|Spirella sold their foundations through the
agency of the corsetiere. Brochures and leaflets were distributed to the
corsetieres and thence to the customers until the very early 1980's. Sadly,
with the demise of the foundation wearing public, so the glossy catalogues
and beautifully posed photographs passed from the corsetiere's briefcase.
Spirella described its foundations as corsets, girdles (1928), corselettes and bandeaus, until they realised that nobody else referred to bandeaus and the name was changed to brassiere. In 1949, panty-girdles were introduced followed by 'waist-nippers' (popular amongst brides). As the 1970's drew to a close, the term 'corset' was replaced by a number of euphemisms such as 'laced foundation', however, we all knew what they meant and the subterfuge fooled nobody.
Each picture will take you back to an elegant era that is barely remembered today.
From the collection of a Spirella woman. Foundations for all occasions.
The Numbering System
Spirella developed its famous numbering system well before the Second World War and stuck with these numbers, albeit with a few modifications, until the end. In their American fitter's catalogue of 1938, the numbering system is well established although it has not yet achieved the complexity that would follow after the war. The catalogue contains page after page where the styles are shown for slender, medium and stout figures. Maternity and abdominal are also covered as well as, unbelievably in the 21st century, a section on corsets for young girls. We have shown just a few of these pages below to illustrate the fundamentals of the numbering system.
The 1-series, were corselettes, all-in-ones or as Spirella called them, 'one-piece', garments.
The 2-series are girdles. In those days, a laced girdle was distinct from a corset. The un-boned back lacing would latterly be called 'soft lacing'. The difference between a girdle and a corset is described elsewhere, however, Spirella believe, as do I, that a corset will, at some point have no stretch in the circumference. That implies that the corset can compress the wearer. A girdle always has some elasticity so that tightening the laces will expand the garment as well as compress the wearer.
Most famously, the 3-series are corsets. Latterly, the back-lacer would become the 315, the front-lacer, and by far the most popular garment made by Spirella, the 305, and the front and back-lacer, the 325. The abdominal corset on the right would become the 335.
Broadly speaking in America, the original logic was abc where a could be 1 = one-piece garment, 2 = girdle, 3 = corset and 4 = brassiere. b could be 0 = slender, 1 = medium, 2 = stout and 3 = abdominal. The c was just a model designation. Pre-war, stout women could not order girdles, but girls could order both girdles (un-boned) and corsets both in Britain and America.
The 2 and the 3-series nomenclature would stand the test of time, however, confusion arose when America and Europe's numbering system started to diverge just before the war. In the 1960's in Britain, the 1-series was adopted for panty-girdles since the marketing department felt that 1 was perceived as lighter than 2 that was, in its turn, lighter than 3! The corselettes were relegated to number 7. We undertook to note as many designations as possible and they are tabulated below, however, with the divergence of America and Europe, this list cannot be considered compete or even totally accurate!
And as for brassieres, well they were all over the place. Some even had names rather than numbers!
Whatever the number, the final product was a well-fitted foundation and a satisfied customer!