Do we really have to suffer to be beautiful?


James Gillray (1756 - 1815) knew all about the boudoir and the suffering therein.





You don't really need that cricket bat darling, any burglar would run a mile if he saw you!


On a similar vein, the daughter of a Spirella client was lounging around her Mother's house in an old housecoat, her hair in curlers and with a hardening face pack of ghastly hue in preparation for the arrival of her boyfriend later that day. The boyfriend arrived an hour early and the girl in question fled upstairs where her Mother found her virtually in tears and frantically applying her mascara and lipstick. "Quick, get my new girdle" hissed the girl. As the poor girl successfully overcame the reluctant zip of the girdle, she cried "I want him to see me as I really am!"


Our neighbour similarly attired recounted how she was confronted on the stairs by the lodger (a man), but with the added humiliation of wearing a far flimsier housecoat that revealed her far from flimsy foundations!


The girl on the right indeed sports some very substantial foundation garments. In fact, the Marks and Spencer satin elastic girdle (from the 1970's) and the CAMP 90245 panty-girdle from the 1980's are two of the strongest girdles ever made. On another page called "Trapped inside my panty-girdle", we debate whether something as simple as elastic knickers needed to be so complicated.


One aging actress succumbed to old age less than gracefully. Well past her prime but still on stage comes the following report, "By the 1970's, the stage had been strategically darkened to camouflage her age, and she resorted to a number of painful tricks to maintain her glamorous image. These included braiding her hair tightly before donning a wig, and wearing a tight, all-over girdle under her elaborate costumes and gowns." A similar face-tightening technique is scalp taping. This requires powerful surgical plaster to be stuck just above the forehead and pulled strongly backwards. It is in effect, a non-surgical facelift. The plaster adheres to the scalp. Such Ďtapingí can pull the sides of the face taut as well but is extremely uncomfortable.



(Left)  Edith Thornton McLeod in 1949 had a lot to say about being beautiful over 40, although it is polite to cover your face if you appear inadvertently in your underwear.


(Right)  Oops! She forgot to cover her face, nevertheless, she manages an amazingly theatrical gesture: "Ooh, that Lady Windermere's stolen my fan!"

Women were so elegant in those days.



Julia Roberts in the film 'Mirror, Mirror' (2012) undergoes baroque beauty therapy that includes having her face covered in parrot droppings and using a bee sting to plump up the lips.



Two versions of the all-enveloping electric heater bag.


Curlers are one thing, balancing your hairpiece quite another. Meanwhile, some girls like the tin foil and others hate it.

 .. but the 'Acme Autoperm' is something else. The elderly lady on the left was the first customer.


 The terrifying Max Factor invention was not a torture device, but an analogue face contour measurer. Perhaps it could measure the before and after effects of the patented 'Curves of Youth'.

On the right, it looks like a simple perm, but in this case, it really is a torture device used by Vincent Price in the film 'The Theatre of Blood' (1973) to electrocute a lady that criticised him. Hopefully not in real life since Vincent Price and the lady, Coral Browne married after the film's completion.

Face masks worthy of the fetish world were used and actually worn to smooth the skin and remove wrinkles. On left, the air pressure was reduced and on the right, the lady could breathe through a tube inserted into her mouth.

Despite being tastefully finished in satin, the mask above is still faintly terrifying, especially when connected to the electricity machine.


There are dials for the face, neck, chin and afterwards, the rather sinister nurses spray you with, I wonder what - some immobilising chemical to hold your remodelled face in shape. But don't spray the lady on the right just yet.

These masks were, amazingly, products of the 1990s. "Slip into your satin pyjamas" exhorts the advert. What is the point of those lovely satin pyjamas if the mask will scare any suitor off.

Again another 1990s marvel - a Bullworker for your lips. Amazingly, the filmed advert shows the poor woman performing 60 compressions WHILST GIVING A COMMENTARY.

"Thithh wi' etherthithe 'u' theeks". She keeps up the mumbling for two minutes in this grotesque almost ritual humiliation.

Witness the Japanese misses attempting to plump up their lips. This is seriously scary and once the lips are done, you can straighten that nose as well and then cover your face in Spanx.

There was no end to the old-fashioned inventors' ingenuity (or should I say, female gullability): freckle removers and dimple inserters being just the tip of the iceberg and not all these devices come from years ago. The lass on the right is keeping her wrinkles at bay in 2018.

Would you smear a good meal or African algae all over your fizzog, I certainly wouldn't.


The lady above is scared witless by the sight of Jim Carrey playing "the Mask", in fact about as scared as 'The Mask' (1994) is of confronting his landlady in curlers and a green facepack. Oh dear, some women just don't like to be seen like this including the Australian soap opera girl with the cricket bat. Meanwhile, Anna Karen in 'On the Buses' (1971) asks her husband "Shall I take my curlers out?" in the sadly mistaken belief that he is making romantic overtures and finally Candice Bergen in 'Book Club' (2018).


This sequence of shots is from Terry Gilliams' 1985 dystopian, science-fiction film 'Brazil', where the cosmetic surgery obsessed Ida Lowry, played by Katherine Helmond, has her face stretched, clipped and wrapped in plastic (below). This is, of course, fantasy from the film world, but not actually as fantastic as you might imagine. Aging actresses have been known to have their scalps taped to pull the skin taut over the face. Apparently this is less than comfortable although rather effective. One actress even had a series of rings pierced through her scalp which, when pulled together by a ribbon through the rings stretched her face to an immobile smoothness. Her wig was anchored onto the rings that were then hidden from view.



Of course once the face has been attended to, attention passes to the teeth although this will be a longer process.




Melissa McCarthy has her teeth whitened in 'The Boss' (2020)

Who is this hiding behind a frankly disturbing face-mask with the oversize curlers?


 This is the lady that confessed to wearing four layers of Spanx at the 2012 Grammy Awards. Yes: None other than the singer Adele who truly suffers for her beauty. Mind you, the full face, rubber, anti-tanning mask is equally unsettling.




Regard the lacing marks on the model above (middle). This was taken in 2009 after the photoshoot for the first calendar. The girdle has left a pronounced welt on the wearer as it has ridden down the body and it wasn't just foundation garments that left you battered and bruised, look at the structural engineering involved in a strapless evening gown.


This remarkable series of five postcards shows the ecstasy that can be achieved from lacing up your corsets (she will never, ever lace them closed) and donning a chin strap. Soon she will be slim and that double chin consigned to history; no wonder she looks so happy.

Less happy are the maidens with excess flesh as a consequence of drastic and rapid weight loss. For sure the flesh can be controlled and reformed but it is far from painless.




However, you have to congratulate the Canadian lady in the middle who lost so much weight and manages to control it with a selection of powerful elastic garments. Indeed, industrial strength elastic works wonders (as it has done for decades).


All that effort and the bra still doesn't fit!

But it was all worth it, the make-up, the fingernail painting, the dangerously pinned and balanced hairpieces, the tight, tighter girdle, the bosoms hoisted high, higher, the fluff, the all-enveloping satin and the teeth braced to piano key perfection (in the fullness of time for the girl on the left).


























Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

If ever there was a film dedicated to this subject, it just has to be 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' (series started 2015) that runs a sequence of just how you have to suffer to be beautiful. The girl getting into her spanx is hilarious.


Sister in the 1960s

I always found it odd that in our household, my sister was totally unconcerned about her Ďinnocentí younger brother seeing her in all stages of undress whereas my mother was extremely coy about appearing anything other than fully clothed. From these adolescent views of my sister and the presumption that my mother and granny went through similar procedures, I was amazed at the complexity, not just of dressing a female, but the pain and time involved and the resulting ever so fragile, albeit beautiful creature that emerged.

It would start with a lengthy session in the bathroom from which sister would emerge swaddled in towels with a huge towel turban adorning her head. Her door would close at this point (there were some things I was not allowed to see) but half an hour later she would emerge, Gorgon-like, with a head full of curlers and some ghastly-hued gunge solidifying over her face. Her young body would be squeezed into layers of industrial strength elastic and satin, her rather empty bra and girdle. Why she needed underpants that weighed about two pounds, with bones, a zipper and legs that virtually went to her knees was beyond me, but apparently a womanís internal organs would end up on the floor if not adequately supported. Mother would now appear, fully clothed of course and the ritual would continue in the bathroom. Sisterís teeth had never been her strong point and after years of bracing mother took on the delicate task of clipping and gluing in her upper and lower veneers. Back into her bedroom, mute at his point as the veneers took hold, mother would help her with her stockings, two pairs I might add, a support pair fastened to garters under the girdle legs and a sheer seamed pair that were attached to external garters. Then the falsies that would fill out the empty spaces in her bra were inserted and shoulder pads clipped onto her bra straps.

The petticoating could go two ways: if a flared skirt was to be worn a huge confection of nylon and taffeta would be lowered over her head and settled onto her waist. This would then be secured with a  laced waspie. I shuddered at the thought of this corset (for that is what it was) compressing the zipper and bones of her girdle even further into her soft, young flesh.

She now would don something like a transparent waterproof coat to allow the face mask to be removed and thus began the transformation of the Gorgon into a doll. Powder, paint, false eyelashes, eye-liner, rouge and lipstick adorned the face whilst tedious manipulation of the curlers, heaters, coolers and the attachment of the mandatory beehive hairpiece (or whatever might be in vogue) with a hundred kirby grips (bobby pins in the USA) took care of her tonsorial magnificence. The masterpiece was immortalised for eternity (well most of the day anyway) with several layers of hairspray. If a hat was to be worn, then another hundred pins could be called into play. Of course, sisterís fingernails had to be applied, she chewed her real ones too often for them to grow.

Mother and sister would now confer as to the selection of blouse and skirt or possibly dress. Why womenís clothes fasten up the back, I had no idea and why unstable bows had to be tied at the neck again was a mystery. Rings for the fingers and ears, a necklace perhaps, shoes with impossibly high heels and matching handbag all had to be coordinated and selected from the vast display in her cupboard.

Finally complete, sister looked stunning but what about the time-consuming effort and not a little pain involved, not to mention the perils of being thus encumbered. Starting from the top: Balance and avoidance of sudden breezes to keep that hair-piece / hat in place. Donít perspire whatever you do and avoid any rain on your make-up. Pray that your eyelashes stay in place and watch what you eat. Remember that embarrassing episode when your top veneers got stuck in the pudding. Head up, keep that pussy bow intact and careful with those nails. No violent manoeuvres lest the falsies / shoulder pads decide to migrate. Eating probably wonít be too much of an ordeal since your stomach capacity has been minimised by the corset (honestly itís not a waspie). Flounced petticoat skirt or pencil skirt; both have their perils. A simple breeze or the act of sitting is likely to reveal the virtuous legs of your girdle beneath a dozen rustling layers of nylon and taffeta and careful to avoid electrocution from the static electricity. If hobbled by a pencil skirt, sitting is nigh on impossible, so is conventional perambulation. Mind you, on those heels the danger of falling off is ever present as is the ridiculous mincing gait engendered by the confined thigh movement and buttocks compressed to near nuclear density. Did I mention the stockings? How could anybody invent a material that would ladder under the slightest touch sometimes even by thought alone assuming, of course, that one of the beastly garters doesnít let go.

My beautiful precious butterfly of a sister, how fragile you are.