Sunburst Rayon And Lace Bra & Silk And Lace Ribbon Gusset Tap Pants

Sunburst rayon and lace bra with silk and lace appliqué tap pants, c. 1930s/1920s Photography by Tigz Rice Studios. From The Underpinnings Museum collection.

Date:  Bra c. 1930s, tap pants c. 1920s

Origin: Unknown

Fabric: Rayon/lace, Silk/lace

Brand: Custom made


This bra and tap pants are not part of the same set, but were styled together due to design similarities. They are from different time periods, with the pointed seperate cups of the bra suggeseting it is from the late 1930s, whilst the basic rectangular shape of the tap pants suggests that they are from the early 1920s.

The bra is made from a mix of rayon satin panelling, leavers lace and a cotton bobbinet tulle liner. There is a short piece of elastic at the centre back of the bra for a small amount of adjustability, whilst the straps are made of unadjustable rayon ribbon. It fastens at the centre back with rayon loops and buttons. The bra is entirely machine stitched. The cups are constructed with a mix of cotton bobbinet lining, raw edge rayon seams and tulle taping.

The cups have a ‘sunburst’ design on the bottom half of the cup, with alternating panels of rayon satin and lace. The bra gives a slightly lifted and pointed bust shape, in line with the fashions of the 1930s.

The first manufactured fibres, developed from cellulose in the late nineteenth century, became extremely important to manufacturers of women’s underwear and hosiery in the 1920s and 30s. Originally known as artificial silk or ‘art silk’, viscose was used in the production of underwear extensively in the 20s and became known as rayon in 1925. The rayon used is an excellent example of the fibre being used as a more affordable alternative to silk, giving a similar appearance for a fraction of the price and with easier care and washing requirements.

The tap pants are a relatively typical 1920s style, with a relatively simple rectangle based cut and ribbon style gusset. 1920s soft lingerie was often based around loose fitting and simple, square based cuts, in contrast to the complex fits of the previous decades. The cut of these knickers is a basic skirted shape, with a ribbon gusset sewn in by hand, vertically into the lace inserts.

They are made from luxurious fabrics and construction methods, with a soft silk satin waistband, body and gusset. Leavers lace panels are appliquéd into the centre front, back, sides and waistband, with the silk backing cut away behind. The hem is trimmed with a narrower lace trim. The knickers fasten at the left side seam, with hand sewn button loops and shell buttons. The knickers are entirely sewn by hand, with notably intricate and secure stitching used to apply the lace appliqué panels.


Bra from the collection of Lorraine Smith
Tap pants from the collection of Karolina Laskowska

Museum numbers: LS-2017-005 & KL-2017-034


Adverts keep The Underpinnings Museum running! Please consider visiting our sponsors if you enjoy this website.