At the outset, we must admit that this site is not a work of scholarship, simply a collection of memories and facts gleaned from material of the period, both garments and catalogues. There are few references and although we own many of the pictures, some are obviously internet sourced and may or may not be protected by copyright. We have never made any money from this site; in fact it is quite expensive to maintain but it is a labour of love. In fact, we have used the collection of corsets to construct calendars with the garments modelled by willing volunteers. All monies received from these calendars have been given to charities chosen by the models.
For many years my husband and I researched and added to an inherited collection, the articles from which form this basis of this web site. The original idea was to publish the fascinating history of Spirella and the corsetieres who worked for this company before knowledge of the era became lost forever. However, the idea of compiling a small book that would almost certainly never be published was overtaken by the advent of the Internet. Definitely not of the Internet generation, our introduction to this new medium was slow and painful, but ultimately so worth while.
We found many sites dedicated to foundation garments. Their professional approach to the subject and their layout left us acutely aware of our limited abilities to create a web site. It was simply the unexpected discovery of Microsoft's Front Page that allowed us to start building this site.
As the compilation of this web site progressed, we began to realise how little we knew about this fascinating era. What I believed was my 'in-depth' knowledge was very much based on the experiences of somebody who has lived in Britain and Holland. These experiences differ in detail from the American experience and I am always grateful to correspondents who correct me when my assumptions from the east of the Atlantic contradict those from the west.
The major additions to this site have largely been completed; however, there is quite some text that should be added to lend substance to the photographs. The site has grown rather like 'Topsy', a consequence of our inexperience, but one day we may try to rationalise all the pages.
Several visitors to our site have requested that recent changes be indicated for the regular reader who may not want to trawl through the entire script repeatedly. This has been incorporated into the Contents Page, which should allow easier navigation of the site.
Various styles have been adopted in the text. For example, the Spirella pages have a completely different layout from those describing Spencer. This was a consequence of the material available and our personal whims and fancies at the time. We have tried to be scientific in our research and to catalogue references. Occasionally my husband, who has helped enormously with the scanning and compilation, makes his presence felt in the text by the inclusion of the odd flippant comment. I have left these in since some are actually quite amusing, and they do represent a curiously male attitude to the serious topic of foundation garments.
We have been sent many accounts, recollections and articles, both solicited and unsolicited. The veracity of these is checked as well as we can, however, there is no guarantee as to their authenticity. We have avoided those texts that describe blatant wish fulfilment, that are too explicit or that simply do not pass the criteria of our scrutiny. The serious subject of corsetry can be interpreted in a romantic fashion; as Mary Armstrong of Ambrose Wilson commented "Let's not romance about corsetry". Nevertheless many people, particularly men tend to do so. There is nothing sinister in this, however, we are well aware that from this romantic stand-point, it is all to easy to stray into the grey area of the fetish world. We refer to this under the heading 'The Other Side of Corsetry'.
We hope you enjoy these pages.
Ivy Leaf, UK 2003 (updated in 2016)
References and Links
I would like to mention the two extremely comprehensive and beautifully constructed sites that were our original inspiration to publish on the web:
The Long Island Staylace Association, and Virginian's excellent site ZONA: Girdle Zone
Throughout these pages, we had intended to use illustrations from our own archives; however, I soon realised that these archives had completely missed some of the most beautiful and elegant corsets procured by the vendors that frequent the Ebay auctions. These garments were quite an education to me and this web site would be a poorer place to visit without them. I would like to thank Cherry-Tomatoe, Gilo49, Lyn Locke and Trishypoo (Vintage Glamour Puss) for their generous permission to use these photographs. I have tried to credit the photographs accordingly, using their Ebay initials. Their web and auction sites were a wealth of information for a researcher who believed that such garments existed only in her memory and the few remaining catalogues of that period. Sadly, like so many things in the serious world of corsetry, some of these sites no longer exist.
Cherry-Tomatoe (CT) Trishypoo (TP) Vintage Glamour Puss (VGP)
Lyn Locke (LL) Gilo49 (G49) Dollhouse Vintage (DH)
Lyn Locke deserves a special mention. This energetic lady, inspired by her late partner Mike, bought the foundation garment back into the open. My husband and I only regret that circumstance and distance have precluded our meeting her in person.
One site that is alive and well is Brabarella. This site has a fascinating blog and is dedicated to those that like to wear and purchase vintage foundation garments and costumes. They have kindly given us permission to use their pictures on this site.
We are most grateful for all the comments that we have received, particularly constructive criticism. Without being told that certain links were inoperative, or that stated facts were incorrect, we would have ploughed on regardless of our ignorance. A very special thanks must be made to 'Roger K' who, unasked, very generously went through the entire text and edited it for mistakes. My husband and I had tried to eliminate the usual 'typos', but Roger elevated us to a higher grammatical plane than we knew existed!
This reminds me of an incident completely unconnected with corsetry that happened when we were courting. I am Dutch, and my husband is Scottish. In the 1970's, I had to sit an exam to assess my English. My future husband's protestations that my English was fluent did not sway me from my intent, and whilst I got dressed to go out to dinner, my 'English-speaking expert' completed my homework. The next day, I scored 3/10 for my work, and an astonished teacher asked me what had gone wrong. (I normally scored 8/10). My husband, somewhat sheepishly, explained that perhaps his idiomatic English was a bit advanced for the teacher!! Roger K has set this all to rights.
Alison, a Spencer corsetiere from America, Isobel and Rosalind who worked in the traditional corset shops in Britain, and Marianne, who had similar experiences in Denmark, have given freely of their reminiscences. Several corsetieres, past and present, in Britain, France and Holland have talked to us, and without exception, have been charming and helpful. We owe all of these ladies a debt of gratitude.
Finally, I should explain the provenance of Ivy Leaf. Spirella corsetieres, to my mind the quintessential corsetieres, could join the Ivy Leaf Club. Emblems were issued and corsetieres could collect pins for each decade of selling. It was hoped that the influence of Spirella would grow and cover like the ivy itself. In a small tribute to these energetic ladies, we have developed the character of Ivy Leaf. She is actually a whole range of women that we and our correspondents have known, but her interface to the world is through the very real characters of my husband and myself. For those of you with a curious mind; yes, I do appear within this web-site - Ivy.
Please proceed to the
and enjoy a trip down memory lane. There's over 200 separate web-pages to explore!