The Dawn of the Panty-girdle


We have described elsewhere, how in America, the 1960's was the decade of the panty-girdle. Sears sold millions of their lightly boned, zippered confections to millions of American women and girls to the extent that the panty-girdle dominated by far the sales of lower foundations. Across the Atlantic in our small but dynamic island, the change occurred later than in America. It was only at the end of the 1960's that women binned their girdles. Perhaps because during this decade, social communications started to evolve so rapidly, as American women dispensed with the panty-girdle, the European lag was far less than before, so an era in Britain of the panty-girdle never really took hold. Most women went from girdles to no lower foundation at all. Only in the new millennium has the girdle (or shaper) made a serious comeback.

That potted history fails, however, to explain the dawn of the panty-girdle and why it was developed. As with so many fashion changes, the world wars provided a marked social stimulus. In the 1920's and 30's, women started to wear trousers or slacks (I'm not sure of the correct American expression). If the trousers are baggy, a lady can still wear a conventional girdle and knickers, however, this is impossible in closer fitting garments. Trousers were mainly for outdoor, vigorous hobbies and work so fashion was not a concern, however, in the ate 1930's, the fashionable closer cut trouser became available and a new undergarment was required. With the widely held belief that all women post-puberty required 'proper' support, elastic knickers were the obvious solution and since they still needed to hold up stockings, the girdle manufacturers essentially made a girdle with legs. Due to the concerns about feminine hygiene, the uptake was slow and hybrid designs such as the 'open crotch panty' (Sears 1945) featured alongside panty-girdles with a 'removable crotch piece' (Sears 1938 and Diana 1947) that was a major selling point stressed by the advertisers. As concerns regarding hygiene were better understood after the war, so the young fashionable lady could chose between a roll-on, a panty-girdle with exposed suspenders or a longer-legged variety with concealed suspenders. The crotch was now rarely detachable but often had a convenience flap. It was the latter that under-pinned the American Dream of the 1960's.


Sears 1938, Sears 1947, Diana 1947, 1960's

In both Germany and Britain (Spirelette) in 1953, the panty-girdle was marketed but with virtually no uptake.