One should never mock the well-endowed woman. Breasts might fascinate the male, but beyond C-cup, they are heavy, sweaty and basically, a nuisance. Take this from somebody who wears a 42E brassiere. Their sheer weight causes both neck and back problems. My husband relates a conversation with a 'front-heavy' lady who wore a neck brace for the best part of a year after undergoing less than pleasant cervical traction. As an engineer (not a diplomat), he commented that the weight of her breasts and the poor design of the vertical human was at fault. Fortunately, the lady knew my husband as a straight-talking Scottish engineer; a fact that probably saved him from serious injury! Why is it that the larger bras are mounted on the lower, and thus less popular shelves in shops. If one didn't already have a bad back (as I do), the stooping and peering at indecipherable labels will certainly give you one.
Of the 100 odd brassieres in our collection, we have acquired a 50F, a 50DD and a 48K cup. Besides a rather tiny 32B cup they appear gargantuan, yet humans come in many shapes and forms, especially women, whose complex three-dimensional structure is a challenge to even the most experienced corsetiere. Examples of big brassieres are shown on this page.
A famous celebrity, who was spokeswoman for a made-to-measure corsetry concern, went into hospital for a breast reduction operation. Before the procedure could begin, her husband burst into the surgeon's office and threatened all sorts of unpleasant litigation if he dared touch his wife's breasts - other than to make them bigger! That is a typically male attitude; they don't have to carry them around.
Multiple Foundations and 'Doubling Up'
The Independent newspaper reported a candid comment from the actress Gwyneth Paltrow who admitted to 'doubling up' on her 'magic knickers' (panty-girdles). This was not an infrequent practice in the past and it's a technique that I have used on the occasions when wearing my trusty Spirella 305's have been inappropriate. I have related where women wore two pairs of stockings; some brands of support stocking even advertised that they could be worn under a more fashionable pair. I knew a lady that wore a corselette over her corset, partly to support this second pair of stockings but also to disguise the engineering of her surgical support (It didn't - Ivy).
There was a famous case where an American servicewoman passed out on parade. She was found to be wearing no less than four panty-girdles to maintain a sleek line underneath her uniform skirt. A Dutch airline stewardess who I have known since university related that since the recent re-emergence of the shaper as a lower foundation, several of her colleagues 'doubled up'. She remembers in the 1970's that on flights to and from Italy, some stewardesses either doubled up or wore especially heavy-duty girdles to avoid the painful pinching that Italian males think ladies find irresistible. She never needed this tactic since firstly, she had (and still has) a stunning figure and secondly, her laser-like stare was up to any strength of Italian digits.
The dictionaries will tell us that to double up is to bend double with laughter; unlikely in the cases mentioned above!
Where did the garters go?
I have always found this advertisement somewhat odd (right). Certainly the wind lifting the skirt has been used many times by the foundation garment marketers (Marilyn Monroe even indulged - left) but where are the Sarong lady's garters? (I have used the word garter since this is an American advertisement. In Britain we would say suspenders and in France, jaratelles that sounds altogether more feminine!)
The Corset, the Fat Lady and the Vacuum Cleaner
In the Jerry Lewis film "Who's Minding the Store?" (1963) a lady has her corset sucked clean off her body by a wayward vacuum cleaner! This remarkable machine divests the poor lady of "My hat, my shoes .. no, .. no, no, no, no, no .. Oh my corset!" Her dress remains intact for, I fear the film would never have passed the censors otherwise. Nature might abhor a vacuum and I guess this lady was not too keen on it either! The poor lady was played by Muriel Landers. Oddly enough, she was referred to in the credits as the 'girdle lady'.
Towards the end of this surreal sequence of the voracious vacuum cleaner, it floats up to the ceiling of the store where the hapless Mr. Lewis punctures the bloated bag of the vacuum cleaner and it explodes, hurling Miss Lander's corsets into the face of Ray Walston. Imagine the stage directions: "Exit backwards staggering with a pair of corsets wrapped around the face!"
Another film, 'The Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004) also uses the effect of an inflated object rising up into the air (despite the laws of physics), but in this case it is not a vacuum cleaner but Aunt Marge played by Pam Ferris.
As in 'Who's minding the store', the large lady's underwear appears from beneath her skirt as Aunt Marge begins to inflate and her skirt rides up revealing two suspenders. They are actually, quite old fashioned in style having adjustable clips. Later in the sequence when poor Marge floats away and inverts you can see that the crew have constructed a giant panty-girdle for her off which the suspenders hang. Interestingly, the picture is set in the 1990's when most women has abandoned all lower foundations, but not Aunt Marge, of that you can be sure.
The screenplay drawing on the right shows excellent attention to the detail of the girdle.
Here is an account of the incredible stoicism displayed by Pam Ferris on the set of the film: "There were inflatable gloves for her hands and separate inflatable legs,' explains Dudman, 'all set off by a computer-controlled pneumatic pressure device. The hands could inflate any given joint in any order." Pam Ferris spent up to five hours in the makeup chair having small prosthetic pieces and expandable rubber bladders applied to her face and neck before getting into an inflatable suit, which weighed fifty pounds. "At the later stages I was so spherical that I couldn’t sit down; I could barely walk! At my biggest, I’m about four-foot-six across." Inside each suit was a flying harness suspended on two wire rigs. One would lift or flip her, the other rig spun her around. Ferris received high praise from the cast and crew for her patience and good nature. "It was like she was in a straightjacket," says producer David Heyman. "Then hung up by wires and suspended, and she never complained once. Not once."
Hardly a Curiosity
The three pictures below have been taken from that excellent comedy film 'Carry On Abroad' (1972). The inimitable June Whitfield appears clad in a long-line bra and waist slip. Her look of horror is due to discovering a man (Kenneth Hawtrey) in her bath. In 1972, Miss Whitfield was 47 years old and wearing a long-line bra that, although unfashionable, was by no means uncommon. Her look of horror is partly due to her staid character in the film, but perhaps also due to being seen in such old-fashioned underwear. June Whitfield is currently 91 years old and still acting!
Girdle Repair in Operation Petticoat
I will badly plagiarise Mark Twain's famous
statement here:- "Whenever my husband feels the need to perform DIY,
he should instantly lie down until the urge passes!" Occasionally, he
does actually perform a useful task and I did mention some years ago,
his effective repair of a car exhaust using a steel
bone from a corset. I feel that may have been a pinnacle in his
achievements! It did, however, bring to mind the effective use of a
girdle in repairing a machine on board a submarine in the old film
"Operation Petticoat" (left - 1959).
And just what is this strange surgical appliance on the right? In fact, it is nothing of the sort, it is simply the corset that Peter Pan would wear on stage (I hasten to add that Peter Pan, in the strange tradition of the English pantomime, is always played by a woman.) The solidity and straps allow wires to be attached to the performer so that she can fly through the air with (possibly something less than) the greatest of ease; and quite a small waist as well!
Not a surgical corset
Tom & Jerry
Flying Cat (1952)
|On the left, Tom is desperate to get hold of Jerry and the
small bird who have taken refuge in a 'bird house' on top of a tall pole.
Accidentally, Tom discovers a pair of corsets that save his fall from an
upstairs window and realises that they make a fine pair of wings.
Grabbing Jerry in full flight, the 'Achilles Heel' of corsetted flight is recognised by the bird and he pulls the knot that releases the two halves of the corsets and the luckless Tom, once again, crashes to earth and Jerry escapes.
On the right, Jerry befriends a poor ugly duckling who is trying to 'end it all'. Jerry consults a book on beauty and attends to his friend in the form of curlers, corsets, a face-mask and chin strap. Jerry captures the duckling but is horrified by its appearance and he retreats screaming. This does nothing for the poor duckling's confidence.
It is interesting, as in all cartoons, just how well the cartoonist might have understood the principles of the corset. In both cases, they are not too badly portrayed (it is a cartoon after all), however, the face-mask and curlers were probably quite a familiar sight and many woman still wore corsets in the 1950's!
Ugly Duckling (1953)
The girl above is nothing to do with Tom & Jerry, however, even without the bat, this girl is a fearsome spectacle. Imagine 40 years on, toothless and wearing her corsets underneath that all enveloping satin housecoat!
This was a Danish sitcom that ran from 1978 - 1982. In one episode, a lady shows off her new Spirella corset. It is a period piece, but the plot is set between 1929 and 1947 so well done the properties ladies. However, a corset wearing lady would always wear her knickers over the corset. This has been omitted so as to give the viewers a clear sight of the corset.
Another undressing scene comes from a 1938 documentary on "How to undress in front of your husband" - really! It features two women, one is sleek, elegant and she disrobes with an economy of effort, languidly gliding from her evening gown through a waft of chiffon and into bed where she still looks ravishing. The poor old stout woman grapples with her clothes, throws them to the floor, scratches herself vigorously, grunts whilst she tears at her corsets that she throws unceremoniously across the room. She gets into bed with all the grace of a sack of potatos. I love these instructional newsreels from a more innocent era.
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Merman's panty-girdle is well displayed on several occasions in the
hilarious film 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'
(1963) and another such
garment remains on display in a museum on Hollywood Boulevard.
Merman wears what was de rigeur for American females in the 1960's, a
panty-girdle. The director seemed to enjoy engineering these brief glimpses
Lady I do not mean to call the amazing Edith Massey (1918 - 1984) a curiosity,
however, her roles in John Waters films, notably 'Pink Flamingo' (1972)
required that she wear a bra and girdle for a specific scene. Since Edith
did not possess such a garment at that time, John and Edith went into the
'corsetry' section of Lane Bryant and Edith tried on half the girdles in the
shop and modelled them for John who was thoroughly enjoying the sales lady's
discomfiture. Edith, kind soul that she was, just wanted a girdle that would
fit. Eventually, and with much relief to the sales lady, the sale was made
and John and Edith left the premises.
Miss Merman's panty-girdle is well displayed on several occasions in the hilarious film 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' (1963) and another such garment remains on display in a museum on Hollywood Boulevard.
Miss Merman wears what was de rigeur for American females in the 1960's, a panty-girdle. The director seemed to enjoy engineering these brief glimpses
The Egg Lady
I do not mean to call the amazing Edith Massey (1918 - 1984) a curiosity, however, her roles in John Waters films, notably 'Pink Flamingo' (1972) required that she wear a bra and girdle for a specific scene. Since Edith did not possess such a garment at that time, John and Edith went into the 'corsetry' section of Lane Bryant and Edith tried on half the girdles in the shop and modelled them for John who was thoroughly enjoying the sales lady's discomfiture. Edith, kind soul that she was, just wanted a girdle that would fit. Eventually, and with much relief to the sales lady, the sale was made and John and Edith left the premises.
Is it really that difficult to don your girdle?
The lady in the middle seems to have adopted the Superman ethic of wearing one's 'underpants' over one's tunic (or leggings in this case) whilst towards the right, the young lady has jumped herself airborne as she struggles with her unaccustomed, tight-fitting underwear. The picture of one girl helping another into her panty-girdle is very reminiscent of our calendar photo-shoots where, in 2016, I actually lifted Victoria off the ground in just such a manoeuvre.
Just many curious examples of wearing one's underwear over one's clothes.
Now what's going on here? On the left is that a woman worker in the war flashing her bra? Actually, it is a 'safety at work poster' showing (apparently) a chest protector for women working with machinery. The next picture on the right could easily be captioned "The stewardess girdle inspection gets out of hand." In fact, it was publicity for the Playtex (in)famous rubber girdle. On the right is an advert for 'talon' zippers that, apparently, the girl on the left has not got.
Three pictures that reveal models who are not totally at ease posing in their underwear.
In reality, you should never yank on a panty-girdle to pull it up. Sharp fingernails have been known to tear the fabric on the modern flimsy garments. The correct process is to turn the girdle inside out, step into it, and then you can turn your girdle the right way up your legs with a walking movement. The series of slides below illustrates just this:
To disembark from the girdle, reverse the process or slide one's hands down inside the garment and it can be taken off without inverting. Inverting will, over time, leave a permanent bend on the garment's hip bones if it has any (unlikely these days).
Bringing in the Washing
If Eiffel rather than Dior designed ladies underwear
Manufacturers often posed groups of women, partly to demonstrate the various foundation garments on offer (Warners and Felina are shown here), but also to demonstrate the various figure types possessed by women. The picture on the right adds a male inspector to the equation.
Sometimes these groups of girdle and corset wearing women appear in the oddest places!
I'm not entirely sure what's going on here--
It is refreshing to see real sized models
"Oh, I do like to be beside the Seaside!"
The seaside and the dunes make for an unusual photographic back-drop. Above and on the left below we have some Victorian misses. Entering the water is riskier than it looks since corset steels were not rust-proof in those days. Next do we see some American girls in their girdles, corselettes and slips? Apparently not; these swimsuits were simply based on these styles and, in many cases, were manufactured to a similar strength. Sarongster introduces an element of fantasy here. While women were burning their bras and the Beachboys singing along to 'California Girl', Sarongster tried to persuade you that it was fine for a teenage girl to wear her mother's girdle. On the right - what can I say, they must be students!
The rather pretty girl (above right) has been included here since she represents an era when swimming suits, beach wear and underwear all looked remarkably similar. The lady (middle left) represents the old adage "Romance blossoms at sea." Well it would dressed like that.
The maidens in the fog seem to have lost their way - as well as their clothes.
The Italians take a different view as Anita Ekberg famously poses in a fountain in Fellini's famous film 'La Dolce Vita' (1960). Sadly, the reality of Italian women by the water is less glamorous but, of course, Anita was Swedish and the young ladies cavorting in the shallows are Danish.
What is it about water that makes women take their clothes off?
It takes the dear old British seaside humour to sum up this entry!
Strange Goings-on Backstage
The Perils of Hitchhiking
Corset-style in fashion or it that fetishism?
Second from the left is a black leather maternity corset (seriously). The girl on the right (Patricia Roc in the 1949 film 'The Perfect Woman') plays the part of a robot. One wonders if the scriptwriter had a fascination for corsets and directoire knickers!
Of course, this page would hardly be complete without some images of Madonna who brought back corsetry into the minds of millions.
Definitely fetishism on the right! Perhaps we should have inserted a thought bubble "I think the corsetiere's having me on!" or "Never, ever upset your corsetiere!"
The magnificent costumes from the 2012 film 'Mirror, Mirror' fall into the category of 'curious' although outlandish might also be an apt description. Below we see Julia Roberts sporting her corset made from bamboo. Consider however, the 1895 corset from an English museum that has ventilation at the waist and 22 bone casing filled, in this instance with bamboo cane! I wonder if this is where the designer got her idea?
Below, the cookie Dody Goodman (1914 - 2008) aided and abetted by Dinah Shore, attempts to don a panty-girdle and long-line bra whilst already clothed.
Excellent Use for an old Lampshade
A Surgical Appliance - not really - or is it?
It's a modern dress on the left, the style of which reminds one of granny's old corsets. Actually, these days, that would probably be great-granny's old corsets. The lovely Victoria demonstrates just how much better the dress looks when filled! On the right, we really do have a surgical corset, made to order from Jenyns of Australia in the 1960's. The back steels were held so tightly against Victoria's spine that she could not sit down! Despite the attention it might provoke in a modern club, Victoria preferred the dress!
Calamity Jane's Corsets?
We love many old movies, amongst which are the Paleface series starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell. In the original Paleface (1948), Calamity Jane (Russell) is surprised in the changing room by some bad guys who she guns down. On the left is the iconic figure of Calamity Jane in her corsets, six shooters at the ready. But is Jane wearing a corset for the back view shows no lacing!
(Incidentally, the gun belt was sometimes referred to as the 'Texas Corset'.)
In the film 'Calamity Jane' (1953), Doris Day is cast as the gun-toting woman. In the ball scene, she appears in a pink satin gown and displays a tightly corsetted waist, or does she? In the still frame (middle below) there is no corset to be seen, yet on the right she appears in a corset. The dress is very form-fitting (left) yet no evidence of the corset and the shoulder ruffles is apparent.
I suspect, that Miss Day, like Miss Russell were both naturally shapely women and didn't need a corset to fit into their costumes.
The beautiful Miss Day has THE most expressive face.
(From left to right) The real Calamity Jane (b. Martha Jane Cannary 1852 - 1903) was a frontierswoman who, apart from a few portraits would never have worn a corset. In fact, in many later pictures she appears very rough and masculine. Annie Oakley (b. Phoebe Ann Mosey 1860 - 1926), by contrast, was a very feminine sharp-shooter and the photograph of her as well as the publicity picture show a nicely corsetted waist. Annie Oakley has been portrayed many times on the stage and in films, notably by Ethel Merman (1908 - 1984) in 1946 and Betty Hutton (1921 - 2007) in 1950. Doris Day (b. 1924) issued an album of the songs from the film including the famous "Anything you can do, I can do better." Two lines from this song go
Man: "I can jump a hurdle"
Annie O: "I can wear a girdle"
Annie Oakley might have worn a girdle, but for sure, Ethel Merman did and there are several references to this. Suzi Quatro (b. 1950) played Annie Oakley in a 1986 musical but I doubt that Miss Quatro would be familiar with either corset or girdle.
This was a period when almost every western musical felt it necessary to insert a good old corset scene. Maureen O'Hara is famously pursued (and humiliated) by John Wayne in the classic 'McClintock'. But one scene that we never saw, was six brides being held up at gun-point by two ferocious Jane Russells.
Of course, for every stunningly good idea like Spanx, there are some achingly awful ones. A review of the Monty Python series on TV the other night reminded us of a product that failed on virtually all counts: reliability, veracity and credulity. I am talking about the infamous Trimjeans.
These inflatable monstrosities claimed to reduce your waist by up to nine inches in just three days. Tell that one to Cathie Jung who spent many years achieving a 15 inch waist. That took hard work and perseverance, not some inflatable pants.
Cold Comfort Farm
"Mrs. Smiling's second interest was her collection of brassieres, and her search for the perfect one. She was reputed to have the finest collection of these garments in the world. It was hoped that on her death, they would be left to the nation."
Joanna Lumley plays the role of Mary Smiling in John Schlesinger's film 'Cold Comfort Farm' (1995)
Strangely, the collection as shown in the film seems more focussed on corsets and girdles than brassieres.
That Famous Custard Pie Fight from 'The Great Race' (1965)
I love the picture of Natalie Wood on the right. I had always hoped that the cast enjoyed making that scene.
Of course, there's nothing quite like a custard pie to puncture that balloon of pomposity. These pictures come from the Three Rascals' film 'Shivering Shakespeare' (1930).
This British made, French farce from 1966 features a few interesting scenes from the 'hotel' of the title's name:
|The film features an impressive array of international stars
as well as the predictable home-grown British talent. In the top two
pictures, Gina Lollobrigida watches a corpulent trapeze artist who strips
down to her corsets that appear only to be tied by one piece of lacing. The
French actress, Marie Bell (left) also features a corset and the American
actress, the delightfully plump Eddra Gale, runs around the hotel in her
black stays. At least Miss Gale's corsets are properly laced which shows off
her fine figure even if the uncorsetted areas do wobble alarmingly.
Sadly, Miss Lollobrigida, who can have the most fantastic shape is somewhat shapeless in the film.
The bunny girls came to London in 1966 at the height of the swinging 60s thus it was curious that the costume of the 'structured' swimsuit harked back to a former era. It was sufficiently restrictive that the girls had to master the 'bunny dip' (left) when serving customers. Mind you, Hugh Heffner knew how to titillate the male: the satin costume, the pseudo-corseted appearance and will you look at the waist on the middle girl in the right picture.
As for the picture below, I have never really understood what is going on here.