The Best Foundations

 

 

The Triumph Doreen Brassiere 

 

This is potentially a very subjective judgment, clouded by national favourites, marketing and even litigation. To avoid all these pitfalls, I must state from the outset that many of the brands and foundations that are mentioned here are no longer made and, due to our researches, I may be in a better position to discuss this topic than many, however, I know that as many again will disagree with my conclusions. I hope to hear from those that agree and disagree. Only from constructive feedback can our researches be furthered and opinions optimised.

and the Marks & Spencer 

Satin Elastic Girdle

 

The foundations described below are not the Rolls Royces of the foundation world, they are far more akin to the mainstream Fords (my husband drew this parallel). There is no brand snobbery here. What we are after is the brand that was so popular that it became the mainstay for millions of women due to a clever combination of comfort, cost and convenience.

 

Right through the 1950's and 1960's, until the advent of tights or pantyhose, your British housewife, certainly in the circles that my husband's mother moved, wore a girdle and bra. These could be alarmingly expensive if you bought from Spirella or Spencer, however, the majority of women were completely satisfied with the Triumph Doreen brassiere and the Marks & Spencer 'St. Michael' girdle. The satin elastic edition of this foundation garment was not just extremely powerful and functional, it was a very stylish and elegant garment that owed more than a little of its design to Dior.

 

These catwalk models who were deemed to be 'oversize' in the 1960's would have been very familiar with the Triumph Doreen and the Marks & Spencer girdle.

 

 

 

BRASSIERES: The Triumph Doreen

 

Many years ago, the Triumph Doreen surpassed anything that my favourite made-to-measure brand Spirella could produce and I've been a devotee ever since. Their sizes in short, medium or long length range from 32A through to 52K (and possibly more besides). That the style has remained unchanged for six decades is a tribute to this wonderful garment.

 

 

 

 

CORSETS:  The Spirella 305

 

Certainly not mainstream, Spirella, with its hundreds of corsetieres on three continents managed to supply millions of women with made-to-measure garments for close on eight decades. Their best selling garment was the 305 series corset. It was made-to-measure and provided a superb support for any women traditional enough to require it. The front-lacing was relatively easy to adjust and since a corset is a specialised garment, the availability of options such as extra suspenders, stiffer boning and under-belts meant that the device could be adapted to suit all shapes.

 

    

Our friend wears a modern Spencer posture corset (the spiritual successor to the Spirella 305) and a Spirella brassiere.

A Hunkemller brassiere tops off one of the longest and heaviest Spirella 325's ever made. This monster is 23 inches long in the back and has completely flattened our friend's abdomen.

 

 

Mind you, the Spirella 325 was also a formidably effective garment and these three women, peering hopefully over the town for a glimpse of Mr. Right, have used their expensive corsets to good effect. The lady in the middle who suffers with a painful back has four rigid steels (two on each side of the back lacing) and she has pulled her corset far tighter than necessary to achieve quite a spectacular waistline.

 

 

GIRDLES:  Marks and Spencer  1950's - 1970's

 

The two dozen girdles in our collection are as powerful today as they were 50 years ago when some of them were purchased. Not one is less than 30 years old and I have worn the one that fits me on several occasions. If it were to be my regular foundation, I'm sure it would last another couple of decades. The model on the left wears a brand new M&S girdle from the 1960's. She was so impressed that she offered to buy it. These girdles were on sale in various forms from 1940 to 1970, and the classic satin elastic version lasted for nearly two decades before plain Lycra and nylon took over.

 

 

A satin-elastic M&S girdle from the mid-1960's worn with a Triumph Doreen long-line brassiere; possibly the best foundation combination ever.

A satin and elastic M&S girdle from the early-1970's worn with a Triumph Doreen long-line brassiere; possibly the best foundation combination ever.

 

They don't make them like that any more!

 

 

 

PANTY-GIRDLES:  The Sears Hi-rise

 

As standard wear for millions of women in the 1960's and 1970's, nothing beat the Sears panty-girdle for popularity, style, cost and elegance. The marketers managed to get all the elements of the equation just so.

From grannies through mothers and onto their daughters, the Sears panty-girdle was almost part of an unspoken uniform that would only be challenged as the age of the hippy and flower power persuaded American and then British womanhood to discard their foundations. Sadly, no alternative was ever suggested at the time and it has taken nearly three decades for the foundation garment, other than the brassiere, to stage a realistic comeback.

We have but one in our collection, a tribute to the fact that these girdles were worn to destruction and would never see the advent of the electronic auction.

Indeed, only the Triumph Doreen conceived before flower power has lasted into the electronic era.

 

The Sears hi-rise panty-girdle was to American womanhood in the mid-1960's what the Marks and Spencer girdle was to her British cousin. Even after the demise of the British girdle in the late 1960's, nothing as elegant or as powerful as the Sears panty-girdle was ever offered to replace it.

 

 

Comments:

 

We received many replies when this page first appeared on our site. As one would expect, there was partisan support for national brands and personal favourites, however, if the models above could be described as generic, then we were not too far off the mark.

 

"Ever since I was old enough to appreciate what my mother wore, her foundations, without exception every day were her Triumph bra and M&S girdle. This ritual was passed on to myself when I was 15 and I never queried it or thought anything of it at all. I was aware that not all my friends were similarly clad but that did not bother me until I went to University. I suddenly became socially aware and I never wore a girdle of any sort after that except when I was at home, and by 1969 my mother was the only supporter of M&S in the household; much to her dismay!"

 

As a teenager, she occasionally wore one of M&Ss most powerful girdles and referred to it as The Beast!

 

"Granny wore Spirella corsets all her life. She claimed to have started in corsets when she was 10 (liberty bodice?) and every year thereafter was visited by the Spirella lady except during the war. She was heart-broken when Spirella closed in the late 80's and she invested heavily from her pension to purchase six corsets to 'see her out'. This they did, however, she lost a lot of weight in later years and when she died, all her corsets had been taken in, sewn and re-sewn as the stitching had parted under the strain."

 

Some very detailed recollections of the Marks and Spencer girdle are included in the page on Marks and Spencer.

 

 

"Clothes maketh the man, but foundations maketh the women" as my corsetiere was wont to say. There is no doubt that the combination of the Triumph Doreen long-line bra and M&S girdle was one of the best foundations that a woman could wear. This would come at a cost of less than a quarter of the made-to-measure Spirella equivalent.

Millions of American women, from grandmothers to grand-daughters wore the Sears hi-rise, long-leg panty-girdle in the 1960's. The panty-girdle was never so popular in Europe as it was in America. British women went from girdles to mid elastic knickers without the intervening decade of panty-girdles that their transatlantic sisters enjoyed.