Other Classic Brands

Nubone

Rengo

Strodex

 

Roussel

Stayform

Twilfit

 

Over the last 100 years, there have been so many brands of corsetry. The established and highly successful brands like Playtex, St. Michael, and Triumph simply keep up with the times and keep on going. Gossard, Berlei, Spencer and Camp struggle on with a diminishing clientele, and Spirella, Charis and Jenyns have vanished from the scene. Most of these brands have been successful for more than five decades, and examples of Spirella still live on in the drawers of the elderly, their owners praying that their foundations last longer than they do, for they can find no alternative. Some brands became so common that their very name became generic. Rubber girdles are almost always associated with Playtex and Camps with fan-lacing corsets. I know of an elderly women, a life-long Camp wearer who emigrated to Australia in later life to be with her children. She still wears Jenyns fan-lacers to this day (although she can no longer purchase them) but still calls them "Camps." Some brands were referred to quite openly. "Have you got your Spencer on Mother?"

 

These brands are dealt with elsewhere. This page is about some excellent brands that simply died out as the girdle died out:- Nubone, Rengo, Stayform and Bestform to name but a few. At the end, we deal with some lesser known horrors that survived for a few years on the strength of unbelievable advertising, and thankfully passed away. I have heard enough elderly women refer to their Camps or Spencers not to comment on it, however, I cannot imagine any women saying "I've got my 'Abdo-lift' on today", and as for 'Fitzwel' and the hideous 'Duribilknit' surgical stockings, the least said, the better!

 

The corsets that grace the left and right of this text are a 'Redfern' (serious, possible) and a 'Trixy' (hmmm), both purveyors of excellent foundations in their day, but sadly no more.

 

 

Nubone

 

Nubone made a huge play on their spiral steel bones

which was a bit unfair since Spirella developed the

concept more than a decade before. Like Spirella,

they advertised "Not sold in shops" and were proud

of their army of corsetieres.

 

 

 

Just a moment, didn't Spirella patent this around 1900? Indeed, they did, but the minute the patent expired so the vultures descended!

  

 

Nubone had an empire of corsetieres much the same as Spirella and Spencer, yet they did not stand the test of time. A remaining example of their wares is this girdle (above right). It has the interesting feature that the zip works downwards. Nubone's materials tended to be more cottony than the brocades and satins of the other houses although satin was certainly an option. Perhaps it was simply too expensive. Interestingly, Charis's materials were similar and that was another company that failed to last past the 1960's.

 

Nubone not only copied Spirella's patented bones, but they blatantly mimicked the Spen-all is this extremely rare satin corselette (right). What a shame that a company with the ability to produce such an elegant garment should ultimately fail.

 

 

 

 

Rengo

 

No beating about the bush with Rengo who made the sturdy, practical corset for the sturdy, practical woman!

 

We have a couple of Rengo corsets in our collection and I still do not understand the principle. You have the busk fastening underneath the lacing. I note that the under-belt has elastic, so it could be that the laces simply exert the tension required by the wearer. It seems unnecessary.

 

 

 

Roussel

 

This manufacturer of stylish and elegant corsetry in the 1930’s aimed very precisely at the ‘flapper’ who had married, who had moved with an expanding family into the 1930’s, and now wanted to go out and look chic in a Harlow-esque gown. Under no circumstances would bones or, heaven forbid, laces be required. She was a child of the emancipated 1920’s. She wanted a light, elegant foundation that would conceal a less than youthful figure beneath the bias-cut satin gowns of the 1930’s. Roussel went to great lengths to point out how all other corsets and girdles were inadequate, and how the construction of their ‘belts’ (note the absence of the C-word or G-word), was exactly what the client desired. Uniquely, in my experience, the Roussel catalogues of the day, not only gave advice on deportment and how their belts supplied a means to that end, but they also recommended how one’s husband might be improved also!

Roussel chose recommendations carefully from the willowy heroines of the day:- Anny Ahlers, a beautiful German actress of the 1930’s who tragically died falling off a balcony. Alice Delysia (1889 – 1979), a British actress, and ghost story novelist, Margery Lawrence, also of the 1930’s. Antonia Mercé (1888-1936), stage-named La Argentina, was the most celebrated Spanish dancer of the early 20th century. She gave an autographed photo to Roussel for publicity in their magazines. All these women were Roussel wearers, emancipated, certainly didn’t want bones or laces, yet craved and lauded the support of Roussel’s foundations, and were happy to tell the world about it.

In the beginning, Roussel developed the elastic 'tricot' construction of the corselette. No bones at all, freedom of movement was the concept, and the celebrities chosen, actresses and dancers, seemed to epitomise this ideal. These garments from the 1930's (below) seem to be little more than elegant elastic tubes.

 

(There are so many images of Roussel garments on the web and in old magazines, that I forget the provenance of some of the images below other than those from the 1930's which come from our own archives.)

After the war when the pictures below were taken, Dior had decreed that 'the waist' was in and the 'flapper tube' most definitely was out. Roussel responded with some of the most elegant foundations ever made. The models are ex-debutante, young actress generic and the model at the bottom was one of Roussel's favourites.

 

 

Very characteristic of all these poses is the slightly artificial 'tummy in' designed to accentuate the 'nipped in' waist. Be careful girls, if you sit down in so tight a garment it is going to pinch badly. Read the cautionary tale "My guêpière is killing me!" M. Roussel was, of course, French, and the model (bottom 2nd left) wears one. It is a strange feature of strapless corselettes and basques, that they always seem to ride a bit low requiring the evening gown to provide the final level of support.

 

We have a 'dump' of classic Roussel adverts below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stayform

 

The charming Miss Hanskat hated bones and managed to design corselettes and combination uppers and lowers without them. She felt, as the before and after on the right shows, that a smooth waist-line could be achieved in comfort.

One oddity, is that in many of her catalogues, the corselettes are designed to allow the back suspender to cross the side suspender pointing forwards. I've never seen that before or since.

 

The erudite Roger K has this explanation for the suspenders' arrangement.

1. To provide pull-down tension on the back of the girdle or corselet  to keep it from riding up, and yet to provide a way to avoid sitting  on the rear suspender.

2. To maintain constant tension on the rear suspender, rather providing than too little (when standing) and too much (when sitting).

A trolley garter was intended to provide the same effect, but didn't supply three attachment points to the stocking, hence would have been more liable to create runs.

 

 

 

This link has moved to a dedicated page Strange Names

 

 

 

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