Ivy Leaf's Dairy 2022

 

Happy New Year

 

 

January 2022

 

Unfortunately, there is no Ivy Leaf calendar for 2022 and the year with the same dates, 2011, also lacked a calendar although that was the year that we took all the photographs that would populate the 2012 (my favourite) and 2013 calendars.

 

21st November 2011

 

 

August 2022 will represent the 20th anniversary of this web-site and we intend to give Ivy Leaf a rest if not a total retirement.

 

The Ivy Leaf Collection comprises the following:

  • The web-site of 600Mb and 30,000 files.

  • The Ivy Leaf data base of nearly 50Gb and 45,000 files.

  • The library of 100s of magazines, books and brochures including the Spirella house magazine from 1958 - 1971.

  • 100s of brassieres, corselettes, panty-girdles, girdles, corsets, surgical corsets and fitting garments.

  • Dozens of costumes, uniforms and accessories that were used in the making of the calendars.

We very nearly found a buyer for the entire collection 18 months ago, but like so many of these contacts, it fizzled out.

If you have deep pockets and enthusiasm, we are open to offers for the collection as a whole (including the web-site) or in part.

Regarding the library, we would happily donate that to any institution of higher learning that specialises in fashion.

 

 

Blasts from the Past

 

 

Back onto the subject of PowerNet, we are most grateful to those readers who have helped us to add to our collection of these newsletters.

As far as we know, Lyn Locke and her partner Mike issued these newsletters from November 2001 (Vol. 1) to July 2007 (Vol. 68). OK, I know the mathematicians amongst you will realise that July 2007 should be volume 69 but May 2006 carried no volume number.

 

We are missing:

vols. 1 - 4; 6 - 11, 19, 20, 23, 25, 49, 64 - 67 and any others that were published after July 2007. Please can you help to fill in the gaps.

Also if you are still in contact with the models from the Garters & Lace conventions: Judith Diane, Angela, Doris and the rest, please could you let us know.

 

WOW!! Thank you so much to the reader that replied to our request almost by return and sent us eight missing copies.

We now have a complete set from February 2002 to October 2007. Also we have discovered that although Mike stopped editing the newsletter in September 2007, Lyn continued into 2008 but not every month. A fundamental change occurred in April 2005; this is covered in Lyn's secret page.

 

Albert's Avenue

 

Connoisseurs of the LISA web-site and Albert's Avenue will recall the stunning Annalai.

Our recent association with Annalai came about when Albert contacted us to mention that a picture of Annalai had appeared on our web-site. We apologised, since we had dumped a bundle of photographs onto the site to illustrate the beauty of satin without checking the copyrights involved.

Both Albert and Annalai kindly gave us permission to use the photograph and, knowing our interest in girdles, even added a few photographs of Annalai wearing a Bestform panty-girdle over her corset. We have created a new page dedicated to Annalai.

 

 

Thinking about this period, there are so many cine films on the internet that we peruse from time to time in an indulgence of 'rose-tinted spectacles'. Looking at weddings, for example, the style changes from the 50s to the 70s are profound. We touched upon this last year in the diary. Within the space of less than two decades, the matron on the left, so well controlled in her Spirella 305 corset, would briefly embark into girdledom before donning a  flowery pair of elastic nothings in the late 1960s. This all lies underneath, however, the surface appearance tells the same story. Petticoats, silks and bell skirts in the 50s, pencil skirts, satins and bullet bras in the 60s then drop-waists, crimplene and elastic knickers in the 70s.

Oh Dear!

 If you ever doubted that women wore corsets in the 1960s, regard the article from the Spirella house magazine of October 1967. The attractive woman wears a corset, the redoubtable Spirella 305.

Below we see the styles about which we are talking beautifully displayed by Mary O'Brien (Dusty Springfield), Helen Shapiro and Alma Cogan.

  

 

 

February 2022

 

What an amazing flood of correspondence has come our way in 2022.

A lady has just contacted us from Worcester, Massachusetts about the corset industry that used to thrive there. A web-site has been created and very interesting and informative it is too.

 

 

We are now missing:

vols. 1 - 4; 64, 66, 71and 72 plus any others that were published after February 2008. Please can you help to fill in the gaps.

 

 

Regard this beautiful picture from the early 1960s. The flared skirt with the petticoat is giving way to the pencil skirt and the fitted dresses. I always felt that the flared skirt was a boon for the lass with overly large hips; who would notice, you didn't even have to wear a lower foundation garment (horror!). Who would have guessed that within a few years the world order would change. No longer would girls dress like their mothers. Girdles and suspender belts would be thrown away. Even one's brassiere was discarded, a folly that would haunt those emancipated women in later life as they would try to retrieve their fallen bosoms from the region of their umbillicus.

 

 

 

The announcement of our retirement or semi-retirement brought forth many kind words and some surprising offers. It even made us think whether we were premature in our plans. Whatever happens, it allowed us to make contact with a fascinating German model who started a YouTube channel, "Anna Bellement" half a year ago (left). She is enthusiastic about feminine clothing styles of the 1950s, corsets, retro underwear and fashion trends. Her YouTube channel echoes our love of the 1950s-60s shapes and the foundation garments that created them. The channel is very professionally produced. We have started a page showing some of Anna's 1950s and 60s styles. On the left, Anna wears a Triumph Doreen bra, I mean what else would a 60s girl wear?

Very kindly, Anna has mentioned our web-site on her latest YouTube video (around 4:30 of this 10 minute video), 'Dressed like a 1950s top-notch secretary in vintage inspired office outfit'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RIP  Doreen

1925 - 2022

 

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Doreen on the 28th January 2022.

What an amazing woman. She never married but was far from the archetypal 'spinster of this parish'. Engaged in charitable works all her life, she was helping the elderly, some of whom were 20 years her junior, right up to the end. Doreen loved a challenge. For her 90th birthday she made a tandem parachute jump and a few years later wanted to abseil down her local church tower but was prevented only by local bureaucracy.

Aged 84 and then again at nearly 89 (right), she modelled corsets for our calendars and I think you will all agree that she still sported an enviable figure. At our photo-shoot in 2016, she was miffed that she had not been invited. "But Doreen, you've just had a heart attack." "So what?!" was her response.

As is it said "They broke the mould when Doreen was born".

 

 

March 2022

 

Costume research is made so fascinating these days by the quantity of videos that can be seen on YouTube for example. For sure, movies give one an idea although that may be very Hollywood biased. What we love are the home videos taken at weddings and other functions. What can we make of the two stills?

 

Horror of horrors! Have two ladies come to the wedding wearing the same outfit? (Really! What is the problem with that?). In fact, the photograph on the left was taken in 1965 and that on the right in 1963. Is it the same woman at two different weddings wearing the same outfit? Quite possibly. In those days and even today (Princess Anne sets us a good example here), women may wear the same outfit twice and, spaced three years apart, perhaps nobody would notice.

 

 

 

Bullet-proof Corsets?

 

We have often referred to corsets and girdles as being 'bullet-proof' or perhaps 'industrial strength', however, the former is an exaggeration, the latter not necessarily so when you consider some of the items in our collection. Certainly, the spinal steels of a firm surgical corset could deflect the odd passing bullet but the garment as a whole is not bullet-proof. History has many accounts of how the whalebones and steels in a lady's corsets have deflected the blades of jealous lovers or drunken husbands. Equally, these stays, should they split have actually killed their wearer. Spirella made some advertising mileage from the fact that their stays were flexible and could not break in an accident. My aunt who fell down a lift shaft (only one floor thank Goodness) claimed that her corsets saved her from serious injury. Less charitable friends suggested that the relaxing cloud of gin and tonic had more to do with it than her corsets!

 

Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong Mei-ling) wore bullet-proof corsets. Her first pair in blue satin were specially ordered from a New York manufacturer of bullet-proof vests, however, these only made it as far as Singapore just before it fell to the Japanese in 1941. Later in 1949 when the Chiangs fled China she left a pair of bullet-proof corsets behind (in pink satin this time). No doubt her corsets were prized trophies of the Japanese and eight years later, the communists.

 

Soong Mei-ling was an amazing woman and widely regarded as the power behind the 'throne' of Chiang Kai-shek. She lived through three centuries being born in 1896 (or 1897) and passing away aged 106 in 2003. She was rated by TIME magazine at one point as the most powerful woman in the world. I wonder how many other women in the public eye have worn bullet-proof underwear?

 

1951: Soong Mei-ling, Madame Chiang kai-shek  1897 - 2003

 

A reader commented that the Romanov family during the Bolshevik uprising in 1918, had their jewels sewn into specially reinforced corsets to escape detection. Once caught by the Bolsheviks, these corsets parried many of the bayonet thrusts that ultimately killed the family so in many respects acted as body armour. We have related elsewhere how corsets and girdles have been used to smuggle contraband through customs and how one enterprising female prisoner used the stays from her corsets to fashion a lock-pick.

 

"Lady Mary adjusted the straps of her surgical corset with a vigour that reminded [her husband] of a race meeting!"

 

There are some amazingly descriptive passages that one encounters from time to time. The one above comes from Tom Sharpe's hilarious novel 'Porterhouse Blue' (1974). Another comes from Richard Gordon's classic 'The Captain's Table' (1954). "At four o'clock that afternoon, the lazy ship's routine was cut by the whistle blowing 'abandon ship drill' and the passengers came sheepishly up the ladders in their life jackets ... The exception was old Mrs. Lomax who misheard her stewardess's assurances and came screaming on deck, bald, toothless and in her corsets." In Ian McRobert's memoirs, he recounts his aging wife "strapping and lacing herself into the rigid satin tube that was her underwear". No flight of fancy this, if you consider the devices not uncommonly worn in the 1950s. This leads us to the question 'Did stiff, old ladies walk like that because they wore stiff, old corsets? Certainly, the joints stiffen with age, but a woman's locomotion is very dependent upon her underpinnings. Indeed, an older woman's foundations are not simply corset, brassiere and stockings, they are a combination of all three, with the associated tensions and forces connected, and hopefully complementary. Once out of balance, the older woman will end up fighting her foundations.

 

Bringing such prose to mind is a glimpse into the past, a forgotten era like a dream that one cannot quite remember. How frustrating it becomes therefore when you cannot remember the source of a quotation or passage. In the pages of this web-site, I have referred several times to the problems of disposing of an elderly relative's old-fashioned clothes and underwear prefaced by the comment "I forget who once wrote ..…bereavement, complicated by disposal of the mysterious undepinnings of the elderly woman...". Thus it was most satisfactory to encounter that passage in Gavin Young's excellent travel book 'Slow Boats to China'. Frustratingly, this book that I had not read for over 30 years fell to pieces as I read it and I have lost the reference again.

 

 

Happy 85th Birthday - Cathie Jung

 

 

These pictures were taken in October 2016 when Cathie and Bob visited us in Britain. Cathie modelled for our 2017 calendar alongside Victoria. On the right is a small selection of Cathie's corsets (North Carolina, September 2014).

 

Spring is here at last!

Good Gracious!  Spring and unseasonably warm weather is a pleasant break from two years of unremittingly bad news.

Regard the laced girdle (below). It is obviously French or Belgian judging from the buttons to attach the suspenders. The girdle carries the Rigby & Peller label, but surely this is a standard girdle modified by R&P's seamstresses. It just does not look right and the lace panel is strangely asymmetrical. However, laced girdles do exist as the 1940s beauty on the right demonstrates.

Another conundrum. Both Sarongster and Warners (below) show elegant ladies in their girdles, but where are the suspenders (garters - US)? Was there a period when the US censors regarded suspenders as provocative?

 

The pictures above elicited a very interesting response from one of our readers that I have included under the section on Stockings and Suspenders.

Basically, the premise is without the tension of the stockings on the suspenders, the girdle will never sit properly on the body. I hope this will provoke an interesting debate.

Indeed it has! Only last month I mentioned that an older woman's foundations are not simply corset, brassiere and stockings, they are a combination of all three, with the associated tensions and forces connected, and hopefully complementary. This is exactly what our reader's wife mentioned when she tried on a new girdle.

A reader kindly informed us that Figesta in Germany is now owned by Active Life GmbH. This company manufactures, beside other things, fabrics that are designed to be used with girdles. 

What a delightful throwback to the patterned German foundation garments of the 1960s and 70s.

 

We discovered that it is not only Figesta using these delightful materials, but Werkmeister as well.

 

 

The three corselette schematics show the various optional arrangements of satn, lycra and lace. Is this a return to the glory days of corsetry? But note the lack of suspenders and the correspondence that we have recently received on the subject.

We recently came across a couple of books: 'Carry On Cor!sets' by Molly Cutpurse (2007) and 'Corsets in Africa' by Lilian Rivers (1965). I have read the latter and most amusing it is too, relating the experiences of a trained fitter who gets posted to Africa. I have yet to read the Carry On book that is a fictional account based on the 'Carry on' film team fiction. I will read it on holiday. In 'Carry on Loving' (1970), Joan Sims plays the part of Esme Crowfoot, Corsetiere. Here she is lacing the long-suffering Amelia Bayntun into a pair of corsets with, what the directors fondly imagined to be, the traditional knee in the back posture accompanied by gruntings and straining noises. In the film 'Happy Ending' (1969), a lady squeezes herself into a girdle accompanied by the noise of what I swear is a stage hand rubbing that hand across a balloon.

 

April 2022

 

We have been commenting recently on the feel of a woman's underwear particularly when cuddling some aged relative or dancing with a stout matron. My husband remembers his dancing classes that he reluctantly attended in his early 20s. He fancied a rather lovely girl who, unfortunately, had no sense of timing and subsequently he migrated to a metronomic matron who was, in fact, a very good dancer. The trouble was where to place his right hand. In the accepted position he encountered the top ridge of her girdle or corset. To get below this obstacle, he was in danger of fondling her nether regions and to move above the ridge was to encounter soft wayward flesh that prevented him from steering his partner with any accuracy. He was acutely embarrassed because he knew that she knew and did she think he was fondling her whereas he was simply trying to get a firm hold. The classes were not a success.

Betty MacDonald in 'The Egg and I' (1945) had a similar experience: "The Corset Lady had piercing black eyes and a large bust and stomach apparently encased in steel, for when I brushed against her it was like bumping into our oil drum."

More experiences are related in Ivy's Diary 2021.

Wishing you all a Happy Easter break.

 

 

I read Molly Cutpurse's book 'Carry On Cor!sets' over Easter and it is - er - interesting. To appreciate it fully, you would have to be a fan of the 'Carry On' genre of films which I am not so I passed it to my husband, who is. All the characters are identified at the beginning with the real 'Carry On' actors and with this mind set, he enjoyed the book that he felt was more of a screenplay for what might have been an enjoyable 'Carry On' film. Sadly, most of the characters have passed away. One odd point is the very poor editing of the book although this barely detracts from the content.

 

We came across an interesting picture from an American mail order magazine from the late 1950s. It shows the choice that Americanas had then. You could have your favourite style either as a girdle or panty-girdle. At that time, America was nearly a decade ahead of Britain in many aspects, however, with the advent of the 'Swinging Sixties', Britain caught up with America within a decade. Consequently, as American woman embraced the panty-girdle in the early 1960s, Britain failed to catch up until the late 1960s at which point women were ditching their foundation garments altogether, even their bras in an act of supreme folly. Therefore, the decade of the panty-girdle era in America was compressed in Britain to a scant few years and, with the exception of the Spirelette 105, never matched their American counterparts for strength and style. At some point this year, our model Moira will do a road test (my husband's expression) to compare Lyn Locke's favourite, the Young Smoothie 1068, with Spirella's best of Britain, the 105.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mesh Corset

 

This corset keeps popping up in YouTube videos and is extremely well presented by three wonderful ladies: 

 

Suzanne Heintz in her short film 'Goodwill Towards Men ("The Girdle"),

Nora Murrell in her video clip Bullet Bras, Girdles, Waist Cinchers, and Corsets - Vintage Lingerie Try On

and Anna Bellement in her clip 'Corset Lace - How to encourage your wife / girlfriend to wear corsets. Tightlacing of Anna Bellement'

 

 

 

May 2022

We have always been amused by the fictitious characters emanating from the fevered minds of the advertising and marketing departments. Drs. Wilbur and Wales of abdominal corset fame, Anna Spencer from Spencer (who else) and, a recent discovery on our part, the slightly sinister looking 'Miss Spirella' with unfeasibly white and perfect teeth for the 1940s. Anyway, she nudges out the 1930s 'Miss Brace'.

There is an English family name, 'Bracegirdle' still in use in Cheshire that has origins in the 16th century. It was also used by Tolkien as a hobbit family name. Below is the genuine family shield and neither a corset nor girdle to be seen! Of course in the 16th century, bracing your girdle meant tightening your belt in preparation for another battle that seemed to be quite common in those days.

 

 

I mentioned last month that Moira would 'road test' panty-girdles from each side of the 'pond'. This she did yesterday.

 

 

And the winner is .....

The Young Smoothie 1048, favourite of Lyn Locke and worn by millions of American women in the 1960s.

 

"Through a glass darkly ..."

 

Some of these beautiful WRNS uniforms will be for sale soon on Ebay, but not the 1048 sadly nor even the 105.

 

Rapid promotion for Moira: 3rd officer to 2nd officer then to 1st officer. Bt the time she's achieved Chief Officer on the right, her underwear has become far more substantial. Her poor back; all those hours of standing around and shouting at her girls.

(The corset is a Canadian Spirella 325 with front and back-lacing and four rigid and heavy spinal steels.)

 

From Italy, a country of the beautiful and stylish comes this text from one of Berne's catalogue from 1936:

"The Berné house achieves the ideal goals of the most dignified and elevated with rational and ferocious activity and does not hesitate to recommend the new lastex girdles even to large-bodied ladies. They exert an equal compression on all parts of the body and envelop the living body like a second skin. They confer harmony of beauty which are the signs of perfection and nobility of our race. Do you have a very pronounced stomach with pendulous breasts and want to shape your hips for your most beautiful clothes? Wear the 434 model or the 599 model which, thanks to the admirable combination of an original technical conception and an exemplary manufacturing method, gives the woman the sign of a flexible slenderness."

 

Well, they're not pulling any punches with that description, but now we know how the elegant Italiana achieves her shape.

 

 

June 2022

 

 

Regarding Royalty and corsetry, what an interesting subject that would be and what a potential minefield.

Poor June Kenton of Rigby & Peller lost their royal warrant after publication of Mrs. Kenton's book 'Storm in a D-cup'. I have read the book and can find nothing amiss, but somebody did! At this juncture, I will drop this subject.

 

 

Back in March, we asked why some advertisements failed to show the suspenders (garters) on their girdles even when we knew they should be there. We have received some more interesting replies on the topic.

 

Another cry for help concerns the panty-girdle with one conventional zipper on the left side and a second zipper running upwards on the right leg. Why was this?

 

 

Just for information, all our Wrens' uniforms are now for sale on ebay.

 

Good Gracious, the nights are drawing in as we pass the summer solstice. Mind you, we have had a run of excellent weather that sets to end just as we plan to take a long weekend away.

 

During the last photo shoot for the sale of the uniforms, Moira tried on a 110-year-old original Jenyns that we received unopened in its wrappings from Ken Jenyns 12 years ago (right). This is a museum quality item and should have been treated with due respect, however, we didn't! It has been modelled by Victoria and Cathie Jung in 2014 and recently by Moira. We realised that the corset lacing was beginning to break in a couple of places. This can easily be fixed by a competent seamstress, however, it illustrates our ethos regarding the collection. The corset can be repaired, however, rather than languishing unseen in a museum store, or being displayed but 'Do not touch', we have given three women the chance to wear and feel a garment that their (great-)grannies might have worn.

On another topic, in our first book 'What Lies Beneath', we wrote a chapter (that does not appear on our web-site) called the Seven Ages of Woman that were: Miss  Matrimony  Married  Maternity  Mature  Matron  Mutton. In the subsequent extended book 'I'm Killing My Girdle' we dropped Maternity as it belongs with Married and also dropped Matron leaving us with the Five Ages of Woman. On reflection (and one always reflects after the book is published), we were a bit unkind to the older woman and should perhaps have simplified the sequence.

Miss  Matrimony  Middle Age  Mature

What do you think?

 

  hit counter