Weddings

 

Weddings were probably the ‘special occasion’ where women could be persuaded to wear their best corsets. A persuasive corsetiere could have a field day once she got wind of an impending wedding. The Spirella magazines have many charming wedding photographs with detailed descriptions of who is wearing what under the satin dresses and the floral rayon print of the Mother. Typically in the 1960’s the mother would be wearing a 305 corset or one of the heavier-style girdles, however, there are no references to the bride doing so. Usually the bride would be wearing a 206 girdle or something similar. On a few occasions, the bridesmaid, apparently aged about 25, was described as wearing a 305, however, I doubt if this was a regular habit.

The wedding description below comes from November 1969. Note that even at the end of the swinging 60's, two middle-aged women are wearing corsets.

An exciting day for the bride and a proud moment for our consultant Mrs. H. of Peterborough. The bride wore Spirelettes 83 and 132 [a desperate attempt by Spirella to attract a younger market with lighter foundations], 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?? At least Mrs. H was wearing the same foundations that she sold. Note that the sister on the right wears a laced foundation, one of Spirella's many euphemisms for corset. The year was 1969 and I could well believe that her Mother was a regular corset wearer. The fact that her Mother wears the complex (and expensive) 325 suggests that this is so; however, a 30-year-old woman? At the end of the 1960's such a garment for the sister I suspect might just be 'for special occasions only', such as this wedding. 

From 1959 comes a lovely photograph of a very attractive bride with a keen interest in her appearance

   

as is revealed by her corsetiere's letter to the Spirella magazine:-

The charming 21-year-old bride is a regular Spirella wearer. Her corsetiere, Mrs. N. of Norwich, tells us she had supplied her with one 700,  one 260, one 384, one 423, one 323 and one 206 : and all during 1959.

To translate from Spirella's love affair with their numbering system, the 700 is quite a formidable corselette (and would probably have been worn at the wedding), the 260 and 206 are high-waisted girdles, and the rest are brassieres, two of which are long-line style. By today's standards that is a remarkable trousseau.

Weddings, present and future, were a source of vital intelligence for the diligent corsetiere with an eye for future sales. The bride, bride's mother, granny, bridesmaids and a host of relatives, in a time when life was far more parochial than present, represented an un-tapped vein of commission. How good a corsetiere are you? Let us see if you can spot the potential corset and girdle wearers in these wedding photographs.

Look at the photographs below that appeared in the British Spirella Magazines of the mid-1960's. Guess who is wearing the corsets, girdles and  pantie-girdles. It isn't very difficult, with a few exceptions. The real task of the corsetiere was to engage all these ladies prior to the wedding, and convince them that a new lower foundation was essential for the occasion. Having sold the idea of the new lower foundation, a matching brassiere would be proposed as an essential complement to the girdle or corset. There is plenty of standing around at these functions, so some support stockings for those aching legs will be required. 

There are thirteen ladies present, who ages range from 24 to 65. This means that some of the older ladies were born around the turn of the century, whilst the brides and bridesmaids would have been born at the end of the Second World War. Seven are wearing corsets, one is wearing a pantie-girdle and the rest are wearing open-bottom girdles.

Click on the picture to find out if you guessed what the lady was wearing. How good a corsetiere are you?

              

 

 

In practice, however, the majority of brides in the late 1950's and 1960's were looking towards the lighter foundation, and below (1958) and right (1965), all the girls are wearing Spirella's 'waist nipper'. In 1958 in Britain, a girdle would have been 'de rigueur', however, this was Spirella in a rather warm South Africa.

The text attached to these photographs from the Spirella magazine speak volumes about the aspirations of these young ladies.

Left 1962: "Spirella client, Miss F. of Stockport, completes three generations of Spirella wearers. On the day of the wedding, Miss F., her mother and grand-mother all wore Spirellas. All are clients Stockport corsetiere, Mrs. B." Indeed, a good corsetiere could guide generations through their girdles, maternity belts and corsets.

Right 1964: "This charming wedding picture shows the daughter of corsetiere Mrs. H. of Colchester, Essex. Her daughter wore a Waist Nipper and short bra style 93 for this most important day of her life. She hopes to follow her mother's example and become a corsetiere when she is twenty-one, later this year.

 

When these photographs were taken, it is right to assume that that all the older ladies (over 50) are wearing a corset. Only one woman is wearing a pantie-girdle, however, this garment was not that common in the mid 1960's in Britain. Therefore, all the others are wearing traditional girdles. The two exceptions are the bridesmaids who are wearing corsets despite being in their 20's. One is a little 'chubby' and appears obviously under the influence of some constraining foundation garment. The other looks quite slim, and to be fair, the 515 was described as a girdle and could be ordered without lacing. To any woman of her age today, however, that garment would be called a corset, assuming that the woman of today knew was a corset might be.

 

The late-1960's were a period of transition, when an elderly lady might wear a pantie-girdle and a woman in her 20's, a corset. The girdle was still (literally) the mainstay of the middle-aged woman. The houses of the corsetieres  proudly displayed their professional signs. 

 

Unlike any other industry, Spirella and Spencer, anticipating Yellow Pages by more than a decade, bought full pages in the county phone directories to advertise the numbers of their corsetieres.  

The counters of the department stores groaned under the weight of corsets and girdles, and in Marks and Spencer, girdles of an amazingly high quality could be purchased by the average woman. 

 

In 1967, this charming lady of my acquaintance (left) displays what the perfect middle class lady in her early 60's would wear to a wedding. Silk twin-set and pearls, hat, gloves, long-line bra from the Triumph Doreen range, zippered high-waisted girdle from Marks and Spencer, and support stockings from the ladies' shop on the high street. 

 

The flatness of her stomach is a tribute to the power of the Marks and Spencer classic girdle. Some of her less generous circle suggested that she wore a corset for such occasions, however, she didn't. Having no children, an early adulthood on horseback, and proper foundations gave this women an excellent figure. 

 

That her figure is elegant and well-controlled should have sounded a warning bell to the marketers of the bespoke corset houses. Sadly, within three years, this lady's girdles had been consigned to the dustbin. As she followed her American cousins into the panty-girdle. Her figure was never quite the same.

Indeed, the times were changing, and within a few years those same girdles and corsets would be be permanently 'on sale', the panty-girdle and then the brassiere would overtake the girdle for prime position in the stores, and the generic corset would become a sad object of fun, lying unwanted at jumble sales, and latterly charity shops.