Trapped inside my Panty-girdle

The Dawn of the Panty Girdle


A woman hurried into the restaurant at Selfridge’s in a waft of powder, perfume and parcels. As she joined her friends for coffee, she gushed in a voice audible several tables away, “I’m so sorry to be late. I was trapped inside my panty-girdle!”

The Camp 91245 panty-girdle is well-renowned as one of

the strongest ever made, despite what the poor girl might think!

For three decades, the panty-girdle dominated the lower foundations sold to American women and their daughters. It was amazing that such an essentially simple garment could prove so complex with multiple layers of elastic and satin, bones, hooks-and-eyes, zippers and sometimes straps and buckles. Playtex even thought that constructing the device from rubber (above right) was a good idea!

"It was curious that girls who appeared to us all as fearless Dianas, even Amazons, should have crushed themselves into such constricting garments" Doreen Caldwell 1981.


"My mother returned from New York (to England) after a visit to her sister in 1968. "Look at these" she enthused later as she showed me her new wardrobe of panty-girdles. "These are yours" she cheerfully explained as four chastity belts were forced into my unwelcoming arms. Nothing put me off foundations more than those elastic nightmares, but I wore them until I went to University." Marjorie Hanley.


I feel we can assume that the lady mentioned above whose quote is the title to this page, like so many of her sisters, had tried on a panty-girdle in a size, say 34, when she knew that her waist was approaching 40. 


A Sarongster panty-girdle from the early 1970's.


This may sound like an odd title for a serious dissertation on the diverse aspects of corsetry, however, this page arose from an experience exactly as described above. We have mentioned the occasion in corsetiere's anecdotes (also described below), however, it started my husband and I considering some of the more powerful panty-girdles that we have encountered, or about which we have heard stories.


These two girdles pictured left and right show the evolution of the panty-girdle in the 1950's and 1960's. In those days, stockings were far shorter than they would become, simply because skirts were longer. One can already see the shortening of the suspenders that one decade makes. Soon, the suspenders would actually creep up the leg of the girdle; first on the outside, then latterly on the inside to accommodate the extra stocking length. This led to some embarrassing revelations when exiting from cars for example. The point, however, is that these are serious garments, and a far cry from the flimsy shapers of today.


We even published the following short paragraph, however, it elicited such a response (such are the delights of creating a web site) that we felt obliged to research further.


The story above has prompted several readers to ask how can you get trapped in such a flimsy undergarment as a panty-girdle. Well, in the 1960's, they were far from flimsy (the anecdote comes from the early 1970's). Regard the products that the Dutch matron might have been wearing in those days, and that were also available in Britain and America. By far the most complex panty-girdle is the one illustrated to the right. Outwardly conventional, and obviously from the 1960's, it has a double laced underbelt!! 


Especially designed for post-pregnancy and the drastic return of the figure to normality, it is hardly likely that the lady in question was in such a delicate condition. 

This amazing garment comes from the auctions of Trishypoo

The panty-girdle above, is an extreme example of its genre. It was, I believe, a device for the woman who, almost immediately after pregnancy, desired an immediate return to a conventional shape. Traditionally, this could be achieved by wearing a corset, and, to be honest, this garment is close to that description. The danger, as every mother informs her daughters, is that the girdle is returning the figure to normal, not the body's own muscles. Reliance on this device after pregnancy can lead to reliance on a girdle or corset forevermore. Remember Playtex's exhortations to the 30-year-olds of the 1960's, "Holds you in like firm young muscles". Of course it does, but it doesn't replace firm young muscles, nor does it encourage them either!!


Such girdles are still around today (2005), but they seem to have become the preserve of the Latin countries, that is Italy, Spain and Latin America. The example on the left below is currently available from Latin America and sold in various American outlets. It is specifically designed to flatten the post-pregnancy tummy, and judging by the description, "six straps secure a light, but rigid panel", it will do so very effectively.

The very rare Spencers (below right) and the same idea from Coronation (below left) achieved the same ends by strapping the post-pregnancy abdomen into the confines of a rigid panty-girdle. The enclosed illustrations show the rigidity of the spinal steels in the Coronation girdle.




Returning to the theme of entrapment, I know of only a few genuine cases where a wearer has actually become stuck in her foundations. The case of the unyielding corset buckles has, I'm sure, defeated more wearers than the vain elderly woman of my correspondent's tale. Certainly, I know of several women wearing zippered girdles who have managed to jam the zip on the little satin tag attached thereto. Infinite patience is required to set oneself free, or an expensive mistake will occur.


We collected some images of panty-girdles, that apart from their potential to snare the unwary, are remarkable examples of how a simple garment can end up as a fiendishly complex garment. In these modern times, when the knowledge of proper corsetry is virtually unknown, we have so often encountered women referring to a corset, when in fact they mean a panty-girdle. Whether this is levity, or simple ignorance of the subject is sometimes unclear, however, I could forgive these women for describing the garments exhibited below as corsets, even if they are technically incorrect.


Why the second zipper in the right leg?




Every complication exists, from the double-lace under-belt to twin zippers, waist cincher, back steels, straps, belts, hooks-and-eyes, and, of course, Camp just had to add its 'adjustaband' control! Even Jenyns couldn't resist adding hip bands to their industrial strength, reinforced elastic panty-girdle.


On the right, this German confection manages to add to webbing straps attached to pads with leather reinforcement!


The twin-zippered girdles (above and right) tell their own stories. Dating from the early 1960s, the upper garment is fresh, unused and with its original tags. The creases indicate a long period stored in its box or in a drawer. It was simply too complex, or too uncomfortable to wear! The upper garment shows how that lower zipper will bend and buckle with every movement of the thighs. Goodness knows what tortures accompanied even a simple sitting manoeuvre! Worse still, is the little pull tag hanging over the stockings just waiting to reveal its presence should the incautious woman sit or bend. Horrors; it might even be mistaken for the end of a corset lace!


It is interesting to note that post-War liberation, whilst freeing woman from her corsets, forced her into equally uncompromising garments. Even without all the extras described above, the basic garment was restrictive enough in its own right. Look at the engineering below. Howard Hughes would have been impressed!


This charming picture was taken from the book "And All was Revealed" by Doreen Caldwell (1981). She states "It was curious that girls who appeared to us all as fearless Dianas, even Amazons, should have crushed themselves into such constricting garments".


And it wasn't just our mothers in the 1960's that wore these formidable girdles. The modern Japanese Miss (above) has re-invented the wheel in the 21st century!



"Ask .. and add the third dimension to your beauty!" Indeed.

I feel that these sentiments are echoed by the Australian advert above, where blatant 'peer pressure' is used. At least, the young women pictured above and in the British advert on the right look happy in their decidedly substantial foundation wear. "Support the Freedom Movement" shouts Twilfit echoing the cry of the Merdeka revolutions of the 1950s and 60s. One is tempted to think that these 1960's panty-girdles were surely aimed at the more mature figure, and indeed, they became (in the USA at least) almost standard underwear for most women in the 1960's. But when these pictures were taken, many young women would have had such garments in their possession.



The 'Playtex Ice' (right) describes less its appearance, than its horrid clammy coldness in the mornings. Indeed, this is a girdle that was even harder to remove than to don, and, oh how some women wanted to remove them!

Just as the world was becoming free from these girdles in the 1960's (and to be fair they did have a popular following including such celebrities as Jane Russell), the Latin Americans took them up with a vigour that remains today, and, I might add, in a sultry, humid climate that much test the fashionable Mexican Señorita to her limits. There is a strong peer pressure to marry and have children in any Latin country, and these girdles will help the Señorita catch her man, as effectively as they will catch the Señora's abdomen after the first few babies!


Pregnancy, before and after, gave rise to so many variations on the panty-girdle. Camp (right) is what just qualifies as a panty-girdle, allows sufficient engineering to cope with the expanding belly, and perhaps to help its return to normal. Camp (below right) also provided back support for the woman fed up with her bulky corsets, or perhaps simply for the failing post-pregnancy back. Were these, however, as effective as their laced cousins? I suspect not.


I've never believed that a laced or strapped girdle (as distinct from a corset), could ever compete with a proper corset. Camp knew that of course and provided any number of effective corsets, but often the marketers have to pander to the requests of the masses who in 1950 felt that pregnancy or not, a corset was simply too old-fashioned!

A German panty-girdle with teutonic adjustable bands. A classic Sears panty-girdle from 1966, left is the image from the Sears catalogue, and right is the real garment. To millions of American women, this was standard daily wear for several decades.

Panty-girdles in the 1950's and 1960's from Charis (left - 1953) and Spencer USA (1963).  Interesting, the 1970's model on the right wears a girdle so tight that her feminine curves are completely eradicated, unlike her sister immediately to the left.

In many respects, these formidable foundation garments (by today's standards) do not need adornments and complexities. I like my underwear to give me a good shape, yet to come off easily when required.

The garments shown below, for which I do confess a fondness, are standard Young Smoothies' 1068 Long Stride, with zipper, and the traditional satin panels at the front, back and sides. The American matron was a great fan as were many thousands of her peers.

The Young Smoothie 1068 (above and left), to my mind, represents the zenith of the American panty-girdle. The old lady on the left, like many American women in the late 50's, and many British women a decade later, discovered that the panty-girdle was more appropriate for the times than the girdle. As we have seen on this page, it did not necessarily mean a flimsier or less effective garment. A comparison of the various panty-girdles from both sides of the Atlantic can be found here.


The British equivalent from Marks and Spencer (below left), tried to copy its trans-Atlantic cousin, yet somehow fails. Oddly enough, considering the splendid regular girdles that Marks and Spencer used to make, their panty-girdles (left) never achieved the same style and strength as their American cousins. It was left to Spirella's Spirelette 105 (below, right) to provide a bullet-proof panty-girdle! This girdle was worn by grannies and mothers as an alternative to their corsets and girdles. They relished its freedom, and mothers encouraged their daughters to take up the 105 as well for exactly the opposite reason!


Regard the advertisement for the panty-girdle on the right taken from an American mail-order catalogue of the early 1960's. The sheer diversity of materials is staggering:-

Rayon, rubber, nylon, acetate power-net, satin lastex, Helanca and nylon tricot. This engineering marvel comes complete with zipper, elastic waist and leg bands.

Suspenders and boning are, of course, too obvious to mention. Indeed, one could get seriously trapped in this garment whilst writing a Master's thesis about it.



Triumph of Germany (left) advertises its famous foundation garment range, the 'Triumph Doreen'. Yet the advertisement seems to enhance the appearance of 'structured foundations' and does Susa. Was there any quick way to get out of these contraptions?


In the mid 1960s, Montgomery Ward, Sears, Formfit and many others would sell you any number of restrictive girdles in all sorts of different leg lengths, but we all wore girdles then!

The Panty-girdle Comparison

Our model Moira (right) tries on the Spirella 105 panty-girdle, possibly the firmest panty-girdle ever made on this side of the Atlantic. I am not so familiar with American versions, however, I do believe that the Young Smoothie 1068 as worn by Lyn Locke must be up there with the firmest and, to my embarrassment, it is not even mentioned on our best foundations page although it gets a short review above. Let us see how these girdles compare.


These panty-girdles both contain the quintessential features: satin panels, boning, metal zipper and concealed suspenders. The Spirelette 105 is only 80% of the Smoothie's amazing 20 inch length, yet weighs 10% more due to a heavier denier of the lycra. They are both excellent girdles and having rummaged through the collection, we have included two more worthy of mention from each side of the Atlantic: The St. Michael 8000/3603, another heavyweight due to the thick patterned lycra panels and the Sears 28497, the lightest here and from the post-satin panel era but still a formidable foundation garment.


Spirelette and St. Michael from Britain                and, from the USA, lighter but longer             Young Smoothie and Sears


Aesthetically, I think the Smoothie wins this competition, however, we must get some of our models to give these garments a decent 'road test'. We have continued this discussion on the panty-girdle page.

This picture, apart from anything else, ably demonstrates that women of similar height come in very different shapes.


An honourable mention might also be given to:

American Coronation, Camp, Custom Maid, Sears and Glamorize

Australian Jenyns (a whopping 21 inches long), British Camp, Coppelia, Twilfit and Liberty


This table shows the 'vital statistics' of our favourite selected panty-girdles. Regarding the weight of the girdles, this has been normalised to a waist size of 30 inches. This puts the Jenyns at 420 grams or nearly a pound weight; massive by today's standards but half the weight of a good surgical corset.

So you might well be trapped, but at least without the embarrassment of parading your panty-girdle in public!


Modern Entrapment Devices or

Trapped inside my long-leg panty-corselette!

  Even the bra-girdle hook has returned.

  I thought that died in the 1960's!

The age of the liberated woman did not seem to last all that long as these devices from South East Asia and Latin America reveal.


But the masters of modern entrapment just have to be Ardyss. They even have a web-site to demonstrate how these garments should be donned. I feel that the two girls in the middle epitomise Jilly Cooper's fabulous comment "All one can see is rigging" and all this without a slip or camisole!



Firstly, the garment is turned inside out and pulled up the legs. The garment is inverted and the wearer walks her way into the girdle. The shoulder straps then hoist the back into place. The hooks-and-eyes are forced to meet (if you have any strength left by this stage) and then the device is zipped up. I apologise for any levity here but it is quite a process; mind you, the results are very effective as many latinas and American women can endorse. Would that more women realised the benefit of a true foundation.




For the ultimate entrapment, try these long-leg corselettes from Germany, Italy, Spain (above). Sometimes it seems that they vie with each other for the maximum number of hooks-and-eyes. Strangely, despite the formidable layering of elastic, the woman third from the right seems to have no waist whatsoever.


A classic advertisement on the left and centre showing a girl who has absolutely no need for a foundation garment. Reality lives on the right.


Or from Latin America, and that bastion of the confined body...



Here we have the world record holder for the sheer number of hooks and eyes.




The poor sultry south American beauty not only has to contend with a myriad of hooks-and-eyes down her brassiere but also down her torso - and - then she has to snap the upper foundation onto the lower foundation, an act that I thought went out in the 1960's, and then only for grannies!


The eastern miss might be trying to snare her man, but first she has to trap herself into layer after layer of unyielding elastic!



Japan and Korea




Two zips backed by innumerable hooks-and-eyes were navigated just to enter and leave these wretched things. Going to the loo meant broken fingernails and tears of frustration to release no less than 20 hooks and eyes on one model! The garment on the right (above) even has a huge adjustable hip controller and the Italian lady to her left wears a garment still available in Italy today (2008). Beware patterned corselettes. You might imagine that the pattern doesn't show though your blouse, but it does!

A very typical attempt (left) to do up 17 hooks and eyes. Two hooks have missed their eyes and nothing short of undoing the whole lot and starting again will correct the mistake.

This device just had to be invented by a man!


The more pieces the better although the gap between the bodice and the strangely short-waisted girdle mystifies me.


How to Don a Panty-girdle

Not just any old panty-girdle, but a really complex creation from Ardyss called a post-partum girdle i.e. a foundation garment to be worn after pregnancy.

First of all, open up the triple front panels...

.... then turn the garment inside out and upside down; pull the inverted girdle up your legs; now pull it outside in and walk the girdle up your legs....

... now lie down for this bit; wrap the double under-belt tightly across your tummy...

....pull up the front flap and buckle it tight...

...hey presto! A tummy as flat as a pancake and no wonder, the model wasn't even pregnant in the first place but I do have it on record that these garments are very effective, I mean, when did you last hear of 'under-belts' and 'buckle it tight'?

For some light amusement, we have pictures of the struggles that women endure to don their panty-girdles and also some photographs of women wearing vintage panty-girdles.