The Spen-All was so popular that, from its inception in the 1930's, it lasted right through until the 1980's. In these times of change for the sake of change, such longevity seems almost infinite; however, as is mentioned many times in these pages, a corset design that lasted more than half a century was not uncommon.
A vintage Spen-All manufactured just after the War. Note the lustrous satin material and the cup-less brassiere that pre-dated the shaping that would become a feature of the 1950's and 60's. In 1972 (right) the style is the same, with the V-front of the brassiere hooked onto the girdle’s laces. The brassiere has developed proper cups here.
The property that made these garments classics was that the foundation was in one piece at the back and two pieces at the front. A girdle-hook attached the two frontal portions through which one donned the garment, whilst the back was in one piece. The latter feature allowed for full-length boning to support the tired back, and prevented any unwelcome riding-up of the girdle over the brassiere during incautious bending, a highly embarrassing moment—as I can testify!
As Alison so eloquently describes, the Spen-All could be, and often was, fitted with an under-belt (below left). In order to don such a garment, the wearer had to adjust no less than eight buckles, 33 hooks-and-eyes, and a set of lacing. The garment could also be ordered with back-lacing; but one supposes a maid would have taken care of adjusting that!
The Spirella company also realised the sales potential of this sort of garment (not least because of the many optional extras that could be ordered—a bit like a Mercedes motor car, my husband adds). The Spirella on the right from the 1960's has all the hallmarks of the Spen-All. Which company invented the garment first is open to debate, but Spencer incorporated its name into the garment and thus identified itself with it.
The beautiful construction and materials used in these garments are rarely seen these days outside vintage-undergarment auction-sites and reproductions of Victoriana.
Spencer US 1963
Spencer in 1941 emphasised the smooth, unbroken line and how it might be achieved using a one piece garment (the Spen-All) or properly matching corset and long-line brassiere.
The idea of the one piece back and two-piece front was so popular, that famous makes such as Charis, Gossard and the less well-known British Strodex (black above) used the concept, but it was Spencer that produced the best of all.
The Spencerall 1951