One of the stout woman's acquisitions (from our collection I might add). A Dutch panty-girdle circa 1980.

Bunty, the Stout Woman

Her Point-of-View

The stout woman in question is a rather special lady. We have known her for nearly 30 years. She is in her 50's, but very well-proportioned. She is genuinely classy and at 5' 10" tall, with natural vital statistics of 46F-38-46, she is a quite a force to be reckoned with. She is one of the most sincere and honest people that we have ever met. My husband reckons she's a bit "Jolly hockey sticks and all that." Perhaps he's right. She is a throwback to another world, a character from a 'Girl's Own' annual.

For the purposes of this serious web site, the stout woman's great attraction is that she will pose, and is genuinely interested in our corsetry collection. Unfortunately, her proportions mean that we only have limited garments that will suit her ample frame. Nevertheless, she has been a 'good sport', and has tried on those articles in the collection that will fit her. 

Those who bemoan the passing of conventional corsetry, will not be encouraged by the comments that our friend makes whilst attempting the, very un-second millennium task, of attaching one's back suspenders!

The stout woman in a Spirella 305 and Triumph Doreen brassiere. 

Trials and Tribulations

In 2004, we attempted an experiment to see how a woman's flesh is compressed and/or re-distributed by a corset.

With the stout woman's agreement, we performed this simple experiment, suggested by my husband. The human body is virtually all fluid. Fluids are incompressible, therefore a corset, cannot reduce the figure. Wearing a corset does not cause instant weight loss so where does the body mass go. It cannot go inwards; it cannot be compressed; it must go somewhere.

 

the stout woman as close to naked as the human eye will ever see (left). The uplift of the bosom when she wears a Spirella corset and brassiere (middle right) is dramatic, and classical Spirella of the 1950's. Her bosom rose by 5 inches, however, her vital statistics remain 48-40-48.

 

The Spirella has done what the company promised, it has supported and controlled. The combination of upper and lower foundation garments has smoothed her excess avoirdupois, and her clothes, as a consequence will hang better, the stout woman will feel better because she knows that she looks better. Her mass has been re-distributed, it has not been compressed, for it cannot.

On the right, the stout woman wears a reproduction Victorian corset. It has pulled in the waist, and would have gone at least another two inches, however, the stout woman was becoming restless and we desisted. Her vital statistics had become 49-38-49!

The human body is incompressible, however, the flesh can be moulded, re-distributed and supported. the stout woman was happiest in the Spirella. "It made me feel very elegant, but I don't know if I could live with my breasts up around my neck like that!" As for the Victorian corsets (an Axfords classic from 1985); "I couldn't live with the lace frills. They would show through anything. But the basic design is excellent. I would wear it for a formal evening, but the Spirella corset I could live with".

 

 

The Question of Knickers and Corsets

 

This controversy has been described elsewhere, but the stout woman's comments are worth repeating. On the right, clad in Hunkemöller brassiere and Spencer corset, only the picture on the left is correct. The knickers are worn over the corset. The brassiere should also be a better fit (F into D doesn't work), but the effect is fair.

The dreadful packaging on the right caused the stout woman to cry "I look like an over-stuffed sausage; and HOW am I going to go to the loo?"

Once divested of the combination, she hung onto the knickers. "It's my reward for posing for you" she exclaimed. "But they're so dreadfully old-fashioned" I countered (plus we didn't have a replacement). "How sad" said the stout woman with a smile, "but I like them, and it gets awfully cold here in winter." Arguing with the stout woman is an exercise in frustration, and so we got the knickers copied at the local haberdashery.

 

 

 

The Modelling Garment and other Encumbrances

 

As we have said, the stout woman is a 'good sport', and in the interests of our researches has gamely clambered in and out of various measuring garments, corsets and girdles. Her encounter with the Spencer measuring garment was hysterical. Without the help of a professional corsetiere, it took the stout woman and all my husband's engineering skill to assemble the contraption. Then she thought that it was a proper corset for everyday use, "Oh no. I couldn't adjust all those straps and buckles every morning" she cried, until we explained that it was for taking measurements only.

Below we see the stout woman in a classic Australian Jenyns 'long abdominal' corset. This time the stout woman remarked "Ah yes. Another measuring garment", and we had to explain that "No. This one really is a corset!"

As you can see, it's actually very effective on the stout woman and she's borrowed it several times for various functions. The corset was one of the early pieces in our collection, and was old when we acquired it in 1974. Let us say, four decades on, it can both flatten and flatter a women like the stout woman.

 

The incredibly heavy, under-belted Dutch girdle (purchased from Hunkemoller in 2000) doesn't quite meet the challenge of the stout woman's tummy in the way that the Jenyns and Spirellas do. A corsetiere would, of course, say "Madam. That's because your sort of figure requires the support of a corset and not a girdle". the stout woman has only borrowed the Spirella once. "I prefer the Jenyns" she explained, "It's so easy to adjust, and women of my age don't wear clothes thin enough for the lacing to show".

As can be seen, the stout woman is not a great fan of the Spirella brassiere, and has reverted to that classic, the Triumph Doreen.

In 2015, our friend experimented with Spencer and Strodex measuring garments:

 

We have said it before and we'll say it again, there's no substitute for understanding vintage garments other than wearing them!

 

Bunty gamely tried on one of our vintage Spencer measuring garments and the newly arrived Strodex version. Now, I have to admit that we're far more familiar with the Spencer garment and got Bunty ensconced fairly quickly in the white stiff nylon contraption. What was so apparent was that the nylon would be very easy to clean and that all the measurements were integral with the garment. It was also lightly boned to help maintain its shape and the stiffness of the material really helped. The Spencer corsetiere had to chose a two piece lower and two piece upper garment, all the pieces of which could be selected from her 'bag of tricks' to accommodate the client's figure.

 

 

As for Strodex, the upper and lower garments are both assembled from two pieces to accommodate the client's size, but in this case, there are four lacers on the brassiere and three on the corset part that is secured by straps at the rear. Our main problem was that, being un-boned, the lacers had to be very carefully adjusted to prevent unwanted flesh from creeping out between the lacings. A fly flap beneath the lacers would have helped. It was such a time-consuming nuisance that my husband was called in to assist and even his patience was tested. We must be fair and say that our experience with Strodex is limited, however, we are still fans of the Spencer method. Once ensconced in the Strodex garment, the fitter then had to take the measurements whereas with the Spencer, these can be read off the garment. Bunty was delighted to be 'D-Cup' once again (see picture above) after many kilos of weight loss!

 

Strodex vs. Spencer

 

We prefer the buckle adjusted white stiff nylon of the Spencer

rather than the seven lacers in the floppy cotton of the Strodex.

 

Sadly, the Spirella measuring garments were far too short for Bunty's 1.78m (5' 10") frame. To make a reasonable comparison we may have to call upon Victoria, but in that case, I'll not be calling upon my husband to lend a hand!

 

 

 

The stout woman's New Corset

 

I know that the title of this episode sounds like something from a 1950's 'Girls Own' annual, but that is exactly the sort of background from which the stout woman comes. Recently the stout woman enquired "You know, I've tried lots of your old corsets. Do you think your corsetiere could get me my own corset?" I replied that she would be delighted. There's precious little money to be made in the trade these days, and the commission would be greatly appreciated. Rather than make the long journey from the stout woman's village to Sussex, I measured her myself using the Spencer measuring garments. The whole procedure was a bit chaotic, since it has been a while since I used the measuring garment (the stout woman, Yorkshire - 2002). Eventually we achieved the desired fit, my husband helping us along (or perhaps not) by providing some excellent glasses of an Australian Merlot. Isn't that typically male? Here we are with valuable, white-coloured Spencer relics, and he gives us red wine. Mind you; it was rather nice.

The stout woman in typical bra and a light pantie-girdle (left) purchased from the Hema department store in Den Haag, Holland. Once strapped into the measuring garment, the raise of the breasts and the flattening of the abdomen are obvious. the stout woman was no fan of the brassiere measurer, that, quite frankly was the wrong size. From the front (right), it encompasses her breasts without any overflow, however, viewed from the back (top right), and out of shot, the garment fails to contain the bulges by her armpits. The corset part of the garment was a great success. Its amazing length of 21 1/2 inches (55 cm), was ideal for the stout woman although she requested longer. "I want those dreadful bulges to be covered by my corset not squeezed out" she cried.

At the end of the afternoon, we had the measurements, as well an an acute case of the giggles, as can happen to any two women whatever age. My husband was left to transcribe the details onto an old Spencer chart and post them off to our corsetiere friend

It's always a revelation to see how these garments are constructed. By a simple method of folding and replaceable panels, women from the stout woman's size to that of, say, Twiggy, can be accommodated, although to be fair, each corsetiere would be supplied with several corset lengths and brassiere fronts to accommodate such diverse figure extremes.

The tapes are extremely easy to use. Once tightened to the required degree, the measurements can be read straight from the straps.

We photographed the corset garment after removal from the stout woman, and placed one of our smallest girdles on top. The waist we recorded off the stout woman was 38 inches. The un-stretched waist of the small French girdle, a scant 19 inches! "You wouldn't think they belonged to the same species," said my husband, and the giggles started once more!

 

Once the measuring process was finished, I re-checked my measurements using a simple tape in case I had made a mistake. I’ve shown all the measurements required on the little diagram (inevitably prepared by my husband). An experienced fitter in the 1960’s could have doubled that number of measurements, however, the cutters and seamstresses today do not possess the finesse that these extras figures would require. Then I showed the stout woman some of my own corsets and various other Spirellas so that she could see the options available. I also gave her the one page of literature that Spencer provides to its corsetieres. The choices appear very limited in terms of extras, however, the company is normally quite good at attempting to recreate some original patterns. (As an aside here, the stout woman had chosen the corset to be as long as she could wear so as to conceal the bulges of flesh in the region of her armpits. At the other extreme, I used to visit a corsetiere in Stafford who regularly wore a Spirella 305. In this case the corset was far shallower than its circumference, appearing almost like a broad belt. It was worn simply to prevent her abdomen from resting on her upper thighs).  

 

the stout woman was disappointed, although I had briefed her, on the limited selection of materials. She settled on the artificial satin ‘Orchid’ material in white. Not the cheapest, it is very robust, washable and quite feminine. The fabric allows the passage of light clothes without snagging or the use of an intermediate layer such as a petticoat. She requested six suspenders and was surprised that the normal number was only four. (the stout woman’s size usually means that any stocking will be under quite some tension and six suspenders is mandatory for adequate security).

 

Front-lacing and hook-and-eye reinforced zip is standard and would have satisfied her, however, I asked whether she would mind adding back-lacing as well. the stout woman doesn’t need it, however, for our own photographic purposes, one corset will now serve the purpose of a front- and a back-laced version. She agreed to this request provided that the back-lacing would not show through her clothes.

 

All the details were emailed to the corsetiere and we awaited her reaction as regards suggestions, but most particularly cost!

 

The corsetiere responded quickly, for that is her way. In her 83rd year, she is still precise, robust and possessed of a good sense of humour. She phoned us and got straight to the point. “It’s very long, have you got the measurements correct?” I had checked this very carefully. the stout woman is not just tall, but she carries a lot of her height in her torso which inevitably makes her rather heavy. The corsetiere agreed. “If you are really sure. But if she is very heavy, we’d better double up on the bones. It will cost extra you know, as will the extra length.” I knew! She then quoted a price for the corset that left the stout woman quite stunned. Although independently wealthy, she has a keen eye for what is, and what is not a bargain. The corset fell into the latter category! “My Granny never paid a penny for her corsets” she cried. I knew that to be true. Half the trades folk in the stout woman’s village nearly went bankrupt waiting for the old girl to pass away before claiming from the estate. In fact, I was quite relieved when the stout woman withdrew her cheque book and scrawled out a cheque for 163 Pounds (that's about 300 Dollars) in her large wobbly hand-writing. Normally if the corsetiere measures you herself, then a deposit is paid, and then the full amount only when the corset fits correctly. The onus is on the fitter. However, and quite rightly, when ‘remote’ measurements are phoned in or posted, the full amount must be paid in advance. The deal was done and the corsetiere estimated a delivery time of about four weeks. This means that we shall have to wait over two months to see the stout woman in her new stays, since she will be on holiday when the corsets arrive.

 

We chatted over the phone to the corsetiere and asked after her business. "Oh dear. Nothing like it used to be. I've got perhaps a dozen ladies, but they keep passing away." "Mind you, I've got two clients in their 50's, but most are much older. My oldest is 96."

 

 

At last, we have some pictures of the stout woman in her new corset

 

Well, these are the results. The back view shows how the corset has put quite a waist on her. The front and side views show how well the corset controls the stout woman's not insubstantial tummy. Apparently, she is delighted, although still doesn't wear it every day. Our corsetiere remarked that she would like to visit the stout woman to ensure that the corset is properly positioned, however, the 300 mile journey for an elderly lady to the stout woman's rural village would be out of the question.

 

Note that the back views are taken with the stout woman wearing a Dutch Hunkemoller brassiere. It means that a whopping 30 inches of back-lacing (23 for the corset and seven for the brassiere) is required, however, for the first time, the stout woman's underarm fleshiness is completely controlled.

 

On the right we can see the stout woman's problem. With a poorly fitting brassiere of inadequate length and strength, all the corset does, is to move some flesh away from her (well-defined) waist and cause it to 'splurge' (the stout woman's word) out over the top. She was quite alarmed by the picture to such an extent that she requested us to doctor it ever so slightly. Something we rarely do!

 

The stout woman in her element, helping us assess the choicest pieces in our collection. The adorable satin Jenyns (a late piece from the 1980's), an amazing busk-fronted, hooked and quadruple-laced Barcley (pre-War), and a modern CAMP purchased in 1998 from Coja of Rijswijk (left).

You don't have to be a corsetiere to see that the beautiful vintage brassiere from Spirella (Niagara Falls N.Y. vintage mid-1950's) is woefully inedequate to cope with the stout woman's large breasts. "I'll chop them off one day" she cried. She never will, of course, for like many women she's terrified of the surgeon's knife. It's a real shame since the corset and brassiere are made from a lovely leaf patterned brocade.

The stout woman models the mid-40's Spirella 325 (far left). Made in another beautiful brocade, it clashes however, with the brassiere that was made a decade later to match the front-laced, busk-fastened 305 corset. The corsets fits the stout woman very well, in contrast to the brassiere. It has the circumference for her torso, but not the cups.

The 305 carries that oddity of corsets from the 1930's - 50's, and that is is the two closely spaced front suspenders.

These corsets must have been owned by a stout, yet very tall woman for 50 years ago. At 5' 10" (in her youth, nearer 5' 9½" today), the stout woman carries much of her length in her body. If the previous owner of these garments was traditionally proportioned she might have been close to 6 feet tall!