The History of the Calendars
Whatever happened to the 2011 calendar?
We often get requests for back numbers of the calendars. Sadly, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018 are out of print. The 2010 and 2013 versions that were originally rendered in sepia tones were re-mastered in full colour but they have now sold out as well. So, rather like the Boeing 717*, what happened to the 2011 calendar? It never got produced. We had ideas, but by the time we had assembled the models it was time for the 2012 edition. Just for fun we have shown the gestation of the covers for the various calendars.
* There is actually a Boeing 717, but it is not in sequence with Boeing's other seven-series aeroplanes being a 1980's derivative of a Douglas DC9.
The first calendar, made in 2009 for 2010, featured 12 amateur models from the Soroptimists movement. This defined the charitable nature of the calendars that to date have raised over £5,000. This original calendar, rendered in sepia tones, showed the models wearing foundation garments from the Ivy Leaf collection and it came as a surprise to my husband just how enthusiastic the women were and how much they all enjoyed the day. We were lucky to be able to use a friend's magnificent house for the photographic sessions. The models ranged in age from 50 to 85. As we have said, we thought that the calendar would be a 'one off', however, two years later, we approached four of the models who obviously had enjoyed themselves so much and who represented sizes that we could accommodate, and we ran another session at the same location. We took enough photographs to populate the two calendars for 2012 and 2013. The 2012 calendar was the first colour version. We were then approached by the Letchworth Heritage Museum (the home of Spirella) to help with their 100th anniversary in 2013 and we suggested another sepia calendar featuring mainly Spirella garments. They were initially enthusiastic and we produced a fair number of these calendars, but communication between ourselves and the museum suddenly died for no reason that we could understand and we were left with the stock. Fortunately, we have sold most of it over the years. We thought that sepia was not the way to go and we re-mastered the 2010 calendar in full colour and did the same with the 2013 version as well as adding four extra pages. In 2013, new members of the ladies group wanted to have a go and rather than repeat the formula, we decided to introduce the persona of the Spirella corsetière and to use vintage clothes from the 1950s - 1970s period. Six models wanted to take part including a regular's daughter who, at 30, became our youngest model. Our oldest model who had posed for the 2010 calendar had just turned 90. As you can see above, we tried several versions of the cover before selecting the final one.
In mid-2014, we felt that we couldn't ask the models yet again and sadly, the owner of the lovely house that we had been using had left the group so we decided on a completely different style of calendar and, with quite some trepidation, contacted a local professional model. We were so lucky to find Victoria, who at 18 became by far our youngest model. Victoria was charming, fun and genuinely enthusiastic about the clothes and foundation garments that surely she had never seen before. She was a real star. We used another location and inserted somewhat surrealistic backdrops and, once again, experimented with a few different covers. This met with varying degrees of approval and disapproval from our regular buyers and it led to the first book that we had printed. This compiled all the various experiments with backdrops including the 12 that were used for the actual 2015 calendar. Five limited edition books were subsequently produced at a larger size than the calendars however, these are expensive to make and we felt that we might never recoup production costs. After all, we determined from day one that profit from the calendars and books would exclusively be donated to charity.
In the summer of 2015, we decided to abandon the surreal theme and return to reality with a family theme of granny, mother and daughter. Two of our stalwart regulars aged 82 and 59 were keen and Victoria, now 19, was asked to join the group. The dynamics of the group worked well and they played their parts superbly and, yet again, everybody had a hilarious time. It was a far better calendar than the previous version. This was supposed to be the last calendar, however, we managed to make contact with Lyn Locke early in 2016. We asked her if she would be interested in making a 2017 calendar but I don't believe that she wanted to return to this arena after the death of her partner Mike and so we let the matter drop. In August, quite unexpectedly, Cathie Jung phoned us to ask if she could appear in our next calendar since she would be in England in October. We were honoured and were lucky enough to secure the original location, two of the amateur models and the lovely Victoria once more. It was a challenge to incorporate a Victorian re-enactor into a 1960's themed calendar but I believe we have managed.
There were no plans for a 2018 calendar, however, by popular demand, we constructed 'Girdles Galore', a composition of the best of our girdle photographs most of which had not been published before. In 2019, we produced a charity calendar but on an entirely different subject.
Of the seven calendars, one model, the corsetiere, has appeared in six of them and our favourite 80-year-old in five. Without exception, every photographic session has been hilarious but we have very strict rules about proper behaviour. My husband, who is the photographer, will only enter the dressing area by agreement of all models present and he will never be left in a room with only one model; there must be at least two women present. Mind you, when invited into the dressing area, he has been called upon to undertake some quite unusual tasks: releasing Victoria from her corsets was one (the combined strength of Victoria, her mother and myself having failed to release it) and helping one of our older members to fasten the hooks-and-eyes on her girdle was another. My husband rarely blushes but he did on that occasion.
Books, Lectures and Ideas
'Pulling Together' is a lecture that we have given from time to time. The first hard-back book was a limited run of 'Victoria Dreams of the Past' and this was auctioned successfully for charity, however, we were concerned that the profit margins were small and we could be left out of pocket. 'What Lies Beneath' was the second book and initially only two copies were made: one for ourselves and one for a successful bidder. Latterly, a third copy was printed and given to the owner of the house where so many of the calendar scenes were acted out. 'The Models' is a compilation of all the photographs that we took of the individual models. This can never be auctioned due to respect for the models. 'The Tribute to Lyn Locke' is a compilation of all the photographs that we have managed to collect over the years of this amazing lady and her friends, but once again, copyright prevents us from distributing it. 'Doctor Nikola's Satin Collection' dwells upon the allure of this fabric both as used in clothes and foundation garments. 'Victoria's Guide to Heavenly Bodies' is a serious astronomy tome with a slightly 'tongue-in-cheek' cover. Lastly, there is a work in progress 'Pulling Together' that is developing the lecture into a proper book.
'Pulling Together', the book, was started in June 2016 and by the end of July that year had progressed to 60-odd pages, many of them half complete. That flurry of activity made us realise what an undertaking this was going to be and we left the book alone for a while. That while went on and on until December 2018 when my husband, who enjoys setting annual targets from our bucket list, suddenly said "Come on, let's finish this thing!"
The title changed to 'What Lies Beneath' and we dabbled with the idea of 'My Girdle's Killing Me' but settled on the former. The latter idea resurfaced as a calendar for 2020 but somewhat changed from our original ideas (right).
We worked on it for six months, somewhat to the detriment of our web-site updates, and on 12th July 2019, the final six books came from the printer. They were OK, but under-sized and the binding had clipped some of the text. In fairness to the printer, we had not communicated properly with her and we paid for another run of six that were delivered on 19th June exactly as we had wanted. They sold out almost immediately.
The last remaining book 'What lies beneath' was up for auction on Ebay in 2021 and its sale gathered another good donation for the charity preferred by the models in the book. I have included the ebay listing below.
This 200-page book, the forerunner of 'I'm Killing my Girdle' is approx. A4, landscape format and ring-bound. Although derived from the web-site, it contains more photographs and the models faces are not blurred out. The screen dump from the middle section of the book gives you an idea of the density of pictures and photographs.
Two recent publications have been:
In 2021, lockdown gave us the ideal opportunity to refine our book 'What Lies Beneath'. We were never quite satisfied with the landscape format and ring binding and approached a book publisher. My husband undertook the Herculean task of converting the format to portrait and we added 65 new pages. The book was published in March 2021 and sold out almost immediately. The whimsical title 'I'm Killing my Girdle' is the reverse of the hoary old expression, 'My Girdle's Killing Me!' and refers to the decline of the girdle at the end of the 1960s.
More recent releases include