Ivy Leaf's Diary

2016

 

 

Wishing all our Readers a Happy New Year

 

 

January 2016: 

 

In principle, we always like to look positively towards the future and we have a number of exciting plans for 2016, however, sometimes in our old age, we like to look back and so below you will find our favourite pictures from the last five years of Ivy Leaf's Diary.

 

       

                                                                                         2011                                                                 2012                                                                2013                                                              2014                                                2015

 

Which brings us to a fascinating question: what is the average age of our readers? I suspect that the majority of our readers come from a generation that has experience of such garments whether that might be from themselves, their mothers or, more often these days, their grandmothers. On the other hand, we have had correspondence with researchers and students. I suspect that the demographics of our readers largely comes from over-60s and under-30s. What do you think?

 

Meanwhile, we have revamped the 'Making the Calendars' page and replaced the series of lecture slides for 'Pulling Together'.

 

I wonder if the corset is pregnant?

 

"A mature corset in an oyster-coloured shiny fabric with four suspenders. The corset has lacing but also hooks-and-eyes which means it does not need to be laced up to put on and taken off. The size is around squeezing the small and medium loosely laced. I wonder if the corset is pregnant for the rails around the belly are curved."

 

This is an electronic translation from the Swedish Tradera auction site for what was a typical Scandinavian product of the 1960s. A conventional, front-laced corset made from corset-quality satin backed by cotton. The garment has been designed for some woman with a 'bad back' hence the six rigid spinal steels that have been curved to accommodate the wearer's derriere. So many casual perusers of old-fashioned corsetry assume that all corsets were back-laced, hence the confusion in thinking that the bulge was for the growing bump of pregnancy.

 

The corset has been used as evidenced by the horizontal creasing at the bottom of the lacing. The length of the suspenders again determines it age as 1960s when stocking were shorter that those that would follow. It is a beautiful garment and would have made the wearer feel elegant whilst no doubt affording relief and support for her poor aching back.

 

We have one such corset in our collection and it is a real gem. The quality and weight seems to have been typical of such garments from Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and Italy. Did these countries have more women with spinal problems or was there simply a tradition of elegant foundation garments?

 

Corrections:

We are so grateful to readers that point out errors and omissions in our web site. We cannot check all of it all the time and thus rely heavily on feedback. We have corrected the date that Iris Norris passed away and have amended the link to the Figesta (German corsetry) site. We have also made a small modification to the Corsetry Compendium on the Contents page.

We have always arranged this part in the shape of a corsetted torso and have chosen to grace that section with an image of Cathie Jung wearing an original 1912 Jenyns corset that, even at size 19, was far too big for her. The photograph was taken in September 2014 when we met Bob and Cathie in North Carolina.

 

I'm sorry if the website seemed to be down for a few hours, but mysteriously, or so my husband claims, a critical file vanished and then we had no access to our site. This caused us a heart-stopping moment even though the site is fully backed up every week. Not without some 'language' my husband has restored the site to its status quo. Panic over! On another computer issue, our server, randomly and without warning will lose files. We are less aware of this than our regular readers and so we wish to express our thanks to those of you that email us to point out these omissions. There are currently 98 active pages on the site and, to our shame, we have not visited some of them for over a decade.

 

 

February 2016:

 

The misunderstanding of the 'pregnant corset' (above) is just one example of how little knowledge there is these days of the traditional foundation garment. We have seen examples, especially on the auction sites, where the corset above has been described back-to-front, with the bent steels shaped to accommodate the abdomen, and even upside-down, this time with the steels forming an impenetrable barrier to the bosom. The problem is that most people who have never even seen a real corset assume that they were always laced at the back. This might have been the case when women had maids or family members who could help them dress, but latterly, front-lacing was the norm. This is why we have always encouraged our amateur calendar models to try on these foundation garments so that they can appreciate and, more importantly, feel what these garments were like to wear. In our house is a lovely photograph of some of the models wearing a selection of satin Camp and Jenyns corsets (that I have to admit are back-laced but adjusted from the front). The usual comments from visitors are "Why did women wear such things?" "Ooh, those look painful!"

 

Firstly, women wore such things to keep their figures in a shape that was fashionable and secondly, every woman that has worn these corsets has found them very comfortable after a few minutes adjustment and several have offered to buy them. I might add that the women in the picture range from 29 to 82 years old. The 82 year old in question remembers her mother being fitted by a Spirella corsetičre but never herself wore any substantial lower foundation garments. Considering that she was born in 1936 and would have been a teenager in the 1950s and 1960s, a suspender belt was all that she required until tights became the norm. So one begins to realise that if an 82 year old only understands vintage foundation garments through her mother, what chance do younger people have.

 

Another misconception is that foundation garments were ugly confections of canvas and whalebone. Not at all; the satins of the corsets (above) would shame a designer evening dress. In fact, in the 1950s and 60s, what a woman wore beneath her evening dress (although our friend didn't move in such circles) could be far more elegant than the dress itself. There was recently a vintage bra and girdle set from South America advertised on Ebay and I quote "I HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT MAYBE IT CAME FROM A SHOW!!! Far from it, this was simply beautifully (and expensively) constructed underwear of an elegance unknown to today's beige elastic wearers.

 

More Elegance and French Girdles

 

Talking of elegant foundation garments, Hopkins9631 usually has a superb assortment for sale on ebay. One of these I have shown on the right, for to me it raises several questions. The girdle is obviously French judging by the buttoned on suspenders but why use buttons? Some French corsets even close with buttons. I can understand that in the hotter regions of France, one might want to go without stockings and their attendant suspenders, but there are less bulky ways of achieving this. Perhaps being French, they just like to do things differently, a national trait that both endears the French to the rest of the world whilst frustrating them at the same time. Anybody who has even driven a Citroen will understand what we mean. (It was my husband that came up with the car reference). Another question I raise is why the girdle should be so elegant front the front and so boring at the back? Did French women never turn their backs on their admirers?

 

I recall an amusing episode when I was on holiday with my family in the Ardennes region of Belgium. We observed a French-registered, large Citroen pulled up outside our hotel at breakfast time. One leg of a  rather stout lady emerged followed by the other leg. The rest of the lady would have emerged given time if her husband hadn't turned off the engine. The hydro-pneumatic suspension of the car sighed and the car promptly lowered itself in the way that Citroen's do, sadly precipitating the French lady back into the car in a rather undignified manner. Why do husbands do these things?

 

Girdles and Corsets in the Daily Papers

 

My husband occasionally buys the Daily Moan*, not through any particular political affiliation nor any desire to read about the news, but simply for the quick crossword; in truth, the only one that he can solve. One of the clues today was 'elastic corset' (6 letters), answer obviously 'girdle'. Years ago we wrote at length about the difference between a corset and a girdle and decided that a corset may have elastic sections but there will always be at some part of the garment a non-expandable circumference. A girdle will never have a non-expanding circumference. That is why you can have hook-side corsets with no laces and laced girdles, the latter being for occasional adjustment for if you try to lace an elastic garment tight, you expand the elastic rather than constrict the wearer. So a girdle really is an elastic corset.

 

However, last Thursday, there was a full page article 'The Great Corset Comeback could ruin Your Health'. Of course, being the newspaper that it is, all headlines contain the qualifying words 'might' or 'could'. The writer paints a dire picture of the dangers of wearing tight corsets but admits that 'scientists' (another media euphemism) reckon that the most attractive waist to hip ratio is 70% (that is close to the classic Hollywood norm of 36 - 24 -36, which makes me wonder in which decade these 'scientists' were born). Since most modern women measure in at 80 - 90% these days, a corset will, theoretically make you more attractive. To go to the extreme of Cathie Jung, who maintains an impressive 40% ratio, is presumably to court all the problems that the writer describes, yet Cathie is a vital, energetic lady in her late 70s. Her husband Bob, a retired surgeon, maintains that the displacement of Cathie's organs is no more than would be encountered during pregnancy. Having had the privilege of inspecting Cathie's corsets, I can truly say that they are real corsets, not girdles.

 

One of Cathie's last girdles before converting to corsets (Poirette)                                                                                     

 

A small selection of Cathie's corsets (2014)   

 

* The Daily Moan is not the real name of the paper, although it might as well be.

 

March 2016:

 

I must apologise for a lack of posts over the last month, but a visit to hospital, scheduled I assure you, has prevented my husband from performing his duties regarding the web-site. Restored to rude health, we can begin our normal series of updates starting with an addition of sports to the 'health' page.

 

We have noticed, in much the same way that automobile manufacturers, previously sworn enemies, latterly pool resources for reasons of economy, that corset manufacturers did the same. Thus Spirella was taken over by arch-rivals at the end of the 1980s. Camp corsets started appearing in Jenyns brochures at the same time, however, one that had escaped my notice was that Berlei produced a series of Camp clones, presumably under licence.

 

Roger K, our erudite editor, has come up with an idea that we have inserted in his pages. Read all about 'Try On'.

 

April 2016:

 

Unexpected phone calls from abroad are always welcome, especially when you recognise the voice of Cathie Jung. She was kind enough to remind me that the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (the V&A) will be presenting an exhibition of 'Undressed: a Brief History of Underwear'. It will run until March 2017 so there is plenty of time to get up to London and see it. Cathie passed the phone over to Bob and we had a long chat on everything from US politics to the lamentable style of modern 'shapewear', girdles by any other name but the g-word is not used these days. What a shame. Bob is an excellent raconteur and he reminisced about people that we both have met like Diana (Madame Medeq), and those that he and Cathie have met at Garters & Lace and the LGM balls such as Iris Norris, Lyn Locke, Jutta van Ginkel and Melanie Talkington. What a pleasure it was to talk to Bob and Cathie.

 

For various reasons, I recently took my husband away from our place of retirement and, at my own expense mark you, paid for a couple of days in a hotel by the sea. It was a very pleasant hotel, as it should have been at the cost, but sadly these days, the clientele were shabby-chic, demin-clad, nouveaux-riche, somewhat bulging, Tonka-toy drivers. Pleasant people of course (mostly) but with no style, no elegance and no shape, by which I mean, no understanding of basic foundation garments. Despite all that, my husband and I enjoyed excellent food, superb wine and, according to my husband, some great beer as well. But the unexpected feature of the hotel was that every picture on the walls, and there were many, was vintage black & white from the 1930s to the 1960s. One in particular (on the right) caught my husband's attention.

 

A reader raised the old question of whether knickers are worn over or under the lower foundation garment:

"I have purchased a Rago open bottom all in one corselette to wear with a tight sweater dress. I have always worn long leg panty girdles or long leg all in ones. I'm not sure about wearing panties with it. I have read that some women wear them over or under or none at all. I tried wearing them over but it doesn't look or feel right. When I tried wearing them under it took forever to use the toilet. Back in those days, what did most women do?"

 

Ivy's reply: "This is a question that is often asked. When women wore open-bottom foundation garments such as corsets, girdles and corselettes, the custom was to wear them next to the skin with knickers over the top. As you discovered, with knickers worn underneath, toileting is a problem. The important point is that knickers in those days were more voluminous so that the crotch of the knickers hung below the base of the garment whereas with modern knickers it gets pulled tight underneath and looks awful. The baggy 'directoire' knickers were designed that way for a reason."

 

I have discussed this topic more fully in the Corsetry Compendium, but it is worth elaborating here. In our calendars, and in many pictures, the models are often shown wearing their foundation garments over their knickers and sometimes even over their petticoats. This was an expedient of the photo session partly to preserve the model's modesty, but also to show the lower foundation to its best advantage since this would normally be the focus of the picture. We are guilty of this in the calendars that we have produced where the models always wear knickers under the girdle and have the long-line bra under the girdle as well. In reality, back in those days, the bra and knickers would come over the girdle virtually obscuring it. That's fine, but not for a photographic session where historical accuracy has been sacrificed to display the object of attention.

On the right, we see our old friend Bunty modelling a Spencer corset. Initially, she insisted that the knickers should go under the corset until she realised that going to the toilet was going to be nigh on impossible. On the left, she wears, quite correctly, both brassiere and knickers over the corset. The corset is now totally obscured that, from a photographic point-of-view, is useless. Incidentally, note the use of satin that will allow her clothes to move freely over her underwear. We have all but forgotten such niceties these days.

Our last update for April are six new pictures that seem to fit best under curiosities.

 

May 2016:

 

Suddenly it is May and in barely six weeks, the 'nights start drawing in' as the quaint expression goes. The plans for which we thought we had so much time to develop have acquired a sense of urgency; my husband's significant birthday needs planning and there are several people in the world of corsetry that we would love to visit and the thought of a 2017 calendar is never far from our minds. Meanwhile, the regular emails and occasional letters still arrive and demand attention. We always take pride in answering all correspondence as quickly as possible.

 

We came across three girdles recently. Sometimes one finds 'deadstock' in perfect condition, however, garments that have been 'the property of a lady' (Ian Fleming 1963), tell us far more about the wearer from evidence such as the stretching and number of suspenders to minor repairs and alterations. These girdles fall into the latter category and we have tried to assess their wearer in our page on Corset Detectives.

 

We have recently added rather a lot of bits and pieces into the corset shop and curiosities section. 

 

Browsing through the Brabarella web-site, I notice that their fascinating blog has moved to their companion site, Little Pink Dress. They are a small business that manages to survive in the big corporate world. Please support them.

 

My husband and I were invited out for dinner recently. Amongst the guests was an acquaintance who I would have described as well-dressed but a little on the bulgy side. Not at this dinner party. Immaculately dressed, her tummy was flat and she looked sleek and healthy. How did she do it? She wasn't that shape last week so I can only assume that this lady had re-discovered the power of spandex. This brings me onto the old trick of 'invisible lacing' whereby one's girdle or corset had recessed lacing so that the means of producing your elegant shape was kept secret. I was surprised to learn recently that Marks and Spencer sold such corsets in the 1950s. Had this lady dug around at the back of her undie drawer for some vintage foundation garment or was she relying of multiple layers of shaping underwear? It's not the sort of question you ask at dinner.

 

It is funny how coincidences liven up our lives. We inserted a picture of a corset machine shop into our 'Old Corset Shop' page that elicited a response from a gentleman whose speciality is Wm. Pretty and Sons Ltd. The photograph came from the Pretty factory after it had been taken over by Symingtons, the huge British corset manufacturer. At the same time, we received an interesting article about Sarah Ann Jenyns who, posthumously in 2014, was inducted into the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame for her entrepreneurial skills as a corset manufacturer. In the early part of the 20th century, Mrs. Jenyns agreed that Symingtons could produce her corsets under licence and we have three such corsets in the collection. They date from 1912 and were given to us by Sarah Ann's grandson, Ken Jenyns and were sealed in their original wrappers. We have only ever unwrapped one of these corsets. The waists are a scant 19 inches, a size that no model could wear these days except perhaps for one famous lady (right).

 

On looking at the section on Jenyns, it has become very disorganised as my husband has used a somewhat 'scatter gun' approach at adding new data. We will work on this page over the coming months.

 

click on the picture

 

June 2016:

 

A reader kindly pointed out some broken links on the Symingtons page. We have remedied these and, to our surprise have learnt that the collection is no longer on display, however, I believe that it is loaned out to museums from time to time.

 

Another reader kindly directed us to a French corsetry site, Ortholinge. Much like Figesta in Germany, they still make-to-measure traditional foundations (right).

 

We have completed a major revision to our Jenyns page and added quite some new data.

In the Ivy Leaf Collection, we have literature and foundation garments from the Spirella factories in the USA, Canada, England and Sweden, but nothing from Germany or Copenhagen. We suspect that the Copenhagen office was a retail branch since, being close to the Malmö factory in Sweden, it probably sold Swedish manufactured garments. As for Germany, we did discover that the office in Berlin was the head office whereas the factory was located in Düsseldorf and still exists (albeit in another function today). All the factories have closed and several have been demolished, however sometimes, with the help of an address and Google Map, the location of the old factories can be discovered. Thus it was that an innocent and barely legible advertisement lead us to the old Spirella factory in Powell Street, Oakland California.

 

Whilst on the subject of 'what has become of the old corset factories', we happened upon an old print of the corset factory at Desborough in England around 1900. Amazingly, the factory is still standing today and still produces lingerie, although I doubt that bones and lacing play much of a part in their modern products. What is shocking to anybody that lives in the area is that in 1900, the factory was situated in the middle of fields, whereas today it is surrounded by a housing estate. However, there is a happy end to this story in that the motto emblazoned on the side of the building has been retained:

 

COOPERATIVE  WHOLESALE  SOCIETY  LIMITED  CORSET  FACTORY

1900                         Today

 

Later in June:

 

As you can imagine, we receive emails regularly, the majority of which contain genuine questions and recollections of an age that has passed. Obviously, there are some dubious tales and tales of uncertain provenance and those have been relegated to the Other Side pages. However, recently we received the most charming story from a lady who was born in the British Midlands and today lives in California. I have included it here before we move it to the Tales section.

  

 

Dear Ivy:

 

My mother was a big customer of Spirella in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  But she once used her corset for another reason.  I was born in Bewdley, Worcs, in 1941.  At 3 years of age, my mother put me in ballet class.  One year later came the first ballet exam, requiring regulation pink satin ballet shoes.  Being the war years, nothing was available in the shops.  As I had really small feet, at 75 I am still only a size 5, my mother had the bright idea of taking her corset to a dressmaker to see if she could make some ballet shoes out of the satin side panels of the corset.  Of course, this meant that the corset would be ruined.  The dressmaker was able to make the ballet shoes, I took the exam and passed to go onto a more senior class.  I was dancing until I was 17 and had won many medals and cups, one being at the Sunshine Homes for Blind Children in Birmingham where I placed first in ballet, tap, and Irish dance. 

 

I am 75 now, but the memory of those ballet shoes and the thrill of passing my first exam will never fade. From Bewdley, we moved to Madeley, Staffs, and I remember my Mom being fitted for new corsets every year up until I got married at 22 and left the area, by which time my Mom was living in Burntwood, Staffs, and still buying Spirella in 1963.  Now I live in California, but will never forget that kind and unselfish act from my Mom.

 

I thought maybe this bit of history showing how dedicated my mother was to Spirella and how she had a corset cut up to make my ballet shoes might reach your readers.  As my Mom did not work, and my Dad was a Colliery Manager involving long hours at the pit, especially during the war years, she would save a few shillings each month from the housekeeping money in preparation for ordering her new Spirella corset.  Her name was Nancy, born in 1899, died in 1983.

B. B.

Carlsbad, California

 

 

July 2016:

 

Spencer advertisements had a way with words, and they were rather more candid than would be acceptable today. We have just included one such that we had not seen before: "Have you Bridge-Player's Bulges?"

 

Things always slow down a bit over the summer as people travel or relax in the warmth of the season. This is reflected, as it always has been, in what people wear, however, these days, few women would understand that before the 1970s, one's corsetry would also change with the seasons. Not so much perhaps in Britain where the climate is more constant, but certainly in the USA, Spencer had some very strong, yet lightweight materials for the woman travelling to the southern states. The heavy, corset quality satins and brocades would be exchanged for a lightweight mesh fabric as the classic Spencer advertisements demonstrate.

In one way, it reveals a time when the Spencer swath of materials was at its diverse best. Expensive satins, long-lasting nylons, sturdy brocades and utilitarian coutils vied for the clients' attention alongside delicate lace (available as an overlay only) and the hot weather mesh. Sadly, the latter, although undoubtedly effective, was a rather unpleasant and very unfeminine material. I tried on one once from the collection and, although it performed its task, it was 'scratchy' and my husband killed the moment by commenting that he was not impressed by the sight of "all my bits squashed up."

 

Maidenform ran a series of advertisements in the 1960s along the theme of a young woman dreaming about being in odd locations in her bra or girdle. Actually, these adverts usefully depict what women were wearing as foundation garments in those days, however, we have just encountered a Maidenform advert showing the women in a London Fog with her bra apparently lighting the way. It is quite bizarre for many reasons, not the least of which is that in a London fog there is no wind to blow the woman's bolero away from her body.

 

August 2016:

 

From time to time, we pull out a section of the Ivy Leaf collection. Sometimes this is for research purposes or to answer a reader's enquiry, sometimes as in this case, it is to see if any of the garments might be suitable for the 2017 calendar, for indeed, there will be one. We pulled out all the foundation garments that were branded Spirelette and Coppelia by the Spirella company in the 1960s and 1970s.

We have eleven garments (going clockwise from the top left), a corselette (Spirelette 156 - 1970), a panty-girdle (Spirelette 82 - 1971), a long-line bra (Coppelia 1980s), a very firm girdle (Coppelia 40 - 1969), two firm girdles (Coppelia 41 - 1974), two firm panty-girdles (Coppelia 51 - 1969), an amazingly firm panty-girdle (Spirelette 105 - 1963) and two rather flimsy panty-girdles (Spirelette 104 - 1963). The dates refer to the period during which these garments were described in the Spirella house magazine.

  These sub-brand names were invented to distance the products from the made-to-measure Spirella offerings. The company realised that during the 1960s, girls were less likely to follow the fashions of their mothers, so lighter, ready-made garments were introduced. The problem was that the high street stores sold equivalent models far more cheaply.

In fact, the Coppelia 40 and the Spirelette 105 are far from light-weight. The 105 is boned, zippered and has panels of industrial strength satin elastic. Our model (below) who tried on the girdle in 2011 and 2015 disliked it although she said it might be good for horse-riding. She even had problems walking freely and sitting down so tight was its grip and so rigid the materials.

I have always thought that somebody's poor daughter, having been lulled into a false sense of security by the flimsy 104, might have then ordered a 105 for a little more thigh control. Imagine her distress at the sight and weight of the tourniquet strength panty-girdle.

It has always been a mystery to me how two consecutively numbered models from the same catalogue could be so dramatically different. No doubt a number of poor customers were mystified as well.

During the fitting sessions for the original 2010 calendar, one of our 50-year-old models was accompanied by her mother. This elderly lady confessed to many years of wearing a similar girdle (although it wasn't a Spirelette) when she was in her 30s and 40s. This habit apparently left permanent indentations on her thighs that took many years to vanish.

 

Will there be a 2017 calendar? We certainly have plans although the photo-shoot will not take place until October. We have lined up a couple of models so far and hope to have three or four spread over a wide age range so that corsets, girdles and panty-girdles can be properly represented.

 

Meanwhile, an advertisement was brought to our attention. It concerns a Sears product called 'The Slack Companion'. I know they meant that the girdle in question, a pants liner I believe is the expression, was meant to be worn with slacks, however, referring to any foundation garment as slack is surely an advertising mistake. For some reason, the pants liner, popular in America never made it across the Atlantic to Britain. I wonder why? It seems an excellent garment to wear beneath slacks provided that it is firm enough and definitely not slack.

 

September 2016: Spanx

 

It suddenly occurred to us, probably years after it occurred to everybody else, that Spanx is big business and big news. Sara Blakely's re-invention of the 'g-word' was one thing, but the marketing phenomenon that accompanied the launch would have impressed the executives from the major foundation garment houses of half a century ago. Click on the picture (right) to enter our new web page.

In fact, Spanx is almost becoming a generic term for shapewear in the same way that biro and hoover became generic terms for any ball-point pen or vacuum cleaner. Sadly, although there is a László József Bíró and a William Henry Hoover, there is no Hildegard Spanx which is just as well since it sounds a little bit naughty.

 

The article on Trimjeans has been moved to where it belongs under 'curiosities'.

 

We were in London recently and took the chance to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum's exhibition 'Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear'. Although entry to the V&A is free, the exhibition costs Ł12.50, however, that didn't seem to daunt the customers. Personally, when you consider the vast collection of underwear possessed by the museum, and the space in which they have to display it all, it was indeed a very brief history of underwear. Possibly trying to cover nearly 300 years of male and female apparel was spreading the subject a bit thin, but to display only a few girdles was disappointing. But of course, we're biased.

 

 

October 2016:

 

We have decided to hold two photo-shoots for the 2017 calendar; these have been scheduled for the end of this month. We have been lucky to gain access to the house that we used for the original calendars (2010, 2012, 2013 & 2014) and we will also use the location of the 2016 calendar. Four models are now confirmed.

 

The month has really been dominated by preparing for the calendar photo-shoots. This entails recruiting the models, booking venues, selecting the appropriate garments that fit the models (who rarely can be relied upon to give us correct measurements) and preparing the lights and cameras. Regarding the models, we have found that our amateurs almost always turn out to be larger than they believe. This is not helped by vintage sizes being markedly smaller than today's sizes, let alone the difference between US and UK sizes. We have found from experience that a model claiming to be size 14 can have a waist size anywhere between 28 to 32 inches, sometimes more: "Ooh! That feels a bit tight, I must have put on a little weight recently!" I am of course talking about amateurs here; professionals have to be far more precise and we were delighted that Victoria, who has appeared in the last two calendars was spot on with her measurements.

 

Meanwhile, we have added a small section on how to stop the bones in girdles becoming deformed through repeated removal of the garment. Not a problem for most women these days, but as girdles are making such a comeback, some even with bones, it might be a useful trick to remember.

 

We must apologise for the temporary suspension of the web site that has happened recently. To answer some of your emails that have expressed alarm, there is nothing sinister going on. There has been no web attack and the site is not closing down. We intend to keep the site going as long as our enthusiasm holds strong, however, from time to time some maintenance needs to be carried out and my husband, who understands these things, works as quickly as possible to rectify matters. We are always grateful to those who contact us about missing links or photographs.

 

Lights  ...  Camera  ...  Action

 

November 2016:

 

The calendar shoots have been completed and we are proceeding with the design and layout. Marjorie, the corsetiere, took part as did our young model, Victoria (a scene with Marjorie and Victoria from the 2016 calendar is shown above). Margaret, who has appeared in a few calendars also joined in, but the fourth model is the surprise - none other than Cathie Jung. Cathie and her husband Bob have been in England to visit some old friends and various haunts from previous years. In fact, it has been a bit of a trip down memory lane. They stayed near us and Cathie was keen to join in the calendar photo shoots. As always, we had a great time. There was one particularly hilarious moment when Victoria tried on one of Cathie's corsets and realised that it only went half way around her waist, in fact, she couldn't even get it around her thigh. The corset in question is a gorgeous red satin confection (right) that was made for Cathie by the late Iris Norris. Cathie also showed us corsets from Madame Medeq, Melanie Talkington and Jeroen van der Klis.

 

The main challenge of the 2017 calendar was to accommodate Cathie and her amazing waist into a 1960s themed calendar when not all the models could be in the same place at the same time, but we got some stunning shots. We even got Cathie into the first girdle that she has worn in over 50 years. The making of the calendar is described here.

 

The use of girdles and corsets by smugglers

This unusual title was prompted by this report in a Canadian newspaper:  "According to a Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson, a border officer at Vancouver International Airport pulled aside 23-year-old Miss M. for an outbound currency exam. Through the initial conversation, the officers became suspicious about the purpose of her trip and she was referred for a more in-depth examination. During the second exam, officers came to suspect that she was concealing contraband. Officers then did a pat-down and noticed she was wearing an extremely rigid girdle. The girdle was examined and officers found two and a half  kilograms of an illegal substance. She was subsequently arrested and sentenced to three years in prison."

This is not the first use of a girdle or corset for illegal purposes. We have recounted elsewhere, the money smuggler, the lock picker and the shop-lifter.

 

Cathie and the Corset Lady - 2017 Calendar

The calendar has been sent to the printers and the cost will be as follows:     

 

Ł11 + 2 post & packing = Ł13 for Britain

 Euro 13 + 5 post & packing = Euro 18 for Europe

   $13 + 8 post & packing = $21 for the USA

 

The calendars will be ready for posting by 24th November. Please email us your requirements to  ivyleaf@corsetiere.net and as soon as the calendars are ready, we will send a paypal invoice.

 

Cathy as she has not been seen for a very long time.

   

click on the pictures above to expand them

We have also added a bit about the history of the calendars.

 

       

Victoria in a 1960s Coppelia girdle and wearing a slightly too diaphanous blouse; nice work if you can get it and Cathie does what she does best.

 

Thank you to all those that have reserved calendars. The invoices have been sent out and the calendars have been posted. We wish to emphasise that all profits from the sales of this calendar (and all previous ones) go to charities selected by the models and, once again, we have raised a tidy sum on money this year.

 

 

 

December 2016:

The picture in a hotel that intrigued my husband in April this year has been identified as Brigitte  smoking a cigarette and reading a magazine spread about herself. This was taken on the set of 'Two Weeks in September' (1967). (We found another picture from that same film that the hotel did not display - right).

After the excitement of making the calendar, we are settling into the run up to Christmas and another New Year. There are still a few calendars left and we know from experience that irregular visitors to our web-site will be requesting calendars well into the new year, but we have already covered our costs and a donation has been made to one of the charities.

 

We recently received a lovely letter from one of the purchasers of our latest calendar. It concerns the demise of Jenyns in Australia and we have included a passage from the letter in our Jenyns section and reproduced it below.

"In December 1992, I met with Sister Ann Bryant in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, at the then office and showroom of Jenyns. I recall that it was all in a bit of a shambolic state with Ann Bryant trying to rescue the medical side of the business and with another lady, whose name escapes me, trying to get use of the premises for the retailing of imported brassieres in larger sizes. Neither Lady was interested in the conventional corsetry side of the business and I can still see in my mind the discarded piles of beautiful corsetry strewn all around the premises. I shudder to think what happened to all of that inventory. In short, the business had hit the rocks and was sinking, or had sunk, fast. 

This epistle reminded my husband of a trip to the Hague in the Netherlands in the late 1970s. Taking tram #1 from the centre to Hollands Spoor Station, he noticed a building being demolished on the corner of the Rijswijkseplein. There must have been a corsetry shop there for the workmen had decorated one of the shop front window with dozens of fan-laced Camp corsets. What a waste! Tram #1 also passes the corsetry emporium 'Coja' on the corner of the Geestbrugweg that, thankfully, still exists today although the 'CAMP' sign has been removed.

Since it is now December, we thought that we should share the final pages of last year's calendar. There is only one left and that will be stored in our archives, however, we still have one spare from 2013 and 2014 and , of course, we still have a limited stock of 2017 calendars.

 

 

 

Later that day:  Well that's the 2013 and 2014 spare copies sold!

 

The Millionairess:

 

1960

The television stations seem determined that every film in the five weeks leading up to Christmas must be a Christmas film, however, every so often a non-Christmas film gets through the net and, late one evening, we found ourselves enjoying 'The Millionairess' (1960) with Peter Sellers and the incomparable Sophia Loren. Of course, we all know about the famous corset scene in this film and it provoked a lively discussion between my husband and myself about another corset scene from the TV series 'The Avengers' starring Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg. Did this pre-date or post-date 'The Millionairess'. As it turned out, 'The Avengers' ran from 1961-1969 and Diana Rigg starred as Emma Peel from 1965 - 1968. The corset scene comes from the February 1966 episode 'A Touch of Brimstone' that was banned in America and heavily censored in Britain. The ban was not due to the corset; corsets feature commonly in films of the period, but it was the connotation of Emma Peel's costume (that Diana Rigg designed). The corset, the boots and the spiked collar were one thing, but what was on the minds of the clientele at the Hellfire Club was something else entirely.  

These classic photographs of Miss Loren are very revealing about Italian corsetry, and not just literally. The sultry pose of Miss Loren (left) is well-known to millions, however, the back view is less well regarded. If one does, it is apparent that the corset was never Miss Loren's own, her shoulders that aided her hour-glass figure are too broad for the corset as the diverging eyelets reveal. The corset is so small that even with the lacing fully extended across the top, Miss Loren's flesh is squeezed into two bulges that no corsetičre would ever condone. Presumably Miss Loren wished to breathed during the scene! Nevertheless, when this film was made, many Italian women wore corsets like this, and the diplomatic gatherings and social weddings were populated by typically immaculate Italian women, all beautifully attired and perhaps all breathing with just a little difficulty.

 

Diana Rigg's corset is at least properly laced up the back; it was designed for and by her after all. Oddly enough, in some shots, the corset looks to be made of satin, however, as you can see on the right, it is actually a patterned brocade. Unlike Miss Loren's corset that has a busk-front fastening in the classic style, Miss Rigg's has no entry; one has to be laced into the garment. This is, in fact, not that uncommon. Even Spirella and Spencer made 'no entry' corsets for those women who desired the smoothest of silhouettes.

 

1966

End of Year Message:

 

In October 2016, we passed our 14th anniversary and shortly afterwards issued our seventh calendar. Now as we approach the end of another year, it is always interesting to reflect on what has happened over the last 12 months.

 

We managed to make contact with Lyn Locke early on and intended to travel to America to meet her, however, we lost touch with her during the year and so the journey never came to pass. It was a shame, however, we must respect her wishes for the future that, we believe, do not include her prior involvement with foundation garments. Lyn was kind enough, however, to give us permission to use some images from the old 'Lynlocke' web-site and newsletter that we formed into a tribute page.

 

Maintaining the site has its frustrations: Images vanish and for a while we lost Ivy's Diary for 2009. It was only a search of some old back-up CDs that recovered the missing file. Why does this happen? Fortunately, some eagle-eyed readers are very helpful in spotting these omissions. As always, however, the rewards of keeping up the site outweigh the trivial inconveniences.

 

A visit to hospital put paid to any travelling early on in the year but instead, friends came to visit us and, later in the year this included none other than Bob and Cathie Jung. Cathie volunteered to appear in our annual calendar and, at short notice, we arranged two photo sessions and recruited two of our amateur models and the charming and enthusiastic Victoria. Victoria was bubbling with enthusiasm about her forthcoming wedding and she showed us photographs of her wedding dress that she helped to design; it has a very corset style back. Did we influence her there? The picture of Victoria on the right shows her wearing a 1960s wedding dress (not the one she designed for her own wedding). It was too small for her and we couldn't close the back zipper, but the picture is one of our favourites because it reveals the Axfords corset that she is wearing underneath. We are rather old-fashioned and prefer the style where the bride is completely covered with just her shape to suggest what might lie beneath. Some wedding gowns these days leave little to the imagination.

The photo sessions were as hilarious as always and the calendar has sold well raising money once again for charities selected by the models. We even got Cathie into the first girdle that she had worn in 50 years.

Cathie at lunch between photo sessions. Cathie still needs to eat despite wearing her blue satin, 15-inch waist corset.

 

Victoria has spent quite some time modelling elements of the collection that will, one day, appear in 'the book'. We thought that we would use the picture of her wearing a very 1960s Spirelette panty-girdle and a circle-stitched bullet brassiere for our Christmas card this year.

 

We would like to wish all our readers and supporters a

 

Merry Christmas

and

a Happy New Year