Or, Dr. Jaeger’s Sanitary Woolen System. German doctor Gustav Jaeger had a theory. He believed that because humans were animals, the only proper fiber for human wear was animal in origin. Thus, he advocated the wearing of wool, especially as undergarments.
In 1880 he released a book on his theories, translated into English as Standardized Apparel For Health Protection. His concepts caught on, especially in Germany, where woolen underwear was being manufactured according to his ideas. In 1884, one of his devotees, Lewis Tomalin, brought the clothing to Britain as Dr. Jaeger’s Sanitary Woollen System Co. Within a few years the clothing was made in England under the Jaeger brand.
There was a Jaeger store in London, and one was opened in New York as well, located at 306 Fifth Avenue. Most of the garments sold by Jaeger in these early years were items that were worn next to the skin. My little catalog is full of long johns, socks, undershirts and nightclothes.
Dr. Jaeger believed that dyes were harmful because the chemicals could be absorbed through the pores. Thus, most of the products sold at Jaeger were either the natural color of the wool, or were white.
Among the claims Dr. Jaeger made, was that woolen clothing protected one from disease. He had proof that the wearer was protected from cholera, small pox, measles, and the plague.
One of the few black garments offered were these equestrian tights. Women riders had been wearing trousers under their riding skirts for some time. I suppose it was just too immodest for a woman to wear the natural color because it might look like bare skin on a light-skinned woman.
And here’s the label from the corset. I love how the photo shows not only the label, but also the texture of the wool knit. It’s little things like this that elevate what could have been just a lot of pretty pictures (and there are plenty of those to be sure) into a very useful and appreciated resource. I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in women’s sportswear and the social history of the advance of women into the public sphere.
Sporting Fashion the exhibition, will not be back in Los Angeles until May, 2024. If you hurry, you can catch it at The Frick in Pittsburg (until September 26, 2021) or catch it in Memphis, TN (July 24–October 16, 2022), Davenport, IA (February 11–May 7, 2023), Utica, NY (June 17–September 17, 2023), Cincinnati, OH (October 14, 2023–January 14, 2024), or Jacksonville, FL (February 24–May 19, 2024). I plan to see it in Memphis, or possibly Cincinnati.
Sporting Fashion the book was written by FIDM curators Kevin L. Jones and Christina M. Johnson with Kirstin Purtich. It can be ordered from the FIDM website.
15 responses to “1907 – 1908 Jaeger Catalog”
What an interesting post, Lizzie! I’d heard of Jaeger but always associated with upscale British knit fashion. I see, according to Wiki, that they’re related… if that’s a proper way to think of what happened to the name. How interesting to know how & why woolen underwear got started. (Having lived in Florida I couldn’t imagine having to wear that!)
Thank you, as always, for broadening my horizons!
i always thought of them as a conservative brand, a bit safe and boring. It’s good knowing the origin story.
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I don’t know if this is a comment on my low horizons, fashion-wise, Lizzie, but to me Jaeger felt like serious ‘designer’ – a legendary brand. It’s also come back to me that our friend also dealt in Rodier, which also came our way and which maybe was more ‘designer’ to most people.
Thanks for this insight into the origins of Jaeger, Lizzie.
That brand will always be of interest to me on account of having grown up with it thanks to a friend of the family who was a representative of the company and we had the very good fortune to have her spare ‘seconds’ come in our direction – either for an ultra-bargain price or even gratis…I can’t exactly recall.
I was very fond of their roll-neck jumpers – what Americans would call sweaters – and I had one or two of them over the years when this happened. They may actually have been intended for female wear, but nobody would have noticed the difference!
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True, a sweater is a sweater. The ultimate uni-sex garment.
“Doctor heal thyself”? In any climate wool anywhere up- or-down there for under garments ?! Nice to know the Jaeger provenance.Ouch! Fun!
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I suppose if it’s fine enough wool it should be just about OK, jacqstaubssyahoocom. I have a vague recollection of some personal experience of woollen underwear from many years ago and I didn’t find it in any way uncomfortable. Indeed, there have been many a pair of underpants in cotton that I have found more uncomfortable, so it’s less about fabric and more about the way they are put together, I happen to think, which perhaps doesn’t quite support Dr. Jaeger’s theories, now I come to think of it!
It would have to be a nice worsted wool, or maybe cashmere!
I don’t think they were cashmere, Lizzie! I may be wrong, though.
I love the Jaeger story! Let’s not forget the toed stockings, either, for to cover every available morsel of skin was going to be your proof against potentially catching cholera 🙂 I’ve had occasion to skim read his treatise and he is unsurprisingly a little on the crank side but his Sanitary System took off like wildfire around the world and I discovered that even halls in tiny towns in remote parts of Australia advertised lectures on his system.
I had to go back and see if my catalog has the toed socks, and it does!
Curious: “Sanatory” and “sanitary” in the same catalog listing. Interesting how the garments allowed for the breasts.
Fascinating! I have read in my fiber studies that when cotton garments became more widely available people were so pleased because they did not have to wear hot itchy woolen things in warmer weather. Less itchy commercial wool preparations are of course relatively new. Here’s an interesting article that I located online. https://www.eiu.edu/historia/Harzinski.pdf
Thanks so much for the link to that article. Very interesting!
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