Ivy Leaf's Diary

2015

 

 

Wishing all our Readers a Happy New Year

 

 

 

January 2015: 

 

Christmas is past and one goose and a few thousand grapes have played their part in our local indulgence. My trusty Spirella 305 ensures that my clothes still fit although the bathroom scales tell another story.

 

As soon as we have returned  from a short break to celebrate the New Year, we will advertise the 59-picture glossy album "What lies Beneath". This is a compendium of the pictures from the calendars of 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 with a couple of pictures never seen before. Only one copy will be offered. We will also offer two copies only of a 39-page compilation of the pictures from the 2015 calendar. This contains far more than just the calendar pictures and reveals some earlier thoughts and pictures that we did not use. Both albums are hard-backed, glossy and in 28 * 21 cm format (10.5 * 8 inches).

 

Also we will advertise on Ebay some of the Ivy Leaf Collection including the formidable Jenyns corset (right). Expect to see the adverts some time in March.

 

We are considering what to do with the collection that has outstripped our capacity to store it properly. We are in contact with Melanie Talkington about donating some Victorian corsets to her collection since that period pre-dates our particular range of interest. I am loathe to donate to conventional museums for they tend to store the items away from all human ken. Of course we will keep the classics and core of the collection that will feature in future calendars. I can suggest that our readers keep an eye on Ebay since a number of girdles and corsets are likely to go on sale.

 

 

Attitudes to Corsets

There's a strange conundrum. The many women who have modelled for us often come out with comments like "My granny used to wear these!" or "Who would have thought that women used to wear these!" Oddly enough, the majority of the models, and they have varied in age from 19 to 91, have asked to buy some of the girdles and corsets. Sadly, it is always the choice article in the collection that attract attention and they simply are not for sale.  We have a gorgeous and brand-new white Marks & Spencer girdle from the 1970's that has repeatedly been the object of our models desires. Such girdles are relatively common, so strong was their construction, however, the black versions are far rarer and we only have one beige one in our collection, but once again, it is brand new.

The transcript from a well-known TV series (opposite) is a classic take on the attitude of youngsters to corsets. Can you guess which series?

 

Warners Corsetieres

 

Every so often you come across a little gem of information. A reader kindly sent us a picture from 1949 of a group of trainee corsetieres and, something really rare, the agenda of the course that they were attending.

 

Daughter:        It always amazes me the kind of stuff you get given for a jumble sale.

                       Who’s going to buy a thing like this?  [raises a pair of old pink corsets]

Mother:           Well your father would if he thought he could cannilbalise it for spares.

Aunt:               It looks like there’s enough bits to make a lorry.

Daughter:        It’s hard to believe that ladies ever climbed into something like this.

Old Lady:       'Ere what are you doing waving my old corset about?

Mother:           Just admiring the quality. [raises eyebrows]

Old Lady:        I went through several air raids wearing that;  [brandishing corsets]

                        gave you confidence when you were down in the shelter.

Daughter:        With a garment like that, I’m surprised you needed a shelter. 

                        [Exit old lady in a huff]

Aunt:               They were a terrible garment, but they were great to take off.

                       Your generation has no idea how much pleasure you can get from taking one of them things off.

Other Lady:    Stepping out of one of them was the nearest thing we 'ad to goin' on 'oliday in those days.

 

Another little gem from the past came from a vintage film of 'over-sized' women catwalk models. To our eyes they were perfectly proportioned (i.e. size 14) and immaculately groomed. Goodness knows what they would have called some of the apparitions that you see on the High Street these days!

 

 

February 2015: 

 

As always at this time of year, I must apologise for a lack of updates to the site but my husband and I have been holidaying in warmer climes to avoid the worst of the English winter months. We experienced temperatures of 40C (104F) which we feel has warmed us up enough to last until Springtime.

 

On the interminably long flight home, my husband passed the time by watching a number of the 'Monty Python' series of TV shows that were so popular in the 1970's. One episode caused him to nudge me and we re-played a piece several times, some clips of which are shown on the right. The episode that was first aired in December 1970 shows a young woman dancing with a Camp corset over her clothes (thus pre-dating the modern fashion trend by some four decades!) At first we thought it was a Jenyns front-lacer since the obvious fan-lacing lies in the front of the corset, however, Jenyns never employed trolley suspenders, whereas Camp did, and always at the side towards the rear. Also, the Jenyns front lacer has no strap that passes around the corset, whereas the corset displayed definitely does. The solution is that the actress is wearing a Camp corset back-to-front. The beige colour is another give-away since Jenyns used pinker, more tea-rose fabrics. Exactly why the young lady was dancing in a back-to-front corset escaped us, but so does much of Monty Python!

It is worth noting how often, the wearing of the Camp style of corset is misunderstood. Back-to-front and upside-down displays are frequently seen on Ebay by a generation unused to such devices.

 

The actress Carol Cleveland (?) dancing in a Camp corset (1970)

 

 

March 2015: 

Meanwhile, Melanie Talkington's Grand Corset Ball has gathered critical mass and is heading for a fantastic time at the end of the month. Guests of honour will be Cathie and Bob Jung - who else!

More March 2015:

 

We have just placed 22 items from the collection onto ebay including the remarkable Jenyns corset that Victoria wore for the 2015 calendar.

 

A reader kindly sent us a cutting from Spirella in 1954 advertising a corset show in Ipswich. A list of the Ipswich Spirella corsetieres was listed in the advertisement. This list is fascinating for a number of reasons:

  • In a city of 110,000 inhabitants, there were 14 Spirella corsetieres. There would, of course have been a similar number of Spencer consultants and perhaps some Barcley fitters as well.

  • Untrained, amateur models would parade to the audience in Spirella foundation garments.

  • The events was sold out to such an extent that they had to run two more sessions.

  • And the one I really love: Amongst the prosaic Mrs. So-and-so's from Coutil Close, lies a consultant who goes under the pseudonym of "Prunella". What a charming way to raise yourself above your corsetière peers!

Even Madame Medeq, who made so many of Cathie Jung's corsets chose the exotic name Medeq from the less than exotic juxtaposition of Medical Equipment!

 

 

Even more March:

 

The items that we offered for sale on ebay sold very well and Victoria's nemesis, the incredible Jenyns corset, I hope has found a new, happy owner. I'm sure Victoria will be pleased too see the back of it for we plan some more photo sessions with her later in the year. In April, we plan to sell another batch of vintage corsetry. I'm pleased to say that the last copy of the 39-page book of  'Victoria Dreams' also sold and those monies will go to charity as promised.

 

On a similar vein, we have re-mastered the 2013 calendar that was only ever produced in sepia tones. We will produce a limited run of full colour versions with four additional pages. That will be 36 pages in all. I always liked the 2013 calendar since the dates are identical to those for the year 1963, the hey-day of the Spirella corsetiere. We will let you know when they are finally produced.

 

 

As much as I hate the term 'shapewear' it is heartening to realise that there are enough women out there whose concern for their figures can support a burgeoning foundation garment industry. We found some interesting pictures from a former Soviet Union country. The corsetiere could almost have stepped out of a 1960's James Bond movie as a kind of corsetry advisor to the KGB.

Роза Клебб Корсет Магазин

Firstly, the corsetiere spots that cardinal sin, the bra label poking out from underneath the bra; horrors!

Fortunately, after struggling into a long-legged girdle, a cinch and a properly fitted brassiere, the Rubenesque customer actually looks rather comely. It is quite amazing these days that many women can boast of a whole lingerie wardrobe of support tights, shapers, cinches and even 'bingo wing binders'. On second thoughts, she might not boast about it.

 

 

 

 

April 2015:

Judging by the comments and photographs that we have seen on social media, the Corset Ball was a great success. Well done Melanie! It was a great shame that we couldn't attend, however, prior commitments had to be honoured. Had we been there, we would have started scouting for models for the 2016 calendar.

We have received the re-mastered version of the 2013 calendar that, as usual will be offered for sale at £10 plus P&P; all proceeds to go to charity. The calendars are in full colour unlike the sepia originals and contain four brand new pages. Only a few copies have been printed for our archives and one has already been sold. There are three left.

   

Well, that was a successful campaign; we have now sold out!

 

Meanwhile, we have been thinking about the 2016 calendar. In previous years, we have often been late as the procurement of models, locations and printer's availability gets caught up in the Christmas panic, but this year we are getting our thoughts together well in time, even if Victoria seems rather suspicious of the Canadian Spirella 325 corset (above right). "Is this part of the challenge for the next calendar?"

 

Here is an interesting observation from a novice to 'shapewear'. "I tried to get into the contraption; it wasn't easy but when I was finished all my lumps and bumps were still there, but now a uniform shade of beige!" Apparently, a more premium brand solved the novice's problem. You get what you pay for. More money means more lycra.

 

Oops! You may have notice a typographical error that crept in when we dated the contents as the 1st of April. It wasn't an April fool, more of sheer disbelief that it was already May! More and more the topic of 'shapewear' appears in regular conversion. It is heartening to know that at least some women care about their figures although I doubt that the complexity of the garments behind Victoria will ever make a comeback.

 

 

May 2015:

 

I must apologise for a long absence of information. Now my husband is retired, we travel as much as possible outside the busy periods of the school holidays, however, we have returned for the summer as it has traditionally been called. This season used to be associated with sunshine and warmth, but now it is the season of rain, traffic jams and railway strikes.

Of the many things that keeps us enthusiastic about maintaining this web-site is the occasional gem of information that comes our way, perhaps a rare object on ebay (although these get rarer every year) and sometimes a phone-call from fellow enthsiasts. It was therefore a surprise to receive a complete set of Strodex measuring garments and then the next day, a delight to receive a phone-call from Bob and Cathie Jung.

The Strodex package came with brochures and typed notes from head office dated from the late 1950's to 1960. Oddly enough there is a price list from 1973, but the lady to whom this set belonged seems to have recorded no sales after 1960. We will scan as much as we can and add it to our Strodex pages, but as a taster, we can say that Strodex had a rather different approach compared to other companies in regards to the naming of their lower foundations: 'Elastibelt' instead of girdle and the 'power corset'. I can just imagine the husband of some 1960's female politician saying to his wife "Are you wearing your power corset today Dear?"

One particular item is a book of receipts that details the names and addresses of clients from the 1950's. One lady ordered two corsets for £9-19-8p; quite an expense in those days, yet the address is a small terraced house typical of the Scottish town where she lived. On the reverse of the order form is the address of the corsetiere (right).

Unlike Spirella who claimed proudly "Never sold in shops!" other than their own sales room in Oxford Circus, London, Strodex obviously did. Valentine's of Crieff still exists today (far right) and the corsetiere in the 1950's was none other than T.P Valentine herself. I would love to know more about the history of this shop.

Our dear friend Bunty is coming to visit us for this long holiday weekend (assuming that any trains are running). I hope we can persuade her to model the Strodex measuring garments as a comparison with the Spirella and Spencer devices from our collection; we'll see!

   

 

 

We have said it before and we'll say it again, there's no substitute for understanding vintage garments other than wearing them!

 

Bunty gamely tried on one of our vintage Spencer measuring garments and the newly arrived Strodex version. Now, I have to admit that we're far more familiar with the Spencer garment and got Bunty ensconced fairly quickly in the white stiff nylon contraption. What was so apparent was that the nylon would be very easy to clean and that all the measurements were integral with the garment. It was also lightly boned to help maintain its shape and the stiffness of the material really helped. As for Strodex, the upper and lower garments are both assembled from two pieces to accommodate the client's size, but in this case, there are four lacers on the brassiere and three on the corset part that is secured by straps at the rear. Our main problem was that, being un-boned, the lacers had to be very carefully adjusted to prevent unwanted flesh from creeping out between the lacings. A fly flap beneath the lacers would have helped. It was such a time-consuming nuisance that my husband was called in to assist and even his patience was tested. We must be fair and say that our experience with Strodex is limited, however, we are still fans of the Spencer method. Once ensconced in the Strodex garment, the fitter then had to take the measurements whereas with the Spencer, these can be read off the garment. Bunty was delighted to be 'D-Cup' once again (see picture above) after many kilos of weight loss!

 

Sadly, the Spirella measuring garments were far too short for Bunty's 1.78m (5' 10") frame. To make a reasonable comparison we may have to call upon Victoria, but in that case, I'll not be calling upon my husband to lend a hand! (More detailed pictures of these garments can be found here).

 

Strodex vs. Spencer

 

We prefer the buckle adjusted white stiff nylon of the Spencer

rather than the seven lacers in the floppy cotton of the Strodex.

 

 

June 2015:

It's funny, but can't you just tell when a woman is wearing tight foundations. It reminds me of the following story that we heard a long time ago:

 

A mother was reading in the sitting room. Through the open window she heard her seven year-old son discussing with his friend, and apparently with quite some knowledge, her own girdles. "My Mummy wears a girdle. She wears a really tight one when she goes out with Daddy. You can tell 'cause she walks funny!" Later that evening, she was sufficiently concerned to ask her husband if she did, indeed, walk funnily, and was re-assured that she didn't. But the doubt was always there afterwards!

 

I like to call the picture of the stout lady on the far right "That corset moment!"

 

Dating Vintage Garments

  

 

There are many fashion guilds out there with experts on this subject, however, despite our limited knowledge, we are often asked to date foundation garments. There are many clues, the zipper construction, elastic fabric, suspender style and, if the label is in good condition, there is wealth of information on this small fabric tag. Recently we were asked about some Camp corsets from America. The ILGWU tag is very helpful here (International Ladies Garment Workers Union). Pre-1974 it is a blue on white label and post-1974, red was incorporated to render the label in patriotic red, white and blue. This was an attempt to encourage Americans to buy American products. Ironically, Camp was also produced in Britain and Holland at that time whose flags are also combinations of red, white and blue. Marks and Spencer labels were even more illuminating in the 1970's with the month and the year displayed on the label.

 

 

"Switch to Carter and look smarter"

One of the delights of compiling this web-site is the unexpected discovery of a company, for example, that one never knew existed. One such is the William Carter Company of Needham Heights, Massachusetts. William Carter (1864 - 1955) spent his life developing knitting technology for manufacturing and became not only extremely wealthy but spent two terms in Congress. During the war, they made ladies underwear despite the acute shortage of rubber and produced some rather lovely advertisements, a wartime classic of which is shown on the right.

Mind you, they pulled no punches in those days: "Does your tummie spoil your profile?" "Getting a little thick around the thighs?"  Thank Goodness for Mr. Carter's miracle fabrics.

 

July 2015:

 

We came across a charming picture in a trade journal that actually is an advertisement for Kestos foundation garments but that equally could be entitled "How not to meet your prospective in-laws."

 

We have added this month some details from CAMP advertising from Twilfit and a very, very dated letter published in the Spirella US house magazine of May 1940 a taste of which is reproduced below:

"My dear ... , I owe my younger appearance, my good figure and health to the splendid corset I have been wearing for the past 20 years. It enables me to keep active - I do all my own house work, work out in the garden and go on long motor trips just like you younger folks do."

 

Another interesting paragraph from an interview of an English politician in 1978:

" Which prompted me to pose a question about some of the extraordinary personal comments about her—hairstyles and hats apart—and whether they really do cut deeply. I noticed for instance that a woman writer recently suggested that she was bulging round the middle and should perhaps wear a girdle. The famous eyebrows shot into her hairline—she hadn't seen the remark—and with half a smile she said: "Well there's no point in losing sleep or getting bothered about that sort of thing." She looked down to waist level and added dryly: "Perhaps she was right. That does happen to women of my age sometimes." "

There's a slight oddity here since the woman in question wore Spirella's products in the 1960's. It is strange that she decided to forgo her foundation garments in the 1970's although that was the way of most women in those days.

 

You may have noticed that we have modified the contents page. My husband felt that it was better to arrange the contents in four columns, however, if you have comments or suggestions, we would be grateful to receive them.

 

A kind reader from Spain sent us some details and images from what used to be a large corsetry business in Spain, 'Fajas Ruiz'. They still exist although many of their shops are now closed. An interesting point, however, is that they still sell made-to-measure garments to the Latin American countries. It was here and in Japan towards the end of the 20th century that women seemed not only to re-discover lycra and latex foundation garments, but positively to revel in them if the advertisements are to be believed.

 

Calendar 2016:

 

Those of you who have seen the 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 calendars will realise that there was a major change in style as we moved into 2015. Rather than using between four and 12 amateur models to display the Ivy Leaf Collection at its best, we engaged a charming professional model, Victoria, for the 2015 calendar. Also, we lost the lovely back-drop for the earlier calendars and had to rely on artificially created backgrounds. For 2016, we hope to combine the best of both worlds. Two amateurs who have modelled for all the calendars bar 2015 are keen to model again and they will be joined by Victoria. The age range is ideal to represent a grandmother, mother, daughter scenario. We have secured a more modest location that will still allow us to display these ladies in their vintage costumes and foundation garments to best advantage. More news will follow.

 

 

August 2015:

 

Well, we said more news will follow, however, we didn't realise how quickly this might happen. Yesterday, Victoria and two of our amateur models, Marjorie and Madeleine, who have featured in all our calendars from 2010 to 2014, gathered at a location in Dorset for the 2016 photo-shoot. Mixing amateurs and professionals might have been a challenge if it had not been for the genuine enthusiasm and good nature of all concerned. As always, the entire six hour session was a complete laugh even if our 'granny' figure, Madeleine, had put on a little weight since we last met and the fitting of her first corset was more hysterical than usual.

 

The theme of the 2016 calendar will be 'Victoria's Little Women' and be based on the theme of daughter, mother and grandmother and the influences that they exerted on each other in the 1960's.

 

I hasten to add that the 'discipline corset' that Victoria wears on the right was never really employed by any mother in the 1960's or any other era for that matter, however, we took the chance to get the corset modelled since it will shortly appear for sale on ebay.

The 2016 calendar, in common with all its predecessors, has undergone a few changes during its production. For the first time, we planned the layout of the calendar before the photo shoot hoping that this would simplify final production, however, this turned out not to be the case. At first, although my husband's efforts at photography have improved, he was dissatisfied with the results, but after a few days he realised that we had captured some magic moments. We have developed a style that is similar to the earlier calendars and uses none of the artificial backgrounds of 2015. Victoria, Marjorie and Madeleine worked very well together and this comes across strongly in the pictures. We decided that one or two large pictures per month was not sufficient and so the actual calendar section of each month has been reduced in size to allow for extra pictures (as demonstrated in October below). The calendar measures 27.5 * 20.5 cm (approx 11 * 8 inches).

 

The printer is delighted that we have given him so much notice this year and we hope to get the calendar printed by the end of next week. The first draft was ready on Wednesday 19th August and it looks great. There's just a few tweaks needed to get it right but we hope to have the final copies by next week. We already have seven pre-orders and as soon as the calendars are ready, we'll send out invoices. We will keep prices the same as we have since 2010 at £10 ($16, €14) per calendar. Postage will be charged at current cost.

 

   

 

We have included a new section called "Making the 2016 Calendar".

 

 

 

September 2015:

 

The calendar for 2016 has sold out. The monies raised have already been donated to charity. Thank you so much for your kind donations.

 

Apologies for the lack of input recently, but my husband and I have been indulging in a long holiday away from home. It took us, amongst others places, to the lovely Hollywood Museum where we saw a tribute to Marilyn Monroe including one of her original bustiers from which we have drawn some conclusions, possibly quite incorrectly.

 

We feel that the 2016 calendar will be the last of the series. The amateur models have been so generous with their time over the years but this is a good time to stop whilst everybody is still enjoying themselves. As regards professional models, Victoria is still keen to model and perhaps we could find an older model to join her. Our minds are running along the lines of finding a Lyn Locke lookalike to re-create Mike and Lyn's amazing contribution to the world of the girdle. I wonder?

 

A lady called Dinah White has just started a corset blog. She has a long history of girdle and corset experience and her site is certainly worth visiting.

 

 

October 2015:

 

October already; would you believe it. Prompted by some questions from readers, we have elaborated on the theme of what was the best foundation garment.

 

A reader recently acquired an immaculate 'My Lady' rubber girdle and sent us a few photographs of this remarkably preserved garment.

 

We love receiving information from readers of the site. The last two entries for October have prompted us to write a small passage about rubber foundation garments and the best foundation garments. The calendar models, without exception, enjoyed wearing the Marks and Spencer girdles; not that they would ever wear one regularly. Only our 80-year-old model remembered wearing a girdle as a young woman and seeing her mother being fitted by a Spirella corsetière. However, two of the models wanted to purchase the satin elastic girdles that they had modelled. They thought that they were so elegant and so powerful that they might be pressed into service for an 'occasion'. Again, without exception, the models could not be persuaded to try on any of our rubber girdles. "Ooh no! The smell reminds me of the dentist when I was a child!" That was the ostensible explanation, however, we felt that there was something else going on here but we never got to the bottom of it. Perhaps the gentleman in our anecdote pages summed it up:

During the various renaissances of rubber corsetry, it was not so uncommon for a women to wear a rubber brassiere and corset. Even the stockings could have a high rubber content. Indeed, some manufacturers extolled the virtues of sleeping in the garments. One wonders what the long-suffering husband might think of waking up next to such an apparition. As one married man was heard to say about his latex-clad spouse "The old dear used to pong a bit in the hotter weather!"

The model from the Ambrose Wilson catalogue of 1962 holds a rose to her nose. Although this is a classic corsetry pose, one can't help feel that the scent of the rose is being used as an antidote to the pungent smell of the rubber corset.

 

We received an email from a reader: "I came across your website while trying to identify and date a corset that I cleaned out of my mother's house 25 years ago.  I had just realized this morning that it was a maternity corset after I tried it on and recognized that distinctive curving seam just below the belly.  I only remember the less restrictive girdles my mother wore in the 1960s and had no idea that this type of corset would have been part of her attire in the 40s and 50s.  Having looked through a bit of your information, I now see that heavily boned corsets were still around well into (and past) that time period."  The correspondent gave us a link to a picture of some trainee French corsetières.  

 

 

14th October 2015:  

Happy 13th Birthday to the Ivy Leaf Website

 

The Ivy Leaf web-site hit the world-wide web on 14th October 2002. It was simply the expression of ideas that might have resulted in a book that probably would never have seen the light of day. The internet changed all that. It allowed us to express our  very  limited  knowledge and  share it with a wider, very appreciative audience. Our foundation was a collection of corsets and girdles inherited from an Auntie who ran a drapery in Glasgow in the 1950s. Several Spirella corsetières encouraged us and passed on helpful advice as well as garments and brochures that would otherwise have been discarded. We felt an obligation not to let the memory of these women fade away as so many of their customers were doing. Our interest lay in the garments from the 1940s to the 1970s but we encountered so many interesting people along the way that we expanded the web-site far further than we would ever have imagined. 

 

We owe a great debt of thanks to those that we have met personally. Mrs. O. the Spirella fitter of 50 years standing, Mrs. T, the Spencer fitter of similar experience, Diana Symes of Medeq fame, the long-suffering Bunty, Pat & Ken Jenyns, our young model Victoria and the most charming couple, Bob and Cathie Jung who we visited in 2014. They welcomed us to North Carolina in style and to be given the opportunity to see Bob & Cathie's corset collection and to photograph Cathie herself was an amazing privilege.

 

 

A special word of thanks must go to the ladies who volunteered to model for the calendars. All amateur models, but professionals in many other other walks of life, these ladies gave their time for charity and without exception, from the 19 to the 91-year-old, they enjoyed the experience immensely. We have raised over £4,000 since the calendars started, in part due to some unsolicited but very welcome donations from visitors to the site.

 

But without the regular visitors, the site would mean nothing. We appreciate enormously anybody that writes in with recollections and photos from their collections; people like Roger K who have researched the subject so well and give us regular tidbits of information; those that point out omissions and typographical errors, for without their help, this site would be a lesser place to visit.

 

It has been a lot of fun, but also a lot of hard work to keep the site going, however, we intend to continue for some time yet and we look forward to meeting more of you.

 

 

There are those that we have never met: Lyn Locke and her late partner Mike who really re-introduced girdles to an interested audience, the Virginian, Dave and Thomas Lierse, whose regular updates of the LISA web-site still leave us amazed at his stamina. 

We conversed with Lyn, but sadly, time and distance precluded our attendance at the Garters & Lace functions. That was our loss and if we have regrets, not meeting Lyn is high on the list.

And there are those that we would like to meet such as Melanie Talkington and anybody else that has an abiding interest in foundation garments of any era. 

 

 

Chased around town in her corsets by John Wayne (who else)

McLintock (1963)

Maureen O'Hara  (1920-2015)

passed away on 24th October 2015

      

Extolling the virtues of the Playtex girdle:

Glamorous motion picture star says "Playtex is a real all-occasion girdle - ideal for work or play!"

 

RIP

 

November 2015

 

A reader has kindly updated our information regarding Madame Caswill, the Bristol Corsetière.

 

"Back in July 2013 you kindly added my submission to your unique web site, under the heading - ‘Madame Caswill.’ As a result of this, several months ago, a grand niece of Emily Caswill, now living in Australia, made contact through my local history group. She had been amazed and delighted to stumble on the article and in due course, provided a number of family photos., including those of Emily and her daughter Evelyn, who had died so tragically. I have attached the relevant photos. together with a revised script which now incorporates the additional information that has come to light. I was really pleased to receive this additional information from the other side of the world and I’m sure you’ll agree that a few photos. enhance any article and make it far more interesting for readers."

 

Well, we certainly do agree. It is due to the kindness of our readers that provide these rare glimpses into the past that makes the job of compiling the web-site such a pleasure.

 

Another reader sent us some clips from a video. It is a typical 1960s fashion parade of underwear. Corsets are displayed in a negative fashion to emphasise the comfort and sleek modernity of the girdles principally on display. Look at the two pictures. On the left, the model wears a petticoat beneath her girdle. This is never done (I mean, how would the suspenders work?), but is done for the sake of modesty. The model wearing the panty-girdle needs no such deception, however, it offended one of the ladies in the audience to the extent that she walks out (right).

          

 

 

 

 

We have been researching an item "Whatever happened to the Spirella Factories?" We have old photographs of the Niagara Falls factories, both in New York state and in Ontario. The Ontario factory is still is good recognisable condition although it now is a Bird World museum, however, the New York factory has fallen on hard times. It is barely seen from the road being surrounded by trees. The road is cracked and the area looks ready for redevelopment. It looks like an area that I might avoid. We have mentioned before that the Spirella offices in Sweden have become a chocolate emporium. How ironic. Just when the chocolate guzzling population need corsets, they are no longer readily available.

 

Another curiosity that caught our attention whilst researching the topic above, was an advertisement for Spirella in Niagara Falls, NY.

Seriously, was there ever a Miss Brace? Spencer often referred to a totally fictitious Anne Spencer in their advertising. Indeed, was there ever a Dr. Wales and Dr. Wilbur of 1960's abdominal corset fame I wonder?

'Dr. Wilbur's Abdominal Corsets' were sold by Ponting's of Oxford Street, London. With no disrespect to either Ponting's or Dr. Wilbur, an example of the latter's corset split whilst being worn. This is only one of two corsets that I have heard of failing during wearing. The unfortunate wearer of a brand new Dr. Wilbur's corset bent over during a game of bridge to retrieve a fallen pencil and caused much amusement to her friends as the material of her corsets ripped apart quite audibly. The case of Spirella failure was due to swathes of defective-quality material (black orchid) being delivered to the factory. In Dr. Wilbur's case, the corsets had passed out of fashion and were dead-stock. They had degraded during storage.

 

 

I had always thought that the Joan Sims' character of Esme Crowfoot in "Carry On Loving" (1970) was the only such example of a corsetière 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 corsetière, 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.

 

December 2015

  

From time to time, we carry out checks on various pages within the site, usually at the behest of some kind reader who has spotted an omission or a missing picture. We are always grateful for this. Regard the picture on the left that comes from the Spirella magazine 'Threads' of August 1957. I noticed that the corset in the hands of the Spirella lady looks unusually large. My husband picked up on this and, being an engineer, quickly did some trigonometric calculations based on the presumed height of the lady in the picture and deduced that the corset is most likely to be about 23 inches (58 cm) long and 42 inches (107 cm) around the waist. That is a large corset for a large lady. The only corset of that length was the one that we gave to Bunty and even then, Spirella queried the length when we made the order. Bunty, at 5 foot 10 inches and with a 40 inch waist (at that time) is indeed a large, albeit very shapely (certainly in her corsets) lady. The corsets in the picture must have been destined for a seriously formidable woman. Just to add that the last outing for Bunty's corsets was earlier this year when we were desperate to find a pair of corsets that would fit one of our regular calendar models who had put on a bit a weight since the last photo-shoot (right). They were in fact just a little too large for her and the spare back-lacing fell ungraciously to the floor.

 

On the subject of Spirella, we have added a history of Oliver Philpot, one time MD of Spirella but famously, one of the three escapees from Stalag Luft III in the 'Wooden Horse' affair.

 

 

Iris Norris:

A week ago, we received two emails in one day, both concerning Iris Norris. Our erudite volunteer editor, Roger, sent us a completely re-edited version of the Iris Norris pages. Hosting this by effectively replacing the original content will be quite a job and so for the moment, we have linked to Roger's amazing effort (a large MSWord document) on the Iris Norris Home Page as appendix III. The second communication came from another gentleman who has sent us some documents, photographs and correspondence relating to Iris. This has been included as appendices II and IV.

More correspondence came in yesterday from a lady who reckons that she may well have been one of Iris's last customers. A photograph is shown at the bottom of appendix IV.

    

 

 

Another Year Comes  to an End

 

It has been another good year for the Ivy Leaf collection, although nothing could ever quite match up to meeting with Bob and Cathie Jung in 2014. We produced a calendar that sold out quickly thanks to the efforts of two amateur models that have graced every calendar that we have ever made and, of course, the lovely Victoria. There is still so much memorabilia out there, but as the years pass, it diminishes as a new generation fails to realise the historical importance of what they have inherited. As for next year, who knows?

 

We have tried to find anybody who still has a contact with Lyn Locke and failed. We realise that this amazing lady has decided to maintain her privacy after the death of her partner Mike, and we should respect that.

 

It simply remains for the Ice Fairy to bid you all a

 

Merry Christmas

and

a Happy New Year