This story is but a small extract from a huge volume of material sent to us from a reader some years ago. Until now, we had never included the work for, although well written and technically accurate, it borrowed from our own work and was in places, blatant wish fulfillment. Despite this, we believe that amongst the text are elements of genuine experience, and we feel that these paragraphs relating a young teenager's tenuous and fearful steps towards discovering what Granny wore beneath her tweeds, is an interesting insight into the beginnings of an obsession. The author requested that certain pictures from our collection were included. - Ivy Leaf



Granny's Corsets



I began to learn much more of the secret ways of women, partly because my sisters tended to ignore the presence of a younger brother and even Mother would ask me to zip up her frock if nobody else was around to help. Unbeknown to them this was causing me acute excitement. I well remember zipping up Mother one evening and being amazed by the complex hook and eye fastening of her long brassiere; there must have been fifteen of the little devils to close, and how did she do it alone when it was behind her back? The tighter the dress, the more I got excited, and occasionally Mother or Granny would wear a satin blouse which made me almost ecstatic. I prayed for another wedding in the hope that my sisters might once again be displayed in the pink satin frocks. Amazingly, the thought of invading my sisters' and Mother's rooms to touch this finery had not yet occurred to me, however, a small incident caused me to transgress their privacy once and for always.


I often saw my sisters pulling up their skirts to fasten suspenders, that was no great secret, but one day alone in the lounge Granny came in from the garden in her customary tweeds but regrettably no exciting blouse. She bent over to pick up a magazine and there was a distinct snap. She looked a little embarrassed and then pulled up the rear of her skirt and asked me if I knew how to re-attach one of her back suspenders. For the first time ( I would be about twelve at the time ) I got a tantalising glimpse of what an older lady wore beneath her skirt. I suppose I assumed that she wore a roll-on or a suspender belt like I knew my sisters did. But no, whatever she was wearing was much more substantial, however, all I saw was an edge of what appeared to be stiffened pink satin below which Granny's white thighs bulged out before the stockings contained them again. I could barely breathe with excitement at the sight of this unexpected garment whose function must have been more than to hold up her stockings. "What are doing back there?" asked Granny, so I fumbled about as long as was decent and re-connected the errant suspender and stood up, not a little red faced. I guessed that it must be some form of girdle, something I understood as a tighter and stronger roll-on, that I had once seen models wearing in advertisements on the London Underground. But a girdle in satin, this was too much and I could feel the blood pounding in my brain. Granny even asked if was all right and I made some excuse about the heat and bending down. "It's us ladies that are supposed to get hot flushes, not you young chaps" she admonished, but not unkindly.


Granny returned into the garden and with some trepidation I opened the ladies magazine that Granny had been looking at. Even then, I felt that I was invading some female privacy and after many furtive glances around I began to flick through it.  Here were all recipes for beauty that women seemed to enjoy, curlers, face masks, hair spray, and at the end of the magazine some advertisements for brassieres and girdles, all of which I was vaguely familiar with. However, in some small advertisements at the end was a picture of a women wearing a long girdle and being measured by another lady. The girdle had strange laces, like a shoe, for which I could see no purpose. Spirella corsets, made to measure in the privacy of your own home. Was this was the sort of garment that I had glimpsed? I remembered now that Mother sometimes referred to her girdle as a corset. Perhaps the huge lady that visited Mother and Granny every six months, who vanished with them upstairs was a corset lady, or corsetiere as the magazine called her.  I was utterly fascinated and unconsciously, Granny had added corsetry to satin as one of the powerful forces in my life. For days afterwards I watched Granny and Mother almost trying to see through their clothes to what lay beneath. Although I was quite familiar with my sisters underwear; I mentioned that they weren't shy, Mother and Granny were completely and literally closed doors.



I decided that I would have to enter Granny's bedroom, and find one of these garments for myself. Pictures in the various ladies magazines that I had become addicted to, weren't enough. I had to see and touch the real thing. One afternoon, having determined that the house was indeed empty, and Granny at the far end of the garden, I went upstairs, along the landing and gently approached the door to Granny's room. For half an hour my hand went to the handle of the door and then retreated again. I just couldn't do it and cursing myself I slunk away to take unsatisfactory solace in my magazine collection in the loft. I even investigated the clothes basket in the bathroom, but this only revealed my sisters knickers and stockings which wasn't what I wanted at all.


In an agony of frustration I spent the next week waiting for another opportunity, but either the sisters were in, or it rained and Granny stayed indoors. At last, the day came, sunny, and with Mother and the sisters out on yet another shopping expedition. I should mention that we were far from poor, and Mother had no need to work. She enjoyed cooking and had a maid and gardener in to keep the place clean and attractive. I waited for Granny to go out into the garden, but for some reason she seemed reluctant and sat in the lounge awhile reading. Eventually, I saw her go out through the French windows and I literally ran upstairs, along the landing, and desperate that my courage shouldn't fail, I walked straight up to her bedroom door, opened it, went in and closed it quietly behind me.


Like an experienced burglar, I had seen them on TV, I kept to the wall and approached the window. Through the net curtains I could see Granny at the far end of the garden, but I kept well clear of those windows just in case. I started to take in the room. A large bed covered by a pink silk counterpane dominated the room flanked by two small tables on one of which lay a glass, presumably for her dentures.  An old ottoman lay at the foot of the bed and two antique chairs sat against the wall.  I guessed, correctly as it turned out, that the chairs were where Granny laid her clothes at night.


Peeking through the window, I confirmed that Granny was still weeding in the garden, and so I crept over to a huge old wardrobe that stood beside an old fashioned chest of drawers.  By a basin, Granny appeared not to use our communal bathroom, stood a dressing table. On this lay several models of a female head surmounted by immaculate silver wigs. So this was how Granny always kept her hair in such good condition. Briefly, I felt a twinge of guilt that I was invading an old lady's privacy, however, I was not to be thwarted from my search. The wardrobe contained Granny’s clothes, very old fashioned by today’s standards but in one corner, in a cellophane bag hung a long white dress. This must be Granny's wedding dress. I lifted the cellophane a little and confirmed that the dress was made of the heaviest and finest ivory Duchess satin. The waist, however, seemed almost impossibly small. I felt faint. This would definitely need further investigation.


I closed the wardrobe and approached the chest of drawers, my heart beginning to pound. Yet again I checked the garden and to my dismay saw no sign of Granny. I tiptoed to the door but heard nothing. In my absorption with the dress would I have noticed Granny's footsteps coming upstairs? A scrunch from the garden drew me to the window where, blessed relief, Granny had dropped a rake on the flower bed. As she bent over to retrieve it, I could see the outline of her long brassiere, just like Mother's, and was there something else, but her slip and the heavy tweed skirt defeated my prying eyes. Vowing to be more careful I waited until Granny had reached the end of the garden before approaching the chest of drawers again. The top drawers opened easily but contained only jewelry and scarves. The next drawer revealed a cloud of silky things in black, white and pink that I knew from my sisters were probably knickers and slips.  This was not what interested me and I tried the third drawer.  It was stiff and in my eagerness I pulled too hard and the entire drawer shot out onto the floor spilling its contents onto the carpet. I gazed at the display of garments that I had only ever seen in the pages of the magazines. Girdles like my sisters, but so much more substantial and obviously much more powerful; strange combinations of girdles with brassiere attached, and there, displayed in its pink satin majesty, my first corset. This is not quite true, I had seen occasional corsets, by this time in shop windows, but they were small, cotton affairs, although highly exciting all the same. I immediately related this corset to the glimpse of satin beneath Granny's skirt and, indeed it had laces which I guessed correctly were to tighten the garment, and incorrectly I assumed lay at the back.  Later research showed that Granny wore them at the front. One of the few occasions when women had made their underwear and clothes easy to get into. I was jolted out of my reverie by Granny calling from downstairs. Once more in a panic that I might be caught, I put the underwear back in the drawer, but goodness knows what order it was in when the drawer fell out. I replaced the drawer and crept out of her room closing the door behind me.


The next few days were lived in an agony of suspense as I expected Granny to accuse me of looking in her drawers, but as time passed and nothing was mentioned my confidence returned. Having violated the sanctity of Granny's bedroom, excursions to my Mother's room were easier, and very fruitful I might add. I began to realise that it was only the older woman that wore corsets in 1961. Mother's underwear lay easily exposed on a shelf in her wardrobe and consisted mainly of long brassieres and girdles. These in themselves were quite exciting and I was delighted that year when Marks and Spencer introduced a satin elastic zip girdle which I noticed became a regular favourite of my Mother. I became a connoisseur of ladies’ underwear and I made many subsequent trips to Granny's and Mother's bedrooms and after a while became more familiar with their underwear than they were themselves.