Girdles and Corsets in the Movies



There are far more comprehensive sites that catalogue corsets in films. The best is the late Thomas Lierse's LISA site.


Listed in order of the picture above


Cold Comfort Farm


"Mrs. Smiling's second interest was her collection of brassieres, and her search for the perfect one. She was reputed to have the finest collection of these garments in the world. It was hoped that on her death, they would be left to the nation."


Joanna Lumley plays the role of Mary Smiling in John Schlesinger's film 'Cold Comfort Farm' (1995)


Strangely, the collection as shown in the film seems more focussed on corsets and girdles than brassieres that are supposed to be Mary's passion.


That Famous Custard Pie Fight from 'The Great Race' (1965)







I love the picture of Natalie Wood on the right. I had always hoped that the cast enjoyed making that scene. At some point in the film, Jack Lemmon appears in an ill-fitting male fan-laced corset.



In Warner Brother's 'The Making of the Great Race' it shows a lady in a bustier and then extols the authentic 1910s clothing. The clothing might have been authentically styled, but the underwear is very 1960s.


Of course, there's nothing quite like a custard pie to puncture that balloon of pomposity. These pictures come from the Three Rascals' film 'Shivering Shakespeare' (1930).






Hotel Paradiso


This British made, French farce from 1966 features a few interesting scenes from the 'hotel' of the title's name:



  The film features an impressive array of international stars as well as the predictable home-grown British talent. In the top two pictures, Gina Lollobrigida watches a corpulent trapeze artist who strips down to her corsets that appear only to be tied by one piece of lacing. The French actress, Marie Bell (left) also features a corset and the American actress, the delightfully plump Eddra Gale, runs around the hotel in her black stays. At least Miss Gale's corsets are properly laced which shows off her fine figure even if the uncorsetted areas do wobble alarmingly.

Sadly, Miss Lollobrigida, who can have the most fantastic shape is somewhat shapeless in the film.




Calamity Jane's Corsets?


We love many old movies, amongst which are the Paleface series starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell. In the original Paleface (1948), Calamity Jane (Russell) is surprised in the changing room by some bad guys whom she guns down. On the left is the iconic figure of Calamity Jane in her corsets, six shooters at the ready. But is Jane wearing a corset for the back view shows no lacing! It looks like the lacing has been omitted and the corset simply held in place by her gun belt. On the right, we show how it might have been done courtesy of a corset worn by our model Victoria in 2014.

(Incidentally, the gun belt was sometimes referred to as the 'Texas Corset'.)

In the film 'Calamity Jane' (1953), Doris Day is cast as the gun-toting woman. In the ball scene, she appears in a pink satin gown and displays a tightly corsetted waist, or does she? In the still frame (middle below) there is no corset to be seen, yet on the right she appears in a corset. The dress is very form-fitting (left) yet no evidence of the corset and the shoulder ruffles is apparent.

I suspect, that Miss Day, like Miss Russell were both naturally shapely women and didn't need a corset to fit into their costumes that in those days would have had sufficient structure to act as corset.


The beautiful Miss Day has THE most expressive face.



(From left to right) The real Calamity Jane (b. Martha Jane Cannary  1852 - 1903) was a frontierswoman who, apart from a few portraits would never have worn a corset. In fact, in many later pictures she appears very rough and masculine. Annie Oakley (b. Phoebe Ann Mosey  1860 - 1926), by contrast, was a very feminine sharp-shooter and the photograph of her as well as the publicity picture show a nicely corsetted waist. Annie Oakley has been portrayed many times on the stage and in films, notably by Ethel Merman (1908 - 1984) in 1946 and Betty Hutton (1921 - 2007) in 1950. Doris Day (b. 1924) issued an album of the songs from the film including the famous "Anything you can do, I can do better." Two lines from this song go


Man: "I can jump a hurdle"

Annie O: "I can wear a girdle"


Annie Oakley might have worn a girdle, but for sure, Ethel Merman did and there are several references to this. Suzi Quatro (b. 1950) played Annie Oakley in a 1986 musical but I doubt that Miss Quatro would be familiar with either corset or girdle.


This was a period when almost every western musical felt it necessary to insert a good old corset scene. Maureen O'Hara is famously pursued (and humiliated) by John Wayne in the classic 'McClintock' (1963). But one scene that we never saw, was six brides being held up at gun-point by two ferocious Jane Russells.




All mothers should tell their daughters that if you wear a strapless gown, you wear an appropriate foundation garment and the gown should fit the garment. In the film 'Paul' (2011), Sigourney Weaver's foundations are not equal to her dramatic movements and she has to re-hoist her gown.

Mothers should also tell their daughters not to adjust their clothes whilst carrying a revolver.


Eiko Ishioka designed the magnificent costumes from the 2012 film 'Mirror, Mirror' that fall into the category of 'curious' although outlandish might also be an apt description. Below we see Julia Roberts sporting her corset made from bamboo. Consider however, the 1895 corset from an English museum that has ventilation at the waist and 22 bone casing filled, in this instance with bamboo cane! I wonder if this is where the designer got her idea?




Strange Goings-on Backstage



 Guy de Maupassant's scandalous tale 'Bel Ami' (1885) of an opportunistic young man corrupted by the allure of power has been made (loosely) into film in 1939 (Germany), 1955 (USA) and lastly in 2012. It is a period piece and, of course, corsets feature, especially in the 1955 version.



The actresses went on strike to complain about wearing such tight corsets, however, this was widely regarded as a blatant publicity stunt.




The Corset, the Fat Lady and the Vacuum Cleaner



In the Jerry Lewis film 'Who's Minding the Store?' (1963) a lady has her corset sucked clean off her body by a wayward vacuum cleaner! This remarkable machine divests the poor lady of "My hat, my shoes .. no,  ..  no, no, no, no, no .. Oh my corset!" Her dress remains intact for, I fear the film would never have passed the censors otherwise. Nature might abhor a vacuum and I guess this lady was not too keen on it either! The poor lady was played by Muriel Landers. Oddly enough, she was referred to in the credits as the 'girdle lady'.


Towards the end of this surreal sequence of the voracious vacuum cleaner, it floats up to the ceiling of the store where the hapless Mr. Lewis punctures the bloated bag of the vacuum cleaner and it explodes, hurling all the accumulated debris plus Miss Lander's corsets into the face of Ray Walston. Imagine the stage directions: "Exit backwards staggering with a pair of corsets wrapped around the face!"





 Roger Vadim's 'And God Created Woman' (1956)


Michel Boisrond's 'Une Parisienne' (1957)


Brigitte Bardot does seem to enjoy wearing the basque above in Roger Vadim's 'And God Created Woman' (1956) and in Michel Boisrond's 'Une Parisienne' (1957).





In 1965, Miss Bardot wears a corset in 'Viva Maria' even if it does appear that she's about to play a game of cricket (right).













Whilst we are in the Wild West, let's visit Shalako (1968). This paired Sean Connery with Brigitte Bardot but the movie was a bit less than the anticipated sum of the parts. Poor Honor Blackman dies at the hands of some vengeful Indians (although in the film she deserved her fate). During the ordeal, her blouse is ripped off, followed by her corsets, expertly cut through the lacing by a knife wielded by her adversary - not a recommended technique.



Oddly enough, in the film The First Travelling Saleslady (1956), Ginger Rogers persuades some Indian chiefs to buy her corsets perhaps as bullet-proof protection?



The Millionairess (1960)


The sultry pose of Miss Loren (left) is well-known to millions, however, the back view is less well regarded. If one does, it is apparent that the corset was never Miss Loren's own, her shoulders that aided her hour-glass figure are too broad for the corset as the diverging eyelets reveal. The corset is so small that even with the lacing fully extended across the top, Miss Loren's flesh is squeezed into two bulges that no corsetičre would ever condone. Presumably Miss Loren wished to breathe during the scene! Nevertheless, when this film was made, many Italian women wore corsets like this, and the diplomatic gatherings and social weddings were populated by typically immaculate Italian women, all beautifully attired and perhaps all breathing with just a little difficulty.

In fact, there are more errors in this famous scene.



As Miss Loren disrobes, she removes her coat and unzips the back of her dress starting at about waist height, but as the next picture reveals, the dress zips up level with the arm holes. The zip may have been left at half-mast to facilitate her unzipping. With the dress back on, helpfully zipped up by Peter Sellers, once again he fails to zip it up all the way as evidenced by a brief moment when she turns her back to the camera. It does look like Miss Loren's shoulders are once again too broad for the costume. But who cares, it is a charming scene.


Another film, 'The Prisoner of Azkaban' (2004) also uses the effect of an inflated object rising up into the air (despite the laws of physics), but in this case it is not a vacuum cleaner but Aunt Marge played by Pam Ferris.


As in 'Who's minding the store', the large lady's underwear appears from beneath her skirt as Aunt Marge begins to inflate and her skirt rides up revealing two suspenders. They are actually, quite old fashioned in style having adjustable clips. Later in the sequence when poor Marge floats away and inverts you can see that the crew have constructed a giant panty-girdle for her off which the suspenders hang. Interestingly, the picture is set in the 1990s when most women has abandoned all lower foundations, but not Aunt Marge, of that you can be sure.


The screenplay drawing on the right shows excellent attention to the detail of the girdle.


Here is an account of the incredible stoicism displayed by Pam Ferris on the set of the film: "There were inflatable gloves for her hands and separate inflatable legs,' explains Dudman, 'all set off by a computer-controlled pneumatic pressure device. The hands could inflate any given joint in any order." Pam Ferris spent up to five hours in the makeup chair having small prosthetic pieces and expandable rubber bladders applied to her face and neck before getting into an inflatable suit, which weighed fifty pounds. "At the later stages I was so spherical that I couldn’t sit down; I could barely walk! At my biggest, I’m about four-foot-six across." Inside each suit was a flying harness suspended on two wire rigs. One would lift or flip her, the other rig spun her around. Ferris received high praise from the cast and crew for her patience and good nature. "It was like she was in a straightjacket," says producer David Heyman. "Then hung up by wires and suspended, and she never complained once. Not once."


Notice the zipper at the top of her formidable undergarment.


The amazing fact about Aunt Marge's inflation is that it was done for real. The only CGI effects were to remove the wires from the frames where Aunt Marge flies off. There were, of course, two Aunt Marges: one played by Pam Ferris (who almost fainted in the inflatable suit) and the other played by stunt double, Kelly Dent. Apart from the inflatable suit, there would have been a harness to attach the wires. The crew applauded the stoicism of Pam Ferris. Presumably Kelly, as a professional stunt woman, was used to such things!


Kelly Dent                                                         Pam Ferris

(aged c.25           aged 56 when the film was made in 2004).





The three pictures below have been taken from that excellent comedy film 'Carry On Abroad' (1972). The inimitable June Whitfield appears clad in a long-line bra and waist slip. Her look of horror is due to discovering a man (Kenneth Hawtrey) in her bath. In 1972, Miss Whitfield was 47 years old and wearing a long-line bra that, although unfashionable, was by no means uncommon. Her look of horror is partly due to her staid character in the film, but perhaps also due to being seen in such old-fashioned underwear. June Whitfield is currently 91 years old and still acting!





Corsets appear frequently in films, but corsetieres ? I'm sure there are more, however, the only appearances to my knowledge are that of Ginger Rogers in The First Travelling Saleslady (1956) and Joan Sims in Carry on Loving (1970).




In 1969, Joan Sims appeared in the December issue of the Spirella Magazine with a comment indicating the interest of the entertainment industry in Spirella corsets. The long-lasting tradition of lacing one's corsets with a knee or a foot in the back is not to be recommended since so many corset wearers have bad backs. Even the 'Carry On' films fall into this trap as a grunting Amelia Bayntun (1919 -1988) is laced into her corsets by Joan Sims playing the part of Esme Crowfoot 'Corsetiere' in 'Carry on Loving' (1970). The sound track is fabulous, "That's it (now) hold it" [phone rings] "Oh, excuse me one moment will you" is spoken by Miss Sims against the director's added sound-track of straining material, and poor Miss Bayntun's grunts! Listening quite carefully, no corset ever made the sounds that the filmed version produces. I assume some stagehand rubbing a balloon would produce the effect over over-tensioned material quite effectively. The other film that incorporates 'straining noises' is 'The Happy Ending' (1969). This time the noises are subtle and come from a satin-panelled girdle being hoisted over a woman's hips.



I had always thought that the Joan Sims' character of Esme Crowfoot in "Carry On Loving" (1970) was the only such example of a corsetičre on film, however, a little gem of information came our way recently. There is a film called The Girdle of Gold (1952), that tells the tale of a fortune stashed away in a Welsh Lady's girdle (corselette actually). The corsetičre, Mrs. Macie, is played by Tonie MacMillan, her customer wearing a new corselette on the left, Mrs. Griffiths, is played by Maudie Edwards and the young lady on the right, who has just been sold Mrs. Griffiths old corselette, by Petra Davies.


Girdle Repair in Operation Petticoat


I will badly plagiarise Mark Twain's famous statement here:- "Whenever my husband feels the need to perform DIY, he should instantly lie down until the urge passes!" Occasionally, he does actually perform a useful task and I did mention some years ago, his effective repair of a car exhaust using a steel bone from a corset. I feel that may have been a pinnacle in his achievements! It did, however, bring to mind the effective use of a girdle in repairing a machine on board a submarine in the old film "Operation Petticoat" (left - 1959).


And just what is this strange surgical appliance on the right? In fact, it is nothing of the sort, it is simply the corset that Peter Pan would wear on stage (I hasten to add that Peter Pan, in the strange tradition of the English pantomime, is always played by a woman.) The solidity and straps allow wires to be attached to the performer so that she can fly through the air with (possibly something less than) the greatest of ease; and quite a small waist as well!


Not a surgical corset



Tom & Jerry


Flying Cat (1952)



On the left, Tom is desperate to get hold of Jerry and the small bird who have taken refuge in a 'bird house' on top of a tall pole. Accidentally, Tom discovers a pair of corsets that save his fall from an upstairs window and realises that they make a fine pair of wings.

Grabbing Jerry in full flight, the 'Achilles Heel' of corsetted flight is recognised by the bird and he pulls the knot that releases the two halves of the corsets and the luckless Tom, once again, crashes to earth and Jerry escapes.

On the right, Jerry befriends a poor ugly duckling* who is trying to 'end it all'. Jerry consults a book on beauty and attends to his friend in the form of curlers, corsets, a face-mask and chin strap. Jerry captures the duckling but is horrified by its appearance and he retreats screaming. This does nothing for the poor duckling's confidence.


I wonder where the cartoonist got his inspiration?


It is interesting, as in all cartoons, just how well the cartoonist might have understood the principles of the corset. In both cases, they are not too badly portrayed (it is a cartoon after all), however, the face-mask and curlers were probably quite a familiar sight and many woman still wore corsets in the 1950's!

Ugly Duckling (1953)

The girl above is nothing to do with Tom & Jerry, however, even without the bat, this girl is a fearsome spectacle. Imagine 40 years on, toothless and wearing her corsets underneath that all enveloping satin housecoat!


* A duck and a corset appear in the 1959 film 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' in which James Mason, playing the part of a mysoginistic Victorian professor, asks Arlene Dahl to remove her stays. "You're wearing stays are you not? I can hear them creaking as you walk along!" Miss Dahl retreats to remove the offending article that a pet duck then drags across the film set. I think it was meant to be an attempt at humour. As is often the case with Hollywood, Miss Dahl's spectacular figure appears unchanged after the duck runs off with her corsets; not that she ever needed corsets anyway.






The Simpsons



Season 14, Episode 5 'Helter Skelter' sees Marge being laced into her corset by Maggie. A marginal improvement of Selma and Patty Bouvier


Betty Boop


The ugly sisters having laced themselves tight have a go at Betty boop in Poor Cinderella (1934)


Blue Peter


On the 28th September 1981, Blue Peter, the famous British children's show decided to educate their young viewers about the underpinning of yesteryear. The garments were provided by the Symingtons Collection and feature Maggie Philbin (far right) modelling a 1957 Dior corselette (that the presenters kept referring to as a 'corset'). The detail of the garment can be seen as a composite picture that explains the multiplicity of Miss Philbin's hands. A young Sarah Green (right - in the middle) wears a Jenyns corset from the early 20th century that was made under licence by Symingtons.





This was a Danish sitcom that ran from 1978 - 1982. In one episode, a lady shows off her new Spirella corset. It is a period piece, but the plot is set between 1929 and 1947, so well done the properties ladies. However, a corset wearing lady would always wear her knickers over the corset. This has been omitted so as to give the viewers a clear sight of the corset.



Another undressing scene comes from a 1938 documentary on "How to undress in front of your husband" - really! It features two women, one is sleek, elegant and she disrobes with an economy of effort, languidly gliding from her evening gown through a waft of chiffon and into bed where she still looks ravishing. The poor old stout woman grapples with her clothes, throws them to the floor, scratches herself vigorously, grunts whilst she tears at her corsets that she throws unceremoniously across the room. She gets into bed with all the grace of a sack of potatoes. I love these instructional newsreels from a more innocent era.






It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World


In the hilarious film 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' (1963) Miss Merman's panty-girdle makes at least five appearances and another such garment remains on display in a museum on Hollywood Boulevard.


In the first appearance, La Merman hides some car keys in her cleavage and dares Terry-Thomas and Milton Berle to retrieve them. This they do by holding Miss Merman upside-down until the keys fall out. Miss Merman is less than happy and belts both gentlemen with the handbag.


It can be seen that this quintessential item of Americana (the panty-girdle) is a fairly basic garment with none of the satin panelling that would raise this underwear to iconic status in the 1960s.


Later on, with Miss Merman standing in the back seat of her son-in-law's stationary car and holding forth (all her lines are shouted in traditional Merman style), the car is rammed from behind by a truck. Miss Merman is catapulted over the front seat and, once again, ends up with the legs pointing skywards. In the third frame, one can see that the girdle legs are very loose. Was this a stunt double? A black and white still clip again shows the loose legs. This clip did not appear in the final film.




Jonathan Winters tries to pull Miss Merman from his truck by her feet. He falls back and she back flips into the cab with her legs, once again, in the air.



During the final stages of the film, Spencer Tracy, escaping from a pursuing mob, collides with Miss Merman and sends her flying backwards into a cardboard box. At least the girdle has some pretty lace detailing.




Finally, Miss Merman visits all the casualties of the chase in hospital. As she marches into the ward haranguing all and sundry, she slips on a banana skin and falls flat on her backside.


That's five girdle glimpses. Perhaps there are others?


After such a gloriously anarchic film, one must pay tribute to the legion of stuntmen and women who made the action scenes possible.

Dorothy Provine, Ethel Merman and Edie Adams

Hollywood, California: 7th September 1962. People might think they're seeing triple when they pass by these three ladies relaxing on a Hollywood set. The split personalities of popular entertainer Ethel Merman (centre) were seen as the actress sat with her stunt double, Helen Thurston (left) and stand-in Donna Rumsey (right) on the set of Stanley Kramer's "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Miss Merman, who was scheduled to spend over 72 hectic and at times acrobatic hours during the filming of the first United Artists release in Cinerama, was quite glad to have her dual counterparts on hand. All three personalities portray the nagging, dominating mother of Dorothy Provine in the comedy film, a character trait that wasn't that far from reality. The actresses, Edie Adams, Ethel Merman and Dorothy Provine all had stunt doubles (below). In the magical world of the movies, it does not matter that Miss Provine, who is shorter than Ethel Merman has a stunt double quite obviously taller! They each have their own dresses that do not quite match but their panty-girdles, mandatory for Americana in the early 60s, would all have been identical.




What Film??


Guess what film contains this charmingly evocative series of clips. The year is supposed to be 1964 and we see a lady attaching her stocking to the suspenders of her panty-girdle. (This immediately tells you that we are in America since the panty-girdle had not really arrived in Britain; it would not do so for another five years and then in a shorter more attenuated form). It is very well done as she pulls up the front then the back of the stocking. Finally, her dress is zipped up. How very, very 1960s.



They should have shown the lady pulling down the leg of her girdle to cover the suspender, but perhaps that might have been too titillating for such a serious (and excellent) docu-drama 'From the Earth to the Moon' (2006 - Tom Hanks).



The Egg Lady


I do not mean to call the amazing Edith Massey (1918 - 1984) a curiosity, however, her roles in John Waters films, notably 'Pink Flamingos' (1972) required that she wear a bra and girdle for a specific scene. Since Edith did not possess such a garment at that time, John and Edith went into the 'corsetry' section of Lane Bryant and Edith tried on half the girdles in the shop and modelled them for John who was thoroughly enjoying the sales lady's discomfiture. Edith, kind soul that she was, just wanted a girdle that would fit. Eventually, and with much relief to the sales lady, the sale was made and John and Edith left the premises.


Dancing in your Girdle



Elvira Mistress of the Dark' (1988) played by Cassandra Peterson, puts a spell on the conservative villagers to help them relax just a bit.



The lady on the right (above) is not from this film, but why is she running through the woods in her corselette?


If ever there was a film dedicated to this subject, it just has to be 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' (series started 2015) that runs a sequence of just how you have to suffer to be beautiful. The girl getting into her spanx is hilarious.


If you can't get your girdle on by yourself, by all means involve a friend...

from 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' (US TV 2015 -)




from 'Spanx and Eve'  (YouTube  2010)


Of course, once you're into the garment, there's nothing like a relaxing puff on a cigarette (Lily James and Gillian Anderson on the set of 'All about Eve' - 2019).

Meanwhile, the girdle might not appear in the movie but Joan Crawford (right) displays what your Americana would wear in the late 1950s.





Below we have three films that express a common theme: On the left, we have a film (unknown) where a lady's boyfriend is horrified by her Spanx. She retorts hotly that without Spanx she wouldn't be able to wear the sexy dresses and jeans that he really likes. An argument follows. On the right, Jennifer Garner in The Tribes of Palos Verdes (2017) learns that her husband is cheating on her. In a desperate mood, she cuts off her Spanx and throws it away.




It is hugely tempting to add some commentary to the scenes below from Suzanne Heintz's short film GOODWILL TOWARDS MEN ("The Girdle"). Once again, a woman rebels against the underwear that she has to wear to look good for her husband.

In this case, her husband receives an accurately thrown stiletto shoe in the face. Fortunately, her husband is a mannequin, but that is all part and parcel of this amazing New Yorker's artistry.




Not a Girdle in the Movie!



Casino Royale (1967) 

The poor lady inverting over the railing at first glance appears to be wearing a panty-girdle but in fact it is a pair of French knickers over (presumably) a suspender belt.




Naked Gun 2˝ (1991)

Margery Ross (playing the part of the First Lady) gets inadvertently inverted by Leslie Nielsen and falls over the White House balcony. Her dress is ripped off by Lt. Drebbin in a bit to arrest her fall and she clings onto the balcony, not in a girdle, but in a pair of baggy white directoire knickers.

The 2008 film Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day staring Frances McDormond, Amy Adams and Shirley Henderson has a sequence in a corset salon where the models are parading around in highly stylised girdles and corsets. Eventually, Miss Pettigrew is fitted with a pale blue corselette that to my eyes shouts 1960s, not 1938 that is the era of the film. I rather like the wrap front corset where the engineering is covered by a flap. Miss Adams comments "There's so much whalebone on her, I'm looking for flippers and a tail!"





How could we have forgotten Jayne Mansfield in this compilation. She wears this rather elaborate corset in It happened in Athens (1962).

A few years before this in The Girl can't help it  (1956), Miss Mansfield sports the most incredible hip spring (right). Was she wearing a corset; very likely. You can virtually see the outline of it. Amazingly, there appear to be two suspenders showing through, however, this is just a feature of the dress, however, there are so many sexual innuendos in the film that I bet these were added by the costume department at the behest of the director.



The TV series Mad Men (2007 - 2015) was packed with 60s girdles and foundation garments, not that you got to see them often but the shapes they produced were excellent and typical of the period. January Jones playing the part of Betty Draper shows off typical 60s underwear and the inevitable imprint on the tight dress while Elizabeth Moss playing Peggy Olsen shows off her bra. These days, the girdle is but a memory of your mother whereas the bra has barely changed.




Ah, the old grabbing a girl's dress to stop her and (surprise, surprise), the dress rips right off to the girl's embarrassment.  In this case the film is the 1955 comedy Spy Chasers and the lovely girl in the black basque is Veola Vonn.




On the left, the Three Stooges attempt to fix a leaking pipe with a pair of corsets from A Plumbing We Will Go (1940). In the middle, a scene from the the sitcom Sex and the City (season 2, episode 3 from 1999) shows Samantha in her girdle.




Madeleine Stowe arouses all sorts of fantasies wearing an Angora sweather and a girdle in The Two Jakes (1990).

During a tempestuous love scene, Jack Nicholson rips off Miss Stowe's skirt revealing her nicely in-period girdle. He drags her back into the room where they kiss and make up apparently.



If you ever wondered what the frumpy girl (Mare Winningham) was wearing beneath her cardie and skirt, well St. Elmo's Fire (1985) lets you know. The boyfriend was not impressed.



Inevitably at some point in the sitcom Green Acres (1965 - 1971), a girdle would make an appearance.

"Your old lady stuffed her girdle down the drain!" remarks the plumber somewhat artlessly. The plump lady on the left denies vehemently that it was her girdle.


The film Rings on her Fingers (1942) starts with Gene Tierney working as a salesgirl in the corsetry department of a major department store.

Note the garters on the girdle (top left). They are the rare (and unsuccessful) flip-over style that were supposed to be an easier way of attaching your stockings. They were never that secure.

Possibly one of the greatest girdle exposures takes place in the iconic film from National Lampoon's Animal House (1978). The picture is set in 1962 and accurately depicts the style worn at the time.

Martha Smith above just doesn't know where to put her hands.



Poor Verna Bloom playing the part of the Dean's wife, Marion Wormer looks good in a strapless bra (left), but less elegant towards the end of the movie.




Julia Robers in Mona Lisa Smile (2003) lectures on the perils of women falling into the 'housewife trap'.


On the right, a husband helps his wife off with her girdle (she has cut her hands on a broken milk bottle) in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (2005). She quotes

"You know the worst part of it is? A quart of milk got sucked up inside my girdle."


From Australia comes a less well-known comedy / drama Undercover (1984) set in the Sydney of the 1920s. It starts with a women being laced into a conventional old-fashioned corset from where it charts the rise of Fred Burley's Berlei company.



The woman on the left examines a new foundation garment from New York and says "What about this; it's an all rubber corselette!" Indeed, some women wore all rubber foundation garments in those days and, amazingly, still do.


The Rose Tattoo (1955) features Anna Magnani (1908 - 1973) attempting to overcome her Italian curves with firstly, a girdle that will not fit, and then a corset that she cannot close even with the lacing fully extended.



In the 1969 film The Happy Ending, the gist of the story is the lengths to which women will go to please their men.

The girdle shot is in the background where a woman is struggling to pull on her girdle. As above, the whole process could have been made far easier if the ladies in question had bought a girdle with a zipper.


The ladies are discussing whether a friend's breast enhancement is dishonest to which the lady in black replies:

 "No more than make-up, false eyelashes, wigs, padded bras or [glancing at the lady tugging at her girdle] a hundred other things."

By the emphasis on the last statement and her covert glance at the struggling woman, one can guess that this lady wears a girdle and resents it.

This is only the second movie in which I have heard the sound effects of straining fabric as the satin-panelled girdle is hoisted over a woman's hips. It's very subtle, but the director has inserted two brief noises. 'Carry On Loving' is the other film.



In the original version of The Women (1939), in a very upmarket department store, the corselette model parades around the customers saying "Our one-piece lace foundation garment; zips up the back and no bones."



In the 2008 remake, foundation garments also abound in the same scene, however, this time it is the main characters played by Meg Ryan and Eva Mendes that wear the somewhat frivolous basques.



In 'There's a Girl in my Soup' (1970) starring Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn, Nicole Paget disrobes from her tight, form-fitting satin wedding gown to reveal a hook-and-eye fastened corset underneath.




In 'The Running Man' (1963) starring Lawrence Harvey and Lee Remick, Harvey crashes his aeroplane that is carrying a load of bras and girdles. Harvey runs from the burning wreckage that explodes festooning the nearby trees with pieces of underwear.

"What have I lost [just] a load of bras a couple of two-way stretches!" and this is not a comedy!




Lee Remick in Anatomy of a Murder (1959) plays a rape victim but the character she plays is flamboyant and her defense lawyer played by James Stewart tells her that for the duration of the trial,

"Act like a demure housewife and stay away from heels and tight skirts - and wear a girdle, especially a girdle."





Below is an amazing lacing scene from Hell Drivers (1959) starring Stanley Baker. The lady playing Ma West is Marjorie Rhodes.



"Get hold of these and pull - tighter - come on you won't hurt me - arrh, that's it - [patting her corset front] Steel these are young feller, supports me spine."


The corset scene with Marjorie Rhodes is most interesting and there seems to have been quite some latitude at the expense of technical accuracy on the part of the director to emphasise to an audience not entirely familiar with corsets (although Miss Rhodes, born in 1897 would certainly have been) that this was a no-nonsense corset worn by the no-nonsense Yorkshire born Miss Rhodes. The corset has abdominal straps at the front that Miss Rhodes tugs at, however, the back-lacing is fan-lacing (this can be briefly glimpsed, however, the fan lacing is gathered into a single lace). Oddly enough, Miss Rhodes only offers one side of the lacing to Stanley Baker to lace her in. The black bones at the front are quite unusual. As for the shoulder straps running over the bust, I cannot imagine anything less comfortable. It looks like a modified fan-lacing corset but the shoulder straps and external front bones I have never seen before. There were quite a lot of fan-lacers around in the 1950s but I cannot even guess at the brand and would be grateful for any suggestions.


In Mon Oncle Antoine (1971), a film depicting life in 1950s Quebec, a snooty lady comes into the department store to try on a basque that she has seen in a catalogue.




The film industry sells fantasy in various packages and 'Further Up the Creek' (1958) is a very enjoyable romp of its genre.




It does however fail to pass the test of authenticity (what film ever does, although "Titanic" comes very close). The stills above reveals a few classic howlers. Let me set the scene. A naval lieutenant, whilst fiddling with the controls of a jet aeroplane, manages to blow off half the clothes of a group of Wrens. Jolly good fun and all that in the great British tradition but:-


A jet would blow the Wrens and their clothes half way down the runway;

The shadows show that this is an interior set;

Wrens might (if they could afford it) wear basques and guępičres to a ball, but never, ever on parade. Nor would they wear black underwear beneath their white shirts. That was as strictly forbidden as it was for British Caledonian stewardesses. A friend of mine who was actually in the WRNS claimed that a good white or flesh coloured girdle with six suspenders was the best safeguard to keep those stockings taut on duty.



A reader alerted us to Alfred Hitchcock's iconic pschological horror film 'Psycho' (1960) where the extraordinarily shapely Janet Leigh can be seen wearing a short-leg panty-girdle beneath her white half slip. The suspenders are clearly visible.




There are three film versions of 'The 39 Steps' this famous tale by John Buchan. The original Alfred Hitchcock version starring Robert Donat (1935), Kenneth More (1959) and somebody or other in 2008. As you can guess, I don't like the last version, but I love the first two. In the original Hitchcock 1935 version, the hero, Richard Hannay, is fleeing to Scotland on a train and in the same compartment are two salesmen played by Gus McNaughton and Jerry Verno. One is a corset salesman who brandishes an old-fashioned corset. His companion shudders and mumbles "Oooh - my wife!" The corset man then produces a modern rubber girdle (in fact the detail is superb and better than many museum photos), but I digress, and says  "Put a pretty young girl inside these, and she needn't be ashamed to go anywhere."


Unimpressed by the old-fashioned style. "Oooh - my wife!" he shudders

 "Put a pretty young girl inside these, and she needn't be ashamed to go anywhere"

There are a couple of points of interest here: Alfred Hitchcock manages to insert gratuitous images of corsets and girdles into a number of his films, The 39 Steps, Psycho and Anatomy of a Murder, and Jerry Verno who plays the corset salesman appeared in just 39 films. Another character who appears in films gratuitously festooned with period foundation garments is Peter Sellers.

What is it about black basques? It really is very unlikely that in the 1960s and 70s women would wear such a thing casually, however, for formal or strapless wear this would be much more probable. Why, in 'Carry on Cruising' (1962), does Dilys Laye wear a pair of boring old knickers. Liz Fraser, apparently a black basque specialist, knows how to catch her man.



She's at it again in 'Confessions of a Driving Instructor' (1976), with her friends Joan Sims and even Dorothy Provine has a good efforts in 'Wall of Noise' (1963).



The 1986 movie 'The Malibu Bikini Shop' takes every opportunity to display 80s California girl in minimalist bikinis, however, the prissy, spoilt daughter of a local businessman and his wife tries to stop the high jinks. Unlike her peers (and probably like her mother - see below) she wears a panty-girdle and 'sensible clothes'. At one point her dress is ripped off and the poor girl is thoroughly humiliated although receiving her just desserts. Another women appears in a panty-girdle but doesn't look half as good as the beautiful Debra Blee.



Like mother like daughter. As we have said before, girls will always turn into their mothers. Potential suitors beware!



In 'Seven Minutes in Heaven' (1985), there's a lovely sequence as the late Margo Skinner walks into the bedroom whilst pulling up her slip and, with several convulsive jerks, pulls on her panty-girdle. The dialogue is marvellous and very in period.

Husband: "What are you putting on your girdle for; we're not going out to a night-club?"

Wife: "Well, I don't want to look like an animal!"




Jane Russell stars in the 1957 film 'Fuzzy Pink Nightgown' where her dresser approaches her with a Playtex girdle. "What's that" asks Miss Russell (as if she didn't know); "Your girdle" responds her dresser. "For a premiere; are you mad!"

The dresser throws the girdle away saying "They're your hips Kid!". Oddly, Miss Russell has already dressed and the scene makes little more sense than the rest of the film! Yet the stars flocked to wear Playtex girdles, or so the marketers said!




In the 1986 film 'Brighton Beach Memoirs' a 15-year-old boy satisfies his curiosity by spying on his older cousin with a telescope.




Back once more to panty-girdles although when 'Meet Wally Sparks' was made (1997), the white garment in question could easily have been described as a shaper - and it shows.




From 'The Notebook' (2004) comes Rachel McAdams wearing a 1940s off the peg girdle.


I frequently thought that lacing scenes in many films did little actually to reduce the waist but in this composite picture from 'The Tall Men' (1955), the pneumatic Jane Russell, shows that her waist is indeed, very well reduced.



In that quintessentially 60s sitcom 'Bewitched', Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery 1933 -1995) extracts revenge on Roxie Ames (Virginia Martin 1927 - 2009) in Series 1, episode 16 'It's Magic". In that classic sequence, Roxie's dress gets snagged and the train pulls off to reveal her panty-girdle.



The very violent film 'Legend' (2015), that describes the London underworld in the 1960s, shows a policeman chasing the villain through the back streets of East London. On the washing line hangs a period girdle and a much larger pair of French knickers.

In that area, such valuable under-pinnings wouldn't last more than a few minutes before they vanished. You would always dry your girdle indoors wrapped around a hot water pipe (if you had hot water that is).



 'Carry On Cabby' (1963) is mentioned below where men wear the ladies' underwear but Amanda Barrie, amongst others, put on a very good show as well.



No girdle is seen in this section of the movie 'Steel Magnolias' (1989) since no girdle is worn and that is the point of the catty dialogue between Dolly Parton and Olympia Dukakis.



















































When Men wear the Girdles


There are many films, notably the British 'Carry On' films, that have the males for some (usually contrived reason) wearing female underwear. Peter Butterworth wears a Victorian corset in 'Carry On Screaming' (1966), Kenneth Connor, a black 'Lady Marlebe' basque in 'Carry On Cabby' (1963) and all 6 foot 7 inches of Bernard Bresslaw (who dwarfs the 4 foot 10 inch Barbara Windsor) runs through a hotel in a white corselette (unbelievably) disguised as a beauty contestant in 'Carry On Girls' (1973 - right)!







In 'Carry On Constable' (1960), two rookie police officers, Kenneth Williams and Charles Hawtry, disguise themselves as women to capture a gang of shop-lifters that are plaguing a department store. Of course, they end up in the corsetry department where they catch a stout woman apparently sneaking a corselette into her shopping bag. They challenge the woman outside the store rashly shouting "Show us you girdle Madam!" Madam turns out to be the Mayoress who has a legitimate account at the store. To avoid embarrassment, our two cross-dressing coppers make a run for it.


There's a number of interesting points here:


Kenneth Williams really camps up the part and walks bow-legged in his (her) heels, whereas the outrageously camp Hawtry walks and runs well in heels and actually passes quite well for a woman. The item in question is a corselette, not a girdle, but I presume that the director felt that the shouted word "girdle" was funnier and, probably, that most of the audience would be confused by the word "corselette". The shop girl ably demonstrates that running in a tight skirt does limit one's motion. In fact, in 1960, the shop assistant would wear a girdle but the outline on her skirt suggests a brief panty-girdle at best.


A Spirella corset featured once in On the Buses (Episode - The Strain 1971). Reg Varney strains his back and has to wear a corset. This ultimately hampers his advances with a girl that he has met.






The 'lady' in the bra and girdle on the top left (and such a sight must have been common for husbands, and less so for sons in the 1960s) may have been the catalyst for many forbidden desires. However, the 'lady' in question is Glenn Milstead also known as the drag queen 'Divine' and a favourite of John Waters in his film 'Polyester' (1981). Waters was also the director of 'Hairspray' (1988) in which Devine starred and (amazingly) John Travolta reprised the part in the 2007 version (left below). 


The 'lady' above is of course, Dustin Hoffman in 'Tootsie' (1982).





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