Correspondence with American Gentleman

 

 

Dear Ivy Leaf: 

 

I have visited your web-site many times and enjoyed it tremendously.  It is written and presented in the manner that only a traditional, refined English woman could do, and that adds so much of the charm and interest.  I am a 46 year old gentlemen from the west coast of America.

 

My interests may fall more into your "Other side of corsetry" section, but, again, my enjoyment of your web site is immense.  My mother was also a traditional woman who took great pains to present herself in proper and dignified manner. Girdles and hosiery were mandatory. I was intrigued by the women of that era and miss that so much in today's women and fashions.

 

I'm unsure whether you enjoy or welcome letters from gentlemen as I do not fit into the category of your corsetiere colleagues, but I wanted to thank you for the efforts you put into your web site.  If you would like to hear more or correspond further, I am sure you will provide me an appropriate answer.  I have several questions I would enjoy asking you. 

 

I have not traveled to England but wish to do so in the future.  My impressions of Europe are of course from books, movies and persons who have travelled there. Hoping to hear from you. 

 

AG.

 

 

 

Dear AG,

 

How kind of you to write and thank you for the comments about the web site. I welcome any questions and have no problem corresponding with men, who, after all, have provided some of the best memories of the era. If you have questions or recollections of those days please let me know.

 

Kind regards,

Ivy

 

 

 

Dear Ivy Leaf:

 

You indicated that you would welcome questions or recollections.

 

As foundations evolved over the years, from the early  laced/boned corsets through open bottom girdles to panty style girdles, it seems that the functionality and utility of the garments evolved in a mostly positive direction.  I say this with certain personal subjectivity as I think that after the sixties/seventies, they lost much of their functionality by trading structure and support in favour of what most women perceived as more comfort.  This latest statement aside, it seemed to me that girdles/bras and hose reached their zenith with the zippered/boned panty-girdle combined with the boned and structured long line bra.  It strikes me that this combination as modeled by the beautiful Lyn Locke worked under almost any outfit whether dress/skirt or pants, assuming the lengths and hems were appropriate. 

The control is firm and supportive, the outer line almost perfectly smooth.  The panty leg style would appear to provide the greatest flexibility and movement (vs.the open bottom styles that squeezed the legs together). In short, this level of evolution seems to me to be the pinnacle of progress in foundation wear. 

 

I noticed with many of the vintage bras that they would have a girdle hook to attach to the girdle. 

 

Questions:

 

1)  Do you feel that women remained partial to those types and styles of garments they were introduced to at an early age? Does this explain why some stayed with very old fashioned laced and hooked foundations like the Camp styles, when the panty-girdle/bra combination would appear to provide better utility, including maybe comfort?

 

2)   With the aforementioned girdle hook of the bottom of a bra, it would appear that it was designed to wear the bra over the girdle waist rather than tucked into the top as Lyn models.  It seems the girdle waist was a tighter fit than the body of a long line bra and therefore tucking the bra into the girdle was more sensible. Yet a bra with girdle hooks appears to be designed to be worn outside the waist. 

 

As for another question I do wonder whether modern support pantyhose is worn under the girdle. If worn underneath, surely it glides for an easier on/off while at the same time providing a softer lining between body and heavy elastic of the foundation. 

 

In terms of recollections to which your prior e-mail refers to, I have many of my mother dressing daily in full girdle.  Mind you, the interest was in her gracefulness mindful of her appearance which I know was appreciated.  If you would like to hear more on this matter, I can provide details.

 

AG  

 

 

Dear AG,

 

Thank you so much for your long and interesting email. I'll read it at length and respond soon. I would be delighted to receive your recollections of your mother dressing in her girdle and brassiere. The important points if you can remember them was the year, open bottom girdle or panty-girdle, the make, preferences that your mother had. All these memories form part of a history that will otherwise be forgotten without the help of kind people such as yourself.

 

Kind regards,

Ivy

 

Dear Ivy Leaf,

In short reply, my mother wore this particular model below for many years.  I found the picture on Patricia's ShapeU site.  I think the particular model's pose is positively awful, but it shows the garment.  This style has been marketed over many years by many different sellers from department store brands to Montgomery Ward (now out of business) by Flexees I think and many others. I would be happy to share the detail of her preferences, styles and routines if you are interested.

AG

 

 

Dear AG,

 

I must agree with you that the combination you describe and that Lyn Locke models was probably the most flattering and supportive combination of the last 50 years, however, this never came to Europe, certainly not to the extent that it became almost standard underwear for millions of American women. In Britain and Holland , women changed from long-line / short-line bra and girdle to rather ineffective waist-length, short leg panty-girdles in the late 1960ís.

 

1)  Do you feel that women remained partial to those types and styles of garments they were introduced to at an early age? Does this explain why some stayed with very old fashioned laced and hooked foundations like the Camp styles, when the panty-girdle/bra combination would appear to provide better utility, including maybe comfort?

 

I must agree with you here. Never underestimate the resistance to change of the older woman and the resistance to change anything learned in childhood. Despite that, the biggest change which came to Britain on a wave of social emancipation, as I mentioned above, was the move away from the girdle, as tights (panty-hose) became fashionable in the late 1960ís. At that time, a few die-hards stuck to their girdles, but the girdle virtually passed out of existence. The corset, however, soldiered on since, in the late 60ís, there were women around who had been wearing them since childhood, and itís not something you can give up overnight; the muscles simply would be too atrophied to support the body. A Dutch corsetiere that I visit still sells her stock of front-lacing corsets to a diminishing elderly clientele.

 

2)   With the aforementioned girdle hook of the bottom of a bra, it would appear that it was designed to wear the bra over the girdle waist rather than tucked into the top as Lyn models.  It seems the girdle waist was a tighter fit than the body of a long line bra and therefore tucking the bra into the girdle was more sensible. Yet a bra with girdle hooks appears to be designed to be worn outside the waist. 

 

A very interesting observation this. Traditionally, the brassiere was always worn outside the girdle or corset. The lower foundation is always more firmly anchored than the upper one. If the bra is worn inside the girdle, it looks better to start with, however, as one moves, the bra will pull out of the girdle and begin to bend and rumple in a very uncomfortable fashion. Anchored outside the girdle, the bra is free to move independently but the girdle hooks will always return it to its original position. For modelling purposes, the bra looks best inside the girdle, but for comfort, the reverse its true. The idea of clothes and adjacent items of underwear moving across each other is why so many older foundations were faced with satin (latterly nylon).

  

I hope this answers your questions and Iím happy to answer others. I look forward to hearing from you about your mother. As I often tell my correspondents, it is these recollections that are a history that will be lost if not recorded.

 

Kind regards,

Ivy

 

 

 

Dear Ivy Leaf,

 

Thank you for the detailed answer.  Its a rare opportunity to be able to discuss or correspond with a knowledgeable woman on such matters. I would really enjoy further discussion with you. Are you interested in the above more from my perspective, feelings and observations, or a more objective description of her routines, paying attention to those details you requested to be included.  From whose perspective should it be be described?

 

Thank you,  AG

 

 

 

Dear AG,

 

I'm interested in the technical details of what your mother wore when. Even simple things like how many girdles did she have? How often were they purchased? Did she have girdles for special occasions? Were her girdles friends or foes, or simply what her peers wore and therefore quite unexceptional?

 

Also, you own reactions, feelings and observations are also of great interest. Some of the best information comes not from the wearer but the observer.

 

Kind regards,

Ivy

 

 

 

Dear Ivy Leaf,

 

Perhaps I should provide a bit of background on my mother to provide a perspective of her times and mindset.  She was born in a small town in 1919.  There is a single picture, more of a portrait, of her in her very early twenties and I think anyone would agree she was a beautiful woman in her day.  She married young, I think, to escape the confines of her parents' conservative ways and leave the family home to be out on her own.  She had two children, but the marriage did not last. She divorced and remarried my father in 1954 whom she met whilst working in a large hotel that catered to businessmen.  I think it was a glamorous time in her life which she would recall, to me, with fond memories.  She moved to the west in the 1960's where I grew up.

 

I was born in 1959 and my awareness of what she wore probably began around 1969 at an age of around 9 or 10. Similar to the recollections of your other contributors, Simon and Frangard, I was fascinated first by the stockings and hosiery that she wore and later by the firm undergarments she donned daily.  I don't recall when my interests in her hosiery expanded to her girdles but probably also in the early seventies. She never abandoned her daily girdles despite the trends of what you detail in your web site of what women wore when. 

 

She always wore a panty-girdle with a regular (not long-line) bra complete with stockings and layered over with a nylon full dress slip.  She would either wear a dress, or a skirt with a blouse. She paid great attention to her looks including her hair and make-up. She never wore jeans but did sometimes wear slacks and the occasional (when in style) pant suit.  She was 5 foot 6 inches tall before age affected her height and she wore a US size large girdle which I think equates to a 30 inch waist. 

 

At the risk of my own embarrassment, my aforementioned interests in her hosiery led to my uncontrollable curiosities of what lay in her dresser drawers.  Her dresser was a large piece of furniture with a row of middle draws, doored compartments on either side that hid other draws behind, and in short a place of mystery and excitement of what was kept within.

 

I think she typically had six girdles that were sometimes normal waisted with other styles that were high waisted.  In her later years she wore only high waisted panty-girdles.  Specifically, she became partial to one style which is I have shown previously.  I don't know how often she bought her girdles. 

 

I found the style on a couple of web sites that currently sell it.  I think this style has been around for many years.  I recall my Mom getting it under the private label of the Montgomery Wards department store. I recall that she also shopped for her girdles at Macy's.  The Montgomery Ward one came in a clear plastic rectangular bag with the picture of  a pretty woman standing in the panty-girdle and her arms crossed to cover her otherwise bare breasts.  To me it was very sexy.  I'm not sure how women viewed that picture and package. 

 

I also have seen this style, I think, marketed by Flexees.  Now it seems to be made by Venus of Cortland, but again, after many years, it is still available.  As you can see it has nice satin panel sides and the back is a full satin panel also. I would say it is more than medium firm but not as firm as fully zippered girdles, which, to my disappointment, I never saw in her collection with a rare exception noted below.  In summary, the full satin panel panty-girdle was her day to day garment and there is no doubt in my mind she saw it as her friend.  While at the end of the day, she would say she needed to go upstairs and get her girdle off, there was never a shred of doubt that she was going to put it back on before she ever dressed in her clothes the next morning.   

 

I remember various statements or conversations from my childhood that involved her affinity for a good girdle. 

 

When my older brother had a close girlfriend who he would eventually marry, my Mom suggested that she should try a panty-girdle.  Although she was thin by today's standards, her hips were full and I think my Mom felt she was offering good advice.  Of course a young woman in 1980 would NEVER consider wearing a girdle and the suggestion I'm sure went nowhere. 

 

My own wife was of similar circumstance (thin with fuller hips) and sometimes had difficulties getting her clothes to fit right especially for special occasion dresses or outfits. To this day I can't remember how it occurred but I do recall going shopping with my wife for a girdle.  This would also have been around 1985 when a young woman (at least in the US) would have been humiliated to be known to wear a girdle, but I think my Mom must have had some conversation outside of my presence about her wearing one, or the benefits of wearing a girdle.  More on this later. 

 

On another occasion, there was a young man across the street who was friendly with my older brother and a general charmer of girls and older persons like my parents.  He was likely in his late twenties at the time and would tell humorous stories of his working days regarding girl-watching from his position at a street-side window.  He once described the morning when a pretty girl who was walking away from where he sat had her dress caught in the back of her pantyhose.  This I know was a common story but my Mom was shocked that a girl could wear a dress with only the thin coverings of pantyhose underneath and declared "I could never go out without my girdle on." 

 

In summary, there is no doubt my Mom viewed a girdle as a necessary garment of benefit. 

 

I recall at a very young age, perhaps in the late sixties, she was talking with one of her woman friends who said her daughter would not wear a girdle.  My mom suggested she could wear a light 'pants-liner'.  I assume that is one of those extra long-leg girdles that reaches almost to the ankle.  The mother/friend said her daughter wouldn't consider it.

 

I do not know what my mother's friends wore but I assume it was similar to her.  With hindsight, it would of course have been fun to know what was underneath with regards to her various friends attire.  I remember them all in heels and stockings.

 

Other memories: 

 

1)  Her girdles draped over an opened washing machine lid to air dry. 

 

2)  Her occasionally trying pantyhose - one particular style was called 'Round the Clock' with a girdle top. She had several pairs of a Hanes Style called 'ultra sheer' with a control top.  While I noted these pantyhose in her dresser, it wasn't clear to me when she wore them (perhaps under slacks) as I'm sure there was always a full girdle under a dress or skirt.  The girdle legs would show during certain of her movements, particularly the getting in and out of a car. 

 

3)  With regards to girdles for special occasions, in the lesser used side drawers of her dresser were a few much older garments.  I wish I could recall the makers and labels but can not.  Three were full zipper boned open bottom corselets and those fascinated me the most.  I suspect she stopped wearing those before I was born and were likely used in her younger days in the city.  I do not think she ever wore them since I was born but I remember the full satin panels,  heavy boning and side zippers.  One was a heavy Merry Widow, strapless style with the hook / zipper regiment in the front.  I think these garments were her most intense controllers.  Other than those, I never noted an open bottom garment but always a long-leg panty-girdle.  I recall one long-line strapless bra which I imagine was worn on special occasion with a panty-girdle. 

 

4)  My  mom was a modest woman with all things sensual.  She would rarely appear in front of me or my brother in only her girdle.  I do recall her often in her slip of which the underlying girdle could be clearly seen.  I remember two specific occasions though:- Our house had bedrooms on either side of a hall and I once was walking down the hall to one of those back bedrooms.  Out she comes to cross the hall and enter into her master bedroom.  Something always makes me think she was wearing an extra heavy, high-waisted, long-legged fully satin paneled panty-girdle, and the way she seemed to glide in that girdle in her walk was amazing to me.  As I got a bit older she went through a brief period of weight gain.  I remember once entering her bedroom to talk to her and she was standing  there in a full length panty leg corselette.  My memory is that it had a wonderful full coverage about it but probably lacked firmness as I later noted with those style of garments. I don't think she wore that type of girdle / garment for long.  I didn't see others. 

 

I have sprinkled some of my feelings and observations.  If this is of further interest to you, I could write a second e-mail with more coverage of this topic.  I don't know if this interests you but I suspect you may have tired of hearing boys and men describe their fascination of women's girdles and corsets.  If not, please tell me otherwise and I can add more. 

 

I must add a bit more about my former wife before I conclude this message.  I met her in college and we married in the mid-1980's but unfortunately later divorced, but we remain good friends and keep in touch.  My fascination of hose and girdles naturally extended to her and she adopted some aspects and rejected others.  My presentation to her was purely for her to don the desired underpinnings.  As was common in the era of the 80's, women wore pantyhose.  Early in our relationship, I provided her with my favorite style, still available today, 'Hanes Alive'.  These are a full support pantyhose and come in a few styles including a sheer to waist which I think she preferred the look of (younger - less matronly).  She adopted these as almost everyday wear to my utter delight.  These full support pantyhose were as close as I was going to get to having my significant other wear control garments.  I did mail order her a few girdles from the department store JC Penny (they were very firm, satin, full zipper panty-girdles despite the more modern era) and she rejected it instantly.  Nothing I could do.  As I mentioned above, we did try to shop for a few girdles but her reservations ruined the shopping trip and the experience.  She did once come home with my Mother's style girdle from Montgomery Ward, which I again, suspect was the result of a private conversation.   It was worn only on a couple occasions over the Hanes Alive full support pantyhose.  I believe that combination provided almost ultimate control.  I recall her asking me to help her get into the panty-girdle!.  I loved the glide it made up her pantyhose and into its position on her waist and hips. To my disappointment, I could not make it her regular wear but cherish the memory of the rare donning of that combination of garments. She looked fantastic in the girdle as well as the dress she wore over it. She came close to the 'ultimate look' that Lyn Locke so gracefully achieves (above). Although her girdle was not zippered, the control and satin panel styling is close to the picture.

 

Very truly yours, AG