6  CUSTOMERS

 

 

6.1 GENERAL

 

The customers she inherited from Gardner’s were drawn from the highest to the lowest social standings and from about 15 countries worldwide. They included:-

 

-   Individual women - single or married

 

-   Married coupes or partners, who both wore corsets

 

-   Individual men -single and married

 

-   Customers Inherited from Overett and Madame Marie Stafford of Sunbury.

 

There were public school educated men and women and women who had been first corseted at the insistence of nuns at convent schools in the late 1940s.

 

Several individuals and not a few couples were introduced to Gardner’s and Iris after forming acquaintanceships with Will and Ethel Granger. Many travelled as much as 200 miles to visit her, first at Gardner’s and then at home. Those from overseas would include a visit en route elsewhere or on visits to the UK.

 

 

6.2  COUPLES

 

In one case, a husband and wife and their secretary became customers. The couple had tight-laced since the 30's and they had encouraged their secretary to train her figure too, when all three were customers of Overett. This salon, with no criticism of Iris, produced corsets whose fit they would extol even 24 years after his death.

 

A large-framed woman, the secretary reduced from 28 to 19 inches between 1955 and 1960 and remained as a customer of Iris from 1962 until 1999 shortly before her death. She favoured the same style of corset as Iris wore, the Godet L267 with, in 1965, an amazing 26 inch hip-spring with, and to please a foible of her husband's, as many as seven pairs of suspenders. Iris also made the couple a number of mannequin styles over the years to wear at corset soirées or as Iris called them parties. Her husband had worn corsets since his teens but the onset of arthritis forced him to stop in his 70's.

 

Since she had few personal customers who enjoyed the hip control of the Godet style, Iris always enjoyed appointments with this customer, and would discuss the advantages and the trials being tightly laced whilst driving long distances or in warm weather.

 

From the Midlands hailed the smallest waisted customer on Iris’s books who had initially dealt with Yanovsky or Jean Appleby’s salon in Edgware Road, London. She moved to Iris in about 1965. A school nurse, she had corseted since the age of eleven in the late 1940's as required by her convent school, very much like Isobel’s experience with her Scottish boarding school about a decade later, and emulated her mother when she began tight-lacing as a student nurse in the mid-1950's. Before pregnancy, she had reached 18 inches and recounted how her husband brought corsets to her while on the maternity ward, so much had she missed being corseted. From about 1965 she practised 24 hour a day tight-lacing and maintained a 17 inch waist, but that was her limit. As Iris wrote:-

 

“No, Mrs._ has never ordered anything smaller than 17 inches. He wanted her to once, but she would not have it.”

 

She very much liked Mrs _ and wrote:-

 

“I think Mrs. _ looks very nice as she is, I don't think she should go any smaller. She came in here once and I should think she was pulled too tight and had a job to breathe, I think it is mad. I hope she doesn't get like Mrs. Granger, I think she looked horrible" 10 June 1985

 

Her husband who had always admired her waist was also encouraged to corset and became a customer of Iris in the mid-1970s and remained a customer until Iris died.

 

Interestingly, Mrs _ shared Iris’s preference for very long stocking heels and for special occasions wore tan stockings with such heels in the older square, or cuban shape and not the point heels she usually wore because they were readily available. It turned out that as a young woman in the 1950's they had been her favourite style and her husband liked the style very much too. They said they liked the look of having the stocking heels ending not far from the 1950s hem line, which began at mid-calf. She had preserved several pairs of them from the 1950's and kept them for over 30 years for wear on special occasions.

 

A modest woman, she had been surprised in the early 1980's to realise what an impression her amazing waist made on the male sex, and would amusedly relate that she was sure that the aura she brought to a discussion enabled her to win her point where, given the tendency for the man to prevail, she was sure she would have been the loser.

 

Another tight-lacing couple hailed from Norway and the man worked for the UN in New York. In the early 1980's the wife was suddenly afflicted with a form of eczema which was traced to the metal in her corset steels. Iris tried every means of isolating the metal in special pockets, but to no avail, and the disappointed woman now in her 50's was forced to abandon the tight-lacing regime she had begun in her teens in the early post war era and she had enjoyed in partnership with her husband who continued as a customer of Iris.

 

She wrote of another couple:-

 

"I've made a few corsets lately and they all seem satisfied. Had a chap come Tuesday for his, he was more than pleased and may fetch his girl friend"  July 21 1983

 

Another man began corseting because his wife did, only for her to stop:-

 

"The man whose wife's photos were taken for Mr. Gardner's catalogue phoned the other day. I asked him if he wrote to you but he said not yet. I don’t think his wife is keen on it (tight lacing) by what he said." Jan 8, 1985

 

 

6.3 LADY CUSTOMERS

 

6.3.1  CATHY JUNG

 

After the first LGM Bal she attended, Iris did make a corset for Cathy Jung and made some more later.

 

“Yes, Cathy Jung and her husband came to see me, he seemed quite pleased with the corset, it fitted her, I think to a T. They ordered another on the phone last week but I shan't do it till I come back (from holiday). I should not say anything to X as he might think I'm taking his customers. Mr. B of Germany sent me a note to see if I was still making Mr. Gardner's styles so I wrote back and said I was. Then I phoned X for a piece of the beige material for Cathy Jung's but did not tell him who it was for. He asked me if I wanted to do a high top with fluted hips for Mr. B but he was waiting for material to come, but I said I was going away so I suppose he (X) will do them himself.”  July 1993

 

6.3.2  ETHEL GRANGER

 

Whilst at Gardner’s, Iris dealt with Will and Ethel Granger, but like most corsetičres who the couple patronised, the relationship didn't last, largely on account of Will's overbearing personality.

 

"As for Mrs. Granger, she died last year sometime so I heard. I've heard of all the makers you mention, but think some of them don't do it now, but I made Mrs. Granger a few corsets when she could not get them done anywhere else."  1 Aug 1983

 

"Mrs. Granger died last year. I think it was in the paper; somebody told me it was the evening one. They seemed very nice people but I only met them once. The corset I made for her was about 12" deep, no suspenders, but she had them made in other places as well. Oct 1983.

 

 

6.3.3  THE PRIVATE LADY FROM AYLESBURY

 

One of Iris's most private, but loyal customers, was a woman from Aylesbury, Bucks who had entrusted her corseting to Iris, first at Gardner’s and then privately until Iris died. She had tight-laced in the early years of marriage and only returned to it in the 1970's when she divorced and resumed work as a nurse. At first she wore corsets for support at work, but decided to recreate her youthful waist which she achieved, no doubt under Iris's counsel. She wore the L267 Godet, finally maintaining a waist of 18 inches with a hip-spring of 23 inches.

6.3.4  MARIA-ANNA JÄGER

 

(added in 2009 and courtesy of Thomas B. Lierse, creator of the Long Island Staylace Association)

 

This is a picture taken in 2005 (at age 60) of a German tight-lacer Maria-Anna Jäger. Although the photograph is taken well after Iris Norris stopped working, such was the strength (by neccessity) of her creations that this might well still be an 'Iris Norris original'.

 

6.4  GENTLEMEN CUSTOMERS

 

New gentleman customers, whose first contact with a corsetičre was Mrs. Norris, often approached such a contact nervously, because they had the perception they had that their desire to corset was in some way unseemly. Indeed, some would relate of firm rebuffs when they had attempted to make contact elsewhere. However, those whose first contact was Iris Norris were almost universally surprised by the way she gave a friendly response to every question along with a suggestion that they should visit Gardner's salon whenever they wished. Anyone who spoke over the telephone felt instantly at ease and would not have hesitated however shy, to take up her suggestion.

 

A woman clad in only her corsets, suspenders and stockings has been the butt of vulgar humour from the time of the music hall until Benny Hill. Small wonder therefore that the idea that a man may disrobe and be seen wearing the same, was and is the fear that filled the potential customer of a corset maker with despair.

 

However, it is certain that every customer who had for the first time pressed the fitting room bell to summon Iris Norris and then wait as the sense of shame and blushing took over, was immediately disarmed as the door opened and she stood there with her tape measure. The combination of the gentle tone of her voice and the calm matter of fact words, served to re-assure the customer that he was being accepted for what he was and not being judged. Simon's corsetičre, Mary, had a similar approach to Iris:-

 

"She said that she had always enjoyed being corseted and felt that anyone who had similar feelings should be actively encouraged."

 

Iris Norris had the best relationships, whilst working on her own, with gentlemen who wore stockings and suspenders with their corsets as she did. One can only speculate that there was a mutual recognition that, despite the fundamental difference of gender, they shared something important to their daily lives in common.

 

While they were a distinct minority, they were in no way worthy of censure of such requirements. She understood that the world was made up of all kinds of people and few were bad. How had this come about? How did her non-judgmental attitude form?

 

In the case of Iris it is clear that unlike firms and individual corsetičres who dealt exclusively with women, Gardner's where she always worked, had always made corsets for men. Her first boss Arthur Gardner wore them himself. She had machined men's corsets. In time she met such customers, generally established customers of the firm.

 

When she assumed more duties in the 1970's and new gentlemen approached the firm in response to advertisements her salon manner was well established.

 

What was this salon manner? It was at heart simply that of an employee of the business desiring to satisfy the customers' needs. The dictum was that 'the customer is always right'. With such an attitude, there was no room for any misguided moral judgment. In any case, where would one draw the line. Was it alright for a man to wear a corset if medically necessary, and wrong if he wanted to because largely on a subconscious level he liked the support it gave. Attempts have been made to define the motivation to corset in psychological terms and the findings and interpretations are always found wanting.

 

However, given that within the spectrum of behaviour of men where would be some whose behaviour bordered on that of impropriety, corsetičres experienced with gentleman customers could quickly sum up what kind of a person they were dealing with. In this regard, Iris was no exception. She was a good judge of character and the writer generally agreed with her opinion.

 

Likewise, she had become a businesswoman and customers, especially repeat customers, represent income and a livelihood. The key is to develop the ability to accommodate their behaviour and suppress one's personal feelings unless circumstances demanded otherwise. A satisfied customer, regardless of character within reason, represents repeat business and traditionally, customers patronized Gardner’s for their entire adult lives. It would, as we know, take a sea change in public attitude in the 1940's for the service to decline over a generation to the point of oblivion by 1990.

 

Her customers ranged from the sincere and polite and pleasant, to the arrogant, presumptuous and pushy. If a customer was at the limit of acceptably, they would be discouraged. Whilst business is business, serious insensitivity of the respect of the corsetičre is always unacceptable. She applied the same standards when she set up to work alone.

 

There's no doubt that she did have her favourites and those fortunate individuals would echo Simon’s observation of his corsetičre Mary, that:-

 

"Quite why she took to me so affectionately I shall never know, but I shall always be glad that she did."

 

Likewise there are persons would say of Iris, as Simon did of his corsetičre:-

 

"I will always be thankful to Mary. She was very kind and gentle and responded to my fascination with corsets in a very positive and encouraging way."

 

In point of fact, such persons had always been customers of Gardner’s from Edwardian times. However in those less tolerant times, all had been very discreet and non-judgmental.

 

However, the overt behaviour of some such persons in the 1980's meant that they were quickly shown the proverbial door by Iris. It was not the special reason they had for seeing her, it was their attitude and behaviour that she could and would not tolerate.

 

She did however say that she felt that those guilty of presumption and arrogance failed to understand that she had neighbours, and that she could not be the cause of behaviour which, though she might tolerate it as essentially harmless, others might find it objectionable. Twenty years on, of course, such has been the change in what is regarded as acceptable behaviour that today almost anything goes. It may be better that Iris had moved on.

 

That said, for persons with such needs, who were sincere and polite and pitched the request properly, after the corset fitting, she would allow them to remain in the salon and dress in their female apparel. Such was her empathy that she might even remain with them and assist them and comment or reassure them that their new corsets were achieving the effect they sought.

 

Despite that, she did in point of fact say that she had very few transvestite customers, and observed that she had found that it was not a corset that they needed but a girdle bought in a department store that was more easily purchased, and was much cheaper given the total outlay such a lifestyle had.

 

Like Simon’s Mary, she also realised that some men, like some women who have corseted regularly, felt motivated to reduce their waists. There is no doubt that Iris would agree with Simon’s observation that had Mary lived:-

 

"I would have been trained to have an even better hip-spring than I had, although I was more than happy with what we had achieved."

 

Indeed, Simon gives testimony to the fact that after the initial period of getting to know one another, the customer-corsetičre relationship, whatever the gender of the parties involved, becomes a partnership and usually one of mutual trust and respect.

 

There was the owner of a stately home (that has been much used as a back drop for films and television,) a career army officer, he had begun corseting when his female mentor introduced him to Lawrence Lenton in 1938, moving to Overett after the war and to Gardner’s in 1962 before continuing with Iris in 1981. He was a one of a number of ex-army or RAF officers who were initially with Overett.

 

From overseas, there was a customer was a German aerospace engineer much involved in rocketry, who had been a Gardner’s customer since the early 1960's. From South Africa a man continued to patronise her until his later 80's and who died in 1989. He had first appreciated a tight 'Sam Brown' belt arrangement on his uniform when a junior officer in Palestine in 1917 and his first corsetier was Mr. S Lee of Southsea, near Portsmouth.

 

With long established customers of both sexes and whom she respected, she took a concern in their personal lives. Typically she followed the retirement years of one customer especially when she didn’t hear from him only to re-emerge as a widower as is evidenced below.

 

A public school boy, he had been an executive with an major oil company who had spent years in foreign parts. He and his wife had followed the Lenton, Stafford, Overett, Gardner path. For the first forty years of their marriage, both he and his wife had worn corsets appropriate to the climate wherever they lived. Suffering ill-health late in the 1970's, his wife gave up tight-lacing, but he continued to wear the military type high-top corset as he had done for many years with suspenders and fully fashioned stockings under his business suits. He wore this to work and continued to do so after retirement and after the death of his wife.

 

He subsequently remarried his wife's friend, apparently on condition he gave up wearing corsets and stockings, and it's unclear whether he felt giving up the corsets had not been worth it and the marriage failed within a few years. Ironically he was cruelly handicapped by a stroke in 1991 and found solace again if he could get into his corsets though he was forced to abandon stockings. Amazingly he had retired to newly gentrified Fulham, within half a mile of his first corsetičre, Lenton.

 

Iris regarded him with real affection and mused that he lived in fear of her giving up for, in addition to getting regular replacements, he would make a sudden order for up to ten corsets in three styles. When a customer sent her a Hella Knabe-style culotte (leg) corset for alteration, she carefully measured the panels used to construct it, and advised our customer who had a large wardrobe of corsets of many styles, that she could now do him the style she had previously preferred not to do. He wrote to Iris to say how touched he was by her kind spirit and initiative that would now allow his long held ambition to lace into one. At the time of her threat to retire, although older than Iris and with a large serviceable wardrobe of corsets, he had estimated how many he would need till his 80's and had commissioned 10 new corsets This is how she wrote of him:

"I made Mr. Mc_  a corset about July but he never mentioned his wife’s (death)." 13 Aug 1989

 

Later she was to write more positively, if somewhat wistfully that he had strayed from the path of corseting:-

 

"Did you know Mr. Mc_  got married at the beginning of the month. I think he has given up corsets. He said he won't need any more so I guess I've lost myself a good customer."  26 August 1990

Only weeks later she wrote "Mr. Mc_  never got married again. He wrote for a new corset and said he was going to Canada to think it over  (second marriage delay)." 

1 Oct 1990

 

"I heard from that Mr. Mc_  about two weeks ago. He has moved out. I don't think they hit it off and I think it got worse after his stroke. I feel sorry for him since he seems a very nice man but I suppose nobody knows anybody until you live with them. I think it was silly of him to give it (corseting) up, he very likely missed it." 

3 Sept 1993

 

 

 

 


7  FRIENDS, ACQUAINTANCES AND PARTIES

 

 

7.1  CONTACTS WITH OTHER CORSETIČRES

 

The shortage of components, especially busks, resulted in Iris approaching firms such as Vollers for items on a co-operative basis. Other firms, for which she did bulk orders and who had their own sources of purchase in bulk, would also come to her assistance. Likewise she was approached by Michael Garrod after he had established True Grace Foundations, and she attempted to teach him how to sew a fluted-hip corset, but he freely admitted that it proved to be beyond his not inconsiderable sewing skills. Despite further lessons, he freely admitted that he could not master the fluted-hip and her generosity was reciprocated when he sent her all her large hip-spring orders. Over the years, corsetier and corsetičre regularly provided one another busks, flat or spiral steels in hard to find lengths and bolts of expensive broche fabric and suspender ends.

 

Over the years her work took her into a number of activities and events outside the corset salon. These are discussed below.

 

 

7.2  PHOTOGRAPHS FOR “THE CORSET QUESTION

 

At the height of her prowess at age 50, in 1971, Iris was prevailed upon by the owner of Fanny Copčre corsets, to pose for the cover accompanying a compendium of Victorian letters on tight-lacing.

 

It was arranged for Iris to meet at the photo studio. Knowing she was being photographed on account of her corseted figure, she selected her attire carefully, taking a satin skirt, and knitted sweaters in black and white. She wore shoes with 2˝-inch heels, the same height as the mules she customary wore around the house, while machining or attending to visitors or customers.

Three wonderful photographs of her appeared on the cover and inside Fanny Copčre’s book 'The Corset Question' in 1971. Iris Norris's figure when corseted was a magnificent; bust 38, waist 19 and hips 40, a full inch over the de rigueur 20 inches hip-spring sought by the determined tight-lacer.

 

Some years later, her sponsor recalled with some amusement the considerable effort that both he and the photographer had to make when helping Iris with her staylaces. Of the session, writing in 1985 he wrote:-

 

"She started tight-lacing 20/25 years ago (1960 ed), age 40 when as she said, she had a "belly like an ox" although she wore boned but not tight-lacing corsets. She now laces in to 20 inches, the only 19 inch corset she ever wore was for my photos, and it was hard work pulling her in as I did it myself, as she was not then down to 20 inches regularly. We did once try to get her below 19 inches, I used to see her almost every week for about 14 years or so with the business, but we failed. In 1968, she actually used to conceal her waist and did not make clothes to fit it"  5 Feb 1985.

 

She finally measured the agreed 19 inches over the corsets. In moments she had hooked up the waistband of the matching size of that lovely full satin skirt, adjusted her top and cinched on the narrow black belt and was ready to pose. Many photographs were taken, and the best appeared on the cover of the book with two others inside.

 

 

7.3  A CASE FOR THE CORSET DETECTIVE?

 

Attempts have been made to track down the original negatives and both the photographer and Iris have been asked. Her response was:-

 

"I can't really tell you where I got them taken as it's such a long while ago. If you ask Mr.C_, he will tell you as he was the one who asked me to have it done. He paid out the money as far as I know. It was in London that they were took(sic)".

 

Sadly, Fanny Copčre’s owner himself was never able recall the name of the photographer who had retained the copyright. Years later he wrote:-

 

"I do not have the negatives, and the photographer is no longer in the London 'phone book. When I am next up, I will call around his premises and find out if he is still in business."  12 Nov 1984

 

Likewise with the catalogue photos, a search came to no avail, for he then wrote:-

 

"I have not yet been able to trace the photographer, who took the catalogue photos. The models were ordinary commercial models, whose names I have forgotten. The one on the front (modelling 'Miss Copčre' ed.) has been modelling outsize dresses for years."  2 July 1985

 

So somewhere in London those negatives may still exist awaiting rediscovery.

 

 

7.4  A DUKE’S TIGHT-LACING DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

 

As is well known, the first leading practitioners of tight-lacing were late Victorian and Edwardian royalty and aristocracy in Europe and North America. It was a mid-20th century member of that class, by marriage, however who deserves a place in our story. It cannot be proven but it is almost certainly that in her later years she entrusted her figure to Gardner’s and later to Iris.

 

It began when Copčre’s owner got into the business because, in about 1967, he met socially with a Duke's daughter in law:-

 

"My principal interest in tight-lacing arose from my wish (in 1966-7 ed.) to find a suitable article to sell as a mail order business when I retired. I knew (socially, ed.) a Duke's daughter in law who had a fine figure, even at age 79 (in 1984). She had tight-laced for 60 years. I thought there might be other women with the same inclination",  Feb 1984

 

And in a future letter, he explained how it must have been she who had put him in touch with tight-lacing corset makers:-

 

"The woman who put me on the tight-lacing trial as a business is not a relative. I know that socially in London she does not admit to tight-lacing, although she can only bend from the hips, and her 19 inch waist and 42 inch hips are scarcely natural. All I know is that she is a farmer's daughter from Scotland who 'pulled-in as a girl' and kept it up. She was born in 1905. Quite obviously her late husband, the son of the Duke, married her because of her waist. His first wife had had a very small waist judging from photos. I know the size of the woman's waist, from her corset maker"  2 July 1985

 

It can only be inferred that, when he met the woman in 1967-8, when she was in her early 60's, that she was almost certainly a customer of either Gardner's or Vollers or both. That, on the basis of this information, he then made contact with both Vollers and Gardner's and eventually met Iris in about 1968. Quite who would have divulged her measurements is unclear, but it would never have been the always discreet Iris.

 

Even the most deferential reader will wonder what the importance of the woman being married into the aristocracy might be to our account. As ever Iris had the answer in a short unrelated sentence of another letter, asking if she recalled the photo salon.

 

"I should do nothing for him, he's a snob!"  8 Jan  1989 .

 

This comment sums up Iris’s character, she liked sincerity. She was not a sycophant.

 

 

7.5  ATTENDANCE AT THE  LGM 'BAL DES GRACIEUSES'

 

In early 1985, Iris was prevailed on by the founder of LGM, Rudi Van Ginkel of Germany, who had been given her name by another customer, to tell her customers of the first ball. Discreet as ever she would not divulge a single address.

 

However, it was clear that while broadly accepting the idea, one got a clear sense that if she had known him or his lady partner as established customers she would have been more receptive to the idea.

 

She dearly wanted to go, but knew her husband would not like the event and believed he would refuse. What was she to do? One could only but imagine Iris's anguish. She was now the doyenne of British corsetičres, working in her own right yet likely to miss the first event in which the common interest was the corseted figure. Yet the rules were clear, men accompanied by a lady and women alone, no single men.

 

Anyone who knew her would know that she would not go alone. While confident in the ambience of a corsetičre's salon, she was retiring socially. She would have to have an escort and, resourceful as ever she found one.

 

She took advantage of the fact that for years she had accorded the husband of a former customer she had met at Gardner’s her always discreet and platonic friendship. She knew how much he admired her figure and deportment. When meeting at a pub, he would complain of, how to his eternal regret, after 50 years of tight-lacing, his wife for 40 years had, on doctor's orders, suddenly and completely given up tight-lacing in about 1980. Iris clearly remained him of how his wife used to look. He admired her very much and she indulged his aimless telephone calls and visits to a fault. And so he became her escort for the Bal."

 

"The party's on Nov 2nd and I'm going with Mr. C."  18 Sep 1985

 

The matter was cleared with her husband and all seemed to be well. A very indiscreet individual, one whom who she had discouraged from being a customer, still knew her phone number and it was everyone's misfortune that when the culprit phoned to speak to Iris of the Bal. She was out and had spoken to her husband and to use her words:-

 

"Somebody phoned when I was out, and to him there would be fun and games at the 'Do'. You should have heard him when I came in, he's told me not to go but he's annoyed because I never asked him to go, but did not think he would want to. The person who phoned has made bad feelings all round"  21 Oct 1985

 

So, Iris attended the first of four annual Les Gracieuses Modernism’s Bal des Gracieuses to be held in Great Britain on 2nd Nov 1985. It was held at the Letchworth Hall Hotel in Letchworth, ironically just a stone's throw from the old Spirella factory that was about to close. Ever correct and proper, she paid her own way and that included her own room at the hotel venue.

 

As it happened the first "Bal" was a reasonable success and Iris decided to go to the second event held in a hotel in Queensway in Nov 1986, however it was plagued with administrative problems. As Iris was to write:-

 

"I think we all got conned as the chap, who went to the ball last year dressed as woman, took it over from Ginkel and made all the arrangements so he said, but it was awful. I would not go again with him organising it. I think he was on the make. The food he got was not nice. I don't know what happened to Mr. Ginkel. I could not find out and they made an excuse and said he had problems . The hotel was dirty and the carpets torn.  27 Nov 1986

 

With the same escort she nevertheless had enjoyed meeting old friends especially as all had an interest in what she would freely admit was her favourite subject, making corsets and wearing them.

 

"I think everybody looked nice at the ball but then it’s all according to what shape you like. The woman who wore the long busk was just straight down and looked most uncomfortable and could not sit down, which I think is awful"   Jan  1987

 

She attended the Bal in 1988 with an escort from Sweden, for whose wife she made corsets, and with a gentleman corsetier in 1989.

 

She was conscious of her hearing being more limited in loud places, but word had it that Iris was always able to seek out old customers and meet others she rarely saw. At each Bal, she gave them advice, measured them, and even arranged appointments for new customers. All in all she had a good time and John never objected again. He saw that his wife was, as ever, the essence of discretion.

 

 

7.6 HER ADMIRERS

 

Iris was admired by many men who just wanted to be in the presence of a mature woman with a fine figure shaped by a corset. She would always wear her seamed stockings, often as their wives once had.

 

With retirement, Iris blossomed as an independent spirit, which caused a strain on her marriage as her husband, now working part-time, resented the frequent visits by customers. He had no concern as to whether they were men or women, but he resented having to retire from the scene upstairs or to go shopping while Iris attended to customers. It was regrettable that he was one person who did not appreciate his wife's figure and personality in the last 25 years of her life.

 

It would not be an exaggeration to speculate that Iris's ultimate acceptance as friends of men who tight-laced and wore seamed stockings arose because she implicitly knew that they approved of the fact that she tight-laced and liked seams. It was as though she got the approval for her elegance that she felt was denied her in her marriage.

 

Despite her being married, some customers became admirers, and she had to turn down many proposals of marriage and suggestions to leave the family home. While flattered, she was never tempted. “I can't imagine what he's thinking of. He doesn't know me, I'd never marry again” though she happily posed for photographs, front and rear, for as many as half a dozen of her customers or admirers, always well cinched by a belt and wearing high heels.

 

That is the way that Iris Norris will always be remembered.  

 

 

 

 

References


Born Islington, N1, London, Dec 25, 1921.  Died Bletchley, Bucks, 9th April, 2000

 

Pickens, Mary Brooks: Harmony in Dress: The Charm of Beautiful Clothes; Good Taste in Dress; Dress Foundations, Chapter 2, Corsets and Dress Foundations

 Section 29, Hose Supporters, published by Women’s Institute of Domestic Arts & Sciences, Scranton, PA, USA.