“At one time hoop skirt manufactories were numerous, and a large capital was engaged in the business. Since the hoop skirt went out of fashion, the factories have nearly all disappeared, and the capital has gone into other enterprises.”
“The New York Sun reports Mr Bradley, of Bradley, Voorhees & Day, as saying:”
“‘It was in 1857 that hoop skirts first came into use. I remember the first article, of the kind which were imported from Europe. They were cumbrous affairs, the hoops made of bamboo, cane or rattan. Iron was considered too heavy a material.’”
“‘Steel hoops were introduced by American makers. It was a long process to get the right quality of steel. If made too hard the steel would snap, and if too soft the hoop would bend in wear and lose its shape.’”
“‘Now the steel is so well tempered that the hoop skirt retains its shape and at the same time conforms to changes of attitude in the like a woven fabric.’”
“‘The weight of a wearer skirt like that now coming into fashion is less than one-fourth of that of the old style of skirt, and the new skirt will wear four times as long as the old.’”
“‘I recollect the time when we employed 1,200 hands, and our product was 10,000 skirts a day. That was during the war, but about 1868 the hoop skirt went out of fashion and the trade died out.’”
“‘There was a transient revival in 1870, but it disappeared, and from then until now the hoop skirt trade has been a very small part of our business.’”
“‘We have always continued the manufacture to some extent, getting orders every now and then, mostly from the South and West.’” (Yorkville Enquirer, August 4, 1881)
The company then got into ‘union suits;’ reportedly they were the first. The union suit involves the combination of both a shirt and pants (drawers) in a one piece suit. The garment commonly included a drop seat. This term began to be used in the 1890s.
A spokesperson for the company was Johnny Weissmuller; in 1924, he and Duke Kahanamoku raced in the Olympics. Weissmuller beat Duke (Duke was 2nd) in the 100-meter freestyle final. (Duke’s brother Sam came in 3rd.)
After becoming one of the most famous swimmers in the world, Weissmuller translated his success into being a spokesperson for Bradley, Voorhees & Day.
In 1929, he signed a 5-year contract that paid him $500 per week. He was to tour the country giving swimming exhibitions.
Weissmuller then turned that into a long series of hit films playing first Tarzan, King of the Jungle (it was Weissmuller’s films that debuted the legendary ‘Tarzan yell.’)
At the beginning of the 1930s, Bradley, Voorhees & Day was purchased by the Atlas Underwear company located in Piqua, Ohio.
During the Great Depression they were successful in manufacturing swimsuits for men, women and children. They patented their own fabric, Sea Satin, a rayon woven satin backed with latex for stretch.
Later, in the 1940s and 50s, Bradley, Voorhees & Day, using Rayon, started to make Hawaiian Aloha Shirts; sometimes with island-related themes, sometimes not.
They also used knits of cotton, wool and Rayon, and cellophane. Their swimsuits were featured in major fashion magazines and high fashion stores. In 1951, the brand was purchased by Superior Mills.
Bradley, Voorhees & Day were first to start packaging underwear in plastic bags for the mass market. In the 1960s and 1970s, they started introducing sportops, a pocket T-shirt, and fashionable underwear made of nylon.
In 1976, Bradley, Voorhees & Day was purchased by Fruit of the Loom, which brought the brand to a worldwide market. On April 9, 2002, Berkshire Hathaway purchased Fruit of the Loom.
Over time, the products were simply known as BVD (using the first letters of founders’ names;) ‘BVDs’ became a genericized trademark in reference to any brand of underwear.