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 As somebody famous once said "There's nothing less saleable than an out of date calendar", but if that calendar contained some of the best and unused pictures from the last eight years and reduced the dates to two strips down the side of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 (nťe Demeijer b. 1948).
In April and December 2016, we commented on an arresting black and white photograph of Brigitte Bardot wearing a guÍpiŤre (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. "Itís
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 donít 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 didnít really like our neighbour, who she regarded as a bit Ďracyí, 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 "Iím 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.