Ivy Leaf's Diary
We wish all our Readers a Happy New Year
This calendar was produced to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Spirella in Letchworth, UK.
So what is with 1963 and 1964?
1963 has the same calendar as 2013, the cover for the calendar of which is shown on the left. If you bought this calendar, you will remember that February even has the date 1963 on it.
1963 and 1964 were bang in the middle of the Golden Age of Girdles. What year has the same calendar as 1964? You guessed it, 2020. Happy New Year!
Roger K has reminded us of some delightful, politically incorrect advertisements from Warners in the 1960s.
We must apologise for the lack of updates recently, however, like so many of our retired peers, we chose to travel to warmer climes during the British winter but we have now returned to England and look forward to the ever lengthening evenings.
Roger K kindly sent us some pictures that we had not seen before, one of which is displayed on the right (click for full resolution). What is going on here? What are the implications of that picture?
Meanwhile, A lady from New Zealand has sent us some pictures to rectify our neglect (so far) of New Zealand corsetry.
We happened across a couple of advertisements for the famous Formfit Skippies panty-girdle. It shows quite clearly on the left, a slim young woman wearing the said garment and in the text, there's the usual guff about what it can do for you. In the middle is a similar advertisement, however, because it is drawn, the draftsman has taken considerable licence to extend the length of the garment. This always makes the garment look better. Just how many ebay adverts have a wide girdle placed on a slim mannequin with all the spare material clipped round the back out of sight? We all look better with a bit of vertical exaggeration! My husband then tried to fit the real model onto the cartoon and he discovered (I could have told him this anyway) that the top half of the model fits the cartoon almost one-for-one, however, below the bust line, the girdle has to be lengthened considerably and thinned down in the thighs. That's advertising for you.
We do plan to offer some more of the collection for sale, however, this requires quite some delving through hundreds of garments and books and, as with all collections, once you start rummaging, inevitably you come upon an item and you think "Oh dear, I can't sell that!"
Meanwhile. we have come across some pictures of the Abdominal Dr. Wales's corset from the 1960s.
We received this request from a reader:
"Is there anyone out there in any country that can do real restorations on real classic girdles?
I'm asking about bringing them back to factory specification like so many other antiques in the world today.
There would be some re-weaving involved and that would seem a likely niche market for a small loom."
In one of those bizarre quirks of fate, an avid collector sent us a photograph of a French girdle from the 1970s (inevitably featuring blue satin). The quirk was that we had an identical girdle out from our collection. The manufacturer was the JIP company.
We recently became aware of the amazing actress/artist, New Yorker, Suzanne Heintz. Watch this video for yourselves.
Meanwhile, there have been several updates to the more obscure parts of the web-site, one of which refers to Rose Byrne's Spanx that she wore to the Met Gala in 2016. The girdle (let's not beat about the bush here) that she shows off to presenter Laura Brown in an episode of 'Dirty Laundry' is un-boned and un-zippered, however, as a token nod to the panty-girdles of the 1960s, there is detailing reminiscent of the satin panels that used to be such a glorious feature of these garments. One can only encourage this progress.
We hope that everybody is keeping well during these challenging times. Britain is effectively in lock-down apart from essential excursions for food and one period of exercise alone or with one other household member. On the positive side, I have made a list of 'things to do' for my husband on which I forgot to add "Please update the web-site regularly".
5th April 2020:
RIP Honor Blackman (1925 - 2020)
It is always sad to relate the passing of another 1960s icon, Honor Blackman.
She became famous for her role as Dr. Cathy Gale in the Avengers (1962 - 1964). She left that very successful series to play the character of Pussy Galore in the film Goldfinger (1964). Both characters were intelligent, stylish women who were tough and quite capable of looking after themselves, quite a novelty at that time.
In the 1960s, her leather outfits in the Avengers caused quite a stir not usually being seen outside the fetish world. Her leather boots even became the topic of a song 'Kinky Boots'. The outfit enabled Dr. Gale freedom of movement to use her martial arts techniques (another novelty for a woman in the 1960s).
She was at the provocative vanguard of 1960s female emancipation.
Here's hoping that all our readers can enjoy a Happy Easter in these challenging times. Meanwhile, here is a link to Gloria Swanson's description of how she invented the panty-girdle.
Lucy Christiana, Lady Duff-Gordon (1863 – 1935) was a British fashion designer who specialised in lingerie and corsets. She worked under the professional name Lucile. I mention her today since she and her husband survived the sinking of the Titanic 108 years ago this day the 15th April 1912.
We have removed Ivy's Shop. It caused more trouble than it was worth and items for sale are now listed on ebay.
Annie Edson Taylor (24.10.1838 - 29.04.21)
99 years ago today, the remarkable Annie Edson Taylor passed away. On 24th October 1901, she became the first person ever to survive plunging over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Widowed when she was young, she made this desperate attempt to achieve fame and fortune to secure her old age, however, she achieved fame but not the fortune she had expected. The plunge was not a pleasant experience although she survived with only minor injuries. "If it was with my dying breath, I would caution anyone against attempting the feat ... I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon, knowing it was going to blow me to pieces than make another trip over the Fall."
She performed the feat on her 63rd birthday. In those days, 63 was ancient and she was a woman as well. She claimed to be younger at the time otherwise nobody would have helped her in this near-suicidal venture. Certainly, she sports the figure of a much younger woman (left) due no doubt to the mandatory corsets that she would wear. It appears that after the plunge (right) she emerges sans corsets. There are numerous historical accounts of sturdy corsets saving their wearer from injury.
Whatever, well done Annie Taylor who lived to the grand old age of 83 although she attributed her declining health in her final years to the plunge over the falls.
Other news: Kim Kardashian seems to have jumped on the shapewear bandwagon and, although we have related elsewhere that Marilyn Monroe never wore a girdle, perhaps we were wrong.
8th May 2020
I wonder what foundation garment our rather classy first officer Wren might chose? Have a guess for, as it happens, we know the answer.
In these strange times, it is hard to invest any money that one might have to produce a decent return. The banks are awash with government funds and do not want your money. The housing market is dead and stocks have fallen through the floor. However, if you were fortunate enough to purchase a Loveable panty-girdle for $8.00 in 1965, you might expect to receive $125 on Ebay today (at least that's what the advertiser would like and there's plenty of evidence to suggest that $125 is what she will get). My husband informs me that represents an annual return of 5.1%. Not bad!
Mind you, there's a bit of a revival of interest in the humble American panty-girdle at the moment that is not reflected in the value of some unused CAMP corsets that we have just put onto Ebay.
We are developing a new page called Multiple Lacings that attempts to explain why some corsets had two, three and even four lacers to adjust.
"The days are getting shorter once again" shout the lovers of winter, the astronomers and the skiers. I do not like winter or even its approach but we have several months of summer to enjoy yet to go yet. We hope that the pubs and restaurants might be allowed to open for a bit of the socialising that we so badly miss. My husband is a keen astronomer, however, he keeps his delight at the shortening of the evenings (that he assures me starts on 24th June) to himself. We have updated a few pages and were delighted to receive an email from Sarah who wrote about her 'Ghost of Spirella' corset making 14 years ago!
"There's nothing new under the Sun" (taken from Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Whilst performing a regular maintenance of the web-site, my husband connected two pictures: There's the quintessentially British seaside postcard from the 1950s and a still from the series 'My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' (2015 -). Sixty years apart and you still need help to get into that girdle.
It's half-way through 2020 but not halfway through the current crisis I fear. We found some nice modelling photographs in the curiosities sections to cheer you all up.
We have been rather quiet of late; apologies for that but my husband who does all the web-site compilation has been rather ill. He is now recovering well.
Thank you all so very much for your kind wishes.
We came across an item recently that by modern standards almost defies belief. The Beautis Girdle Anchor.
There are many reasons to wear a girdle: support, figure-control and last, but by no means least, to hold up one's stockings. This was in the days before tights (panty-hose). The reverse of the situation was that without stockings, parhaps on a very hot day, the girdle woud have a tendency to 'ride up', that is to follow the diminishing contour of the female form from the hips to the waist. To prevent this you could buy these heavy duty stocking tops and use them to anchor your girdle to your thighs. The modern solution would be to throw away your girdle, but we all wore girdles then!
11th August 2020: Happy 18th Birthday Ivy Leaf
Eighteen years ago, my husband and I started to assemble the Ivy Leaf web-site and we are still at it. Can we get to 20 years? Who knows, the world is not the place it was half a year ago but we live in hope.
Just in case you didn't get it "Women to whom maths is plain are plain; I think not!"
Things are gradually beginning to return to some semblance of normality here in England, however, I think it will be a long time before we can travel internationally once more. Sadly, one of our good friends has just been made redundant from a national airline whose name I will not mention. This reminded me of some articles that I wrote years ago about the perils of flying whilst wearing corsets. I have reproduced a few of these items below:
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 was recounted years ago in a ladys' magazine 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! My mother even related (unconnected with flying) that one of her friends wore not just a tight girdle, a long-line bra and surgical stockings, but arm stockings as well to prevent fluid migration to her wrists. At least, if she ever flew, she would be well protected against deep vein thrombosis. This reminds me of a comment from Ian McRoberts "Her assets spectacularly moulded by layers of elastic. Indeed, the woman in elastic is a formidable sight and not for the faint of heart."
stewardess friend came up with an interesting episode that she heard about on a
flight to Vienna in the early 1980s. Apparently one of the cabin crew noticed
that an elderly woman seemed to be rather uncomfortable and was wriggling around
in her seat. Offers to help seemed only to generate confusion. At last it seemed
that the lady had settled down to some agitated activity under her rug.
Discretely observing the lady in case a doctor needed to be summoned, the
stewardess realised that she had undone the bottom buttons on her blouse and was
trying to unlace her corsets! This Houdini-like activity persisted for five
minutes after which the old lady relaxed with some degree of contentment. Before
landing the stewardess asked the lady if she was feeling better. “Oh Yes”
she was assured “I’m afraid I suffer from wind and I had to loosen off a
Dutch stewardess friend, who has been in the business for 30 years now has never worn
a girdle, nor does she need to, having an enviable figure for a woman in her
late-50s. She added an interesting point last time we discussed this matter,
and remarked that more stewardesses probably wear a shaper (girdle) today than
at any time in the last two decades!
Of course, passing through the airport scanner while wearing steel boned corsets is fraught with peril as our good friend Cathie Jung found out on her return to the USA at the end of 2016. A run in with American customs is the last thing you want after a long haul flight. I wonder when we'll be taking long haul flights again?
We were delighted to be contacted by a fashion expert who informed us that the French labelling on M&S girdles was largely due to the company's decision to market their products in Canada, not specifically France as we had incorrectly assumed. It is very worth while investigating this lady's web-site.
Marjorie Rhodes 1897 - 1979
"Steel these things are .... supports me spine."
The scene is from the film Hell Drivers (1957) when Miss Rhodes would have been 60 years old. Miss Rhodes would have been well used to wearing corsets, however, the scene (above) has a number of peculiarities.
An appropriate coincidence is that Miss Rhodes was born as Millicent Wise that happens to be the name of a ladies shop in Stoke-on-Trent. In the late 1950s to the 1970s, they sold corsets at Millicent Wise.
We take pride in replying to emails by return and we look forward always with great pleasure to hearing readers' stories, recollections and anecdotes. Thus we were horrified to realise just a few days ago, that a number of emails from email@example.com had been automatically dumped into the recipient's junk mail. This might explain why we were disappointed not to receive replies from readers who had asked us questions. In future, if you do not receive a reply to your email within a day, please look in your junk folder. We very much regret that contact with potential purchasers of corsets, girdles and literature may have been lost by the random algorithms that run the internet.
What is going on here? Why is a lady in a fur coat putting on her girdle over a pair of sharp skating boots? Have a look at our Curiosities page.
Once you have looked at that, you will understand why we almost decided to put this into our Girdles in the Movies pages that we have updated so much recently. We would like to thank those readers that have contributed links. Those with sharp eyes will notice a small modification to one of the stills from the film, The Happy Ending. My husband felt that it was more in keeping with the period. Can you find it?
We are often asked how to date foundation garments. Rarely are manufacturers as helpful as Marks & Spencer who dated their girdles in the 1970s with the month and the year of manufacture. They also conveniently changed the label style almost every decade. Without this helpful information, we are left with fabrics, suspender style, zip fastener and elastic quality to name but a few of the key dating items. Regard a reply that I sent recently to an earnest enquirer:
I have done as much research as I can on your corsets and can come up with the following conclusions:
The fact that the elastic is lycra puts an earliest date on the corsets to the early 1960s. Jenyns was acquired by Sister Bryant in 1992 after which no more corsets were made and she sold off the deadstock with her name crudely marked beside the Jenyns name inside the corset. In fact, few fan-laced corsets were manufactured after the 1970s as their corset wearing clientele diminished and they concentrated mainly on bras. Since the style of corset remained unchanged during this period, this gives no clue as to the date.
The suspenders are very much 60s and 70s style since they don't have the central metal pin. The material gives us the best idea. Like Spirella, as the clientele diminished, so did the fancy materials, the figured brocades and satins. It appears that your corsets have a nice patterned material and perhaps one of them has a sheen and may be a classier brocade or figured cotton. Basically, the better the material, the more likely the corset is from the 1960s; the plainer materials would come from the 1970s.
In the pictures I sent you, the satin, the rubber-based (non-lycra elastic) and the old-style suspenders date those corsets to the 1950s [Jenyns satin corsets]. I have bought and sold those satin corsets on ebay and the usual price is around £80 - £90. I would estimate that your corsets would fetch a bit less than that but there's been few of these corsets on ebay for a while and you might be lucky if you wanted to sell them.
I hope this helps you and thanks once again for your enquiry.
A reader kindly sent us a Spirella advertisement that, I think, encapsulates the demise of Spirella. This page was originally entitled, the demise of the corset, but in retrospect, I believe that the corset and, indeed, the lower foundation garment is alive and well, it was the demise of Spirella, a company for which the revolution of the 'swinging 60s' sounded the death knell.
|What a weird year! In Britain we had three months of
lockdown, then partial lockdown, then a resumption of many social
activities followed by a second lockdown. Sadly, this means that there
will be no calendar for 2021. It is very frustrating since to hold any
sort of photo-shoot would break so many of the recently imposed,
contradictory, obscure and pointless regulations that we could end up
with a fine of £10,000.
Our favourite model, Moira (who graces the cover of our book), will be leaving the area next year and we hope to engage her services before she leaves. Meanwhile, since we are confined to home, I have asked my husband to undertake the Herculean task of converting the book from landscape to portrait format. This will make publication easier and we will be able to add extra sections. Mind you, the last time we had that sort of plan, it took several years to get around to acting on it.
Six days later:
I can hardly believe it. I never nag my husband but from time to time, I will remind him that the leaking tap in the guest room might be repaired. I do this every three months or so with little hope of any response. Imagine my surprise when five days after I mentioned that he might fill the long lockdown moments with converting the book to portrait format, he did. It runs to 208 pages rather than the 202 of the original book and it now needs some attention to detail but, to use a very English phrase, I'm quite flabbergasted.
The missing girdle. It is our opinion, and also that of the late Lyn Locke, that one of the best ever panty-girdles was the Young Smoothie 1068. We have one in the collection; it was very expensive, it is unused and will be the focus of our attention when we can get our models back to a photo-shoot once again. Had we purchased this girdle new in 1965 compared to its auction value today, it would have represented a 5% annual return, so imagine our dismay when I dispatched my husband to the loft to seek out this garment and he could not find it. He searched through every piece of the collection twice and returned down-hearted and mystified. We traced back our movements until the last time we saw the girdle and remembered that it had been in the guest room with several others so that it could be photographed. We removed the girdles when we had workmen in the house for a few days. Using laser-like female logic, I suggested that the girdle must still be in the guest room and may have slipped down the back of the chest of drawers and, to our delight, there it was, slightly dusty but unharmed. It will feature in the book, hopefully modelled by Moira. By the way, the book has now expanded to 230 pages.
1950s Re-enacting. There's a lovely American lady, Sage Lilleyman, who likes re-enacting the 1950s; she has several videos on YouTube. There is a charming sequence showing her zipping up her girdle, putting on a slip and finally a very 1950s dress with a side zipper. What is quite apparent is that the girdle is a little big for her since she pulls up the zip without first closing the hooks and eyes. At one point, she tries on a skirt with a smaller waist than the girdle and she has to remove the girdle to get into her skirt. This sounds counter-intuitive. Girdles and corsets add bulk, however, if correctly fitted, they can re-distribute the flesh (it cannot be compressed) and then the dress purchased or made to fit the girdled or corsetted figure. The problem with re-enacting is that you can only use what you find second-hand. In 2011, when making our annual calendar, we encountered the same problem. We got our model, Marjorie (who features in the book) into a black satin Spirella corset and she looked fantastic. However, the teal satin dress was just too small for the corset and Marjorie had to take off the corset so that the zipper of the dress could be closed over her malleable flesh. The dress now hung poorly, something we disguised by the coat. In an ideal world, the dress would have been cut to fit the corsetted figure but re-enactors do not often have that luxury.