Ivy Leaf's Dairy 2021

 

Happy New Year

 

 

January 2021

 

Happy New Year everybody. Let us be realistic, 2021 is going start out tougher than 2020 but there's light at the end of the tunnel. Keep on moving towards that light.

Unfortunately, for the first time in many years, we have no new calendar to hang on the wall. My husband, however, did a little bit of research and discovered that 2010 has the same dates as 2021 so our original calendar will have to suffice.

It reminds us of the hilarious sessions and photo-shoots that we have enjoyed with our army of amateur models and the lovely Victoria, Moira and in 2016, Cathie Jung.

2021 also has the same dates as 1965, the middle of that amazing decade that would change the world forever.

Let us indulge in a little piece of nostalgia as we show some pictures from the Golden age of corsetry.

 

         

     

Joan Sims laces a grunting Amelia Bayntun into a pair of corsets in 'Carry On Loving' (1970). Were women still wearing corsets then? Yes indeed. Regard the article below from 1969 published in the Spirella house magazine.

 

 

The wedding description below comes from November 1969 and refers to the picture above. Note that even at the end of the swinging 60s, two middle-aged women are wearing corsets and amazingly, so is one woman barely into her 30s although she does look rather stunning! From left to right, the corsetiere wears a 305 corset, what else. The bride's mother wears the complex (and expensive) 325 corset, but she looks like the type that might. The bride, by way of a contrast wears a Spirelette 132 pantie-girdle. The bridegroom's mother wears a Coppelia 44 girdle. These were Spirella's off-the-shelf girdles. Would the bride's traditional mother have approved? Certainly the bride's elder sister, who must be in her 30s is wearing a corset but this is very old-fashioned for 1969. Perhaps the younger bride has fallen for the social revolution that has left her older sister unchanged. I suspect the corset might just be for 'special occasions' only, such as this wedding.

 

An exciting day for the bride and a proud moment for our consultant Mrs. H. of Peterborough. The bride wore Spirelettes 83 and 132 , the bridegroom's mother (on her left), a Coppelia 44 and Modern Line bra; sister of the bride (extreme right of picture) wore a 305 and Fashion Line bra, and (on the bride's right) her mother in a 325 corset and style 72 bra, and Mrs. H. in Spirella foundations 305 and 30. Reports Mrs. H.: "A guest at the wedding became interested in Spirella and ordered a Coppelia girdle and bra. Another guest had a Coppelia girdle and asked me to get her some support stockings." It was Mrs. H. who, in the August issue, explained how she had secured orders while helping out at a funeral.  Is nowhere safe??

 

We really hope that 2021 will see the production of our final calendar for 2022. Let us look to the future with hope.

At some point in the past, we asked for help to identify the lady attending to the Queen Mother in these pictures. On the right they are at a Hardy Amies fashion show in December 1954.

One reader has tentatively suggested that the lady may be Lady Jean Margaret Florence Rankin (née Dalrymple; 1905 - 2001), 'woman of the bedchamber' to the Queen Mother from 1947 until 1994. Can anybody substantiate this? Circumstantial evidence is that Princess Margaret was present at the Hardy Amies show and was a close friend of Lady Jean. By a strange coincidence, Florence Dalrymple was the name of my husband's aunt who ran a draper's shop in Renfrew from which the Ivy Leaf Collection started.

 

The ever expanding book has now reached 269 pages, however, publication will have to wait for a return to being allowed to have guests in one's house again. At the end of last year, I hoped that this might be at Easter but I fear that is extremely optimistic. Our model Moira is only 42 and will not be vaccinated before she moves to Scotland and out of our reach later in the year - if she is allowed to that is.

Nevertheless, there are positives. Being of a certain age, I hope to be vaccinated in February and my husband, being one year younger, in March.

 

 

Meanwhile this piece of whimsy crossed our desks last week.

  

The un-pixelated version of the left-hand picture will appear in the book.

I feel that the Dummies are a bit modern for a book extolling 1960s corsetry.

Never mind '"Zip me up, Darling!"

Any poor women who was persuaded that she was 'Extra Stout' (my Goodness) would have to ask her husband

"Lace me up Darling; I hope you have a few hours to spare!"

 

Our current thoughts on the book are to publish it as is. With a little selective weeding out of unnecessary pages it now stands at 267 pages. The trouble is that every time we go through it to check for errors, it is highly tempting to add a bit more.

 

 

February 2021

 

I have had my vaccination and I expect that my (slightly younger) husband will receive his soon.

 

The book is now with the publisher. There was the usual back and forth email flurry to sort out margins and all the technical minutiae that printers love and writers could hardly care less about. The book has ended up at 264 pages plus the cover and we await the first proof copy. Three pages had to be removed for copyright reasons but this hardly detracts from the content.

 

The draft book has arrived and it looks stunning but it is heavy, weighing in at 1.2 kg. Postage outside the UK will be expensive and to send it across the pond will be prohibitive. Nevertheless, we'll offer the books at cost price plus 10% (for charity) plus postal charges. The books should be printed in about three weeks and we will publish the costs before then. The book is an expanded version of the ring-bound 'What Lies Beneath' and is professionally bound. It looks amazing.

 

   

 

The Book:  Prices and Postage

 

The book started out as a lockdown project to convert our first book 'What Lies Beneath' from Landscape into Portrait format.

During this process, we added 64 new pages and corrected a few errors. The book is very much derived from our web-site but using photographs of our models that never appear un-blurred on the web-site

 

We are only printing 10 copies of the book and because of this, the cost of production was £309.85 that works out at £30.99 per book. Postage to the UK is 3.30, to Europe £12.10 and to the USA (sorry guys) £29.20!!

The models in the book gave their time so that the calendars and books we have produced could be sold for charity, however, I am aware that the cost plus postage is very high particularly outside the UK. Also the pound has strengthened considerably over the past two months.

For that reason we will only add 10% to the cost of the book for charity. Should any purchaser wish to make an additional contribution to charity please feel free to do so. This can be added when you pay the PayPal invoice. So, the bottom line is

 

Total price including post and packing:

 

to the UK  £37.19

to Europe   £46.09

to the USA  £63.19

 

We expect the book to be finally printed in a few weeks after which, we will immediately contact those who have expressed interest.

 

 

March 2021

 

 

The books have arrived, all 10 of them and nine out of the 10 books were paid for almost immediately on receipt of invoice. In view of the interest, we have ordered some more books but not so many as to devalue their exclusivity.

 

 

In September last year, I wrote about a film called Hell Drivers (1957) where an actress, Marjorie Rhodes (1897 - 1979) appears in a substantial surgical corset. Miss Rhodes gained a reputation for playing straight-talking (she was born in Yorkshire after all), down-to-earth, formidable, well-built ladies, exactly the sort who would wear corsets as she undoubtedly did. An appropriate coincidence is that Miss Rhodes was born as Millicent Wise that happens to be the name of a ladies shop in the Stoke-on-Trent area of England. In the late 1950s to the 1970s, they sold corsets at Millicent Wise.

One of the beauties of compiling this web-site is that from time to time, we received fascinating insights into this period. This one comes from the nephew of the real Millicent Wise who ran the corset shop:

 

'Millicent Wise' was the name of a Corsetry, Lingerie and Swimwear retailer based in Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. Originally the business was set up by an Emma Millicent Wise. Her brother Harry, encouraged by his older Sister expanded the business in the 50s. 60s and 70s. Milly continued with one single shop in Hanley, Stoke on Trent trading under the name Miss E.M Wise, City Corset Salon. Harry built his retail business up and at one time had shops in Crewe, Newcastle under Lyme, Tunstall, Hanley, Longton, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Leek and Shrewsbury. The business dwindled over the years for a variety of reasons and eventually he was forced to sell his remaining shops to a company from Leicestershire, which was a manufacturer as well as corsetry retailer, Harwayes that was run by another Harry, Harry Wayte. Harwayes is still trading in lingerie. According to some, the shop 'Millicent Wise' was known as 'Militant Wives'!

 

 

 

The Book

The final copies of the book have arrived and invoices have been sent out to those who have expressed interest.

 

 

April 2021

 

There is a lovely YouTube video by Jessica Kellgren-Fozard who suffers back pain caused by scoliosis. This pain was much relieved by wearing a made-to-measure corset from the company 'Fairy Gothmother'.

 

I have always maintained that the easiest corset to wear and tighten simply has to be a fan-lacer with a busk front and this is exactly what was custom made for Jessica. Ambrose Wilson's V80 corset used this arrangement as well and was popular despite the advertisement's scary description:

A belt for rigorous figure-discipline.

 

 

 

After 15 weeks of hard lockdown, non-essential shops can at last open in England. Pubs and restaurants can serve up to six people in a group but only outside until May 17th. Of course, it's snowing hard after a mild week and we have lunch booked for 1pm - outside of course and the temperature sits at 33oF!

To cheer ourselves up, we dug out the old 2012 calendar, the photo shoots for which were taken nearly 10 years ago. My husband found the running order for the shoot and a page from the book 'What Lies Beneath' shows the outcome. As my husband said at the time "Women do seem to love dressing up!"

If you look at the picture (right), you will notice that the running order did not go quite to plan since for the wedding shot, the plan was for all the models to be wearing M&S girdles. The photos with the dresses must have occurred earlier in the day since Marjorie has squeezed into a Spirelette 105 panty-girdle, Amy wears a Spirella girdle, Madeleine a Spirella 305 and Eileen, a Spirella 325. It looks like the photo was taken just before lunch. In some of the last photos (if you remember that calendar) the models hold glasses full of champagne and that was real champagne. These photo shoots were so much fun!

I remember now that the order of play was disrupted right at the start when Amy was late having been held up in a traffic jam. My husband who was organiser and photographer had to think on his feet and shuffle the schedule around Amy's initial absence, but it worked. Note that Marjorie required, according to the schedule, a corset to fit in the teal satin dress, however, she is obviously wearing a panty-girdle in the photograph.

 

 

What happened, and we have come across this before, is that when the fit is marginal, the bulk of the corset outweighs the attenuation and you are better off with a softer garment over which the zipper can be forced. Sure, the dress will not hang as well, but at least the zipper will close. This reminds me of a friend of my mother who was ordered by her doctor to be fitted with  firm back support. To put a brave face on it she told my mother that she would lose at least one dress size. Sadly, this was not the case as the bulk of the rigidly boned garment added a dress size to the unfortunate woman.

 

These observations have prompted us to develop a new page called 'The Abominable Corset'.

 

We have come across a few curiosities from the 1960s that have been migrated to their proper places in the web-site: Visibility of Underwear and Stockings.

 

My husband and I have recently become what are referred to as 'Double Jabbers' as life slowly returns to some semblance of normality. Sadly, this is not the case in all countries at the moment. Meanwhile, a Spirella consultation that is not going to plan.

 

  

 

 

May 2021

 

The Spirella 325 corset in the picture above right is fashioned in a beautiful orchid material (satin nylon). It was made-to-measure for Bunty (remember her) nearly 20 years ago. It has been modelled by a few of our older ladies that have put on weight over the years that we have been making the calendars.

Amazingly, Bunty has lost five stone, 70 pounds or 32 kilos since those days and the corset is too big on her. For the photograph below taken in 2016 all the lacing was done up tight whereas there used to be a couple of inches gap both front and back. What fun we had then in 2016 when Cathie Jung visited us and joined in the calendar. In the right hand photograph, Marjorie, Bunty and Cathie all wear Axfords reproduction Victorian corsets but of dramatically different sizes. Cathie's 21-inch corset was, of course, far too big for her.

 

   

 

 

Recalling some stories about the boning of corsets and the contrast between the soft, elegant exterior and the hard uncompromising interior as related in Tales:

 

My corsetiere tells me of several clients, whose first act of the day is to don their corsets, and their last act before retiring to take them off again. An old family friend was such a person. This lady was outstanding in her appearance. Although in her 70s, she possessed a slim and elegant figure. Her clothes were her extravagance, old-fashioned, yet tasteful and expensive confections of patterned chiffons and silks. Her hair was like a spun silver web and her stocking seams ruler straight down to her court shoes. Only the complete rigidity of her torso indicated that she was corseted from shoulders to thigh. She made no secret of the fact, and would jokingly say to younger women how Spencer had looked after her figure tapping her unyielding stomach. Her corsets, as one might suppose, were, within the constraints of their functionality, as beautifully, yet conservatively cut as her clothes. The sturdy buckles, straps and bones, almost enhanced the appearance of her stays rather than detracting from it. Presumably these creations were thrown away after she died, as has been the fate of so many ‘collectors' items’. So many elderly women put a ludicrous value on effectively worthless heirlooms, photographs and knick-knacks picked up from so-called antique shops. If only they knew that they might be wearing their most valuable assets!  

 

A wispy old lady in floating chiffons and delicate lace, her hair shone like the spun silk of her favourite dresses. It seemed as though this ephemeral piece of thistledown would blow away in the breeze. It came, therefore as a shock to my husband, the first time he helped her into her chair. Aware as most men are of the softness of the female form, he was struck by the incongruous rigidity and hardness of her frame. I had already seen her corsets on a previous visit and knew what was coming. The poor old dear was anchored to ‘terra firma’ by no less than three pounds of Spencer’s firmest surgical corsets.

 

My aunt was very proud of her erect posture and frequently admonished the younger generation for their dreadful slouching. We all knew that if the younger generation wore corsets like hers, they would have perfect posture as well, but we were far too polite to mention it. That is until one day when she fired off a tirade culminating with “.. look at my ramrod posture.” My son (who would have been about eight at the time) piped up, “That’s because you’ve got ramrods down your back!” “Pardon me, young man. What do you mean by that?” “Every time you bend over I can see two great rods up your back.” I scolded him and told him not to make personal remarks. I explained to my aunt that, indeed, the bones in her corset were quite visible when she bent over. She was mortified that people knew her secret!

 

I think I was a very cute looking boy when I was about 11 or 12 years old, certainly I was the recipient of a disproportionate amount of matronly cuddles, or bear-hugs as I called them. I was fascinated, however, by one elderly relative who looked so fragile that a gust of wind might well have knocked her over, yet her cuddles were painful and hard. Moreover she seemed to have two rods down her back. I asked my mother about this and she mumbled that they must have been bones. I looked perplexed and she added "Bones, you know, bones in her corsets." I then received a lecture on structured foundation garments that left my mother rather red-faced. "Do you wear corsets" I asked. "NO I DO NOT!" she retorted. I had no idea why she was so blunt but she softened and added "I wear what's called a girdle; it has bones to give it shape but not the rigid steels of a corset." So now I knew.

 

   

Doreen (Spirella 325) and Madeleine (a very rare satin Camp) display the engineering that lies beneath the soft silks and satins of their wedding outfits, whilst Marjorie is strapped into a vintage Jenyns dorsal lumbar support with four surgical steels flanking her poor spine.

Wearing the same corset, Victoria reveals the perils of leaning forward.

 

 

June 2021

Colourful Underwear

 

We have a section devoted to this topic, however, we received a fascinating letter just the other day:

 

Nothing shows through white like white!

A white bra WILL show through a white top!

Nothing you can do!
Even back in the 1970s when I was growing up and white blouses were popular, the SMART ones wore beige or pink bras under white tops and when they DID wear white dresses they would wear a panty girdle in  some other colour than white. Even a surprisingly bright colour like yellow can work if done right.

Under white, any colour BUT white or black.

Black CAN work under the brighter reds or purples

 

We learned that the hard way. In our early calendars, we asked the models to wear white underwear. This wasn't too much of a problem since they all wore beige tights under their stockings to smooth their thighs. It was only when we recruited the young Victoria whose thighs were flawless that we realised how much her panties showed through (see picture).

 

Boring Backs

We have lamented this feature elsewhere. Why is it that a girdle, and the Berlei on the left is a classic example, have such pretty fronts and such plain, dull and boring backs? It is a common feature and we commented on it in our French pages. Is it simply that the view in the mirror will look pleasing and the manufacturer can save money on the rear? According to my husband, the rear view of a downstretch satin panel at the back of a girdle is worth the expense but he's an engineer, not a manufacturing accountant. One thing is for certain, the rear bones on the that Berlei are going to show through all but the thickest of fabrics!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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