Three Decades of

Charis Foundation Garments

1930, 1939 & 1953


Fitting the Charis Belt








Charis was a very successful bespoke corset manufacturer that lasted from early in the 20th century until the 1960's when peer pressure forced women to accept that yards of intricate lacing were a unnecessary complexity in a modern world of freedom.



The lacing was designed for adjustment, not on every wearing, it was too tedious for that, but to accommodate the wearer's natural fluctuations. The corsets are surprisingly lightly boned with the exception of the underbelt.




Between the Wars

The period between 1939 and 1953 covered World War II. The demand for war materials, the shortages and the absence of menfolk, kept fashion on hold, and particularly underwear. The invention of nylon in 1938 benefited the war effort well before its influence would be felt in foundation garments. The difference between the Charis catalogues of 1939 and 1953 show essentially unchanged styles (below 53, 39, 39, 53). Many companies went broke in the war, and those that survived didn't want to lose a returning clientele by changing what had hitherto been successful.

Charis were selling some classics in 1953. Corselettes on the left and the ever-popular combination which was one piece at the back and two pieces (brassiere and corset) at the front. Note the girdle-hooks to attach the top to the bottom. Corselettes appealed to the older women. 


Good, traditional girdles (above) were available for the housewife. 

Nevertheless, despite a resistance to change, Charis had to explore a younger market. The end of the war brought a freedom, and as soon as  newer materials became available, the major fashion houses incorporated them in the hope that the daughters of the pre-war women would still enjoy the confines of a properly fitted foundation. And they did. Clever marketing, and Howard Hughes's reclassification of the bosom as a weapon of womanhood rather than a milk-delivering organ saw to that. Add in the pencil skirt, Dior and the defined waists of the era, and foundations became mandatory.

Of course, the daughter and young wife were not forgotten (below) as the maternity girdle (with adjustable lacers) and satin-elastic pantie-girdle demonstrate.


In 1953, the pantie-girdle still had the suspenders attached at the base of the legs. This called for far shorter stockings than are available today, but were common in the 1950's. As the pantie-girdle progressed, so the suspenders moved inside the leg, and ultimately became removable, or even absent as women realised one of the essential truths of the lower foundation garment. The lower garment is there to hold up the stockings, so if you wear tights, why do you need suspenders ?

Charis's advertising for brassieres shows a slightly different style, which perhaps reflects a fact well-known to corsetieres , and that is, a fitted brassiere is a harder in which to find satisfaction than a fitted lower. (This is before full elastication of materials).

"Are those laces going to show?" "Is the brassiere going to stay attached to my girdle?"

Getting there, but the lady in the middle is all "My mother wants me to wear this."


Satisfaction is a well-fitted brassiere! It must be true, Bette Davis wears one. Not actually, however, in the same way that Playtex used a Katherine Hepburn look-alike (before Jane Russell appeared for real), so Charis took Bette Davis as their role model (left).

Mind you, the brassiere on the right (and I've seem many women wear them like that), is not well-fitting. If the cups cover the breasts in all the other models, why, oh why, do they dig into the bosom on the strapless version?