Roger's Ramblings

 

Far from rambling, Roger is an avid reader and a precise and prolific writer on the subject of underwear and corsetry. With his permission, we have assembled a number of his articles and researches. We wouldn't dare to edit them since we know his passion for grammar, however, we have performed our own formatting and added the odd illustration and link where appropriate. I hope you enjoy this master of the written word.

Lightweight News Snippets & Memoirs

 

Advisories and News

Articles by other Authors

Bras: Bewildering and Bewitching

Pan Am and Girdles

Humorous Articles

 

Trends

 

Bra Sales Statistics

Girdle Sales Statistics

Shapewear Revival

 

 

 

RK's Opinions

 

Visibility of Underwear

DDumb

Pantyhose: A Relic of the 20th Century

Hideaway Holsters

Rechargeable Bras

Try On

 

 

Pantyhose: A Relic of the 20th Century    

It might have been predicted in the thirties, after the introduction of lastex and nylon, that there would be no large-scale reversion by undie-wearers to the fabrics they replaced.  But, in the forties, that is what happened, due to war-time production restrictions.

Similarly, it has recently been predicted that “there is no reason to … think that younger women would ever, to any great extent, turn back to girdling and corseting.”  (See “Marianne’s Story,” last paragraph.)  That surely is consensus opinion.  But, as in the thirties, there is a dark cloud on the horizon that could lead to production restrictions:  long-term, severe energy shortages. Such restrictions could include the prohibition of nylon-profligate pantyhose.  If stockings then became the only form of “nylons” allowed, some mild form of girdling would return, such as control briefs worn with tabs for (detachable) garter straps.

Severe energy shortages are predicted in the recent book, The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler.  (See: www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/_/id/7203633 for an online condensation.)  The author envisages not only grave social and political stresses, but even sporadic semi-anarchy.  Probably he’s overly alarmed.  But if such scenarios are even a longshot, governments would seek to forestall them by prohibiting or severely “sin-taxing” non-essential uses of energy sources.  And, in conjunction with such a recognition of the severity of the energy crisis, there would be a general mind-shift against ALL “wasteful” items, not just petroleum derivatives, for two reasons: their guilty association with spendthrift attitudes, and their tendency to create more physical “waste” (garbage). 

Disposable “convenience” plastic items like throw-away razors and CD “jewel cases” are examples.  Throw-away razors would be replaced by the style of razor that preceded them:  ones whose handle is permanent, and whose blade assembly alone is replaced.  Pantyhose (aka “tights” in UK) are another example of a plastic item that wastes material for the sake of convenience:  their wearer consumes five times more nylon per year than she would if wearing stockings—and the total amount thus wasted nationally and worldwide is enormous (as described below).  This item would therefore be on regulators’ hit list. 

Even prior to such officially sanctioned crusades, ecology-conscious individuals and groups might turn against pantyhose, so a substantial voluntary reversion to stockings isn’t unthinkable.  Stockings would require some form of gartering—which would be giggled at by the general. In order to take the words out of their mouths, ecology could crown Lola-Lola as its official poster-girl. In the same antic spirit, early adopters could reply, to those who accused them of being throwbacks, “It’s hip to be square.”

Profligacy:  Wearing pantyhose consumes five times more nylon, and produces five times more garbage (by weight) than wearing thigh-highs or regular stockings.  Here’s how the numbers work out.  A pair of stockings weighs .3 ounce; an average pair of pantyhose weighs four times as much, or 1.2 oz.  (This is because the torso portion of pantyhose is double-thickness, and because half (?) the pantyhose sold are control-top types that are even thicker.)  Also, a pair of pantyhose is discarded, on average, 25% sooner than a pair of stockings, because it is “done for” when the first leg gets a run.  (I.e., with stockings the wearer just replaces the bad leg and goes on wearing the good one.)  So a woman who wears a dozen pairs of pantyhose per year would need only 9 pairs of stockings to replace them.  Putting this factor together with the greater weight of pantyhose, the bottom line is that a pantyhose-wearer consumes five times more nylon per year.

How much is that in terms of ounces?  According to the book, The Average American, the average career woman buys 22 pairs of pantyhose per year; the average college woman buys 9.  Let’s assume the average housewife also buys 9, and thus that the average woman (including all three categories) buys 15 pairs.  15 pairs of pantyhose weigh 18 ounces; their replacement, 11.25 pairs of stockings, weigh 3.375 oz.; the difference is 14.625 ounces per year.  (The high-consumption career woman uses roughly 1.5 pounds more per year.)  Over the course of a 60-year hose-wearing lifetime (from ages 18 to 78), the difference is thus 877.5 ozs., or roughly 55 pounds.  That’s non-biodegradable, non-recyclable waste—and it’s totally unnecessary waste. 

The above is slightly offset by the stocking-wearer’s need to consume a garter belt; but that weighs only two oz. and lasts about two or three (?) years, so it creates little waste.  (And a new-design garter belt with a replaceable elastic back strap could be made that would last two or three times longer.)  A girdle, let’s say, weighs 5 oz. and lasts 1.5 years; thus 10 oz. would be wasted over three years, which is less than one-quarter the weight it would save in pantyhose nylon (44 oz.).  And, since 1/3 (?) of women already wear control briefs, which are in essence legless light- to medium-control girdles, a mass switch-over to stockings wouldn’t imply proportionate additional Lycra consumption.

Now let’s scale the figures up to the national level.  According to the Hosiery Assn., roughly 340 million pairs of pantyhose were sold in the U.S. in 2001.  Assuming about 3/4 of their weight would be saved (after deducting for extra undies) if stockings were worn instead, about 15 million pounds of nylon is wasted thereby.  If we were in WW2, the government would prohibit pantyhose for this staggering wastefulness.  Well, in a way were are in a struggle—an ecological struggle.  We want to reduce needless consumption and garbage production.  Pantyhose are a “modern convenience” that costs more than they’re worth.

(Incidentally, about 52 million pairs of stockings were sold, about 90% (I’d guess) of them “thigh-highs”—or “holds-ups” as they’re called in the UK.  Also, about 193 million pairs of “knee-highs” (“pop-socks” in the UK) were sold.)

Penalization:  The government could discourage consumption of pantyhose (and disposable razors, etc.) by sin-taxing them at $1 or $2 per pair, which would make stockings and thigh-highs more attractive economically.   (At present, absurdly, stockings actually cost slightly more than pantyhose, even though they contain much less material and take less time to make.  This is because they are low-volume items.) 

Taxation of plastics has already begun, as described in Future Perfect (from the Institute for Social Inventions, London, 2002), pp. 165-66, in an item titled “A plastax on single-use shopping bags to reduce usage and waste.”  It stated: “Ireland has introduced a tax of nine pence on single-use plastic shopping bags, payable by the shopper not the shop....  The Irish government expects to raise 100 million pounds annually from the tax....  To say that plastic bags are a problem is an understatement...  The other two options are incineration (which is unpopular and polluting) and recycling (but only .5 percent of plastic bags are recycled at present).  It could be the only way to have a larger effect, hitting the consumer where it hurts most: in the wallet, not the conscience.”

Pantyhose were available in the early 60s, and even in the 50s (for dancers and models), but cost three times as much as stockings.  Result:  virtually no one bought them.  It wasn't until 1968, that fateful year, that their price became competitive and pantyhose “caught on.”  This process might work in reverse.  I.e., if pantyhose were 50% or 100% more expensive, stockings & hold-ups might “catch on” again.

Persuasion:  There could be publicity about pantyhose’s wastefulness, which could be spread in both the mass media and in magazines and web sites sensitive to ecological concerns.  (E.g., readers might re-post this article, or portions of it—permission is hereby granted.)  In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (and corresponding agencies outside the U.S.) could issue white papers deploring the wastefulness of pantyhose and urging consumers to avoid them. 

Second, arguments could be made that go beyond the ecological and counteract pantyhose’s image of convenience and liberation.  For example:  “There’s no doubt that stockings plus garter belt take a little longer to put on and take off, but the amount of time is small—say twenty seconds per day.  That’s not asking much to benefit the environment.”

Third, stockings could be attached to a currently unobjectionable garment: a control brief.  Lyn Locke, at http://www.lynlocke.com/, already offers such an item, which provides only limited coverage and compression.  Here’s how she describes it (in p. 8 of her March 2005 newsletter (at http://www.lynlocke.com/download/newsletter_mar2005-lynlocke.pdf), which also contains an illustration): 

“These full briefs are reminiscent of panties from the 60’s and 50’s. But they have some Lycra in them, and hug the body nicely. With the attached garters, you have no choice but to wear nylons with this garment. Introduce your wife or loved one to the girdle in this manner. Once she becomes comfortable in this, maybe she will be more receptive to firmer control garments. Maybe not. But it’s worth a try, right? I sell these black Vassarette briefs at a very reasonable price.” 

Over-reaction?:  Pointing out pantyhose’s negative points wouldn’t cause a general over-reaction against wearing “nylons” at all, because there would be only 20% more material saved by going bare-legged.  What would more likely happen is what happened when ecologists condemned certain other wasteful practices, such as buying a Christmas tree every year, or wrapping presents in paper that was immediately discarded.  Those who were sensitive to such arguments didn’t abandon trees and wrapping paper entirely, but switched to reusable replacements.  An analogy:  if the gov't were to sin-tax disposable razors, most men would switch to cartridge-razors.  Few would be so swept-up in an anti-plastic mania that they'd start growing beards, especially if there were a good rationale for the tax.

Symbolism, Conformity, and Independence:  Many women have an “eek!” feeling about wearing garters, but they should get over it.  (Or wear thigh-highs, which—though less reliable—don’t require them.)  I.e., garter-wearing is something women may associate with the 50’s, and thus with repression.  But a truly independent woman doesn’t let herself be manipulated by images, but instead looks to the underlying reality.  (If she relies on images and associations, she’d let Virginia Slims ads persuade her that cigarette-smoking is “liberated.”)  Just because garters have an image of being an item of (needless) feminine frippery doesn’t mean that they actually are.  (Some men wear garters to hold up their socks (or leggings if they play hockey)—they aren’t image-oriented; they focus on practicality.)  It’s really pantyhose that is needless, and it’s really garters that are libratory, because:

  • They reduce the amount of “stuff” (nylon) a wearer must buy. 

  • They can be more comfortable in the matter of temperature control.  I.e., in summer a garter belt can be worn (one less layer of fabric above mid-thigh); in winter a long-leg panty-girdle (a thicker layer of fabric above mid-thigh). 

  • They’re more likely to fit better. It’s impossible for some women to find a brand of pantyhose that fit well.  That’s because there are so many more “fit points” with pantyhose than with stockings.  If pantyhose fit well in one place, they often fit badly in another. 

  • Stockings don’t trap heat and moisture, encouraging disease and odor.  (It was in the late 60s that vaginal deodorants caught on, in step with the use of pantyhose.)

I used another “eek!” word:  girdle.  But what’s worse about it than the spandex bike shorts or compression shorts that many women wear?  Except for the garters, they’re the same item.  The most vehement opponents of girdles are women who’ve never worn one, all the while encased in jeans much tighter and more confining than any girdle.  The objection to girdles is 90% symbolic.  (And feminist Beatrice Faust, in a 1981 book, mentioned that wearing a girdle actually gave her a charge.  See http://www.girdlezone.org/bfaust.htm.  She also wrote, “Are women such sheep that we must follow fashion leaders? Are we so gutless or stupid that we cannot make independent choices?”)

There’s nothing brave or independent about mindlessly following the crowd and wearing pantyhose.  Courage and freedom would be demonstrated by departing from the norm.  I hope that once a few trend-setters blaze a trail, it will become a point of pride for women to “think different.”

“Link-Ups,” “Hook-Ons,” etc.:  For us fans of non-vanilla undies, there is only one potential negative in this dream-scenario (aside from worldwide economic collapse):  A little-known method of garterless stocking-support exists, and most women would probably prefer it if they had to wear stockings again.  An initial version was put on the market in about 1970 by one of the major hosiery suppliers.  (I used to have their promotional material, but I’ve misplaced it, so I can’t give the name of the company or its brand.)  The stockings came with two small hooks (like the type seen on the shoulder straps of bras).  They in turn connected to a girdle’s garter tabs, leaving only a small gap between the top of the stocking and the girdle’s hem.  This product failed to catch on because:

  • The placement of tabs varied from girdle to girdle, so that one or other of the attachment points was often mis-aligned.

  • Proper stocking length was critical—there was no ability to roll over the welt of a stocking or adjust the length of a garter, and stockings of that era lacked the elasticity needed to compensate for inexact length.

Subsequently, in the late 90s I think, there was another hook-attachment design called Scantihose that was unsuccessful; its stockings attached to a belt with a strap, which wasn’t too sleek.  Now, however, improved variations have been introduced, under various brand names.  In the UK, there’s Pretty Polly’s Link-Ups (Googling will find links to ads, etc.  User feedback on the StockingsHQ site was mixed.  One user claimed attachment was less secure than a garter and the link was flimsy.  But a better hook and loop design could fix that.)  In Australia there’s a similar and more recent item, Ambra Hook-Ons.  (For details see http://www.calectasia.com/Hosiery/Hook-Ons.htm.) 

Because they employ elasticized stockings (probably more elasticized than the ordinary pair) exact length isn’t critical, and they can use only one attachment point (on Ambra’s Hook-Ons it’s midway between the front and side of the leg), avoiding alignment problems, and making attachment faster than gartering.  (They’re sold with pair of elasticized panties with a loop in the correct position.  It would be easy for manufacturers of control briefs to add a loop in that location—or for women to sew one onto their existing garments themselves.)  If these products can be debugged, women are likely to prefer them, because they are less visible.  I.e., they have:

  • No garter bump;

  • Only a ½ inch welt;

  • A high attachment point (so they can’t be seen under miniskirts—except very rarely);

  • Minuteness, making them less noticeable if accidentally exposed (they’re only 10% the size of a garter);

  • Discreetness (no gleaming complex “hardware,” no Can-Can overtones), making them less “ignominious” if accidentally exposed.  That kills 90% of their appeal to us fetishists—but women would no doubt mostly shout, “That’s not a bug, that’s a feature!”

Oh well, such items have at least one attractive attribute:  wearers strike the charming and seductive poses of yore when doffing & donning their hosiery.  They no longer awkwardly wiggle into their nylons (as with pantyhose), a procedure that has all the suave elegance of a footlocker tumbling down a flight of stairs.  

PS:  Why should today’s New Women worry about discreetness anyway?  Isn’t that merely a Laudably Ladylike virtue?  Wouldn’t it be more commendable to Let It All Hang Out?  Why forgo the chance, by stylishly strumming their garter straps, to mimic and/or mock the gallus-snapping patriarchs of old?  They surely had no bashfulness about their visible suspenders.

 

PPS:  Just kidding—I think.  Seriously speaking, women could easily avoid garter-display by wearing culotte-style (divided) skirts and/or pettipants (long-leg loose-around-the-leg panties that function like half-slips).  They could continue to sit and recline in today’s liberated manner—i.e., without always being careful not to let their skirts ride up.

 

 

 

Hideaway Holsters:  The Purse of Tomorrow?  

Here’s a suggestion for a giveaway little item that could be made for under $1—or for under $.50 in volume—to promote sales of gartered stockings and/or the garments that support them.  It’s a thin satin wallet worn under a stocking top, held up by two loops clipped over two garter buttons.  Its dimensions are 7″ wide (with two ½″ loops at the midpoint of each wide end) and 3″ high.  It has a 7″ opening at the top covered by a 1.25″-high flap. The latter is stitched down both sides, to keep items from falling out.

In the 60s and earlier such an item was sold independently, and was an unacknowledged element in detective stories and spy adventures wherein the heroine hid an item in her stocking top.  It therefore has a certain old-fashioned charm.  Its inclusion as a giveaway would strengthen the retro flavor that is part of the appeal (to women) of, for instance, seamed stockings.   This appeal could be highlighted by a poster or on-package teaser containing a retro-style picture of a vampish 1940s lady or gun moll, lifting her skirt to retrieve some high-voltage item.  Here’s the text that I suggest be printed below the image:

Here’s a conversation-piece with which to tease and stump and wow your girlfriends: hand them one of these Hideaway Holsters and challenge them to identify it.  You can give them clues like:

·        It was popular from 1925 to 1970

·        It was used by women in genre fiction and films

·        It held “high voltage” items

·        It was worn, but invisibly (this almost gives it away)

If they still can’t guess, hike up your skirt and show them yours:  their eyes will stand out on stalks!  Then give them (from your holster) the following explanation, printed on one of the dozen double-sided business cards we supply:

You may have been puzzled, when reading noir fiction or espionage thrillers of the middle third of the 20th century, to come upon scenes wherein the heroine (or villainess) slipped her Minox or code book or derringer or treasure-map or billet doux “into her stocking top.”  Taken literally, that would seem to be a very insecure location.  But it was really a shorthand term.  It meant, “into a thin satin wallet hooked to her garter buttons, fore and aft”—a hitherto nameless item we have dubbed a “Hideaway Holster.”

The reason it was available for employment in detective stories is that women also used it for more mundane purposes:  To conceal items they didn’t want a purse-peaking co-habitant (a relative or roommate or SO) to discover, such as birth control items or a wedding ring or a little black book; or just for carrying emergency cash and spare keys.  (E.g., if they had to flee a dangerous scene without their purse, they’d still have their “mad money” & keys on their person.)

Women wear fashions not just to make a visual impression, but to play a role in a game of make-believe.  This is especially true of women who might be tempted to wear retro undies.  E.g., “I dreamt I was a noir-ish vixen in my seamed stockings.”  Successful vendors make the dress-up convincing with obscure authenticating details—little touches that fulfill the illusion.  They “sell the dream,” like Maidenform.  A sundae needs a cherry on top.  Seamed stockings and vixenish garter belts need a Hideaway Holster.

And a Hideaway Holster mightn’t just be a nostalgia item. It could become the Purse of Tomorrow, if some punk-rock trend-setters were to start wearing two of them (one on each leg), in larger versions with internal compartments, and were to proclaim that they’d thereby Liberated themselves from a Ludicrous Legacy of Ladyhood.

Access would have to be (for non-exhibitionistic women) through slits in a full-ish skirt, concealed by pleats or Velcro’d flaps.  That is radical—but that would be viewed by punkettes as a feature, not a bug.  Nevertheless, it could also be promoted to mainstreamers as something traditional.  Victorian skirts often had slits in them, with pockets attached.  (They were made of heavy material and were supported by petticoats or crinolines, and hence were not distorted by the weight of the pockets.)  That’s why images of Victorian women rarely show them carrying purses.  Granny knew a thing or two!

PS:  If large holsters were worn as purse-replacements, they would be more secure if they were sewn onto the legs of long-leg panty girdles, rather than hung from a pair of loops.  LLPGs could even be manufactured with holsters already attached.  Indeed, the provision of such external pockets might even contribute to a modest revival of girdle-wearing!

 

 

 

Renewable Bras

Problem: Bras last only six months (according to online retailer Mr. Bra). That’s outrageously wasteful, costly, and a burden on our limited rubbish-disposal space. (It’s ridiculous to read about “art installations” of worn-out bras festooned on miles of fences or strung across the Grand Canyon.) I’ve read that European bras last a year, but that’s still nothing to cheer about. They SHOULD last twice as long—at least.

 

Solution: “Renewable” bras; i.e., bras with replaceable elastic back-straps and non-elastic sides (the way they used to be made). A bra usually wears out when its elastic portion gets tired. So why not make that portion replaceable? An item like the familiar bra extender, but several inches longer (e.g., three or four inches long), could serve as the “renewable” back. It would mate with a bra that would be (slightly) modified as follows: It would have two or three columns of hooks (on one side of its back) and two or three columns of eyes (on the other side). This would double or triple the life of the bra by virtue of the back’s twice-greater tightening-up range. Further, if the bra were still in OK condition after the renewer-back itself got tired, a cheap, new renewer -back could be purchased.

 

A beneficial side-effect: With the heat-sensitive elastic portion temporarily removed, women could clean the bra along with the ordinary laundry (albeit in a lingerie bag), freeing themselves from the tedious hand-washing & air drying that some now perform.

 

Downside: There’d be two (minor) bumps in back, rather than one, because there’d be two hook-and-eye attachment points. But they aren’t a bug, they’re a feature: They’d advertise the wearer’s personal foresight and concern for the environment. (Note: If however a wearer wanted to eliminate the bumps, she could replace a stretched-out back with a new one, rather than stretching it out to the bra’s next hook-up column. She’d still save 80% of what a wearer with an it’s-a-feature attitude would save. Or she could just cut off the unneeded overlapping column of hooks.)

 

Technical note: Bra-extenders vary in the number of hooks in each hook-column, to enable buyers to match the hook-count (typically two or three) to the eye-column of the bra being “extended.” In other words, extenders have a few different, but standardized, heights.

 

For what it’s worth: “Renewable” garter belts could also be made, if they were modified in the same way as a renewable bra. I.e., if they incorporated a pair of hook-and-eye columns at the back sized to mate with a bra- renewer back. This could double their lifespan. Ideally, one of the new bra renewers would be used.

 

(Not that these often wear out nowadays, they being mostly museum pieces or bedroom items. But they might see a revival, if the absurd three-times-greater wastefulness of the thrown-out material in pantyhose vs. stockings caused pantyhose (aka tights) to be banned or sin-taxed. That is out of the question today, but it could happen, 20 years down the road, if conditions became such that society went on a crusade against wasteful convenience items. (As it ought to.) See my “Pantyhose: A Relic of the 20th Century,” here: http://corsetiere.net/Spirella/roger_k.htm#PH )

Questions:

 

1.      Selling refurbished bras? (Perhaps back to their original owners!) This would probably be the cheapest way to create the first prototypes to test for lumpiness in back, ease of adjusting, etc. Cutting out a solid-sided bra’s original elastic back strap mightn’t be hard, and there’s probably a gadget that could crimp in columns of eyes at the ends of the cut-off. Or a strip of eyes could be sewed on. 

 

2.      How should it be marketed? Start small, and advance in a series of small steps, an unconventional method that is called for by such an unconventional item. I.e.:

 

  1. Approach organizations whose members are most concerned about avoiding waste, namely newsletters containing thrifty-living tips, and anti-garbage ecological groups.

  2. Offer their leaders free samples to evaluate.

  3. If they like the results, allow them to either sell the bras (with their endorsements) to members at a good price, or to offer 50% discount coupons as renewal premiums. Bras would be drop-shipped by the manufacturer to the buyers.

  4. Encourage (or require) leaders to attempt to obtain free testimonials from their membership, especially from nationally known opinion leaders. (Ecological groups contain many such women.)

  5. Once a couple of ecological groups are happy with this program (after one year, say), approach other socially concerned groups with the same offer, and obtain more testimonials from members.

  6. After two years (say), when an underground buzz has hopefully built around the product, start sending samples for review to non-fashion magazines, and again try to let them become part of the sales-assistance process by offering them something of value, such as a 50% discount coupon for subscription-renewals, or a slice of the revenue for sales referrals.

  7. Eventually (after three years, say), demand might build to the point where the manufacturer would want to offer this item to all comers. But I suggest that it be done only cautiously, by selling direct over the Internet, and not by undercutting the original partners in the process.

 

My belief is that this item could catch on, but that it would be a gradual process that should be carefully nurtured—and that each year’s sales goals should be modest. That way, in ten years, a “cash cow” might emerge, with great brand loyalty (because buyers would be aiding organizations they believe in—organizations with whose leaders you’d have an inside track), at low risk and low expense. I.e., there’d be no need to spend money on advertising, or to build up a large inventory.

 

3.      “Renewable” Sleeping Masks & Girdles? Employing replaceable tensioning-straps could lengthen the lifespan of these two elasticized garments, thereby making them more affordable—and (thus) more popular. For instance, the elastic strap in a sleeping mask typically wears out in a year, but a mask with a replaceable strap would be easy to make. Replaceability could also be used, with some ingenuity, in girdles that, like Camp’s discontinued Cadenza, employed hook-and-eye straps to life-lengthen their elastic and/or allowed users to adjust firmness.

 

4.      What do I want for this? Nothing This idea was probably patented in 1932 and flopped immediately. But maybe the time just wasn’t right for it then, or the marketing method I think is necessary wasn’t feasible then. I suspect manufacturers might have been unenthusiastic about selling an item that would cut bra demand by 50%.  But today it would benefit the upstart firm that first promoted such an item—and that firm’s attitude would no doubt be, “The devil take the hindmost.” 

 

If any seamstress is intrigued by this, please convert some solid-sided rummage-sale bras to this sort of arrangement and report your results. At worst, you’d have a humorous DIY-Gone-Wrong item you could sell to Reader’s Digest. At best you could have the beginning of a new business.

 

 

 

On the Visibility of Underwear

Roger K replies to the italicised comments below, made by a poster on the Girdles and More web-site.

“I must disagree that there were few if any visible outlines of girdles under street clothing. In the era B.P. -- Before Pantyhose -- garter bumps were regularly visible under the pencil skirts of the era, even those made of heavy winter flannel material.”

Our disagreement requires putting “visible” under the microscope. I think the visibility of a feature:
1. Objectively: Falls along a continuum or shades-of-grey spectrum, rather than being a black-or-white affair, and
2. Subjectively: varies from person to person, and from cultural environment to cultural environment, because perception (visibility) depends:
a. partly on training in noticing subtle signals,
b. partly on expectation, and
c. partly on individual psychology.

1. Objectively: A bra under a blouse creates a complete “ghost-image” of itself that is far more “visible” than the clues a girdle provides under a skirt. A girdle’s giveaways are:
• Fragmentary (of only part of the garment) rather than complete,
• Blurred rather than sharp,
• Occasional (e.g., seen only when sitting or stretching) rather than constant, and
• Ambiguous (e.g., possibly due to some natural creasing or bunching of the skirt) rather than unequivocal.

2. Subjectively:
a. Training: A person can be trained to see clues that others would miss, and in time these can become so obvious to him that he mistakenly comes to think that they are not just visible-to-him, but visible-period (objectively). The example that comes to mind, because I read it dozens of times in kids’ adventure stories when I was young, was that of the native tracker who could make sense of fantastically subtle clues left by an animal (or fugitive), and even make reasonable inferences about its speed, tiredness, and destination. (In an urban environment the tracker was Sherlock Holmes.) Thus, a trained person like a corsetière would “see” a girdle’s outlines under a skirt more readily and more reliably than a tyro would. And an undie-fancier might develop a similar skill. (I didn’t become fascinated with girdles until after they departed the scene, so I wasn’t on the lookout for clues when they were extant.)

b. Expectation: Without being aware of it, a person’s noggin pre-processes incoming images so they “make sense.” This is a commonplace of philosophy & psychology, and affects not just casual data input, but even formalized scrutiny of the outside world. I.e., one great truism of the philosophers and sociologists of science is that “data is theory-laden” (unconsciously pre-processed by expectations so that it fits the paradigm—or at least fits some (known) paradigm). If a person has a paradigm that “ambiguous bumps and creases in a skirt are 80% ‘noise’—and they effectively camouflage any signal that might be there” (which was my paradigm), girdle clues are not going to be visible to him.

(In his amazing essay “The Decay of Lying,” online at http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/E800003-009/, Wilde argued that Londoners didn’t notice the city’s famous fogs—at any rate they never mentioned them—until painters primed residents to expect to see them. He asserted that therefore the fogs didn’t even exist! This was an outrageously exaggerated application of the sound general principle he was championing, and which he was one of the first to point out: that “Life imitates Art”—i.e., that what’s seen and even done conforms to imaginatively based cultural templates that pre-consciously filter and emphasize selected portions of “reality.”)

c. Psychological variation: Some persons, regardless of what their training and expectation may be, are much more able to notice hidden patterns than others. I’ll give an example from an extreme human type—autistics—but to a lesser degree their ability is shared by some portion of the “normal” human spectrum, including (I suspect) x-ray-eyed undie fans. An article in the May ’05 issue of Discover magazine contained the following: “Grandin [an autistic expert in animal psychology] explained to me how easy it is for autistic people to find a figure hidden in a complex picture—a test called the Embedded Figure Task. Normal people have trouble seeing it, but it jumps right out at an autistic person. … ‘Normal people,’ she writes, ‘see and hear schemas, not raw sensory data.’ … Normal humans are good at seeing the big picture but bad at what Grandin calls ‘all the tiny little details that go into that picture.’” (My focus (as I mentioned in my original post) was on the overall trim-tummy image so the details were invisible to me, and I suspect to most men. I filtered out the details, just as I do the details of a woman’s makeup, noticing only the overall impression.)

Conclusion: If we were to get in a time machine and travel back to the days of yore, we would agree on a basic level about what was visible: a skirt with certain slight indentations, creases, ridges, bulges, etc. Where we’d differ would be in how “revealing” or “suggestive” or “indicative” these features were of what lay underneath. What I’ve argued above is that even though he found it easy to “connect the dots” into a picture, they were just “blips on the screen” to most of us. (E.g., There is a famous picture of Clark Gable regarding the derrière of Doris Day—what Clark was appreciating was the overall impression (created by girdling) of its being round, firm, and fully-packed. No visible clues were there—nor would he have been “aware” of them if they had been.)

Testimony: I didn’t do any searching looking for statements supporting my position, but a couple of sets of quotations have fallen in my lap in the interim:-

• “I wear garters and skirts everyday, and don't have any problems with garter bumps showing. Unless you're wearing a skirt made from a very thin fabric, it really shouldn't be a problem.”
• “Some of the men here must have extraordinary sight if they can see a suspender bump from anything other than the most intimate distance!”
• “Many of these authors must possess X-Ray vision. Plus, anyone noticing my bumps if my skirt is too thinnish is too close anyway and must be slapped!”
• “It is very difficult to detect suspender bumps through all but the finest of fabrics - she failed totally to spot mine even though she knew I was wearing them and was looking hard.”

From “Marianne’s Story” (Recollections of a Danish corsetière who worked from 1956-73)

“Trying to remember if the garter bumps were a problem in those days, I cannot really find that I personally worried about it, nor did our customers. When everybody wore them, they were not really an issue. Materials were usually somewhat heavier in those days and the wearing of a full or a half slip was the usual thing. Fashionable dresses those days were often lined, so I think the tabs would very rarely show. Today young girls seem to wear dresses and skirts that are much thinner, almost never lined, and slips are gone. This is in a way a pity because they tend to stick to the body and the nice fall is lost. And, in bright light, you can see through the dresses. That's not something I like. Thinking hard, I do remember however, that very tight wool dresses could make a problem, so that I became aware of the 'see-through' effect. Then I would take care to place something on my lap when sitting, such as a handbag or a newspaper.”

Postscript, on OBG-to-PG migration: I speculated in my original post that self-consciousness about the visibility (to wearers) of the OBG’s hem may have motivated women to migrate to PGs in the 60’s. I’ll add that another partial reason for the migration may have been the rapid increase in the popularity of small cars like the VW bug. Even if a woman didn’t drive one herself, she’d sooner or later be a passenger in one. Getting in and out of these might have provided upskirt views. A PG would protect a woman’s modesty better if such occurred (especially if no panties were being worn with the OBG, as was the practice of some, according to various memoirists here).

 

 

DDUMB!

Why do the letter-codes for (American) bra sizes double up after D (i.e., DD and DDD), instead of just using E and F? In some cases manufacturers’ numbering systems compound the oddity by resuming single-lettering after DD or DDD, skipping over E (and F if DDD was used), but sometimes going from DD to E. Other manufacturers double up further down the range, with FF or GG. It’s illogical, internally nonstandard (compared to other bra makers), and externally nonstandard (compared to other products).

For instance, the size ranges of drill gauges and various other mechanical items only double up when a SMALLER-than-A size is added, like an AA battery. When it is necessary to add an unforeseen size or two on the upper end of the range, industry doesn’t double up the letters, because there is most of the alphabet available, stretching all the way out to Z. (The only exception I can think of is shoe widths,)

Maybe bra manufacturers don’t want to hint to their larger customers that there is a whole alphabet available all the way out to Z! More likely, I suspect they think that that DD and DDD women don’t want to think of themselves as being so far out of the normal range that they are in a whole ’nother category. In that situation, they might buy a D size that was too small for them rather than the E size they needed. (And then return it for a refund!)

2015 Update: Here is a “Universal Cup Size Chart” that is part of American Amazon’s “Lingerie Glossary.” The EU’s standardization team has done the rational thing and eliminated all doubled-up letters. (It is closer to the US sizing convention than the UK’s, because the UK doubled-up more than the letter D.)

(Now if only some standardization group would tackle the “vanity sizing” problem!)

 

 

 

Try-On

 

I’ve just had a bit of a brainwave. I occurred while was reading a thread about the difficulties that women with large busts often have getting a well-fitting bra, even when they go to a retail store for a fitting. The thread is at http://fullerfigurefullerbust.com/2013/07/13/the-bra-fitter-is-not-always-right/. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if there were an establishment in London, New York, and other big cities devoted entirely to unbiased fittings? Its fitters would be truly expert fitters (unlike many current fitters). The establishment’s initial name could be “D+”. As it expanded, it could revise the name downward one letter at a time, ending in “A+”. But a better name would be “Try-On.”

It wouldn’t sell bras. Instead, it would charge a fee for a fitting-session-plus-recommendations. (The fee might be $50 (or £35) for a half-hour, and $5 (or £3.50) for every five minutes thereafter.) It would carry the entire large-size range of many makers’ bras. These would be donated by makers in hopes of capturing sales from the persons whom they fit. It would not be possible to get all makers on board initially, but once a few had done so, and once Try-On had built up a good level of traffic, there’d be an incentive for the rest to do so defensively—to avoid losing sales. Its recommendation tickets would contain a bar code and/or promotion code that could be used at certain retailers (especially online vendors) to buy the recommended bras at a 10% (say) discount.

The allure of greater volume would initially intrigue a few retailers into signing an agreement with Try-On—and their involvement would in turn, in time, induce other retailers to get aboard defensively. The discounts would make the fitting fee “pay for itself”—or almost—from the customers’ viewpoint. And they’d help induce out-of-towners to drop in when visiting the city. The retailers would have to agree to rebate a portion of their discount sales to Try-On. If they honored the promotion code on all the items bought by buyers who repeatedly used it (and why wouldn’t they?) the rebates to Try-On could be so large that it could cut the fitting fee substantially—maybe even to zero. This rebate requirement should be held back until contract-renewal time, since it would be a stumbling block initially. (Hey, eBay did this—and so do other companies.)

Try-On could catch on quickly if it received favorable reviews in magazines and online sites. Assuming expert fitters were employed, and a large-enough range were in stock, many five-star reviews would be likely. Try-On should have a website providing details and an FAQ thread. Full-figured women wouldn’t be the only ones who’d have a good reason to pay for a fitting. According to numerous surveys over the decades, a majority of women are wearing the wrong-size bra. If all women were offered fittings, demand would go through the roof. (Try-On would then have a fitting problem of its own—how to find a large enough building!)

The next step would be to offer fittings for girdles . . . and stockings . . . and corsets, including fan-lacers. These are items many women are curious about and might consider buying—if they could be sure they would fit.  Most women presumably feel shy about being fitted for them at a store, where they would feel pressured to buy something after they’d taken an employee’s time with a fitting.

Another defect of going to a store for a fitting is that its range in stock is necessarily limited, so there’s no assurance of getting the best-fitting item, only of the best-fitting one that it happens to have available. Limited range would not be a problem with Try-On, which by this time would occupy the acre-sized site of a defunct big-box store. Of course, off-the-rack corsets would more-or-less fit only half (?) the walk-ins. (Or maybe more, if every brand of OTR corsets could be sampled.) The fitters would give the remainder a written-up recommendation they could pass along to custom-made corsetieres, including all measurements used by any of them. Those recommendations would both be printed-out and online, the latter being accessible to the corsetiere via a “shorty” link to Try-On’s site. Further, corsetieres would be able to contact the fitter for additional details. Samples of custom corsetieres’ work would be available for visual inspection. This should improve their sales, at least of the best of them. And it would help the lesser-known names expand their niche.

Such start-up makers would greatly benefit from Try-On, as they’d be able to get their product into the hands of a large set of potential buyers at 5% of the cost of doing so now. And they’d be able to sell to those customers direct, bypassing middlemen. At present, in the absence of Try-On, there is no incentive for a new girdle maker, or a new seamed-stocking maker, with a superior product to start up, because it would be so expensive and iffy to attempt to become visible to and trusted by the market. The current providers dominate the market’s mindshare. Perhaps, eventually, other items could be tried on for size, such as shoes, hats, gloves, and rings. This would enable the buying of them online to be done with less worry about having to return them or living with an ill-fitting item. And, again, makers could sell direct from their sites, bypassing the middleman.

The main obstacle for Try-On would be getting enough start-up money. I hope some woman-oriented charitable foundation would loan it. Or maybe Consumer’s Reports would do so.  (-;  Or maybe it could be crowd-funded! Getting such a loan would be fairly easy if Try-On had a successful pilot project—one with great reviews—in operation for three months or so. But even a modest pilot project might need $25,000 to run for that time—although some of that could be “sweat equity.” A realistic start-up fund would need to be ten times greater. Costs would be much lower if an office building with lots of empty space, which many of them (such as the Empire State Building) are stuck with, were to give Try On some of that space rent-free, or at a great discount. (The building could save taxes if Try On were a non-profit organization, because then it might be able to claim the non-paid rent as a charitable donation.)

Another advantage of this arrangement is that it would put Try On in or near the middle of town, enhancing accessibility. It would take an unorthodox real estate mogul to dig this idea. But I can think of one (you’ve heard of him) who’d likely lick his lips at the prospect.  (-:

Well, I can dream, anyway. What do this site’s readers think?

Roger K