One should never mock the well-endowed woman. Breasts might fascinate the male, but beyond C-cup, they are heavy, sweaty and basically, a nuisance. Take this from somebody who wears a 42E brassiere. Their sheer weight causes both neck and back problems. My husband relates a conversation with a 'front-heavy' lady who wore a neck brace for the best part of a year after undergoing less than pleasant cervical traction. As an engineer (not a diplomat), he commented that the weight of her breasts and the poor design of the vertical human was at fault. Fortunately, the lady knew my husband as a straight-talking Scottish engineer; a fact that probably saved him from serious injury! Why is it that the larger bras are mounted on the lower, and thus less popular shelves in shops. If one didn't already have a bad back (as I do), the stooping and peering at indecipherable labels will certainly give you one.
Of the 100 odd brassieres in our collection, we have acquired a 50F, a 50DD and a 48K cup. Besides a rather tiny 32B cup they appear gargantuan, yet humans come in many shapes and forms, especially women, whose complex three-dimensional structure is a challenge to even the most experienced corsetiere. Examples of big brassieres are shown on this page.
A famous celebrity, who was spokeswoman for a made-to-measure corsetry concern, went into hospital for a breast reduction operation. Before the procedure could begin, her husband burst into the surgeon's office and threatened all sorts of unpleasant litigation if he dared touch his wife's breasts - other than to make them bigger! That is a typically male attitude; they don't have to carry them around.
Multiple Foundations and 'Doubling Up'
The Independent newspaper reported a candid comment from the actress Gwyneth Paltrow who admitted to 'doubling up' on her 'magic knickers' (panty-girdles). This was not an infrequent practice in the past and it's a technique that I have used on the occasions when wearing my trusty Spirella 305's have been inappropriate. I have related where women wore two pairs of stockings; some brands of support stocking even advertised that they could be worn under a more fashionable pair. I knew a lady that wore a corselette over her corset, partly to support this second pair of stockings but also to disguise the engineering of her surgical support (It didn't - Ivy).
There was a famous case where an American servicewoman passed out on parade. She was found to be wearing no less than four panty-girdles to maintain a sleek line underneath her uniform skirt. A Dutch airline stewardess who I have known since university related that since the recent re-emergence of the shaper as a lower foundation, several of her colleagues 'doubled up'. She remembers in the 1970's that on flights to and from Italy, some stewardesses either doubled up or wore especially heavy-duty girdles to avoid the painful pinching that Italian males think ladies find irresistible. She never needed this tactic since firstly, she had (and still has) a stunning figure and secondly, her laser-like stare was up to any strength of Italian digits.
The dictionaries will tell us that to double up is to bend double with laughter; unlikely in the cases mentioned above!
Where did the garters go?
I have always found this advertisement somewhat odd. Certainly the wind lifting the skirt has been used many times by the foundation garment marketers (Marilyn Monroe even indulged) but where are her garters? (I have used the word garter since this is an American advertisement. In Britain we would say suspenders and in France, jaratelles that sounds altogether more feminine!)
A woman of her class in the 1950's would certainly wear a girdle, and the Sarong was, indeed a favourite of many, but equally certainly, she would not be seen dead without stockings. Look at the fur coats, this is a very cold day.
I suspect the vagaries of the censor are at work here. Bizarrely, it is fine to depict a women embarrassed by the unexpected revelation of her underwear, but to depict the same women in the same girdle with stockings and garters was far too risqué.
Sadly, without the stockings as a lower anchor, that Sarong girdle is going to ride up despite the promises of the advertisement!
The Corset and the Vacuum Cleaner
In the Jerry Lewis film "Who Minding the Store?" a lady has her corset sucked clean off her body by a wayward vacuum cleaner! This remarkable machine divests the poor lady of "My hat, my shoes .. no, .. no, no, no, no, no .. Oh my corset!" Her dress remains intact for, I fear the film would never have passed the censors otherwise. Nature might abhor a vacuum and I guess this lady was not too keen on it either!
Girdle Repair in Operation Petticoat
I will badly plagiarise Mark Twain's famous
statement here:- "Whenever my husband feels the need to perform DIY,
he should instantly lie down until the urge passes!" Occasionally, he
does actually perform a useful task and I did mention some years ago,
his effective repair of a car exhaust using a steel
bone from a corset. I feel that may have been a pinnacle in his
achievements! It did, however, bring to mind the effective use of a
girdle in repairing a machine on board a submarine in the old film
"Operation Petticoat" (left).
I will badly plagiarise Mark Twain's famous statement here:- "Whenever my husband feels the need to perform DIY, he should instantly lie down until the urge passes!" Occasionally, he does actually perform a useful task and I did mention some years ago, his effective repair of a car exhaust using a steel bone from a corset. I feel that may have been a pinnacle in his achievements! It did, however, bring to mind the effective use of a girdle in repairing a machine on board a submarine in the old film "Operation Petticoat" (left).
And just what is this strange surgical appliance on the right? In fact, it is nothing of the sort, it is simply the corset that Peter Pan would wear on stage (I hasten to add that Peter Pan, in the strange tradition of the English pantomime, is always played by a woman.) The solidity and straps allow wires to be attached to the performer so that she can fly through the air with (possibly something less than) the greatest of ease; and quite a small waist as well!
Not a surgical corset
Tom & Jerry
Flying Cat (1952)
|On the left, Tom is desperate to get hold of Jerry and the
small bird who have taken refuge in a 'bird house' on top of a tall pole.
Accidentally, Tom discovers a pair of corsets that save his fall from an
upstairs window and realises that they make a fine pair of wings.
Grabbing Jerry in full flight, the 'Achilles Heel' of corsetted flight is recognised by the bird and he pulls the knot that releases the two halves of the corsets and the luckless Tom, once again, crashes to earth and Jerry escapes.
On the right, Jerry befriends a poor ugly duckling who is trying to 'end it all'. Jerry consults a book on beauty and attends to his friend in the form of curlers, corsets, a face-mask and chin strap. Jerry captures the duckling but is horrified by its appearance and he retreats screaming. This does nothing for the poor duckling's confidence.
It is interesting, as in all cartoons, just how well the cartoonist might have understood the principles of the corset. In both cases, they are not too badly portrayed (it is a cartoon after all), however, the face-mask and curlers were probably quite a familiar sight and many woman still wore corsets in the 1950's!
Ugly Duckling (1953)
The girl above is nothing to do with Tom & Jerry, however, even without the bat, this girl is a fearsome spectacle. Imagine 40 years on, toothless and wearing her corsets underneath that all enveloping satin housecoat!
This was a Danish sitcom that ran from 1978 - 1982. In one episode, a lady shows off her new Spirella corset. It is a period piece, but the plot is set between 1929 and 1947 so well done the properties ladies. However, a corset wearing lady would always wear her knickers over the corset. This has been omitted so as to give the viewers a clear sight of the corset.
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Merman's panty-girdle is well displayed on several occasions in the
hilarious film 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'
(1963) and another such
garment remains on display in a museum on Hollywood Boulevard.
Merman wears what was de rigeur for American females in the 1960's, a
panty-girdle. The director seemed to enjoy engineering these brief glimpses
Miss Merman's panty-girdle is well displayed on several occasions in the hilarious film 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' (1963) and another such garment remains on display in a museum on Hollywood Boulevard.
Miss Merman wears what was de rigeur for American females in the 1960's, a panty-girdle. The director seemed to enjoy engineering these brief glimpses
Is it really that difficult to don your girdle?
The lady in the middle seems to have adopted the Superman ethic of wearing one's 'underpants' over one's tunic (or leggings in this case) whilst on the right, the young lady has jumped herself airborne as she struggles with her unaccustomed, tight-fitting underwear.
If Eiffel rather than Dior designed ladies underwear
Manufacturers often posed groups of women, partly to demonstrate the various foundation garments on offer (Warners and Felina are shown here), but also to demonstrate the various figure types possessed by women. The picture on the right adds a male inspector to the equation.
Sometimes these groups of girdle and corset wearing women appear in the oddest places!
"Oh, I do like to be beside the Seaside!"
The seaside and the dunes make for an unusual photographic back-drop. Above and on the left below we have some Victorian misses. Entering the water is riskier than it looks since corset steels were not rust-proof in those days. Next do we see some American girls in their girdles, corselettes and slips? Apparently not; these swimsuits were simply based on these styles and, in many cases, were manufactured to a similar strength. Sarongster introduces an element of fantasy here. While women were burning their bras and the Beachboys singing along to 'California Girl', Sarongster tried to persuade you that it was fine for a teenage girl to wear her mother's girdle. On the right - what can I say, they must be students!
The Italians take a different view as Anita Ekberg famously poses in a fountain in Fellini's famous film 'La Dolce Vita' (1960). Sadly, the reality of Italian women by the water is less glamorous but, of course, Anita was Swedish and the young ladies cavorting in the shallows are Danish.
It takes the dear old British seaside humour to sum up this entry!
Strange Goings-on Backstage
Corset-style in fashion or it that fetishism?
Definitely fetishism on the right! Perhaps we should have inserted a thought bubble "I think the corsetiere's having me on!" or "Never, ever upset your corsetiere!"
Excellent Use for an old Lampshade
A Surgical Appliance - not really - or is it?
It's a modern dress on the left, the style of which reminds one of granny's old corsets. Actually, these days, that would probably be great-granny's old corsets. The lovely Victoria demonstrates just how much better the dress looks when filled! On the right, we really do have a surgical corset, made to order from Jenyns of Australia in the 1960's. The back steels were held so tightly against Victoria's spine that she could not sit down! Despite the attention it might provoke in a modern club, Victoria preferred the dress!
Calamity Jane's Corsets?
We love many old movies, amongst which are the Paleface series starring Bob Hope and Jane Russell. In the original Paleface (1948), Calamity Jane (Russell) is surprised in the changing room by some bad guys who she guns down. On the left is the iconic figure of Calamity Jane in her corsets, six shooters at the ready. But is Jane wearing a corset for the back view shows no lacing!
(Incidentally, the gun belt was sometimes referred to as the 'Texas Corset'.)
In the film 'Calamity Jane' (1953), Doris Day is cast as the gun-toting woman. In the ball scene, she appears in a pink satin gown and displays a tightly corsetted waist, or does she? In the still frame (middle below) there is no corset to be seen, yet on the right she appears in a corset. The dress is very form-fitting (left) yet no evidence of the corset and the shoulder ruffles is apparent.
I suspect, that Miss Day, like Miss Russell were both naturally shapely women and didn't need a corset to fit into their costumes.
The beautiful Miss Day has THE most expressive face.
(From left to right) The real Calamity Jane (b. Martha Jane Cannary 1852 - 1903) was a frontierswoman who, apart from a few portraits would never have worn a corset. In fact, in many later pictures she appears very rough and masculine. Annie Oakley (b. Phoebe Ann Mosey 1860 - 1926), by contrast, was a very feminine sharp-shooter and the photograph of her as well as the publicity picture show a nicely corsetted waist. Annie Oakley has been portrayed many times on the stage and in films, notably by Ethel Merman (1908 - 1984) in 1946 and Betty Hutton (1921 - 2007) in 1950. Doris Day (b. 1924) issued an album of the songs from the film including the famous "Anything you can do, I can do better." Two lines from this song go
Man: "I can jump a hurdle"
Annie O: "I can wear a girdle"
Annie Oakley might have worn a girdle, but for sure, Ethel Merman did and there are several references to this. Suzi Quatro (b. 1950) played Annie Oakley in a 1986 musical but I doubt that Miss Quatro would be familiar with either corset or girdle.
This was a period when almost every western musical felt it necessary to insert a good old corset scene. Maureen O'Hara is famously pursued (and humiliated) by John Wayne in the classic 'McClintock'. But one scene that we never saw, was six brides being held up at gun-point by two ferocious Jane Russells.