How Women Buy Underwear

Hill, Margaret. “How Women Buy Underwear.” The University of Alabama, 1933.

Until I found “How Women Buy Underwear,” an academic paper by Margaret Hill, the paper sat in Hoole archives with fading letters and dust residue. Hill studies what women during the 1930’s considered when they bought new underwear. Hill contacted 100 women from the University of Alabama for “the

way women select undergarments, the cost of such garments, whether or not they are satisfactory and the types of undergarments worn,” to help women buy by underwear faster and easier. Hill explains cotton, silk, and rayon were historically needed for production. She covers the hygienic aspect of each and how they started being sold. She ends with the results of the Questionnaire. She notes, “60% of the purchasers of undergarments buy by price and appearance.”

The research paper works for women who had the ability to access academic papers like this one, if they want to know about the most effective underwear. Hill also provides a glimpse into what women wrote about, or were permitted to write about, in the 1930’s when America still had strict gender norms. Through a feminist lens, this paper subverts gender norms by discussing women’s bodies, something usually taboo for this time. However, one should also consider that women were not welcomed in other male dominated fields of study, making this paper about underwear and clothes seem like their only choice. Finally, considering Hill wrote this paper during the Great Depression, with people facing money scarcity, the paper may not have been useful. People were not concerned about the underwear they bought, they just wanted to survive.