Ivy Leaf's Diary
Wishing all our Readers a Happy New Year
Another year begins and what will it bring? Another calendar is a possibility but in some ways I think we have exhausted the possibilities here. However, one reader suggested that we create the missing 2011 edition. As somebody famous once said "There's nothing less saleable than an out of date calendar", but if that calendar contained some of the best and unused pictures from the last eight years and reduced the dates to two strips down the side of the page, perhaps it might sell. As you can see from the pictures on the right, the idea of this calendar has been in our minds for some time.
As always we will, thanks to our readers, pass on what snippets of information they share from time to time. Work on the book will probably progress in fits and starts as it did last year, but we took the opportunity when Victoria modelled for the calendar to take some pictures of her wearing elements of the collection (right).
Our fleeting contact with Lyn Locke last year was a sad reminder of what we missed when Lyn and Mike ran the Garters & Lace events.
Here is a curiosity
that I came across recently. I read the following sentence in a novel:
"She was about fifty, overweight and corseted, with the manner of a
headmistress." Not an unusual sentence until you realise that the book
was written in 1996. I suspect that the author implied that the woman's
shape was obviously the result of firm undergarments, possibly of the sort
It reminds me of the
following excerpt: "I was expecting
someone about sixty with tinted hair, an enamelled face, tight corsets, like a sort
of toughened up Queen Victoria." This is a quote from John Wyndam's
book, 'The Trouble with Lichen'. In this case, however, the book was
published in 1960 when some older women certainly did wear corsets.
It reminds me of the following excerpt: "I was expecting someone about sixty with tinted hair, an enamelled face, tight corsets, like a sort of toughened up Queen Victoria." This is a quote from John Wyndam's book, 'The Trouble with Lichen'. In this case, however, the book was published in 1960 when some older women certainly did wear corsets.
An Italian reader kindly sent us a link recently to an excellent site www.ellicorsetteria.it that still produces traditional girdles from its 'Linea Alta Compressione' (High Compression Line - right). It is heartening to know that today, as always, there are Italian women who take care and pride in their dressing and appearance. The panty-girdle illustrated is a good attempt: the shiny nylon front panel harks back to the days of real satin panels, there is a zipper and decent boning. Well done the Italians. My husband, ever the car enthusiast, commented that 'Alta Compressione' might be a suitable name for Alfa Romeo's latest offering, the Guilia. He went on in this theme "The Alfa Romeo Guilia Alta Compressione driven by an immaculate and expensively attired Italian beauty, very shapely of course thanks to her Ellicorsetteria underpinnings. Like her car, she is very stylish, very fast, but possibly a tad unreliable. She would not turn up on time." My husband adds that the motoring press are very fond of Alfa's new offering; the car that is, not the imaginary woman.
Other Italian sites with many bras, girdles, corselettes and panty-girdles are Venus Corsetteria, Iber Corsetteria (est.1890), Every, Alba and Ghifer Corsetterias. The Alba for Fashion website is particularly stylish (left); how very Italian.
We are currently receiving a large volume of data on Italian foundation garments both modern and vintage. We have created a new page, Modern Italian Foundation Garments, to hold the plethora of images whilst traditional foundation garments are still retained on a greatly expanded and revised Italian page.
We must apologise for the lack of recent updates, however, we have been indulging in the retired persons' privilege of travelling to warmer climes during the northern hemisphere winter. Tomorrow we will take the 14 and a half hour, long-haul flight back to Britain and begin the task of catching up with 'normal' life, updating the web-site and a hundred and one other tasks, the absence of which make holidays so enjoyable - up to a point.
A few small items of interest I read in a book published in 1954 by Molly Lefebure 'Murder on the Home Front'. This is a true account of a secretary who worked for a pathologist during the war and she comments:
I could never get them [detectives] to appreciate the difference between a corset and a roll-on. But perhaps it didn't really matter."
"But my missus, she's always last, she takes a long time to dress. You see, she wears one of these ;ere abominable belts and it takes quite some time to put on." By 'abominable belt I realised he meant an abdominal belt. But, when all is said and done, abominable is, I should think, a pretty good name for them. This describes preparations to get into the garden air raid shelter. It is interesting to note that with bombs about to drop, the lady still takes time to get into her corsets. A similar episode is recounted in Gerald Durrell's excellent book 'My Family and Other Animals' (1956) where their house in Greece catches fire and they flee the building, his mother with her corsets fastened over her nightie. If you have worn corsets all your life, it is extremely uncomfortable to perambulate without them, bombs and fire notwithstanding.
In response to an examination question about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, a student writes: "Many a night-watchmen has come to an untimely end whilst sitting in his hut gazing pensively at a red hot brassiere."
We have been in correspondence with a lady from Chile regarding the provenance of an 'antique' corset. It is labelled 'GROSS SUPPORT'. This is a trade name, not a description of the unfortunate wearer. I have reproduced our conversation together with the photographs that she sent of the corset in question. I can find no details regarding Gross Supports other than a short piece I wrote years ago. It appears to be an Australian brand judging by the label. Can anybody help?
Just a little curiosity. We recently came across a Spirella advertisement in the form of a calendar for 1939. By chance, the days and dates are the same as for 2017.
An interesting picture that reveals the structure underneath some of the 1960s Dioresque ball gowns, reminded me years ago of a St. John's Ambulance nurse who was called to attend a Royal garden party. She was amazed at the contrast between the floating silks and chiffons of the costumes with the rigid bones and brocading of their underwear that had caused some of the ladies to feel 'poorly' in the heat and stress of the gathering. We recounted a similar tale elsewhere.
The erudite Roger K has recently delivered his usual list of omissions and errors for which we are always very grateful. We do make mistakes because we are human, however, in cyber-space some little gremlin seems to remove pictures at random. Please let us know if pictures are missing. Roger alerted us to an excellent YouTube video from Lucy's Corsetry. If you want to buy a corset, you should look at Lucy's comprehensive and interactive guide.
From time to time, we come across one of our web pages that has not caught our attention for a number of years. The page on weddings as seen from the Spirella point-of-view is a case in point. It used to have a neat feature where you had to guess what the women in the wedding photographs were wearing underneath their fancy clothes. By clicking on the picture, an answer would be revealed. Alas, no more. Whatever 'improvement' to our computer that Microsoft has deemed necessary in the last few years has rendered this feature (dynamic HTML so my husband tells me) obsolete. No wonder the threat of an 'upgrade' or a 'new operating system' brings strong men close to tears. To circumvent this irritating development, probably couched under the heading of 'improvements', we have simply created a new page called answers (the link is on the weddings page). Here is displayed the original articles straight from the Spirella magazines of the 1960s describing exactly what lies beneath.
Spring has Sprung
The Vernal Equinox is behind us and we are officially in Springtime. Shame about the torrential rain and temperature (40F). Confined to the house, we have decided to catalogue our entire collection of corsetry brochures, catalogues and books. This has been prompted by an Italian collector of such items who is looking to trade. We may well publish the list to see if anybody out there would like some original material.
Meanwhile, we came across a rather charming picture of a lady in her girdle peering discretely through the lace curtains. It reminded us of a similar picture that we took in 2011 whilst making the 2012 calendar. Here the lady in her tight corsets peers hopefully through the window. What are they looking for? Mr. Right no doubt. In reality, the lady on the right did find her Mr. Right shortly afterwards.
We came across an interesting advertisement from Triumph of Germany. We have described it in detail on the Triumph page.
|Another interesting discovery was that during the (first)
heyday of the rubber girdle in the mid-1920s, Spirella had jumped on the
bandwagon as well and was marketing rubber girdles. Regard the article on
It is apparent that the fitter has tried these girdles but prefers her 4035 (conventional fabric girdle) and, of course, proper corsets for steady wear.
April 2017: Catalogue of Catalogues
We have recently completed an audit of all the literature that we have gathered over the years. My husband has made a spreadsheet that can be found on this link. We have prepared this so that if there are any collectors out there that are missing specific catalogues or brochures, please let us know. Some of the items we will donate freely, others we may put on Ebay; the best and most expensive due to rarity, condition or both, we will keep or donate to the appropriate museum. We can be contacted as always at
It used to be said that New Zealand and Tasmania were a bit like the Britain of 50 years ago, however, we know New Zealand and it is bang up to date. This is probably good for the younger generation, however, for nostalgia buffs it is a disappointment. We have never visited Tasmania but I suspect it has been pretty well modernised too. It was, therefore, with a mixture of surprise tempered with sadness that we learned recently about the retirement of a long-time corsetiere in 2014, Mary Jackson (née Demeijer b. 1948).
In April and December 2016, we commented on an arresting black and white photograph of Brigitte Bardot wearing a guępičre (basque). We have added another photo there from the same film "Two Weeks in September".
Whilst adding a few more cartoons to the website, we came across a poor resolution copy of a large lady asking "Have you one that stretches more than two ways?" in response to an advertisement of a two-way stretch girdle. Well, Playtex had the answer with its seven-way stretch Golden Girdle. Not only that, they used the character of an airline stewardess to promote the girdle.
So here's a challenge for you whilst we are on the subject of stewardesses and girdles.
Regard the four pictures (enlargeable) on the right. What story do they relate in the 1960s? Well obviously, there's an airline stewardess looking lovely in her uniform blouse and pencil skirt revealing just a hint of petticoat. Of course she is wearing a girdle; we all did then.
Once at the destination, her colleague enjoys the comforts of a well-earned rest in the five-star hotel before heading for the beach.
Tear your eyes away from the stewardess, the outline of the brassiere, her seamed stockings and the silky nightie, this is an advertisement for the carpet!! Yes. You can just make out the the girls are standing on a carpet made by the Chemstrand Corporation in 1960. I would love to meet their advertising manager.
In our researches, we sometimes come
across cartoons that remind us of incidents that we have witnessed or of which
we have been reliably informed. Ten years ago in Ivy's Diary of 2007, we
published an excerpt from an article in a ladies magazine. "It’s
common for airline passengers to kick off their shoes at the start of the flight
only to find that their feet have swollen by the end and the shoes don’t fit.
This is simply fluid migration and nothing to do with pressure, however, it is
recounted that the fear of pressure caused one old biddy, unused to flying,
enquiring of her travel agency whether the pressurisation would cause her arms
and head to swell up after take-off since the rest of her body was confined by
surgical stockings, corset and long-line bra! "
The cartoon on the left
demonstrates a similar effect when wearing one of today's more powerful shapers.
An exaggeration as are most cartoons, but in reality, you cannot compress the
human body that is mainly water, all you can do is to re-distribute it.
The cartoon on the left demonstrates a similar effect when wearing one of today's more powerful shapers. An exaggeration as are most cartoons, but in reality, you cannot compress the human body that is mainly water, all you can do is to re-distribute it.
Another article that we wrote in 2003 concerned an arresting sight in the garden. "The lady next door is a frail, wispy 90-year-old, but 35 years ago, when I was starting university, she must have been 55. My mother didn’t really like our neighbour, who she regarded as a bit ‘racy’, moreover, her daughter had recently been divorced. In those days, divorce was quite rare and confined to the stars of Hollywood, not London suburbia. Certainly, one habit of this lady of which my mother strongly disapproved, came to light one hot afternoon in 1969. Our ancient gardener was tending the roses when he suddenly stopped still, and remained immobile gazing through the roses across the fence. My mother thought that perhaps he was having a seizure until she followed his light of sight. There was our neighbour watering her own plants attired in long-line bra and a waist-slip beneath which her pantie-girdle was clearly visible. My mother tut-tutted vigorously and the gardener guiltily averted his gaze." I think the cartoon on the right covers this one.
We have added a section on the Realform girdle company, not because we know much about it but because of a fascinating article from the Akron Beacon Journal.
We received a very interesting email from Rachel Bichenor who has compiled an encyclopaedic blog concerning women in motor racing: Speedqueens. She reports that Dorothy Levitt, one of motoring's early pioneers, did not wear corsets but claimed to have a natural 16-inch waist. I find that unlikely unless she was particularly diminutive and photographs of the period suggest otherwise. What do you think?
||An interesting Spirella card came to our notice recently (left). It is in French, however, Spirella never had factories or offices in France. It is, of course, from that Francophone area of Canada, Quebec. Such cards are always interesting in that one can look up the actual address and see what sort of house the lady occupied. Was it classy; was it run down or was it, as were the vast majority, a standard middle class affair? If one comes across a garment that has the corsetiere's or client's address on a label or a bag, one can then relate the garment to the lady that lived there, and by the power of Pegman and Google maps (below) we can see that somewhere in Herne Hill, SE London, the occupier of this house wore this actual laced-back corselette back in the late 1960s.||
|My husband is a great fan of the 'Carry On' genre of films.
I do not share his enthusiasm, possibly because of my Dutch background,
however, I came in to the lounge at the end of the film
'Carry on Loving' (1970) to
witness quite an enthusiastic custard pie fight. I wondered if the pie fight
in 'The Great Race' pre- or post-dated this
version. It predated as it happens for 'The Great Race' was released in
1965. To be fair, I found the 'Carry On' pie fight a poor relation to that
in the 'Great Race', not least because of the amazing score by Henry
Mancini, but it is an interesting coincidence that two films should feature
both corsets and custard pies. I suspect that is the only reason that
Natalie Wood and Amelia Bayntun might be mentioned in the same sentence.
Amelia Bayntun (1919 -1988) wears a Spirella corset in 'Carry on Loving' that the company supplied and Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) wears a pink silk confection in the 'Great Race' that Spirella definitely did not make.
||In our quest for new material,
we came across two cartoons that, at some point we will drop into the
cartoon page. These two are slightly different
from the usual English seaside humour often referred to as 'toilet humour'.
The cartoon on the left is nearly self-explanatory, however, the text is rendered in both French and Dutch and they are not translations of each other although they fit the cartoon. The French translation is "I’m certain that he will not be able to resist!" and the Dutch version says "He will not think of another." How strange.
On the right, I'm sure a psychiatrist could write a thesis on all the hidden meanings present in both the cartoon and the caption. The artist responsible was the amazingly talented Fred Spurgin (1842 - 1911). He drew everything from the patriotic during World War I to the most ribald depictions of the stout lady at the seaside. Whatever his choice of subject, his sense of humour was always close to the surface.
Can anybody help us to determine from which Marx Brothers film this scene occurs? Groucho appears to be adjusting Margaret Dumont's corsets with a sword or dagger.
Wishing all our American readers a great Independence Day
|On two occasions (repeated
below) we have made reference to people confusing the words 'abdominal' and
'abominable'. Some corsets were, indeed, abominable but abdominal is the
correct term. We never thought however, that we would find a cartoon
expressing exactly this mistake.
formal dinner, a retired major discovered that the lady on his left was a
Spirella corsetičre. The lady was used to the stilted effect that such
revelations could have on subsequent conversation, however, the major
volunteered that his wife, "The old Memsaab" as he called her, wore
abominable corsets to hold in her tummy. "I think you mean abdominal" the
corsetičre replied. "Exactly!" retorted the major, "That's what I said."
At a formal dinner, a retired major discovered that the lady on his left was a Spirella corsetičre. The lady was used to the stilted effect that such revelations could have on subsequent conversation, however, the major volunteered that his wife, "The old Memsaab" as he called her, wore abominable corsets to hold in her tummy. "I think you mean abdominal" the corsetičre replied. "Exactly!" retorted the major, "That's what I said."
"But my missus, she's always last, she takes a long time to dress. You see, she wears one of these 'ere abominable belts and it takes quite some time to put on." By 'abominable belt I realised he meant an abdominal belt. But, when all is said and done, abominable is, I should think, a pretty good name for them." 'Murder on the Home Front' by Molly Lefebure (1954).
At the back of my mind, I had always associated Gossard with the Wonderbra, however, an article I read recently described the history of the Canadian Lady Corset Company. Moses (Moe) Nadler, founder of the Canadian Lady Corset Company, licensed the trademark for the Canadian market in 1939. By the 1960s the Canadian Lady brand had become known in Canada as 'Wonderbra, the company'. In 1961 the company introduced the Model 1300 plunge push-up bra. This bra became one of the best-selling Canadian styles and is virtually identical to today's Wonderbra. These bras have been sold in the UK since 1964 under license by the Gossard division of Courtaulds Textiles. This licence was not renewed in the 1990s. This now explains the association of Gossard with the Wonderbra; such is the power of advertising that Gossard sprang into my mind not the Canadian Lady Corset Company. Wonderbra also manufactured the Wonderbra Winkie panty-girdle that rightfully can be found on our Strange Names page.
On the subject of brassieres, and to be frank, this site is predominantly devoted to the girdle and corset, we came across some advertisements for Pulmonet, the famous German manufacturer of times gone by. The wistful look of their brassiere model really took my husband's attention (left). Their panty-girdle advertisement has been placed on our sporting pages.
Talking of panty-girdles, Twilfit in the 1960s showed models in their lasted foundation garments "Join the Freedom Movement". This was powerful stuff in the 1960s: The Freedom Movement was the shout of the late 1960s generation who were actually echoing the Merdeka cry of the Far Eastern countries as they tried to break free from colonial rule after the Second World War. Breaking free from the girdle into the panty-girdle was small stuff compared to Merdeka but the social consequences would be felt around the world (at least that part of it that wore foundation garments).
Regarding freedom from constricting foundation garments (very much a late 1960s phenomenon unlike the 2000s move back into foundation garments) we found a couple of advertisements ostensibly aimed at the younger wearer. On the right, Ambrose Wilson proudly proclaim in the early 1960s "The belt for moderns". How quickly that would change.
|Recently we have added a substantial number of cartoons, however, from time to time we find one that we don't really understand. The cartoon on the right by Bamforth (1842 -1911 - the classic British seaside postcard cartoonist) is simply a man peering round a door and seeing a lady (his wife?) dressed in her underwear. The comment is "Rubber".||I'm sure the man is not referring to the material of her corsets, so presumably they are partners in a bridge game that has completed a rubber (end of game session) and she was dummy (the non-playing partner). Is he asking her back to the table? Is she suggesting an alternative form of entertainment? Any suggestions would be welcome.|
We have added a short section on Axfords corsets that we would like to enlarge in the future.
Very Pertinent Cartoons
We have always avoided dabbling in politics and we are not about to begin here. However, I would like to draw your attention to a couple of political cartoons drawn by that master of his craft, James Gillray (1756 - 1815). He was probably the first political cartoonist and he lampooned the 'celebrities' of that time including King George III. Amazingly, his cartoons are particularly relevant today. Do we learn nothing from history?
In the news this morning, the Bank of England once again bleats that borrowing has reached unacceptable levels. They bleat but they do nothing; isn't that symptomatic of our times. The cartoon on the left in this case is so appropriate. In the middle, France is trying to re-shape Britain. In the light of Britain's departure from the EU, not least because of the intransigent views of the French, this is again most apposite. Britannia in French Stays, or Re-Form, at the Expence of Constitution was published by Gillray on January 2, 1793. Thomas Paine, author of the influential The Rights of Man is shown forcibly tightening the laces on Britannia's stays. Before Paine became a political pamphleteer, he was reputed to be apprenticed as a stay maker in his father's shop in Thetford as the sign behind him suggests. The alternate spelling of Paine's name on the sign may be another pun, pointing to the discomfort already being endured as Paine tries to re-shape Britannia in the French mode. On the right, we see a similar cartoon on the subject of tight-lacing: Fashion Before Ease, or a Good Constitution Sacrificed for a Fantastick Form. Gillray, like many cartoonists, often found multiple captions for a scenario.
Gillray was no stranger to the world of the boudoir.
I'm surprised that she can sit in those stays.
A reader kindly sent in these photographs of a Spirella badge. There is a Tudor or King's Crown on the front with embossed on the back 'C.C.C' 1938.
We are at a loss to understand what this represents. Can anybody help us?
The only royal event that I could connect with this badge was that the Badge of the House of Windsor, as approved by King George VI, was changed from the St. Edward's Crown to the Tudor crown in 1938.
We attended a garden party recently. It was nothing special and really quite informal, however, possibly misunderstanding the invitation, a younger lady had really dressed smartly in a suit (dress and jacket), tights and heels. She felt a little out of place at the beginning but soon the compliments and the wine relaxed her. There was just one problem that perhaps only myself and my husband noticed. The dress that was a little tight showed her bra line, her bulging midriff and then her panty line. Oh for a decent girdle and bra, even a modern one piece shaper would have made such a difference but does anybody really care these days. Well judging by the number of celebrities wearing Spanx, some certainly do.
I blame it all on the 1970s and 1980s. Foundation garments, other than bras, were consigned to the dustbin and so a generation lost the understanding of what these garments could do for a girl. I came across a picture of some guests at a wedding in 1982 that I have put on the Corset Detectives page. Little detection is needed; you can bet that bras, tights and knickers (some a little firmer than others) would be the order of the day. The women were smartly dressed, but in that flowery, polyestery, loose-hanging style that disguised their lack of proper foundation wear.
Oddly enough, at the same location as the garden party, there was a Georgian re-enactment going on last weekend. Many characters were wearing 'stock' fancy dress that did not look too bad on the men, but fitted poorly on the women. There was, however, one exception. This lady's dress fitted perfectly and without showing any detail of her under-pinnings, there was obviously a decent corset involved. Engaging the lady in question she confessed to being an enthusiastic re-enactor favouring the 1930s rather than earlier periods, but, indeed, she had spent many hours constructing her stays for the period costume that she had also made herself. She fully understood how a foundation garment shapes the body and the clothes then fit the shape. While I was thinking that such a lady would be an asset to our calendars (if we ever produce another one), we received a phone-call from Cathie and Bob Jung; always a pleasure, but what a coincidence.
We have felt for a while that the cartoon page had become a bit of a jumble and so we have spent some time trying to get the images into order. We hope you like it.