MY MOTHER AND SPIRELLA CORSETS
For as long as I can recall my mother was a regular wearer of lacing corsets and especially those made by Spirella. We lived outside Liverpool.
I think she must have begun wearing the heavier type of lacing corset in her early thirties. It is however not unlikely in that age that she would have been brought up to wear some sort of corset while quite young so the use of lacing for figure control would seem entirely appropriate. It was interesting to note that despite acquiring more modern girdles and corsolettes later on when lycra had largely supplanted lacing, she still preferred the more traditional method of figure control. In both these photographs, she is wearing a firmly laced Spirella corset of which she would have had at that time at least five, some retired from extensive use.
The Spirella corsetiere was a regular visitor and I began to note her visits just about the time mother turned 40. Fitting would take in the front room, and we were carefully warned away until all was completed. I was intensely curious as to the proceedings in that room and would still love to know in more detail what would have transpired. The Ivy Leaf web-site has been very helpful in that regard.
She was still wearing the Spirella corsets into her seventies, and although there were other types of foundation garment in her corsetry wardrobe, the Spirella was very much favoured. There was one Camp corset, identifiable by its system of fan-lacing with straps that made self-lacing easier, but mother went back to the Spirella corsets and the Camp, although showing signs of fairly extensive usage, had clearly been less favoured. The strap fastening would have made it possible for her to achieve a fair degree of tight-lacing on her own. It was clear that she liked her corset to be well-laced in especially when wanting to look her best. Retreating to the bedroom to ‘get more comfortable’ would almost invariably follow return from a day out.
Her figure did not change significantly in later years, and not to outward appearance, and her older corsets remained in use, being evidently preferred to the newer versions later acquired.
Regarding one of her well-worn corsets, it is front-laced although she more generally seemed to prefer back-lacing. Judging from the amount of wear and the years she retained it, this corset was clearly one with which she was particularly comfortable. It may be the form of fastening and lacing was specially convenient.
It would of course have been unthinkable for her to let herself be seen corseted and without her dress so obviously, no such pictures exist. She was always very elegant and smartly turned out. She undoubtedly regarded her corsetry as an important factor in ensuring she looked her best, and considered Spirella the preferred way to do that.
These view are very valuable reminders of a bygone age and a company that performed an exceptional service in providing the means of figure control to women such as my mother.
Like many corset wearing ladies, she
favoured the directoire style of knickers. The directoire knickers were of
course much more substantial than modern panties, and made of a thicker
material. Houses and cars were much colder then compared to today.
One aspect I noted in comparison with panties today is that, whereas the latter seem more often than not to be changed and washed on a daily basis, that was not the practice certainly as far as my mother's underwear was concerned. That may partly reflect that the absence of washing machines meant that the wash was a weekly occurrence, and generally took place on Monday. I don't ever recall seeing more than two of mother's items on the drying rack and it was more often one. However given the nature and style of the directoire knickers that was perhaps both normal and unsurprising.