Spencer

 

The plastic post-war Spencer bag that would indicate to the corsetiere,

and later to the customer, that another one of millions of corsets and girdles

 was destined for another satisfied customer (one hopes).

 

Spencer gave similar advice as Spirella to its corsetieres in 1936 as the student fitter was taken step by step through the demonstration and selling procedures. Every aspect was described from the greeting at the door, the dress and deportment of the corsetiere right through the measuring to the final sale of the article. Volumes were issued on marketing strategy, advertising and how to address the lady in question or even the lady's maid depending on the class of  the area.

 

This cameo would appear in thousands of ladies' magazines.

 

The battle of the bulge. Spread advertisements throughout the popular ladies' magazine about the dreaded bulge. Sorry - you might realise that an expensive foundation is the answer, but even then you will be wrong unless you get on the phone to the legendary (and imaginary) Anne Spencer!

 

Just one appointment with the Spencer corsetiere and your problems, and bulges, are solved. Even a girl who looks remarkably like a refugee from 'Goldfinger' (top left) wears a Spencer, perhaps I can look like her too! Once the corsetiere was past your front door, you might end up looking lighter, but your husband's wallet would certainly be lighter. Joking apart, the Spencer corsetieres make a fine job of shaping their clients and provided real relief to many sufferers of that perennial woman's problem, the 'bad back'. The cartoons continue ...

 

The Spencer Corsetiere's guide from 1936 had no problems with the client trying on the corset over her dress. Note that most of the corsetieres wear dresses that can be opened at the front. This is for ease of demonstrating their own garments.

The Spencer method for measuring the client in the modelling garment appear to be the same in 1936 as it was in 1920. 

 

 

Not that this was an official instruction

but Spencer made sure that their fitters

handled the clients responsibly.

Spencer measuring methods from 1920 and 1947 are identical (above). Even in 1966 the modelling garment was essentially the same device. 

The same method is still used by Spencer corsetieres today. Quite simply, the customer is put into a garment of considerable accommodation. The garment is tightened to the required degree and the measurements taken. The post-war measuring garment achieved a considerable degree of complexity! 

 

Latterly, the number of corsetieres who possessed the measuring garments or could even be bothered to use them became very limited. The few remaining corsetieres simply measured over the clients' existing foundations, which to be quite honest, probably gave a better fit than the measuring garment, especially if the client was already wearing a Spencer. Perhaps, however, there was subtle psychology at work here. The costs of these corsets was always high, and the whole measuring ritual ensured that the client would feel that value-for-money had been delivered, and that an acceptable amount of pampering, and due care had been lavished upon her figure. If the corsetiere simply looked and said "You'll need corset corset in the same size as before" (however correct that might be) it spoilt the afternoon's entertainment!

 

An early pre-war measuring garment, far simpler than its successors

These post-war modelling garments (1956 above) were in use until the end of the 20th century. The example on the right and below was recently acquired by the Ivy Leaf collection (2004).

The garments show superb attention to detail. Note the cup size meter !

Although the standard measuring garment covered a huge range of women, variations were adopted for the more specialised corsets, particularly that old favourite the abdominal support with the strongly dished front.

   

The technique simply doesn't change through the decades. The corsetiere of 1934 and 1947 could be as critical as her successor in 1974. (Note that the client above on the right is wearing a Marks and Spencers' lightweight panty-girdle. In reality, there's little chance that she will revert to a Spencer).

It is a sad reflection that the client in the 1974 picture is wearing what the majority of women in last three decades would refer to as a 'foundation garment'. In fact it barely qualifies as a pair of elastic underpants. These floral garments were much in vogue in the 1970's and could be bought from Marks and Spencer. Indeed, the corsetiere should be critical.

Of course, there are many reasons for wearing a corset:-

 

habit, peer pressure, parental pressure

support for one's figure

support for one's stockings

 

but finally, one of the most powerful is that proper corsetry allows one's clothes to fit perfectly every time.

If a Spencer corset can make me look like the lady on the left, then I'm going to phone my corsetiere immediately. Silly advertising belief perhaps but Spencer sold millions of girdles on just such images!

 

Alison Perry, who was a Spencer corsetiere in the USA, writes a lovely account of the training, trials and tribulations of a novice corsetiere. These recollections are included in

But returning to the halcyon days of the 1960's, the bottom line comes from the 1962 brochure where all the artifices of 'Before and After Woman' are exploited to their full potential. The background is even made of graph paper so that the alarming rise in the bosom can be charted by the scientifically minded!