Ivy Leaf's Diary
Wishing all our Readers a Happy New Year
As always, some folk will look back on 2013 with affection and others will simply be glad to see the back of it (right).
2013 had highs and lows, but the making of the calendar will remain a definite high in our memories. For the first time we enjoyed the company of a younger model that has allowed us to develop the wedding theme. Spirella's corsetières loved weddings. Everybody wants to look at their best and in the 1960's, an experienced fitter could receive commission on corsets, girdles, bras and even Spirella's own branded stockings.
A back that my husband is always glad to see
Purchasing the 2014 Calendar:
The calendar is a 32-page, A4 format affair, much the same as 2012 and 2013. In compensation for its late arrival, January 2015 will be included.
Due to some very generous donations, the cost of the calendar will be held at £10, €12, US$16 plus postage and packing. Back issues of the original 2010 calendar, re-mastered 2010 calendar and 2013 calendar are still available at the same prices. Since all proceeds go to charity, we can escape the UK's 20% VAT charge!
To UK: £10 plus 2 postage & packing = £12
To Europe: €12 plus 5 postage & packing = €17
To USA: US$16 plus 8 postage & packing = US$24
& the rest of the world
Madame Chang Kai Shek's Corsets:
points in this web site, I have referred to Madame Chang Kai Shek and her
bullet-proof corsets. I believed that she wore a pair of bullet-proof corsets
during the war, but when her husband was
forced to leave China, they left behind many items in the rush, and her pink
satin corsets became the proud trophy of one of the bandit chiefs. A reader has
corrected me on this and claims that she ordered a pair of blue satin corsets
from a New York manufacturer of bullet-proof vests. These corsets made it as far
as Singapore but this city fell to the Japanese before Madame Chang could get
her hands on them. Perhaps some Japanese commander took proud possession of this
At various points in this web site, I have referred to Madame Chang Kai Shek and her bullet-proof corsets. I believed that she wore a pair of bullet-proof corsets during the war, but when her husband was forced to leave China, they left behind many items in the rush, and her pink satin corsets became the proud trophy of one of the bandit chiefs. A reader has corrected me on this and claims that she ordered a pair of blue satin corsets from a New York manufacturer of bullet-proof vests. These corsets made it as far as Singapore but this city fell to the Japanese before Madame Chang could get her hands on them. Perhaps some Japanese commander took proud possession of this trophy!
History has many accounts of how the whalebones and steels in a lady's corsets have deflected the blades of jealous lovers or drunken husbands. Equally, these stays, should they split have actually killed their wearer. Spirella actually made some advertising mileage from the fact that their stays were flexible and could not break in an accident. My aunt who fell down a lift shaft (only one floor thank Goodness) claimed that her corsets saved her from serious injury. Less charitable friends suggested that the relaxing cloud of gin and tonic had more to do with it than her corsets!
I had thought that the days of 'armour' or 'industrial strength' foundation garments was over, however, this is really not the case as some recent advertisements from Latin America demonstrate!
The 2014 Calendar has sold out!
Thanks to all of you that purchased the calendars! The last money has been received and, in fact, all the calendars were spoken for within one week of them being printed. The sum of money raised for charity is over £900. The charity was a favourite of one of the original models in the 2010 calendar who sadly passed away this year. She was actually one of the younger members of the group.
We still have back numbers from 2010 and 2013.
We thought you might like to see some of the trial covers for the calendar that were rejected in favour of the final version above:-
The 'what lies beneath theme features in the calendar but we decided against it for the cover. Likewise, the fierce corsetiere was rejected in favour of a smiling version. After all, it was such fun making the calendar!
Back to normal:
As with all enterprises, once it is finished there is a feeling of deflation, of ennui. One wonders what ever filled one's days before. It always happens and we move on into another year. Like previous years, we have always been surprised. Perhaps another cache of corsetry will be discovered; perhaps we will get to meet Bob and Cathie Jung in person rather than the Skype personae; perhaps we'll make just one more calendar, however, if we do, and I think the original theme has just passed its 'sell-by' date, we may try some new ladies and new locations. But first of all, we must get through this ridiculously wet, windy and warm winter. I must apologise to our American readers who I know have suffered an extremely cold winter, but on this little island offshore Europe, it has been anything but!
February 2014: The Amazing Mrs. Fogg and a strange pose with a dog!
|We came across an article from the Spirella magazine of
Canada (1929) extolling the virtues of one of their hard-working
corsetieres, Mrs. Fogg. She wears a Spirella garment (as was almost
mandatory) and the story is highly moralistic in the style of the day.
Slightly bizarrely, it mentions that she introduces her young son to her business.
Did this mean that she took her son along to the fittings? Apparently so.
On the right, from the 1950's, we observe a change from the standard corset model's pose in front of a mirror with a bowl of flowers in the offing. The stout matron holds aloft a small poodle. What is this supposed to signify? Perhaps the lady rejoices that her study Camp corsets allow her to lift up her dog, a feat that, without her supports, would have put her back out?
Camp model and a dog
Meanwhile, bang up to date in 2014, it is satisfying to note that Werkmeister of Germany still produce some high quality products. We have elaborated on this elsewhere.
I was surprised the other night to see a girdle advert on the television. Normally, we switch off (mentally) whenever the adverts appear and go and make a cup of tea, but the young lady in her shapewear arrested my attention as well as that of my husband I might add! I had not seen such an advert since the 1980's and it goes to show that more women are relying on shapewear these days. There are some serious foundation garments out there at the moment and the old lie of loosing dress sizes simply by wearing a pair of elastic underpants is being re-invented by the marketing department. A foundation garment may support you and it may shape you but it cannot compress you for the human body is basically water and water is incompressible. My engineering husband found some pictures from Ardyss that demonstrate this.
The picture on the left shows a sight that will be familiar to many, a tight girdle just before it is pulled up and over the abdomen. Once in position (centre), the shaping effect is marked and the lady has achieved a very good result. Unfortunately, as is obvious from the superimposed pictures on the right, the remarkable reshaping of her abdomen has caused an equal amount of flesh to migrate upwards into her brassiere. If she had purchased a larger cup size, the effect would have been quite elegant, as it is, her 'cup runneth over' somewhat alarmingly. Nearly a very good effort!
Below, from Nina von C, a set of slides that bring a limited amount of joy to my heart. The corsetiere is there; the client is there, even the reflection in the mirror, so reminiscent of those Spencer adverts of yore, is there, where where are the bones and the zipper? Without those, I fear that the semi-elasticated tube into which the thin model has been placed will do little for a serious figure. My husband adds that in boring beige it won't do much for anybody else either, but once again, it's a nice try!
The ghost of the Spencer corsetiere.
March 2014: More Germanic Foundations
We received from Germany some incredibly detailed photographs of products that can be ordered through Figesta. These garments cannot be ordered directly from Figesta or Werkmeister, however, there are corsetieres in Germany who can facilitate ordering these garments.
An Update on Rubber Corsetry
As we have stated in the introduction, this site is not a work of scholarship and from time to time, our assumptions and poor research lead serious researchers to contact us. We do welcome this for how else can we improve the content of the site. A researcher into the history of the use of rubber for foundation garments, reducing and various cosmetic improvements wrote us a comprehensive review of the subject and we have reproduced much of this in the section, Reducing Corsetry. In brief:-
"You wrote on your website that rubber corsetry was introduced in 1920's. This is wrong. The famous patented 'Medicated Rubber Garments' by Dr. Jeanne P.H. Walter already came out in 1909." We did allude to such garments, however, our correspondent had provided some excellent material.
How interesting that the use of the word girdle appears above in the early 1900's. It is a laced-front long-legged rubber contraption called 'girdle pants' and you could wear it, without discomfort under your corsets!
My husband loves mathematics with the same fervour that I do not. There is an old saying that "Girls to whom maths is plain, are plain!" This is of course rubbish! At university in Leiden, I knew several stunning mathematics students. I asked my engineering husband if there were any such beauties at his crumbling Scottish edifice to which he replied "We didn't have women in those days!" However, prompted no doubt by the impending birthday of Cathie Jung, he came up with some interesting statistics. Compare the waist sizes of 6,000 women compiled by Berlei in the mid-1920's and 3,000 women compiled by the office of US statistics in the early part of this current century (2000 - 2009). Times were harder 80 years ago but just listen to this:-
"Mid-1920's woman had an
average waist size of 28 inches with the peak being 26-27 inches tailing off to
one lady with a waist size of 50 inches. 80 years on and the average waist
size has grown to just over 36 inches, oddly enough with peaks around 30 inches
and 40 inches with 4% of the respondents over 48 inches." The official reasons
are many but the real reason is simple, we eat more than we did in the hard days
of 80 years ago, but the way we live consumes far less calories. There's two
ways to get those waist figures down, one - balance your calorie intake with
your calorie needs; and - two - wear a proper foundation garment. As Ken Jenyns
said to us in 2010 "That which is compressed, cannot get fat." He based
this on no science, but simply decades of experience.
We love this charmingly named site, not least because of the
amazing smile that one of the models can produce. They have kindly allowed us to
use some of their photographs and, imitation being the sincerest form of
flattery, we hope to emulate their style in our next calendar. They have
achieved what we have always tried to portray in our calendars, and that is real
women wearing real foundations of the period. We sent them, by way of thanks,
calendars from 2010, 2012 and 2014. It reminded us of how these calendars have
progressed over the years. It started with 12 models, all selecting one or two
foundations, then it was only four models but with multiple foundations and we
introduced some vintage clothes for a formal or wedding type gathering. In 2014,
one of the model's daughters was roped in and became the bride of the wedding
scene. Where will 2015 take us?
One of our calendar models, in fact the lady who has portrayed the corsetiere in the last two calendars (left), has been asked by the Women's Institute on several occasions to talk about her experiences as a corset model! To aid her presentation, we loan her half a dozen girdles and corsets and this time we decided to provide her with some of the garments that she had actually worn during the photo shoots. One of these was a formidable fan-laced Jenyns corset (left) and it reminded us that we have three original Jenyns from about 1912. These are by far the oldest corsets in the collection that is largely post WWII; these are pre-WWI! Amazingly, one is still in its wrapping after 100 years and we have no intention of unpacking it. The two that have been unpacked have survived well; the fabric is still in good condition although there is a little discolouration due to age (right). The suspenders have lost a little elasticity, but I doubt that there was ever very much. The only sad deterioration has been in the elastic lacing that takes the place of the front gores on a more modern garment. This disintegrates on touch. Fortunately, we have found some white elastic shoes laces that when stained in a cup of tea look remarkably original (below, left)! All we need now is a model with a waist of 22 inches to wear it!
The picture (above, right - click to expand) reveals that fan-lacing and the Jenyns system of adjustment was still quite a novelty in those days and this original corset has no less than four leaflets carefully sewn onto the fabric to explain the workings of this device.
We have been away for a short break in France, such is one of the pleasures of retirement. In contrast to our friends across the Atlantic, we have had a very mild winter, but it has been extremely wet and some of our local roads are still closed due to flooding. The damage to the roads in England, that had one year's rain in three months, is dreadful and lies in stark contrast to the billiard table smoothness of the French motorways. As all big-breasted women will know, pot-holes in the roads make for a very uncomfortable journey. I'll be wearing far stronger bras until the local councils do something to restore the road surfaces in our part of England at least!
Our recent articles and pictures of traditional foundation garments still made in Germany have elicited quite a response and we received a handy link to some decent foundation wear. We also found a German corset, albeit a vintage article that has so many bones that there is barely space for any fabric!
I will never understand the workings of the male brain! We watched a film recently "Mirror, Mirror" and I must say I loved the baroque style, the alternative take on Snow White and the fabulous costumes. The scene where a maid uses a machine to lace the wicked step-mother into her corsets was brilliantly executed. Some hours later, I found my husband bent over the computer, glasses off, peering closely at a picture of Miss Roberts in her stays with a ruler pressed against the computer screen. "That corset has no effect on her shape" he explained and showed me a piece of paper covered with equations and a spreadsheet. "If you input Miss Robert's height (5 foot 8 inches he guessed - correctly), then measure the width across her waist, input the formula for the circumference of an ellipse, it's got to measure 30 inches!" He modified his workings "28 inches tops!" I have to admit that the delightful Miss Roberts' waist was not exactly Victorian despite the machine used to tighten it, but the corsets are framed in bamboo so I suppose that adds quite a few inches. I'm amazed at how my husband can regard a beautiful woman and only see equations - but he is an engineer I suppose.
Girdles that stand up for themselves
We talked about this in the 2010 diary, bemoaning the flimsy shapers of today as compared with the formidable Spirellette 105. Well, we received a pristine Marks and Spencer floral girdle from the 1970's and it stands up beautifully. My husband has a horror of these girdles, possibly influenced by his university years when female students were prohibited from wearing floral underwear underneath their white shirts (mandatory for exams in those days).
May 2014: Dating Marks and Spencer Garments
||We have described elsewhere how the shape and colour of
M&S labels can date the garment to the nearest
decade or so, however, an ex-employee who worked there in the 1970's has
passed on a method of refining that date. The month and year appear on the
labels from the 1970's. For example, the thinner blue label from 1968 -
1974, post-1970 has an identifier, in this case '3.3'. That means that the
girdle was manufactured in March 1973. Undated labels of the same size are
pre-1970 and this seems to be the last date that the satin-elastic girdles
were manufactured. None of those in our collection carry the specific dates.
The larger blue labels are from 1974 until the start of the 1980's and are
also dated the same way. '12/7' means December 1977. The girdles in our
collection, and some are now over 50 years old, are still wearable!!
Marks & Spencer girdles through the ages.
Amazingly, it is a month since we last updated the site. Our excuses can only be a wedding that we attended in Belgium and a flurry of professional work that came my husband's way when he thought that he was fully retired. It has been quite quiet on the corsetry front but we have had these periods before now and look forward to some excitement over the summer - if it ever gets here. To be fair, it has been a very mild spring. The only observation of note was in the Belgian city of Brugge. The visibility of underwear is a subject dear to our hearts. I come from a generation whose underwear was designed to support one's bits in the correct position and certainly not to reveal its presence. I lament the sight of bra straps that simply do not fit the cut of the dress top and that usually clash with the colour as well, but in Brugge we saw a young 'lady' in cut-off denim shorts with about two inches of lacy knicker legs protruding below the shorts! Did she look in the mirror? It reminded me of the sloppy girl who was hugely embarrassed to find out that, walking along the street, she was trailing yesterday's panty-girdle hanging from the bottom of her jeans!
Things aren't what they used to be!
There have been a few additions to 'the Other Side of Corsetry'. If you cannot find this part of the web-site, then please email me.
Plans for a 2015 calendar have been put into action although we are a long way off as yet.
BREAKING NEWS: Yet again, Wimbledon is upon us and the World Cup Football has been banished from the living room in favour of tennis. The almost animal ferocity of some female players stands in stark contrast to the dresses and frilly knickers of the 1960's and the corsetted restriction of the under-arm serves of the 1890's. Oddly enough, some of these amazons of the court, who must be the fittest women on earth, sport a noticeable 'tummy'. I suppose it is just the way we are evolving.
The torrential rain, a feature of the Wimbledon fortnight and the Glastonbury Festival, kept us longer in our favourite pub at lunchtime today and allowed us a chance to read the newspapers. "Ah-hah!" crowed my husband thrusting a copy of the Daily Mail under my nose. Apparently the 'all-white garment' rule at Wimbledon has been flouted by some female players who have been wearing coloured knickers. To be fair, they are more like cycling shorts or shapers, but according to the authorities, if you can see it; it must be white. This is nothing new. In 1970, when my husband was being examined at university, the dress code for women was a white blouse and no contrasting underwear so as to keep the impressionable males' minds on their quantum mechanics or Shakespeare, whatever. British Caledonian Airways, whose stewardesses were probably the best dressed of all airlines were similarly mandated to wear white brassieres beneath their white blouses. The Daily Mail suggested that an inspection of the female players' underwear would be required to which a leading star responded that "It would be rather spooky!" You should have been an airline stewardess in the 1960's when your girdle was regularly inspected by your supervisor (female) and by some of your passengers (notably of Latin origin).
At last, we received some inspiration in the highly unlikely form of Tom & Jerry. We were watching one of these famous cartoons when I recalled that in at least one episode, corsets featured. My husband, trawling the cluttered store house of his brain, recollected that one episode was called 'Ugly Duckling'. Using the internet he quickly unearthed the other episode 'Flying Cat'. Both were one-reel episodes from the classic days of 1953 and 1952, and both feature the small bird or duck character.
My Girdles are Killing Me!
Shapers are becoming big business. Oh how I hate that word 'shaper'. I'm Dutch and a girdle is a girdle; you call it like it is, but nevertheless, the fact that women are beginning to take an interest in their figures cannot be a bad thing. Once again, at the forefront of this shapewear revolution are the Latin countries. I cannot really imagine wearing the all-in-one 'body' depicted to the right in the steamy environment of Caracas or Bogota. To be honest, it doesn't look as though it would be that powerful, although the fabric is far prettier than the beige and brown industrial strength shapers that certainly are that powerful.
One only has to browse the (very useful) comments that adorn the Amazon web-site to find out that sizing is a major problem with these garments. So many variables have to be covered in an all-in-one garment; bust, waist, hips, thighs and even in one garment, arms as well. Only with a made-to-measure garment could any consistent fit be achieved. A famous German actress and singer in her later days wore such a garment under her stage clothes but indeed it was made-to-measure from the ultra-heavy duty satin elastic beloved by Marks & Spencer in the 1960's.
Part of the sizing problem is that the garments are constructed in China and Latin America where average sizes are dramatically different. What might be large to a Chinese lady would be an impossibly tight fit for your Caracas matron and the Amazon comments bear this out.
One way around confining your body in elastic that fails to fit, is to wear several pieces and this approach is advertised widely in East Asia, another incredibly hot and sweaty environment. Bra, panty girdle and corset can all be purchased to achieve a decent fit and, more importantly, an alluring shape, assuming that one's paramour can be bothered fighting through at least three layers of elastic to get at the object of his desires. "I'm just slipping into something more comfortable!" translates as "I'm just going undo 32 hooks-and-eyes, remove five pieces of heavy-duty elastic (including stockings) and un-lace and un-buckle myself from my underwear. See you in an hour!" "My girdle is killing me!" simply becomes "My girdles are killing me!"
The set up is sufficient complex that instructions are issued with every purchase, one can even gain advice from YouTube!
How to wear Premium Beautiful
The right sequence:
1) Wear Long Girdle
2) Wear Long Bra
3) Wear Waist Nipper
Wearing the Long Girdle
1. First, fold
the girdle length in two halves, fold the edges legs of the girdle once.
Wearing the Long Bra
Wearing the Waist Nipper
The cartoon seems to depict a youth, however, this is East Asia where the women are characteristically elfin.
I love the bit about "after dinner!"
End of July
Ebay seller, Hopkins9631 has kindly given us permission to use some of the photos that have been used to sell foundation garments. At the moment there is a classic Spirella, Marks & Spencer girdle and a lovely satin corselette by Fröja of Sweden.
How strange it is, just when the world of researching a corsetry web-site reaches a low ebb, something or somebody enters our life to enliven it. Over the next two months, we hope to embark on two new projects. I'll not go into details until the projects have commenced.
Meanwhile, we have discovered that a Belgian manufacturer of 'Le Compressif' corset (and what a lovely name for such a device), was employing the same fan-lacing principles as Jenyns.
August 2014: "Summer's here and the time is right ....... for modelling Jenyns Corsets!"
The picture on the right is, I believe, quite unique. The charming Victoria wears what would be described on Ebay as a BNWT (brand new with tags) Jenyns corset. The corset is 100 years old and this is the first time that it has been worn. It is covered with little labels explaining how the apparently complex lacing system works. This corset was made under licence by Symington & Co. of Market Harborough, Leicestershire since Sarah Jenyns of Australia, having patented her designs by 1912, travelled to England where she contracted to have her corsets manufactured.
This is a museum piece, and I'm sure any museum curator reading this piece would have swooned by now. It is a gripe I have about museums. I love the 'junk shop' approach to museum display where they try to exhibit as much as possible of their collections. I hate the vast rooms with one exhibit and a seat so that one can appreciate the exhibit more profoundly. If, as a researcher, you wish to see the other parts of their extensive collections, you have to wade through security processes, an incomprehensible computer access system and then don full biological protective gear before being allowed near the precious exhibit which is mummified in layers of tissue paper (I exaggerate, but only a little.)
Our collection that does contain some museum quality pieces, is for people to handle, to touch and particularly to wear these old garments, for how on earth can you experience what a corset was all about without trying it on? Victoria loved the embrace of this 100 year old corset that possibly her great-great-grandmother might have read about in a fashion magazine of the day.
Talking of summer, and haven't we enjoyed a really good one this year (England), Victoria wears a summer dress from the 1970's (left). Underneath she wears a Marks & Spencer girdle that conveniently is dated (as M&S garments were in the 1970's) from November 1974. In our experience, women who try on garments from the Ivy Leaf Collection, and so far they have ranged from 19 to 90 years old, act like 'kids in a candy store' and I think Victoria's smile bears this out. They love the clothes, the embrace of the confining underwear and the elegance of a long departed era. "I want one of those" is uttered by almost all our models and we believe that is down to the hands-on experience; that is something no museum can offer.
|In an amazingly tardy response to constructive criticism of our site, we have decided to take a leaf out of Thomas Lierse's book and dedicate a page to new articles that appear in this web site. Thomas's famous site, the Long Island Staylace Association has been an inspiration to many, including ourselves and we congratulate him and his contributors on their incredible efforts over the years.|
After this brief experiment with a 'what's new' page, we quickly realised that we were simply duplicating 'Ivy Leaf's Diary'. What we shall do instead is to provide links from the diary to the new input on the site.
The End of What was New
For a start, the brassiere and girdle that Victoria (left) is wearing are not new. They were new over 40 years ago and have been unworn since, but the ethos of the Ivy Leaf Collection is that these garments should be worn and appreciated, not locked away for the occasional researcher. The girdle is a classic Spirella style 234, developed in the 1960's for the larger post-war woman. The quality, strength and cut of such a garment are unknown today, however, they were greatly appreciated by our model.
"A corset can do a lot for a lady," So said Carol Channing in the film 'The First Travelling Saleslady' (1956). I agree with her. So does the lady on the right (2014)!
The demise of the corset shop is well known to all aficionados of the foundation garment and these days, there is often no record of their passing. Does anybody out there recall the corset shop 'Madame Selma Pick' or maybe 'Pik' in the Byram Arcade, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire? A reader who used to live in Huddersfield and remembers her mother being fitted there would love to find out what happened to it. It was still there in 1989.
Back to those Stewardesses
The 2015 Calendar
We have put together some ideas for a new calendar (click on the thumbnail - right). As mentioned above, it sticks to the ethos of 'what lies beneath' and the elegance of the post-war decades, but the setting and style is very different. A possible title is "Ivy's Leaf's Foundations of Fashion". We have received positive and constructively negative comments about the preview above.
|We have received quite
some correspondence this month but travels have prevented us from updating the
web-site. Let us remedy this straight away. Roger has provided some more
entertaining articles about the suspenderless girdles in the
Sarong girdle advertisements "Where did the garters
Two examples are shown on the right: The worn girdle has no garters, however, when a picture is displayed (far right) garters are permitted. Is there some sort of limited censorship going on here?
Note the association with the airline industry. Flying was becoming more popular, yet it still retained a certain chic, a social cachet long before the advent of the package holiday. That the elegant lady wears a girdle is testament to the fact that the airline stewardess (visible in both adverts) is probably wearing one as well. Most women did in those days.
As the package holiday developed in the 1960's and flying became more common, so the elegant girdled lady would soon become a creature of the past.
Roger K. posts another article:-
Re that Sarong girdle-glimpse ad in “Curiosities”: I remember a brief interview with a woman in show business who was on an airplane in the 60's. It had a problem after takeoff—smoke in the cockpit, I think—and had to turn around and land. Although there was no real danger once on the ground, "procedure" dictated that passengers had to be evacuated down the emergency chutes. Passengers were instructed to raise their arms straight overhead as they jumped to the chute and to let them trail their body as they slid.
She was one of the first passengers down and remained at the bottom of the chute to help passengers to their feet and to lead them out of the landing zone. The women-passengers’ dresses and skirts went up over their waists as they slid. (The women were somewhat “dressed up” for the flight and few or none were wearing slacks.) She said that those at the bottom, mostly stewardesses plus a few “helpful” guys, "really got an eyeful," girdlewise.
Ivy Leaf meets Cathie Jung
Yes! It actually happened during a trip we made recently. It was a delight to meet Bob and Cathie on their home territory and they showed us true American hospitality to the extent of hanging the Union Flag outside their apartment.
I quote from a page on our web-site "The Queens of Tight-Lacing were undoubtedly Ethel Granger and currently Cathie Jung who have both graced the Guinness Book of World Records, however, such attenuation goes beyond the subject matter here." In conversation with Bob however, we realised that we were coming from the same direction in that we both appreciated the female form as controlled or shaped by foundation garments. Bob and Cathie have explored the world of real tight-lacing, whilst our own interest lies in the 1960's style of foundation garment, however, the elegance achieved is well appreciated by both parties and was a central theme of Les Gracieuses Modernes inaugurated by Rudi van Ginkel in 1986.
The picture on the right shows Cathie wearing a 20-inch waist Axford's corset (which of course was far too big for her waist) holding up a 26-inch waisted Marks & Spencer girdle from the late 1950's. Both are elegant garments capable of powerful shaping that illustrate both the similarities and differences of our interests.
These photographs have been reproduced with the kind permission of Bob and Cathie Jung.
Cathie was delighted to pose in a few of her wonderful collection of corsets and we are beginning to build up a page dedicated to Bob and Cathie.
Whatever happened to the 2011 calendar?
We often get requests for back numbers of the calendars. Sadly, 2012 and 2014 are out of print, however, 2010 that was originally rendered in sepia tones has been re-mastered in full colour. The 2013 calendar is still available in sepia, but this is also being re-mastered in full colour with four extra bonus pages. The 2015 calendar as we have mentioned is with the printers. So, rather like the Boeing 717, what happened to the 2011 calendar? It never got produced. We had ideas, but by the time we had assembled the models it was time for the 2012 edition.
Prices and ordering details for the 2015 calendar will be put on the web-site as soon as it has been printed.
The 2015 Calendar:
We visited the printers yesterday to see the final draft of the 28-page calendar and they have done a super job. It will be printed by mid-November and cost £10 + p&p as in previous years; all revenues will be donated to charity. Ordering details will follow when the calendars are ready to post. Meanwhile, we leave you with Victoria's own thoughts on the matter:-
The 2015 Calendar is ready!
The calendar is a 28-page, A4 format affair, much the same as 2013 and 2014.
Despite a sharp rise in the cost of printing, the cost of the calendar will be held at £10.00. With the current exchange rates this translates to €12.50, US$17.00 plus postage and packing which also has increased. Issues of the re-mastered 2010 calendar and original 2013 calendar are still available at £5 each plus P&P. Since all proceeds go to charity, we can escape the UK's 20% VAT charge!
To UK: £10 plus 2 postage & packing = £12
To Europe: €12.50 plus 5.50 postage & packing = €18
To USA: US$17 plus 8 postage & packing = US$25
& the rest of the world
If you wish to order a calendar, please let us know and we will send you a PayPal invoice.
Thanks for the Response!!
Wow!! Within 24 hours of advertising the calendar, half have already been sold and posted off as well as a number of the 2010 and 2013 editions.
I would like to thank those who have ordered and paid for their calendars and especially those (including Cathie Jung) that added a donation to the charity. It really makes it all worthwhile. The only negative feature has been the ludicrous rise in postal costs. Posting some of the calendars this morning, the post-mistress was surprised at the price of postage to Europe and the USA and even re-checked her figures. Amazingly, the cost has increased by 75% to Europe and 50% to the USA over the last two years.
It was all over so quickly! The calendars sold out in just over a week. We have only a few pre-production versions left, however, these have the benefit of 38 pages rather than 28 since we tried a number of ideas on these versions. Our model, Victoria, was delighted with the result.
The articles on women and motoring have been moved to a separate page.
Corsets and the 39 Steps:
||There are three film versions of this famous tale by John Buchan 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. 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. We came upon a Russian film where a wife brandishes a pair of very similar corsets that have come in the mail for her husband. In this case, the corsets (or the wearer thereof) are seen as objects of desirability, certainly to her husband, but the films are 25 years apart so I suppose attitudes changed in that period.||
End of November 2014:
I cannot believe that Monday will be the first of December! Where did time go. At least we got the calendars out in good time this year and made a charity very happy.
We came across two Spirella girdles for sale. We're not tempted to buy since we have many 234 model girdles in our collection, however, by comparing the two girdles, one can gather some interesting pointers for dating these garments.
After the war, Spirella soldiered on with the same styles of girdle and corset that had been around before the war. They had the patterns and there was material left over from wartime supplies, notably parachute nylon. However, with rationing over in Britain, the late 1950's saw a new wave of wealth and the 'Teddy Boy' era. Being better fed than they had been for generations, people started to grow, and the hip-spring of late 1950's women became too large for the traditional style of the model 205 girdle. In 1961, the 234 girdle was introduced by Spirella to handle the burgeoning British hip.
So, the first pointer is that these girdles must post-date 1960. The white girdle and the black girdle share some details notably the metal zipper. These zippers were replaced by plastic or nylon zippers at the end of the 1960's. They were not as strong but they were were smoother, cheaper and more appealing. So the girdles belong to the 1960's. The elastic gores on the white girdle are of an older, latex-based, coarser weave than the lycra-based elastic on the black girdle. The elastic on the white girdle is showing signs of wear and it gives all the signs of good use by an older lady. The give-away point is the choice of longer, adjustable suspenders. For decades, stockings were short enough to require very long suspenders and only grew to upper thigh length in the late 1960's as they followed the rising hem of the skirt line. Tights would solve this problem in the late 1960's anyway. The longer suspenders indicate a conservative and thus probably older woman.
The white girdle will be early 1960's and the black girdle, late 1960's.
Victoria wears a 234 girdle
The Spirella 234 girdle designed in response to the larger woman of the 1960's. This girdle could have been worn by a younger woman, the short suspenders indicating a higher skirt hemline than the wearer of the black girdle would like.
Plans for 2015:
We mentioned some time ago that we had produced a photo album of the best pictures from the calendars of 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. It really is a rather splendid album of 59 pictures (just under 28 x 21 cm) in full gloss colour. There was quite some interest, however, there are 15 women involved and getting their permission to issue such a publication has been time consuming. Because of this, we will produce only two copies; one for ourselves and one for sale for charity. We have decided to restrict numbers in this particular case since we know that our calendars, once in the public domain, seem to live a life of their own! Inspired by the album, we put together another album being the compilation of the pictures from the 2015 calendar featuring our model Victoria plus 11 other pictures; that's 39 pictures in total. The format is the same and we have three of these; one for ourselves and two for sale for charity. Please let us know if you would be interested. We have one bid already.
What lies beneath
In the last two days we have witnessed two extremely encouraging events:
1) At our local pub, a charming lady of our acquaintance announced (to the ladies end of the table) "Spanx makes such a difference!" She went on to elaborate, whilst my poor husband sat at the football end of the table desperately trying to overhear this interesting revelation. She extolled the virtues of controlling underwear, an ethic that Jane Russell, in her later years, was all to happy to endorse. She regaled us with an account of her trip to buy a dress for her daughter's wedding. Once the dress had been selected, the shop madam asked her "What underwear will you be wearing with this dress?" She confessed that she hadn't really thought about it to which the madam replied "Yes Madam. That's obvious!" She was sold appropriate foundation garments and recounted how good it made her feel. We have to say that she always looks and dresses well: an object lesson to other women.
2) Again, at our local pub, a party of noisy birthday celebrators entered. One of the party, a strikingly handsome woman, wore a black satin corset over her outfit. We had seen her do this some two years before when it was quite a new fashion and, although we believe that corsets should be inner wear, she looked very sleek and obviously quite different from her peers (as we guess was the intention). Oddly enough, she attracted most attention from the women in the party and two helped her lace the corset just that little bit tighter. My husband was sufficiently impressed to move to the bar and congratulate the lady on her outfit, or was it an excuse to buy another beer? My husband's tastes are wide and varied.
Girdles and I Love Lucy:
One of the local TV channels has
been showing repeats of the Lucy Show (1962 - 1968). These shows took place
during the 'golden age' of girdles and the figures of Miss Ball and her
partner Vivian Vance must in some part be due to proper foundation garments.
Miss Vance famously quoted when she was about
to be introduced to the British Queen
“If I wear a girdle to fit into my
dress, I can’t curtsey!” We were watching an episode called 'Lucy gets a
roommate'. She wears a tight skirted yellow silk (rayon ?) dress. The
doorbell rings and the athletic actress bounds across the room and mounts
two steps. What is so obvious is that gait imposed by the tight skirt and
(presumably) her girdle! In a previous show with her husband Desi Arnaz,
Lucy blurts out "My husband won't even spare me seven dollars for a new
girdle!" This suggests that her husband is tighter than her current
“If I wear a girdle to fit into my dress, I can’t curtsey!” We were watching an episode called 'Lucy gets a roommate'. She wears a tight skirted yellow silk (rayon ?) dress. The doorbell rings and the athletic actress bounds across the room and mounts two steps. What is so obvious is that gait imposed by the tight skirt and (presumably) her girdle! In a previous show with her husband Desi Arnaz, Lucy blurts out "My husband won't even spare me seven dollars for a new girdle!" This suggests that her husband is tighter than her current underwear.
In the lovely short
story by Jean Spencer called 'Bringing
Up the Rear,' she describes the introduction of a teenager to her
first girdle and eloquently manages to describe Miss Ball's sprint
across the set:
My hips were immobilized. Normal running was impossible. I had to take short, staccato, tiptoe steps, otherwise known as "running like a girl."
She stepped back, tilted her head from side to side and turned to my mother. "She needs a girdle." Girdle! The word startled me. It was like ice water being thrown in my face. A girdle was the last thing in the world I wanted.
My mother nodded. "A lot of girls your age wear girdles. Mrs. Holmes told me that Elizabeth wears one." I wasn't surprised. Miss goody-goody, prim and proper Elizabeth was probably born wearing a girdle.
They're back!!! Girdles, those infamous weapons of mass reduction have returned to the fashion scene.
The last sentence reminds me of two famous pictures that earned the title "Weapons of Mass Distraction!" The first classic is where Sophia Loren eyes (disapprovingly) Jayne Mansfield's cleavage (in fact her breasts are barely contained). The second is a similar one that I remember from a newspaper that showed President Sarkosy of France sitting beside Angela Merkel at dinner. The normally dowdy Mrs. Merkel sports a substantial cleavage in her evening gown and the poor president's eyes are nearly popping out in their direction.
Review of 2014:
What a year it has been. It started with delayed sales of the 2014 calendar, sadly the last of the series that would feature the beautiful back-drop of a wealthy friend's house. We have travelled extensively that has explained our somewhat random updating of the site. In the latter part of the year, we decided to do something different and, with considerable trepidation, we hired a model to display some of the collection. This was partly to catalogue the garments for distribution to museums and for sale on Ebay. Our chosen model, Victoria, could not have been more charming and enthusiastic about wearing garments that quite possibly would have seemed old fashioned to her granny! We did two photo-shoots with Victoria and the results encouraged us to produce a 2015 calendar that has made more money for charity than any of the others! Then in September, we left Britain on my husband's birthday and flew to Washington DC, one of our favourite cities. The whole point of this visit, and certainly the highlight of the year, was to visit Bob and Cathie Jung. They were fascinating, charming and very good company. Cathie was keen to model for us and we took some lovely photographs (along with some poor ones, but that is my husband's ineptitude as a photographer) and they gave us permission to reproduce them. Towards the end of the year, we conversed briefly by email with Melanie Talkington of Lace Embrace Atelier. She plans a major corset ball late in March in New York.
How can we better 2015? Well, we'll simply try. My husband, in a rare moment of dynamism, said "We're retired now. If we want to do something, we won't just think about it, or talk about it, we'll get out there and do it!"
First plans for 2015 will be to sell the three glossy albums mentioned above as well as the formidable Jenyns corset that Victoria bravely modelled. Then we will seriously consider a 2016 calendar. We certainly hope to cross the Atlantic again and meet up with our friends, but for the moment, we would like to end 2014 with a couple of whimsical pictures:
This picture is a tribute to Cathie Jung who wore one of our 21-inch corsets with absolute ease (and several inches to spare)
in contrast to poor Victoria who got stuck in the same corset and failed to close it by some four inches.
Cathie is two generations older than Victoria but both turn heads when they enter a restaurant.
One of the very few films to feature a corsetière is 'Carry on Loving' (1970), one of those lively, low budget, quintessentially British comedies. The picture above features Joan Sims (1930 - 2001) lacing a long-suffering Amelia Bayntun (1919 - 1988) into her corsets. They never made a 'Carry on Corsetière'; what a shame!