The Rest of the World:

 

 

What a title for something in which we have so little experience! I hope this page will grow as we receive information from correspondents and extend the range of our travels. Certainly the Australians, Latin Americans and many countries in the Middle East have provided excellent examples of foundation wear, and still do in the case of the Latin Americans today. Watch this space as they say.

 

 

Australia:

 

 

 

Australia had numerous home-grown brands, a few of which, like Berlei, became famous worldwide. Others, like Jenyns, were famous but only in Australia. Some established companies from Britain, like Symingtons, recognising a potential market, expanded into Australia. After the war in the 1950's, that market would increasingly be populated by Britain's own own emigrants. The new immigrant on the 10 pound ship ticket, could now purchase the underwear that she had left behind, assuming her husband could find a job that is!

 

Innovations abounded as the Symingtons text shows "Nu-back, Concela, Lylow" to name but a few! Even Berlei came up with this classic piece of corsetry description:-

 

 

The Berlei "Controlacing" Liftbac, No. 7296, for the heavy abdominal figure.

 

 

 

 

Latin America:

 

My husband visited Peru in the mid-1980's and was struck by the number of well-stocked lingerie shops, often selling powerful looking panty-girdles. Corsets appeared not to be present other than some formidable back-supports and surgical corsets that seemed to be copies of the CAMP brand made by a firm 'Pro Infirma.' Indeed, the catalogues that the owner of the shop possessed were all from American CAMP, however, most of the products were locally copied. Basically, the Latin lady enjoys style and stylish modes and, as we shall see, will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve this. Let us travel back to a South America steeped in international intrigue in the days leading up to the Second World War.

 

From Uruguay come these stunning, traditional silk corsets from this period. Beautifully made, they would have been the property of a well-to-do, older lady, a wealthy politician or diplomat's wife for example, determined that her figure would not be an embarrassment at the consular parties.

 

These styles of corset are shown modelled below on the Dollhouse Vintage (DH) site. It poses an interesting question. The corsets are obviously tight on the model's waist but very loose on the hips. Did these South American women have abnormally large hips, or were they prepared to lace in dramatically at the waist? The latter is probably part of the solution. I believe that these corsets belonged to a wealthy woman, well past her prime but determined to show a slim waist whatever it took. Forget the principles of support here, tight-lacing was the function of these elegant devices.

 

 

 

Our friend who lived in Argentina for several decades, referred to such parties that she thoroughly enjoyed. Fluent in Spanish, she had many Argentinean acquaintances, whom she praised for their style and deportment, whilst adding "Mind you, you wouldn't believe what they went through to achieve those figures!" Well, now we know, as would she in later life. Taking a leaf from from her South American sisters, our friend would discard her daily M&S girdle and resurrect a corset for any special occasion.

 

I mentioned in the pages devoted to 'Reducing Corsetry' "After eight decades of rubber corsetry, the marketers have persuaded a new generation of girls to aspire and to perspire for beauty. Perhaps in the torrid summer heat of Rio de Janeiro at least the reduction aspect may have a chance of working." The rubber corset is alive and well in South and Central America. Whether women wear these tortuous devices at home, at work, or for special occasions, I do not know. Certainly, some manufacturers recommend a four hour limit suggesting 'reduction' in the privacy of one's home.

As we see below, any number of these contraptions is available to trim the seorita, and not just in pure latex. Confections of extraordinarily complex elastic and bones are pressed into service.

 

The magnificent creature on the left comes from the Lady Ardyss range. Although nominally American, there's sufficient Spanish in the site to suggest her origins. The actually garment above looks rather like (to quote my husband), an 'empty pair of tights.' Nevertheless, the complexity of the garment is revealed and, if you care to count, you'll find that the seorita has a total of no less than eight bones and an amazing 30 hooks-and-eyes with which to play. I've not seen such a number since the under-belted corselette, or the Spen-all.

 

Even the rather pretty girl on the left who wears a non-rubber pantie-girdle has the discomfort of shoulder straps, and innumerable hooks and eyes. The poor Latin woman suffers to be beautiful, and, I must confess, often succeeds  as well.

 

One feature of modern Latin corsetry advertisements is their superb quality. The prettiness of the models is somewhat contrasting to the complex rubber and elastic garments they they appear to don before a night's 'clubbing'. I have never 'clubbed' and I never will, but if I was (cough cough) years younger, I certainly wouldn't wear rubber to do so!

The model on the left sports the highest-waisted panty-girdle in the world where the flesh coloured parts are elastic, and the white parts latex. Why only part of the garment is latex I don't know. Perhaps heat generation is a genuine problem with these garments.

The lady on the right looks terribly sad. Mama has not allowed her to spend the extra money on latex and she is stuck with boring old elastic. How WILL she secure a mate dressed in the flesh underpinnings of the previous generation. This is 2006. Latex is the miracle substance; it was only first used in corsets exactly 100 years ago!

 

 

 

 

 

Turkey:

 

We found a modern source of Turkish garments that we have included here, partly for the interesting captions. I know it is rude to poke fun at translations when I don't speak a word of Turkish, but they are amusing. The language comes across very bluntly and actually says what it means rather than 'beating around the bush'.

 

The description leads one to imagine some latex device for incontinence, but no, this is no more and no less than a panty-girdle for the fashion conscious Turkish lady!

Stress is placed on the fact that this is a post-birth corset and not a surgical corset.

 

 

 

 

The Middle East:

 

In our travels we have been lucky enough to come across some interesting foundation garments from capital cities as unlikely as Cairo and Damascus. But, these cities are only unlikely candidates until one appreciates the culture, which, at least for weddings, closely resembles the family intensity of the film (2003) "My big, fat Greek wedding". The women who live around the Mediterranean Sea can be most voluptuous, walking that tightrope between beauty and obesity that is all too familiar to the Italians. 

 

In a back street in Cairo (1990), we came across a girdle that was a slightly worn Marks and Spencer, but with no packaging. From which hotel room or washing line did this girdle originate? The blistering heat of the Egyptian summer (often around 100o F in the afternoon), precludes tight clothes in general and girdles in particular! Nevertheless, we found an amazing long-line brassiere, its label in pure Arabic. This device, when laid on its side caused my husband to burst out laughing. It looked just like a pyramid! 

In a Damascus Hotel, we observed the entire female cast of an expensive Syrian wedding walking through the foyer. The women, far more heavily made up than their western sisters, carried the flounces and satin finery of the party in their arms; their hair-does were concealed by scarves, as this formidable army of shapely women marched, like some army of Amazons, across the marble floor in a heady waft of perfume. Powerful panty-girdles and brassieres as we suspected, augmented their figures. Any number of these well-made garments were available from shops in the local soukh (1995 below).

The labelling is interesting. The label on the Syrian girdle (above) reads

'Ayasku'. "I ask you" said my husband!

 

On the brassiere, it reads 'Abdul Haq' and the measurements B 40 / 90, catering for both western and continental tastes, since Syria was once the most cosmopolitan country on earth.

    

 

 

The Far East:

 

The Far East is rapidly gaining a reputation, similar to that of Latin America, of producing more traditional foundations. In that period of rapid economic growth where style is everything, but the surgeon's blade has yet to cut, any artifice to create a good shape will be employed. The lingerie stores of Singapore and Shanghai sport a whole selection of waspies, pantie-girdles and strange, complicated shapers. I've extracted our account from a trip to Singapore in November 2003.

A chance to travel in the Far East is always a pleasure, particularly as the mercury dips below 40o F and the days become progressively short and bitter in Europe. I'll not dwell upon the effects of corset bones and under-wiring on airport security devices, but, as my husband remarked with a sly smile, if I pass through the security gate and the alarm sounds, he feels confident that the machine is in good working order.

The 14 hour Amsterdam to Singapore flight was remarkably pleasant. Unaccountably we got upgraded, and we spent the flight (on a totally packed 747) enjoying excellent cuisine and wines to match. The charming Singaporean hostesses (of which more later) seemed all to eager to ensure that we should consume our way into a 10 hour torpor.

The whole point of this entry to the diary was what started as a desultory perusal of the stores along Orchard Road, the main shopping thoroughfare of Singapore. Having observed the minute frames of the average Asian woman, 99% of who appeared to be under 21, we considered that any foray into the lingerie sections of the major department stores would be a disappointment; as, quite frankly, it is in most cities these days. To our amazement, each store had a reasonable range of pantie-girdles. In addition, they would have a few examples of a long-leg pantie-girdle, with an attached waist cincher (similar to some USA Flexees products of the 1990's). Waist cinchers themselves were quite common, but we were quite mystified by a well-boned bustier device, the function of which my husband and I completely failed to understand. The helpful salesgirl (Asia is full them, and they are all young enough to be our grand-children) was most helpful and explained (and these were the words she used), all about the functions of the girdles and corsets in the department. I was dumbfounded, my husband was (in British parlance) 'gob-smacked'. This-slip-of-a-girl was using terminology that I thought had died a decade ago!

The girdle (lower right), is quite beautifully constructed and reasonably heavy too. There is a cunning seam at the front and rear that generates an artificial 'panty-line'. Presumably the wearer does not want the world to share the knowledge of her formidable underpinnings!

On the way back to the hotel, somehow inevitably, my husband's mind began to wander along those channels denied to the female imagination. The lore surrounding the airline stewardess and the girdle has been discussed for about seven decades. My husband, inevitably started surmising that perhaps what lay underneath the sleek form of the 'Singapore Girl', the immaculate airline stewardess, was not as simple as we imagined. I rapidly brought him back to earth. Decades ago, we all wore girdles. Today, we don't; and particularly Singapore Girl! I suspect my voice rose as I said this. But I do wonder who would buy these garments. Whoever does, and goes for the full upper and lower garment, will be confronted by no less than 12 bones and 24 hooks and eyes, and, I must add, no easy way to heed the calls of nature. There are, of course, any number of tubby Singaporeans (as there are anywhere), but are they trying to compete with their sylph-like sisters? Or are they designed for the 'billy-boys', that used to haunt Bugis Street before Singapore became squeaky clean? Who knows? I would love to have tried on the girdle, but my Anglo-Saxon frame is too large to accommodate oriental sizes. The salesgirl giggled in that polite covered mouth way, typical of Asia. Had she gone "tee hee", I would have burst out laughing as well. She suggested that I try America and, of course, she's probably right.