Spirella resurrected the name Spirelette in the 1970's. It failed in the 1950's and sadly, fared little better in the 1970's despite the determined look on the models face.

Just in case the panty-girdle was a bit too modern for you (or your mother), they still offered the 107 girdle.

 

Panty-Girdles

including Basques, Waspies, Suspender Belts and

The surprising Spirelette 105! 

 

In the mid 1960's, Spirella had to admit the existence of tights and endorsed a range of panty-girdles under the Coppelia and Spirelette banner. These were never fully made-to-measure, the factory simply could produce them in a large range of sizes. The corsetiere would still fit the garment; it was part and parcel of the process, however, it was, in many respects, unnecessary. 

The Coppelia was aimed at the middle-aged 'girdle to panty-girdle' convert, and the Spirelette at her daughter. Although Spirella advertised in women's magazines, the repeat sale or new sale still relied upon word of mouth, recommendations and the perseverance of the travelling consultant. Spirella wanted the new generation to follow the habits of the old. 

The Spirelettes were aimed strongly at the daughters of existing customers, but to no avail, some of the latest Spirelette designs had a life of only a few years before they were discontinued. More than any of Spirella's products, the Spirelette range reveals a company in turmoil, facing a future to which it would be unable to adapt. After the 25 year history of the 206 girdle and the four decades almost unchanged of the 305 corset, Spirella's foray into the panty-girdle quickly died. It's interesting to note that the few remaining Spirella corsetieres (that work for Spencer these days) still rate the 305 corset as their most popular garment after six decades of only detail changes.

Spirelette's desperate attempt to appear modern in 1963. The Spirella magazine (right) ran a column written by a trendy young girl called Wendy. She appeared in a modish crash helmet and riding a scooter; I mean just how modern did you want to go! I've seen most of these panty-girdles and waist-nippers, and the striking feature that is totally missed (probably on purpose) is how variable they are in strength. They are mainly light creations for the 1960's woman who might even admire the latest pop star, however, the 102 and 105 were bullet-proof and were more likely to have been worn by the pop star's mother!

    

The Coppelia 51 panty-girdles on the left  (1969)  were the strongest in the Spirella range.  From 1980, the 754 (755 with higher waist) and 750 (right - 751 with convenience opening) was an attempt to persuade women that even panty-girdles could be made-to-measure.

                 

The Spirelette 82 girdle (1969 left) was an excellent example of the lighter panty-girdle for the more modern woman or, from a sales point-of-view, a long term client's daughter. The Spirelettes 111, 112, 114 and 115 demonstrate a consistency of cut and design. The 115 was actually a conventional girdle for the old-fashioned girl, or far more probably, a girl with an old-fashioned mother. These girdles were available throughout the 1970's. On the right, and as a response to the coloured offerings from Marks & Spencer, Spirella advertised its own patterned, ready-made panty-girdle (right September 1970). At twice the price of M&S's own, it was an unsuccessful last ditch attempt to attract a younger market. Girls weren't wearing girdles any more in 1970.

     

Spirelette 105 girdle (1965)

I love these pictures. The two girls in the 105 and 134 are about the same age, however, the school-girlish, giggly innocence on the left has been replaced by a sophisticated, and perhaps even calculating, young lady on the right who appears to have stepped straight out of a 'James Bond' film. 

Don't be deceived. That panty-girdle on the left above, modelled by the coy innocent is shown in its reality below. Grannies, mothers and daughters in the late 60's to early 80's could have ordered these panty-girdles. They are unexpectedly powerful garments that could force a shape on the most recalcitrant of torsos and leave the Mother, at least, secure in the knowledge that if her daughter couldn't actually be provided with a chastity belt; she would be wearing a close approximation. Bad luck Mr. Bond!

Talking of Mr. Bond, the panty-girdle era and the advent of James Bond were not lost on at least one Swedish manufacturer, Blair.

Spirelette 134 girdle  (1969)

The surprising Spirelette 105

Let us call upon the Spirella house magazine 'Threads' who introduced the Spirelette 105 in 1963:-

It takes 12 major operations to make the

LONG LEG PANTIE GIRDLE

 

New Spirelettes – a range of ready-to-wear girdles and bras to replace the earlier Spirelette range – are now being made in the Corset assembly department at Letchworth. First styles in the new range were released to corsetieres in the spring and three further styles have recently been added. New Spirelettes are unique for they carry the only long-legged pantie girdle style in the Spirella range. It's a high waisted girdle giving a smooth line from above the waist to mid-thigh, and has adjustable suspenders inside the leg. Pantie styles have enjoyed increasing popularity among the younger set in recent months and in the U.S.A. sales of this kind of garment have rocketed. They are ideal for wear with trews or tight skirts. Feelings were mixed among the Spirella girls we talked to about long-legged pantie girdle styles generally. Some liked the idea of them, especially for wearing with slacks, while others preferred something without a leg. It takes about a dozen major manufacturing operations to make the Spirella long-legged pantie girdle and the work is under the control of the Production Manager. In addition to the long-legged pantie style, five other New Spirelette designs are already released to corsetieres, They are a lightweight all elastic pantie brief, a normal length pantie girdle, an all-elastic pull-on girdle, a lightweight high waisted girdle giving rather more support and control, and a feather­weight bra in Terylene and cotton. All the lower styles carry a distinctively shaped centre panel in new, extra-light Terylene and cotton, which has on it an attrac­tive chevron pattern of bright rayon, the whole panel being over­laid with a new and charmingly embroidered marquisette. Except for this centre front panel New Spirelettes are made in a new extra-light elastic They make their appeal to the woman and girl who require a minimum of support and control.

 

Well done Spirella. They correctly anticipated the move from girdle to panty-girdle at the end of the 1960's in Britain, however, the prose does not quite prepare one for the actual garment as I will explain below:-

 

Our first-hand knowledge of the Spirelette 105 came from the residue of a corsetiere's estate. We had purchased a number of Spirelette garments which, I had always believed were light-weight versions of the 'real thing'. That is foundations that a mother might buy for her daughter to lure her onto more conventional corsetry. The Spirelette panty-girdle 104 and the corselette 116, were exactly as I had imagined, however, the longer-legged 105 was a revelation! It is the strongest panty-girdle I have ever encountered (and I've seen a few)! The Spirella advertisement shows a young lovely looking coy in what appears to be a flimsy, although functional panty-girdle (above). I imagine that both mother and daughter would got a shock when the real garment turned up. Of course, not all young girls are slender, and, in reality, perhaps the corsetiere would only recommend such a garment for very strong control. It certainly works.

The elastic is not just strong, it's doubled in the key areas, and the satin panels are of a weight completely unknown today.

 

 

One could be forgiven for thinking, based on the brochure material, that these garments were mere mere wisps of power-netting. Far from it; they are heavy and substantial foundations, but they work.

 

In 2011, one of our calendar models tried on a Spirelette 105.

 "I've never worn anything so firm. I really don't like it much - perhaps it would be OK for horse riding."

Whilst we were updating the page on the 'Feel of Foundations', we decided to check out the girdles with the most bones and seams. Our reader commented that, as a teenager, she wore a girdle just like her mother. The trouble was that her mother was half again as big as herself so that the bones, seams and zipper, that seemed entirely reasonable to mother with a 35 inch waist, were uncomfortably close together for a girl with a 25 inch waist! The Sears standard panty-girdle does well with 11 seams, a zipper, six bones and six suspenders, the rearwards of which lie exactly where you want to sit down. The Spirellette 105, can only boast nine seams, six bones, a zipper and four suspenders but is heavier and feels more substantial. The materials are simply heavier duty items. The Spirella was, however, custom-made and the owner may well have omitted the rear suspenders. The Sears wins again around the leg with five seams per leg; Spirella can muster only four. By comparison, the M&S satin-elastic girdle of the 1960's fields nine seams, a zipper, six suspenders but a whopping nine bones and outweighs either of the panty-girdles.

 

"But, they really didn't stand up by themselves, surely?"

 

How often have we heard that comment. In the nature of scientific enquiry, my husband and I selected the Spirelette 105, an unused M&S satin elastic girdle (8054/956B, for those of you who are girdle spotters) and a 2010, firm control panty-girdle - sorry - shaper also from M&S. The results are clear to see, and those vintage girdles are not touching the wall or supported in any way other than by the very fabric of the garment. The collapsed mess in the foreground is, of course, the modern shaper!

 

Basques, Waist Nippers* and Suspender Belts

Spirella advertised in all their brochures from the 1950’s and 1960’s, a small range of basques, suspender belts and waist nippers (*sometimes called 'waspies'). These were aimed directly at the younger woman in general, and the bride in particular. To be honest, these articles hardly required a detailed fitting, however, they were a small bonus source of commission for the corsetiere if, after having got mother a new girdle and granny a new corset, the bride and bridesmaids could also be persuaded to get something made for that special day. Getting all the family involved, whether for a wedding or a funeral, was important to the corsetiere. ‘Like mother like daughter’ earned the corsetiere a continuing source of income that lasted for decades.

 Unexpectedly, there was a reversal of fortunes in the 1960’s, when suddenly liberated daughters convinced their mothers that a cheap panty-girdle from Marks and Spencer was the equal of their expensive fitted foundations. This mistake, as it turned out (see the human question mark), was one of two weapons that killed the traditional corsetry trade. The other weapon was the rise in popularity of tights.

Suspender belt 1081 (left) and waist nipper 1080 (right) from 1957.

 

 

Spirelettes 101 and 1080 (1963)

I have seen two waist nippers (model 1080). One from the Spirella archives in Letchworth (left). It is very well made, as one would expect from Spirella, in a heavy black satin. Although not obvious, the side panels are satin elastic that allows a degree of flexibility in sizing. Obviously not for the wedding, this might very well have been part of the bride’s trousseau for wearing with an evening gown.

 I was quite startled two years ago in Holland to observe my niece’s wedding album. On the second page were photographs of her getting ready for the big event wearing a very pretty basque (very similar to these Spirella basques from 1967 - left and 1980 - right). This was, however, a one-off for the special event and the strapless gown she wore.

 

 

The suspender belt, 1081, and waist nipper, 1080, were renamed Spirelettes 101 and 102 in 1963. Another attempt by Spirella to confuse us all! 

Until recently, I never had the chance to look closely at a white 1080 waist-nipper. These were genuinely popular amongst brides; and a little touch, that I thought was home-sewn, the three rosebuds, right of centre and above the two front-suspenders, appear to be standard fitment. These adornments can just be glimpsed on Spirella's catalogue photograph of the 1080 above right.

Spirella's attempt to encourage regular middle-aged clients to introduce their daughters to the brand, were doomed to failure as the 1960's progressed, however, probably one of the most popular garments purchased by the younger generation was the 'waist nipper', and Spirella was at pains to point this out in their house magazine. Of course, a 'waist nipper' is a special occasion only garment, and from that the writing on the wall should have been clearly illuminated, but nobody was looking!

   

The singer Dinah Kaye (far left, 1959), the lovely bride (left, 1960), Miss Liverpool 1959 and yet another Butlin's talent winner all wore Spirella foundations, in this case 'waist nippers' prescribed by their mothers, all of whom were Spirella corsetieres (and presumably who could buy the garments at cost price!) The pianist boasted an extensive 'Spirella wardrobe' of long-line bras and waist nippers.