and wear one of their bras not only at events but for the work week too. The support and comfort is nicer than any “modern” bra of the same price, they feature metal hardware and nice wide bands in an “M” frame design — exactly like originals.

  4. Voenspec makes a bra that they say is Red Army and, for all I know (very little), seems good. Pretty cheap too, IIRC only $12-$15.

  5. Just ran across this blog. I am a professional costumer specializing in lingerie. — I have a large collection of patterns from the 1920s through the 1960s. I build authentic reproductions using original practices. Drop me a line and we can chat.