Curiosities

 

 

 

"Oh I do like to be beside the seaside"

 

 

 

Big Bras

 

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 whom 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!

 

Excellent Use for an old Lampshade

 

 

 

 

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!)

A woman of her class in the 1950's would certainly wear a girdle, and the Sarong was, indeed a favourite of many, but equally certainly, she would not be seen dead without stockings. Look at the fur coats, this is a very cold day.

I suspect the vagaries of the censor are at work here. Bizarrely, it is fine to depict a women embarrassed by the unexpected revelation of her underwear, but to depict the same women in the same girdle with stockings and garters was far too risqué. Sadly, without the stockings as a lower anchor, that Sarong girdle is going to ride up despite the promises of the advertisement!

Whilst we are on the subject of Marilyn Monroe, auctions of her effects show clearly that she never wore a lower foundation garment in daily life (as does the picture on the left). Bras and bustiers a-plenty as well as tights, stockings and suspender belts, but no girdles. Miss Monroe was possessed of an enviable 22-inch waist as her bustier on display at the excellent Hollywood Museum reveals, so no lower foundation was required.

 

Long after we wrote this piece about Miss Monroe, we discovered that a girdle from her collection had been auctioned in Britain. The provenance is convincing. It is a relatively flimsy roll-on and would have been used, rather than a suspender belt, to hold up her stockings.

 

    

 

 

 

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.

 

           

 

If you can't get your girdle on by yourself, by all means involve a friend...

     

from 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' (US TV 2015 -)                                                Candice Bergen in 'Book Club' (2018) in an unbelievable attempt to put on Spanx                    Way, way too tight!

 

 

from 'Spanx and Eve' (YouTube 2010)

 

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).

 

But never, ever try to put on your girdle over your head.

 

 

 

 

     

Just many curious examples of wearing one's underwear over one's clothes.

 

Below, the kookie Dody Goodman (1914 - 2008) aided and abetted by Dinah Shore, attempts to don a panty-girdle and long-line bra whilst already clothed.

 

 

Embarrassing moment!

 

 

           

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 as she fumbles with a thousand hooks-and-eyes.

 

Talk about fumbling, this poor girl nearly dislocates both shoulders as she attempts to fasten the hooks-and-eyes of her basque located, of course, at the back.

 

 

Three pictures that reveal models who are not totally at ease posing in their underwear and one lady definitely not happy with her brassiere.

 

Some girdle glimpses during a fashion show. The model never stops moving, choosing jewellery and a hat whilst her dresser tries to get her out of one dress whilst selecting the next dress for her to model.

 

 

 

Bringing in the Washing

 

 

     

 

 

If Eiffel rather than Dior designed ladies underwear

 

 

 

Girdle Groups

 

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!

 

     

         

The photo on the left has, at least, some meaning; it was a strike protest in 1937 by workers in a corset factory.

 

 

I'm not entirely sure what's going on here--

--or here

 

--or here. That plank is not going to acccommodate any more women I fear.

 

 

It is refreshing to see real sized models

 

and finally, plagiarising a famous old sketch...

 

5' 5":  "I look up to her because she wears Spirella corsets. But I look down on her because she wears a cheap High Street brand."

5' 10":  "I look down on both of them because I can afford to buy made-to-measure. A Spirella fitter calls every six months and measures me for three girdles. She calls me Madam."

5' 2":  "I look up to both of them because my girdle doesn't fit very well."

5' 5":  "I look up to her because I would like to be able to afford Spirella, however, the premium Marks and Spencer range is the equal of Spirella but I can't boast about it."

5' 2":  "My girdle still doesn't fit very well."

5' 10":  "I drive a Mercedes in my Spirella girdle. I boast about both, however, I secretly realise that 5' 5" in her Ford Cortina and satin elastic girdle have a far better deal."

5' 2":  "I've cleaned for Mrs 5' 10" and tried on one of her girdles; that didn't fit either."

5' 5":  "I have the best deal. Mrs. 5' 2" is uncomfortable in her ill-fitting girdle and Mrs. 5' 11" would like the comfort of my Marks & Spencer premium satin-elastic. But that's life."

Together:  "We all wore girdles then."

 

 

 

 

 

The Perils of Hitchhiking

 

 

Corset-style in fashion or it that fetishism?

 

       

       

         

Definitely fetishism on here! Perhaps we should have inserted a thought bubble "I think the corsetiere's having me on!" or "Never, ever upset your corsetiere!"

            

Second row (right) is a black leather maternity corset (seriously). The girl second on the left, second from bottom row (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! The corset (bottom right) is no flight of fantasy, it is a genuine Edwardian maternity corset!

 

Of course, this page would hardly be complete without some images of Madonna who brought back corsetry into the minds of millions.

 

 

    

 

 

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!

 

   

 

 

 

Trimjeans

 

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.

 

 

The Raille Health Appliance Company

 

 

It does appear that some ingenious inventor found a box of spare parts and decided to make something - anything . The inventor came up with the idea that by expanding and contracting elastic across your offending nether regions you could persuade the fat to vanish. I suspect that the only result would be an increase in one's biceps.

 

 

 

Bunny Girls

 

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. That was in part, due to the corsets worn under the costumes, made to make bunnys' breasts sit up high. The undergarments were tight and the zipper frequently pinched the skin. The look was completed with Bunny ears and a melon-sized white bobtail that was attached to hooks at the back. The Bunnies were also required to wear three-inch heels and received financial penalties for any mistakes in the costume.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Unexplained

As for the pictures below, I have never really understood what is going on here, however, Roger K has provided this explanation:  In the first case, that desk drawers are on the wrong side—that’s another oddity. And it looks as though the model is reading from a script, as might a would-be actress trying out for a part. Notice the sitting woman’s neatly slanted-as-a-unit legs—no modesty panel on that desk to protect her. In the second photo, the model’s outstretched hand is consistent with an actress acting out a role. In both, the wispy upper covering is meant to steer attention away from the bra, suggesting they’re girdle ads. The hose-grips in both are very neat and both girdles are very smooth. Both are zippered, un-boned (except maybe in the cuff of the high-waist version) and are high-waist and standard-waist versions of the same girdle (the front decor is identical). Might the tagline be: "I dreamed I declaimed in my Gossard Girdle?"

 

 

 

.. or here for that matter

 

 

 

 

From the catwalk, two models show off some rather lovely basques. What is odd is that halfway through the sequence, the model on the left appears to adjust the breast of the model on the right.

What is going on here? Why is a lady in a fur coat putting on her girdle over a pair of sharp skating boots? As she skates, she throws away the coat to reveal not just her girdle, but the flexibility of the girdle. It is one of the most blatantly active films of a woman wearing a girdle.

    

Mysteriously, she manages to change her bra several times during the sequence, surely a performance worthy of a gold medal.

    

 

 

 

The hugely successful programme 'What's My Line?' that showed in the USA during the 1950s and 60s featured several girdle and corset related professions. As might be expected from the 1950s, the guests were immaculately groomed and attired.

 

Miss Jean Desmond - Girdle Tester

 

DESMOND, Jean May 7, 1919 - July 24, 2008 "I didn't know it couldn't be done, so I did it." Born into a poor and dysfunctional family in Brooklyn, NY as Blanche Wimmer, she shaped her life as she changed her name. She sold candy at burlesque theatres while a schoolgirl, graduating Manual Trades High with honours and worked nights at a dance hall, saving her money to attend acting and modelling classes. Jean became New York's top brassiere and girdle model for over two decades, while winning beauty contests (the Happoel Soccer Queen, Miss Loew's Pitkin, fifth place in Mrs America after Gypsy Rose Lee insisted they make a place for her) and her life-long pleasure, appearing on radio and later television quiz shows. Retiring from modelling, she opened a shop on Madison Avenue specializing in fitting women who had had mastectomies. She became a designer and at the height of the Vietnam War moved to Australia, where she opened Weight Watchers in Adelaide, New Zealand and then Brazil. Coming back to California in 1977, Jean eventually set up at the Fashion Mart in downtown L.A. to sell sexy lingerie to West Coast shops. Having been president of the Pacific Coast Traders, she did not go quietly into retirement but became involved with her local interests - Southwest Manuscripters, Great Books and the last five years as president of her Homeowners Association in Rancho Palos Verdes.

 

           

She outlasted three husbands. Her eldest daughter, June Michaels (Ora Haase), predeceased her, but she is survived by two others, Jessica Skippon (London, England) and Carolyn Giallonardo (Pennsylvania), seven grandchildren, including Tom Troccoli and Terry Michaels, and 13 great-grandchildren. In her last days she gave thanks to her wonderful family and friends, grateful for their love and support. As matriarch, she taught her family to embrace life, take the knocks, get up and run again. The story of her early years is in her autobiography, Look Back and Laugh. Jean was a frequent contributor to L.A. newspapers and has written an unpublished manuscript of her struggles with Weight Watchers International.

 

Mrs Juliet Stephan - Girdle Model

 

Mrs Mona Leese - Corset Buyer

 

 

 

I'm not entirely sure what is going on below. Even the translation doesn't help much:

"It's happening this morning. He was passing and he was so seduced that he took her away. But what excites men? Always the same thing: look for the apple." (Perhaps this is an allusion to Adam and Eve?) As for the dancing girl in her CAMP and slippers, well...?

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"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!