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"Keep Your Pants on Honey Until I Come Home:" The Kitschy Allure of Embroidered WWII Lingerie

Remake of a WWII-era lingerie set, by Retrograde

Remake of a WWII-era lingerie set, by Retrograde

Glamorizing times of war always rubs me the wrong way; there's nothing nostalgia-inducing about state-sanctioned murder and military occupation. But some remnants of these bygone eras are so charming, it's worth looking past the sordid history to admire them for a moment. One example: these WWII-era satin lingerie sets.



Pink 1940s souvenir lingerie set via Etsy

1940s souvenir lingerie set, via Etsy

They've caught my eye for years, and I'm seeing them pop up more and more frequently online. Sold in the 1940s as a war-time souvenir, they were available in many colors with various cheeky phrases and symbols embroidered or printed over the bust and bottoms.

Soldiers would buy these Asian-manufactured satin rayon sets while stationed overseas, and send them home to their sweethearts as a reminder of their...affection, I guess?

1940s souvenir lingerie set, via Etsy

1940s souvenir lingerie set, via Etsy

To be honest, I'm not sure how tounge-in-cheek these little gifts were supposed to be. Thankfully, the cultural idea of a man having a sort of "ownership" over his wife have dissipated a bit since World War II, but maybe the antiquated intentions behind these sets is what makes them even more appealing today.

With panties emblazoned with phrases like "Off Limits" and soft bras that proclaim one breast to be "Sweet" and one to be "Sour," how can you not laugh a little? They're my favorite combination of lingerie aesthetics: cheeky kitsch and vintage sex appeal.

1940s souvenir lingerie set via Etsy

1940s souvenir lingerie set, via Etsy

And aside from that, it's easy to see why these sets are so appealing to vintage collectors and lingerie lovers today. Bralettes and high-waisted panties are two very in-demand styles for the lingerie industry right now.

Combine those garments with the popularity of matching two-piece ensembles and kitschy graphic embellishments in the fashion industry as a whole, and you have a lounge set that's the perfect distillation of a myriad of trends.

1940s souvenir lingerie set via Dressing Vintage

This one has a "locked" zipper along the gusset! 1940s souvenir lingerie set, via Dressing Vintage

The original sets sell on Etsy and Ebay for upwards of $300, and are often framed or otherwise preserved by vintage collectors. Fortunately, vintage dealer Retrograde USA has started selling custom-made reproductions, for the lingerie enthusiast who would like to wear her dainties rather than simply gaze upon them.

Modern remakes of WWII-era lingerie sets, by Retrograde

Modern remakes of WWII-era lingerie sets, by Retrograde

Available in a range of colors from baby pink to deep merlot to apple green, the sets are embellished with embroidery that either mimics the original garments, or has been updated for the modern shopper. I'm dying to get a set for those hot summer afternoons where all you want to do is lounge in front of an oscillating fan, read fluffy magazines, and sip cold drinks in as little clothing as possible.

retrograde-vintage-remake-wwii-lingerie-set-2

Modern remake of a WWII-era lingerie set, by Retrograde

Lingerie lovers aren't the only ones taking notice of these cute sets. Retrograde USA's reproductions were featured in a film by Petra Collins for the Tate Museum's Georgia O'Keeffe retrospective. An antiquated war-time souvenir for wives featured in a young female photographer's film inspired by an artist who is considered one of the pioneers of feminist art... it's all so perfect.

What do you think of these vintage lingerie sets? Would you wear this style?

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Quinne
Quinne Myers

Quinne Myers is a lingerie expert living in Brooklyn, NY, where she creates quippy written content, crafts dreamy illustrations, and runs the ethically-made loungewear line, she and reverie.

5 Comments on this post

  1. Erin says:

    After seeing these pieces on your site, I purchased a set from Retrograde online. I am wondering if there is any news about this brand because I’ve contacted them many times asking when they’ll send my order and haven’t heard anything back. It’s been 1.5 weeks, which is an unusually long wait time. Wondering if there is any intel?

  2. Pamela says:

    These are quite funny and I’m sure they were meant in a tongue-in-cheek way originally. Some of those couples may have been ended by the war, and some couples may have not made it. That’s unfortunately what any war will do to couples.

    On the lighter side I can’t help but wonder if any of the recipients wore them when their love returned in an equally tongue-in-cheek humour to just tease them with the “don’t touch” instructions embroidered on them!

  3. anonyma says:

    I’m so overcome with emotion seeing that model with the hairy armpits! I don’t shave my body hair off, and in my day to day life that works for me. But I often want to indulge in my private side and wear beautiful lingerie and female body hair just isn’t part of that image. It’s hard to look at myself and not cringe. I hope this picture represents a coming trend!

    • MJ says:

      I agree. I don’t particularly like to shave or wax but if I want to look feminine i’m sort of expected to do so and therefore end up doing just that.

  4. Diane says:

    These are so (pardon the pun) cheeky! I love them!

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