The Ivy Leaf Collection
Some of the photographs that appear on this page have been taken to sell for charity and are therefore protected by copyright.
What is the Ivy Leaf Collection?
At the beginning of the 20th century, burgeoning technology allowed for numerous inventions and patents, not the least of which was the flexible metal stay that replaced whalebone in women's' corsets. The sale of such garments, and the success of the industry, relied upon a legion of corsetieres, and those that worked for Spirella, the pioneers of the flexible stay, joined the company's Ivy Leaf Club. Emblems were issued and corsetieres could collect pins for each decade of selling. It was hoped that the influence of Spirella would grow and cover like the ivy itself. In a small tribute to these energetic ladies, we have named this collection of corsetry after the emblem of the Ivy Leaf.
The collection started many decades ago in a draper's shop in Renfrew from where has grown well beyond its original beginnings in the parochial world of suburban Glasgow. It now contains over 500 items. Foundation garments from Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Egypt, Syria, Singapore, Australia, the USA and Canada are represented. In no way is this a comprehensive collection. There are many repeated makes and sizes of garment. Some are brand new and some show the patina of wear and care. Retired corsetieres have donated dozens of garments. Shop liquidations have added the inevitable odd, and therefore unsold sizes, and, of course, the advent of Ebay has been kind to the serious collector. Occasionally we receive packages from children or grand-children disposing of a senior relative's effects and uncertain what to do with "The mysterious underpinnings of an all but forgotten era." All we hope to achieve is to preserve a collection of garments and recollections from an era that has has passed.
In 2009, an amazing opportunity passed our way where a group of ladies elected to make a calendar based on vintage underwear. The proceeds would go to charity and, as it turned out, they raised several thousand pounds in the process. We felt that it was a marvellous way to show-case the collection.
Twelve charming volunteers model a small selection from the Ivy Leaf Collection.
The ladies featured above, who agreed to model the Ivy Leaf Collection for a calendar, and whose ages span six decades, were all quite unfamiliar with corsetry. They represent a typical cross-section of professional females in modern Britain. Nevertheless, without exception, they took to their vintage underpinnings with an enthusiasm that surprised both the film crew and director. Perhaps they even surprised themselves!
If you wish to contact the curator of the collection please email us at