Articles by other Authors
Roger has also found many articles written by others on the subject of foundation wear and corsetry. We have assembled these articles below.
Dengle, “Hold Your Man!” 1945, pp. 93-96:
Dengle, “Personality Unlimited: The Beauty Blue Book,” 1943, pp. 390-97:
Head (Hollywood costume director), “The Dress Doctor,” 1959:
Head & J. Hyams, “How to Dress for Success,” late 60’s, pp. 168-73:
Saunders, “So You Want to be an Airline Stewardess,” 1967, 1973, p. 50:
Coffey, “Look 10 Pounds Thinner, 10 Years Younger,” 1988, p. 79:
Craig London, “Discover a Lovelier You,” 1972, pp. 123-24:
Keith, “I Haven’t a Thing to Wear,” 1968, pp. 50-51:
Jones, “Time to Grow Up,” 1962, p. 57:
T. McJimsy, “Art in Clothing Selection,”
1963, p. 58:
Dariaux, “Elegance,” 1970, pp. 149-50:
another entry (same book ?)
another entry (same book ?)
Belle Pollard, “Experiences with Clothing” (high school home-economics
text), 1961, 142-43:
King, “Killer Bras: And Other Hazards of the 50’s,”
Marge Caskey, “The Merry Widow: ah, sweet misery of life …,” West Seattle News Herald, July 8, 1981, p. B1:
Ann Combs, “Girdle Grief,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nov. 6, 1977, p. C1:
Patricia O’Brien, “Repressed? You Bet! And Here’s Why…,” originally in the Chicago Sun-Times, reprinted in the San Jose Mercury, Nov. 28, 1975:
Getting Ready for the Reunion: Unknown
Meet Girdle Girl by Claudia Connell Sunday, 8th March 2009
Dengle, “Hold Your Man!” 1945, pp. 93-96:
It fascinating to watch you dress?
of my treasured childhood memories is the privilege of being present when my
mother dressed for a party. There were three girls, and we would sit in a row
on the edge of the bed, watching the preparations. Mother putting on a sheer,
lacy chemise. Mother pulling herself into that instrument of torture, the
laced-up corset. Mother drawing on a filmy corset cover decked with yards of
starched ruffles. Mother drawing on unbelievably heavy silk stockings, then
little satin slippers with sparkling bows of net and gold. After the two
taffeta petticoats came the dress--ah, the dress! Yards of satin and lace from
which she emerged a queen. Touches to her hairdress, and Jewels at her throat
and on her arms--and just a wee bit of powder (could that pink chamois have
just a speck of rouge on it?). A long cloak, and Mother was ready for Papa to
take her off. We would sit there for an hour dreaming about the party, the
lights, the music, the laughter--and Mother, the loveliest one there.
we grew up, women wore fewer and fewer clothes, until dressing today is a very
simple procedure. Nevertheless it can be exciting and fascinating for your
children to watch--or perhaps your husband.
clothes should be assembled before you ever start to dress. Lay them out on a
chair-your girdle, bra, panties, slip, dress, stockings, and shoes. If you
wear more than this, you are old-fashioned!
your girdle fits properly, and your skin is smooth, the few wriggles you have
to make to adjust it are amusing. On the other hand, pulling and grunting, and
squeezing too much flesh into too little space, are simply comic. If you dress
just after your bath, remember to dry the skin thoroughly; and while it is not
wise to powder the body all over since it will rub off on your dress, a little
powder on the hips and abdomen will let your girdle slip on easily.
will fit trimly only when worn next to the skin as intended; and great care
must be exercised to keep such garments immaculately fresh. Gone are the days
of having corsets dry-cleaned [written in WW2]. They can be tubbed and dried
overnight--nylon girdles take less time than that. Perhaps three girdles are
the minimum one could have: one in use, one drying, and one in reserve. Pantie
girdles should be rinsed out at the crotch after each wearing and the whole
garment washed after two or three days of use. Straight girdles might be worn
three times before being laundered. Never be guilty of wearing a soiled
girdle-it harbors odors as no other piece of underwear will.
figure will dictate the type of girdle which is best for you. However, don't
think you need none at all because you are very young or very slim. A
girdleless figure is seldom seductive, and many girls whose rounded tummies
and bouncing hips are unhappily revealed by a close-fitting dress seem rather
immodest. Most men are embarrassed by feminine exposure in public; and again,
a hint of your charms is far more enchanting than a flaunting show of them.
also applies to those who ardently believe their bosom line is so intriguing
it should not be concealed. A brassiere can mold the line of the bust, give it
firmness and support. Just be sure it does not fit so tightly that extra flesh
flows over the top, or that there is a roll of fat between the girdle and the
bra. There is nothing engaging in such a sight. Choose a model which gives a
good separation between the breasts and thus avoids that horrible "great
divide." In putting on your bra, first put the arms through the straps,
then lean forward so that the breasts drop into the bra cups. Hook it at the
back, and as you straighten up, the bust has a better "uplift" line.
movements in putting on your stockings and shoes can be most interesting to
watch. Sitting on a chair-or on the floor, as I know some women still do as a
hangover from schooldays--how did you look in your test? Practice again, then.
Arch your foot as you put it into the stocking. Extend your leg gradually as
you draw the stocking up. Cross your legs and bend your knee as you slide into
each shoe. Back up to a mirror to inspect the straightness of your seams
before you hook the garters. (Are you sure there is no bulge between the edge
of your girdle and the stocking top?)
Dengle, “Personality Unlimited: The Beauty Blue Book,” 1943, pp. 390-97:
you go to see a beautiful painting in an art gallery, you admire the perfect
whole. But to achieve perfection, the artist has given infinite care to each
microscopic point. Every part, no matter how small, has received loving
thought, both regarding its own importance and its final relation to the
entire canvas. So, too, in the portrait you create of yourself, must you
consider each little item in order to achieve the lovely effect you desire.
But in a truly well-dressed woman, what you cannot see is as important as what
you see. Inside and out, you must dress your new personality so that no false
note is sounded, no unhappy mistake allowed.
as in the building of good health, you acquire an external beauty and charm,
so, too, must the building of your costume start with the right undergarments.
A brassiere and a girdle are required by every figure. Naturally the slender,
well-proportioned figure can use very lightweight types, but I am always
disturbed to see young girls without any girdle or "bra" at all.
Never can a smooth contour of the hips be achieved without a two-way elastic
pantie, at the very least. And a sheer net brassiere gives the bustline a
better line. I thoroughly dislike heavy foundation garments; they are only
necessary when the figure is very large. The only sensible solution then is to
get rid of the "very large figure."
a general thing, a corset or a girdle, and a brassiere, are more desirable
than an all-in-one foundation garment. It does seem that the bustline is
pulled down in so many instances by the all-in-one. If a heavy corset is
required, the figure is seldom well-proportioned, and ready-made one-piece
foundation garments are necessarily planned for "average"
proportions, Of course, if they are made to order, that is an entirely
separate brassiere may be fitted to give the proper uplift line, leaving the
diaphragm section smoother and more slender. A long brassiere is necessary
when there is flesh on the back and diaphragm. The corset may then be fitted
according to the figure requirements.
careful, however, that the corset you select does not fit too tightly. After
all, the fat must go somewhere, and if the corset binds too snugly around the
hips, it forces excess flesh up to the waistline, and the result is a
"spare tire." It is impossible for me, without seeing you, to
describe what is exactly right for your figure. If you have a problem, by all
means visit a good shop and consult the corsetiere there, for they have been
trained to understand your problem. Try on several different styles. Sit down
in the corsets to be sure they are comfortable in all positions. Boning must
be the right length or it will cut into the ribs or into the groin. Before you
decide to purchase, put on your dress again, and observe whether the corset
does what you hoped it would do.
brassieres are sensible and helpful in maintaining the contour of the bust.
But do not wear exaggerated models, they are vulgar. A good division at the
center is also important. Understand about the difference in the
"cups"; they come in varying sizes, and take a little tuck to
perfect the fit when it is necessary.
girl or woman who is flat-chested is making a tragic mistake when she does not
wear small pads inside a brassiere to give her a rounded contour. These may be
made by shirring inexpensive lace on tiny discs of net. It is truly amazing
what this one little detail can do for the very thin person. But there are
many types, and there are also brassieres manufactured so that the fullness is
designed into the garment itself. I have transformed dreary, forlorn figures
in a few minutes by insisting on this feature; I recall one instance where a
whole new .personality was created: the girl just "bloomed" when we
practiced the harmless deception.
your figure is overweight, you must wear your girdle or corset all day and
every day. Without it, your figure will spread as you grow older. Of course,
your exercises will help to keep you firm! But you need the gentle, confining
effect of a girdle, too. Fitted correctly, it should be a comfortable support.
you wear a pantie girdle, other panties are not necessary. But in winter, do
not hesitate to wear "woolies" if you feel the cold, and especially
if you are very thin. You will conserve much body heat and energy in this way.
should be of the best quality you can afford. I much prefer a few pieces, in
good fabrics, than a large assortment in cheap, ''sleazy'' materials. The
better quality garments will always fit much more satisfactorily too. The
design is more carefully worked out, and in the end you will get better value
for your money although the initial investment might be greater. Try to have
at least three slips, brassieres, and panties, and alternate their use. Not
only will they give longer wear, but you will have enough to allow for one in
the laundry, one being worn, and one in reserve for an emergency!
refined, meticulous woman is as particular about her underwear as she is about
her outer clothes. The person who wears anything underneath so that she can
have wider variety on the outside is often quite as unstable in her character.
Watch for this, it is an interesting point in psychology. Tailored, simple
styles are best for everyday wear, but have at least one special outfit for
nightgowns and pajamas should also be as lovely as you can afford. Whether
they are lacy or tailored, depends on your personality and preferences. The
plain types of course will give better wear; and cottons can be sent out to
the laundry if necessary.
yourself as pretty as possible when going to bed. If you think of
"dressing for bed" instead of "undressing for bed," the
final effect will be more satisfying.
fact above holds true for lounging and work clothes also. They can be
flattering and still serve their purpose. There is no excuse for going round
in "any old thing" just because you are doing housework, or have
come in from the office and removed your business clothes. If you can sew, you
can make lovely, washable house dresses with an individual touch; but they
cost very little even if you have to buy them.
fresh, clean appearance at breakfast will send your husband off in a better
mood for the day. If you prefer to prepare breakfast for the family and get
them all off before attending to yourself, have a smart washable, cotton
housecoat to wear over your pajamas or nightdress. Leather slippers to match
in color are pretty and can do double duty with your flannel robe. But do not
indulge in flimsy negligees and fancy mules, and then drag around the kitchen
in them. They are completely out of place and belong only in your bedroom.
business girl is wise to take off her street clothes when she comes home and
hang them up after brushing them. Lounging pajamas, housecoats, cotton or
rayon washable dresses are a restful change, and save your more expensive
things. This is also true when you have been in town shopping. Although you
may have to wear severely simple things for the office, you can indulge your
love of gay colors or soft fabrics in your 11 athome" clothes. It is
growing increasingly smart to entertain informally in hostess gowns or
lounging pajamas. I have a friend who made the loveliest pair of slacks from
an old velvet evening dress, and wore them with a white satin blouse, set off
by ruffles at the neckline and cuffs. A bow in the hair, house sandals
on your feet, and there you are, a "lady of leisure."
on your feet, and there you are, a "lady of leisure."
I remind the housewife that she should be clean and fresh and pretty when her
family comes home? Men dislike women to be messy and unkempt and crying about
how much work they did during the day. Even children notice their mother's
appearance more than may be realized, so be sure their childhood memories of
you are what you want them to be.
fastidious grooming at all times is an essential part of your whole new way of
life, of your entire program. The dictionary defines grooming as
"equipping, preparing or dressing, especially in a smart and tidy
way." I use this word in a larger sense, to include the selection and
care of your undergarments and accessories, even the bureaus and closets in
which you keep them. Remember, it is "the little things in life that
count." Check over the following list, then, and go to work with a firm
avowal never again to commit one of these errors:
Girdles: Your girdle must be immaculately fresh and clean. Years ago, when
women wore heavy, expensive corsets that required dry cleaning, these garments
were protected by a shirt [chemise] worn under the corset and a corset cover
and a petticoat worn over it. Today, when girdles are worn next to the skin
and over an area of the body which perspires freely, they become soiled in a
day or two. Unless you wear a vest next to the skin to absorb most of this
moisture, it will be necessary to wash your girdles two or three times weekly;
that is, to wear them not more than twice between launderings. It is well to
own at least three, or preferably four girdles, and thus be sure of a fresh
supply on hand. It takes only a few minutes to whisk them around in warm
soapsuds, but hang them up to dry by the garters; do not put them over a rod.
These garments will last so much longer when cared for in this way, because
perspiration rots the fabrics of which they are made.
you wear pantie girdles, these should be laundered after each wearing to
insure perfect cleanliness and freedom from any possible perspiration odors.
Here is a convenient trick which you can use if you are going out directly
from the office. Place a cleansing tissue in the crotch of the pantie girdle,
and remove it when you freshen up for the evening. You will feel that you have
donned a clean garment. Should your figure require a heavier corset than the
girdle type, which can only be laundered every week, or so, then of course you
must wear a vest, and air the corset after each wearing. But do not wear one
too tight; it will stretch out of shape and be useless very shortly.
Slips: Many women sin unnecessarily with pins to hold broken shoulder straps,
rips in the seams or in the lace trimming; knots in the straps to make length
adjustments; or even worse, a string tied around the waist to keep the slip
from showing (which it seldom does); and slips that are too short or show
below the hem of their dress! In the first place, slips may be bought in
varying lengths to suit the height, or there are types which can be clipped
off at the bottom to make them shorter; and of course shoulder straps are
adjustable on many models. But if you cannot procure these models, you can
always take a tuck or shorten a strap with needle and thread! And that same
needle and thread will do a good mending job in a very few minutes.
you agree with me that pretty slips and underwear make you feel more luxurious
than anything else, that underwear deserves care. To parody the old phrase
"a stitch in time" may I add, "a stitch in time saves the hole
from getting bigger!" Many a girl has lost a beau because her slip
showed, so beware. And it hardly seems necessary to mention that your slip,
and all your underwear, must be fresh and clean! Finally, try to match your
underwear. If you wear a flesh-colored brassiere, then have your slip in the
same shade, and your girdle, too. Or if your girdle is in white, a white
brassiere and slip is so attractive: harmony under your dress is just as
important as it is on the outside.
Stockings: To begin with, do not wear them wrong side out, or even worse, with
ladders, holes, or rips. Such things look as if you had flung yourself out of
the house in a terrible hurry. Wash them every night; you will need fewer
pairs with a fresh supply always on hand. Besides, your stockings wear longer
when they are kept free of soil and perspiration. Don't abuse them and don't
go walking or hiking in your dress sheer stockings: not only are they
unsuitable, but you'll be sure to come home with a hole in the heel. Have the
right length hose for your legs as well as for your feet. Turning them over
before hooking in your garter will start runs; and do be careful when you put
them on that you don't snag them with your nails or rings.
seams must be straight: the most beautiful legs are spoiled by crooked
stockings. Try this plan for placing your seams so that they will stay put.
First adjust your girdle exactly right. When the foot is in the stocking,
grasp the seam with your thumb. Then, as you draw the stocking up, let the
thumb trace a straight line up the back of the leg, past the knee, right to
the end of the stocking. Now stand up, check by backing up to your mirror, and
hook the garters while you are standing.
“The Dress Doctor” by Hollywood costume director Elizabeth Head, 1959:
160: “Edith,” Danny [Kaye] says, “WHY do women wear girdles?”
202-03: STEP II: Prepare to go shopping. Each of us can do what Alma Hitchcock
has done. Each can look better if--she'll take the time to analyze her figure,
the trouble to choose the right clothes for that figure and have them properly
fitted. Before you go shopping at all, get the right underpinnings. There are
few perfect figures. The money you spend on corrective undergarments is the
most important money you spend. You're interested in the masculine point of
view? I wish you could be with me when a producer calls to say:
the clothes are fine. Before we test them, will you please get that actress
into a bra and girdle?"
I go to her and say: "Don't you think it would be better for the test if
you wore a bra and girdle?"
never wear them!" she's likely to say. "They restrain my acting.”
she's Anna Magnani or Shirley Booth playing a sloppy woman, then it doesn't
matter. If she's trying for glamour, then, thanks, to the producer, she ends
up correctly sheathed. By all means when you go out to shop for clothes, wear
the right girdle, the right bra and the right shoes. Never shop simply became
you have "nothing to do." Never buy anything as a whim.
215: It isn't those who spend the most money who are the most smartly dressed.
It's those who spend the most time and thought. If, when you go out, you know
that your costume is smart and that you're neatly and securely put together,
if you do not feel it necessary to hike your girdle, adjust your straps, pull
your stocking seams straight; you have physical and mental poise. You can wear
your clothes with grace and pride--with assurance.
231: High school clothes are similar in fabric and line to college clothes,
with these exceptions: No pants are worn on high school campuses; heels are
worn only for formal and semiformal occasions, stockings are seldom worn, full
skirts are more popular than sheaths for date wear, and sport clothes are worn
more frequently at night.
“How to Dress for Success,” Elizabeth Head & J. Hyams, late 60’s, pp. 168-73:
designers have created garments for every purpose from lifting the bustline to
rounding the fanny and from flattening the tummy to smoothing the thighs. What
you can't do about your figure through starvation and exercise can certainly
be improved through wearing the right foundation garment. There is no longer
any excuse for a woman to be flat-chested or flat-bottomed. Bras and
pantie-girdles fill in where nature failed. The waistline bulge is a thing of
the past, if you will merely take the time to find a garment that eliminates
it, and to have it properly fitted.
time to buy new bras and foundations is when you buy new clothes. As fashion
changes take place, the foundation people are "with it," and the
contours of their garments are revised to do the most for your figure under
the new clothes. The "natural" look of recent vintage changed
foundation garments from a rigid standard of control to a softly rounded line
which looks better under shifts, knits, and easy-fit-garments. The younger,
less aggressive bust-line of recent years has been achieved successfully with
bras that can be characterized as "pointless." The pantie-girdle has
come a long way from tile brief thing it was a few years ago--developing a
long-line of smoothness for the thighs, and for wear with jump suits, going
all tile way to the ankles.
introduction lightweight stretch materials made it possible for any woman to
be corseted (even the word seems obsolete) in complete comfort, while
achieving the utmost in figure improvement.
wildly popular pants craze which was started many years ago by Marlene
Dietrich shows no signs of abating, but unless you look well in pants, or are
willing to spend the time and money to equip yourself with a really efficient
pantie-girdle, I say stick with skirts. And if you think your derriere looks
all right without a girdle--in either pants or skirts--I suggest you get
someone to take a moving picture of you from the back. Chances are you'll get
the same reaction a cab driver did driving through Hollywood a few months ago.
We were stopped for a traffic light when a plump ungirdled lady in a shift
crossed the street. As he viewed her from the rear he shook his head and
commented, "it looks like there's two guys fightin' in there.”
it comes to bosoms, the perfect feminine figure is a rarity. Yet ready-made
clothing is made for perfect figures. No consideration is given to the proven
fact that many women’s bustlines are either too large or too small, too
droopy, too flat and sometimes even lopsided. Knowing the score, top
manufacturers of upper-story glamour have compensated for all these defects so
that everyone can have a perfect bustline. And for those who want to have such
a bustline twenty-four hours out of every day, there are bras to sleep in.
are also part of your secret for dressing successfully. Just because you have
a lot of perfectly good slips from two years ago in your bureau drawer doesn't
mean you should wear them. No matter how much you hike them up or adjust the
straps, they're still too long and as the day wears on you'll be walking
around with two skirts showing. As far as shoulder straps are concerned, the
sleeveless dress has made it a must that you sew little ribbon
"anchors" in every dress so your slip straps never show. There's
nothing in the world that makes a woman look sloppier faster than a dangling
shoulder strap, unless it's dirty fingernails. Get to the basic problem before
buying clothes--start from the skin out.
clothes call for different foundations. If you think the very same
undergarments will suffice for all the items in your wardrobe you're mistaken.
While a lightweight all-in-one may be just fine under a loose-fitting shift,
it is not adequate beneath the dress that is sheath-like in its line,
requiring more control through the hips. There are long-line bras to eliminate
diaphragm bumps. There seamless girdles or tights to wear under knits and
clingy clothes. You don't need all these in your wardrobe, but a successful
outer wardrobe cannot be developed unless what goes underneath is considered.
In many cases women leave clothes they never wear hanging in their closets
just because they haven't got the right thing to wear under them. Every time
they try those clothes on over that same old girdle they look the same—ungood.
There's nothing wrong with the clothes themselves: there’s something wrong
with the shape underneath.
one knows better than a studio designer how important underthings are in
changing a woman's appearance. Take Julie Andrews for example: one type figure
for Mary Poppins, another for Torn Curtain (a modern figure), another for
Hawaii and a completely different silhouette for Thoroughly Modern Millie.
time to buy new undergarments is not every time you buy something new, but
every time there is a major change in the fashion silhouette--from loosely
fitted to form-fitting, from long waistlines to short (or vice versa), from
overblouses to high-busted Empire or from slim skirts to full. Each major
change calls for something different, whether it be a bra, a girdle or an
from the importance of your underthings in shaping your outer silhouette,
there is the psychological factor of feeling lovely from the skin out. No
matter how rich and elegant the clothes a woman wears on the outside, if her
underwear and foundation garments are tacky, ill-fitting and mismatched she
cannot feel right in her clothes. A surface beauty who is a mess underneath it
all may fool her public, but the knowledge that she’s wearing a blue bra, a
white girdle and a faded pink petticoat pinned up at the hemline doesn't add
to her assurance or self-esteem. A meticulous, fastidious movie star has put
it, “My mother always insisted we dress for an accident. By this she meant
we should never be ashamed to have the doctor, nurse or anyone else see what
we were wearing underneath."
far as love and marriage are concerned the continuance of a perfect romance
has often been halted in its tracks I when a husband sees his bride in a lumpy
old girdle and a sagging bra. By contrast, any woman can look fresh and
attractive in a half-clothed state if her wardrobe of underclothing is as well
coordinated, as well cared for and as well chosen as the costumes in her
you complete reading this chapter, I suggest you take a look at your
undercover agents--the girdles, bras, slips and nightgowns in your bureau
drawer. How many are out of' shape? How many have stringy, stretched-out
garters? How many are faded, tacky and unfit to be seen? How many can be
coordinated into compatible "sets" by color? If you wouldn't be
caught dead in any of them, don't take the chance of wearing them while you're
alive. They not only ruin the shape of your outer clothing, they're poisoning
your own mind your about you. For a better-dressed, more confident you, start
at the bottom (of that bureau drawer) and build a new and better foundation
for fashion with the right intimate apparel.
for Successful Dressing Underneath
Evaluate your present collection of girdles, bras, foundation garments for (a)
condition, (b) efficiency.
Seek the advice of the experienced corsetière in your favorite store to find
the right garment to improve your figure.
Buy underwear (slips, petticoats) that co-ordinate with your favorite
foundations in color, trim and type.
Remember that last year's shape may be wrong for this year's silhouette.
If you wouldn't want anyone to see you in your undies--get new ones.
“So You Want to be an Airline Stewardess” by Keith Saunders. 1967, 1973, p. 50:
stewardess] can quickly put on five or ten pounds. And it is next to
impossible to conceal this extra avoirdupois from the searching eyes of her
supervisor. Not only does an airline weigh each girl periodically, but the
uniforms are generally well tailored and somewhat form-fitting, and bulges are
easily spotted if they are not in the right place. So the airline hostess
whose slim, trim figure you admire may be fighting the "battle of the
bulge" just as you do.
addition to watching what she eats, the hostess has to wear good foundation
garments: some airlines suggest a fresh brassiere for each day of the week and
four girdles--all perfectly fitted.
hostess you see on your next flight may be slender and well formed, but the
chances are that she, no less than her earthbound sisters, has to work hard at
maintaining that appearance. In fact, it is safe to say that there is almost
no profession, except modeling, in which the girls have to work as hard and as
long to present that fashion-plate appearance every working day and hour.
in all, the girl who graduates from the hostess/stewardess college,
particularly that of a major airline, pays very little for a course in
grooming and styling that would cost her a lot of money if purchased
elsewhere. And she has learned things that can help make her an attractive
woman for years to come.
from the standpoint of the airline that pays for it, this superior grooming
and styling is one of the factors that often cause hostesses' careers to end
so soon at the altar.
a Lovelier You,” Ann Craig London, 1972, pp. 123-24:
about the woman under the dress? Next to her skin she's wearing something that
is fully as important as her dress--lingerie. When you come right down to it,
there's nothing like the secret knowledge that you're wearing pretty underwear
to make you feel great. It may not be such a secret, either. Besides your
husband, there's your doctor, and the other women in the communal dressing
rooms of modern boutiques to see what you've got on underneath.
the plunge and buy yourself something downright luxurious. Also have at least
one bra, slip, pair of pants, or girdle that isn't white. Try black, beige, or
a splashy print to give your morale a boost.
we're on the subject, take the time and spend the money to get properly
fitting bras, girdles, and foundation garments. Don't be embarrassed to ask
for the advice and assistance of a saleswoman in the lingerie department.
She's seen hundreds of other women and knows more than you ever will about how
to suit the garment to the figure.
Haven’t a Thing to Wear,” by Judith Keith, 1968, pp. 50-51:
stretched-out bras and girdles which you still cling to because "they
don't show anyway" really do show every way: in outer thigh bulges,
protruding stomach, drooping breasts and waistline rolls.
you are figure-taut and close-to-the-bone, do not forage for just any
foundation or bra. Take time to be fitted expertly.
right kind of garment helps to undo what years of underdoing did underneath it
all. Sometimes a simple adjustment of a brassiere strap (most women wear them
too long) provides instantaneous figure improvement.
insecure you, plus an insecure or incorrect girdle, does not gird you for
these points when you buy a bra or girdle:
Fit: Do you spill out of the brassiere cup? Does the bra cup spill over you?
Switch to the next larger or smaller size as the case may be. There should be
no bosom bulge above the front of the bra or under the arm. If the bra cup
does not fully blossom out, you are too small for it.
not allow straps to cut into shoulder. Make sure they lie flat. Underbands
should be flat and comfortable as well. If the band causes you to bulge at the
waist you need a larger size or a long-line bra.
should be comfortable as well as snug. If you bulge out at the waist, or out
at the thigh, you need a larger size and a different style (long-legged
girdles for heavy-thighed gals). If the girdle is too short or too tight it
will hike up. Panty styles should not cut into the crotch or thigh.
you make an undergarment purchase, perform corset calisthenics! Sit down and
stand up a number of times. Breathe deeply. Pretend you are playing golf or
tennis and take a couple of good practice swings. Do a deep knee bend. If the
garments are right for you; they will move with you.
try your dress on over a new girdle or bra to check the appearance.
'em on: The nails I have broken until I learned how to put on a girdle
properly! Here's how. Fold panty, roll-on and Lycra all-in-one girdles in
half. Step into it. Pull up on hips, unfold, roll up. Run your hand under the
girdle at the side of the hip and smooth the fabric, pulling it down gently.
(I like to fasten my back garters first, seems to make it easier.)
Bend over (great for the waist). Fit bosom into cups. Adjust straps. Make sure
straps lie flat both front and back,
undergarments are unbelievable and they are a conversation piece (among close
friends, that is). Not only are they available in the happiest, wildest and
most feminine coordinated color and print combinations, their functionalism is
to Grow Up,” Candy Jones, 1962, p. 57:
Fashions and You
a student of the fashion ads and editorials in magazines and newspapers, I
know you want to look as pretty as a picture in your clothes. If
"she" (in the advertisements) can be flattered by the colors,
fabrics, lines and styles of our talented American fashion designers, so can
please . . . don't believe that the flattery of the fashions comes from the
obvious, surefire assets--a cute hairdo, new-looking shoes, or an armful of
bracelets. Sure, these things all are important to making the picture complete
and fashionable, but they aren't responsible for a slim thighline, a trim
waist or a pretty bosom.
are created on sketchboards, and are fitted on models who wear
figure-controlling garments--a good bra and girdle.
that's what makes the big difference in the appearance of clothes. Your bra
in Clothing Selection,” by Harriet T. McJimsy 1963, p. 58:
and fabrics to flatter your figure:
our ideal fashion figure is tall and slender, more women appear to be
concerned with creating the illusion of height and/or slenderness than with
adding weight. The problems of large hips or thighs out of proportion to bust
or waist measurements are particularly common. Clothing is frequently chosen
with the main object of concealing undesirable contours and creating or
emphasizing those considered desirable. Attention is directed principally
toward reducing waist and hip measurements and enlarging the bust through
carefully selected under, as well as outer, garments.
garments may not only improve the proportions of the body but also give
support where needed and improve the appearance of the outer clothing. Even if
your figure is slim and beautifully proportioned, never wear a closely fitted
dress or skirt without a foundation garment. Foundation garments of all types
are available from the light-weight two-way stretch pantie girdle to a boned
and paneled garment of heavy nonelastic fabric. Girdles cannot actually
decrease width, but by controlling and redistributing the flesh they can give
a smoother, firmer contour, free of unsightly bulges. Select your girdles and
brassieres in relation to your particular figure requirements, preferably with
the help of an experienced salesperson.
by G.A. Dariaux, 1970, pp. 149-50:
number of articles of lingerie worn by a fashionable woman has considerably
diminished since the beginning of the century. She started out equipped with a
brassiere, a chemise, a corset, a pair of underpants and a slip, but today she
has reached the point where she wears only a pantie-girdle and a bra; very
often these two elements are combined in a single garment, and sometimes they
are even reduced to a simple garter belt.
woman's age and social position are not of the slightest influence in this
particular field. In fact, it is often the most elegantly and extensively
attired women who wear the least underclothes, for all of their dresses are
lined with silk and many of their gowns have built-in bras. And yet there
exist in every price range perfectly charming lingerie ensembles in bright or
pastel colors and even in prints, which would make their undressed appearance
much more attractive.
are making a mistake in neglecting this potential added attraction to their
charms. Although I certainly do not advise going so far as to indulge in the
seductive lingerie styles more suitable for striptease, it is still to a
woman's advantage to give as much thought to undressing as she does to
dressing. (I am reminded of a friend to whom I once confided how worried I was
because my teen-age daughter was completely disinterested in pretty lingerie.
Her reply was that I shouldn't really worry until the day she did start to
take an interest in it!)
progress has been made in foundation garments in recent years. No more
tortuous whalebones, no more hot rubber materials hugging you affectionately
around the waist. The new miracle fibers such as Lycra and nylon hold your
curves with just as much devotion but without the same inconveniences.
girdles are the best in the world, if only because of the three garters on
each leg which prevent one's stockings from twisting. But too many of the
American brassiere styles are overly aggressive, in my opinion. The most
important inventions of the past few years are the long-legged panty-girdle,
which is extremely practical, much more attractive than a separate garter belt
and briefs, and much more decent too; and the low-cut strapless brassiere
which is completely invisible underneath the most daring décolletage.
though a woman's lingerie may be reduced to two pieces, they should at least
be matching. It is the height of negligence to wear a white brassiere with a
black girdle, or the reverse. [That’s too stodgy—and it’s often more
practical to wear such a combination, to match one’s clothes. This sort of
fustiness makes me remember that this is the author who less than ten years
earlier had utterly condemned pierced earrings as inelegant!] Bright-colored
undergarments are charming, but of course they can only be worn under dresses
which are opaque or dark. In the summer, it is preferable to stick to white.
If you are extremely refined and moderately rich, your underclothes might
match the color of your outer costume.
shortage of domestic help has certainly been an important factor in the
present simplification of feminine lingerie and in the vogue for materials
which are easy to launder, quick to dry, and require no ironing. But, alas,
what is very practical is not always very elegant.
Girdles and brassieres are delicately called "foundation garments," and these invisible, at one time "unmentionable," articles are indeed one of the foundations of an elegant appearance. The girdle and brassiere a woman wears (or doesn't wear) can either enhance or distort the lines of an ensemble, the hang of a skirt, and the charm of a neck-line.
I do not know a single elegant woman who does not wear a girdle under her city clothes and an elasticized panty under slacks. She may dispense with a girdle when wearing a full-skirted summer dress or a long, full hostess gown without stockings, or a full tweed country skirt with the knee-high sports socks that are enjoying a revival. But an elegant woman-even very thin one-always wears a girdle underneath a straight skirt.
Until the age of eighteen or twenty, a garter belt and panty with a light brassiere are adequate foundations, if one is very slim, beyond that age, a little more control is needed to create a smooth, firm silhouette. You may prefer an all-in-one foundation garment, a panty girdle, or an ordinary girdle. It is a matter of individual taste and individual figure requirements. The present trend is certainly to wear the least possible number of separate undergarments, and to take full advantage of the miraculous synthetic fabrics which produce a soft, smooth outline with-out the trace of a whale-bone.
A girdle that is tight-fitting over the hips can reduce their measurement by as much as two inches, but those vanished inches are bound to pop up somewhere else-in the form of a bulge around the thighs or waist, for instance! One of the principal advantages of the long-legged panty girdle is that it at least avoids a roll around the thighs. On the other hand, a girdle that is very tight at the waist, aside from being most uncomfortable, tends to make the tummy more prominent. Consequently, if you usually wear styles with full skirts and fitted waistlines, you would do best to buy a girdle that is rather snug around the waist; but if you usually dress in straight skirts, you should choose a girdle that is primarily designed to control the hips.
In general, all-in-one foundations flatten the diaphragm but not the tummy or the derriere. You must, moreover, take care when buying one to see that it fits you vertically as well as horizontally, because if it is too short the shoulder straps will dig into your shoulders and, in the case of plump women, can even leave a permanent furrow that is most unattractive.
American girdles are the best in the world, and there is no excuse for an American woman to be badly corseted.(This document is from rather old source material, anyone who has seen the British girdles of the last several years is aware that it is no longer true! – Ed.) She must, however, be willing to devote the necessary tune and effort to try on a variety of models, if possible with the aid of a specialist. She should also he quite honest with herself and select the foundation garments that suit her figure as it really is and not as she wishes it were or as she expects it to he after she has started to diet. . . tomorrow! She can then attempt to camouflage her defects and emphasize her good points by exploiting all the arts and artifices of fashion.
We may as well face the fact that while good foundation garments lend firmness and definition to a figure, they cannot magically subtract excess poundage. But it is also a fact that a woman need not necessarily be pencil-slim in order to be elegant. Slender silhouettes are, of course, much easier to dress. A woman with a perfect figure can choose her fashions from the most classic to the most eccentric without restriction, and she can be elegant even in a simple, inexpensive dress. But a woman with an imperfect figure can also be extremely chic if she selects her clothes from among the styles that do the most for her particular shape instead of trying to radically remold her natural forms by means of rigid corsetry. I have often helped a client with a far from ideal figure select a dress or suit in which she looked just as elegant as and sometimes even more so than the figure-perfect mannequin who presented it.
A minimum wardrobe of foundation garments should include:
1-All purpose girdle (to be worn with snug, abbreviated matching panties)
1-Long-legged panty girdle (for slacks and sheaths)
1-Lightweight short panty girdle (for sportswear)
Strapless, back-less, and ultra-low-cut brassieres as required by the evening gowns in your wardrobe
It is practical to own one complete wardrobe in black, to be worn under dark clothes and another in white. And it is a lovely luxury to add to this basic minimum a set of undergarments in one of the less banal shades that harmonizes with your outer wardrobe, such as pale blue, brown, or navy. Vivid colors, however, as well as stripes, are seldom elegant in lingerie, although they may be amusing for teen-agers or for winter sports.
Most women make a special effort to wear their very best foundation garments when they come for a dress fitting and since I am in and out of the fitting rooms all day long, I have seen some exquisite lingerie-as well as some surprising examples of negligence! One of the most attractive and practical foundation ensembles I can remember was a fine custom-maid all-in-one girdle with a deep flounce of lace attached to the bottom and falling almost to the knees, like a built-in petticoat. The errors I have most frequently observed are girdles that are too tight, and brassieres that are too rigid, too padded or too provocative; all of them deadly enemies to a woman's elegance.
with Clothing” (high school home-economics text), L. Belle Pollard, 1961,
Effect of Proper Clothing
you wear in a considerable degree determines how you feel and act. An
inadequate girdle and bra encourage slumping and slovenly posture. From such
physical attitudes it is only a step to slovenly manners and a disgruntled
mood. A carelessly fastened dress, a ripped hem, a slip showing below the
dress line suggest to others a careless, disorganized person. Worse yet, such
disregard of personal daintiness discourages the girl herself and exerts an
undesirable influence on her whole personality. Expensive clothing should not
be confused with personal charm. An expensive dress in careless hands is just
as likely to suffer a spot or a rip as an inexpensive dress. In fact the less
expensive dress immaculately clean and neat in every detail makes a far more
attractive appearance than a more costly one that is marred by even one small
flaw. And the most expensive dress worn over a poorly fitted or improper
foundation garment is a complete waste of money.
of the first things a well-dressed girl learns is the value of proper
foundation garments. They are so important that a wise girl chooses a really
well-made and properly fitted girdle and bra in preference to a more expensive
dress or coat. Any outer garment is dependent for its fit and general
appearance upon the foundation garment with which it is worn. The right
foundation garment helps to improve posture, strengthens the abdominal
muscles, and builds poise and self-assurance.
and girdles give support where it is most needed. The figure and posture of
most girls and women can be improved by scientifically designed foundation
garments. Bras and girdles should control and refine contours through gentle
molding and firm, but not restrictive, support.
are foundation garments designed for every type of figure. They range from
garter belts and panty-girdles to conventional girdles. They should be chosen,
according to body measurements, for fit and comfort. For the young girl they
should be especially designed for the growing figure. The garments should be
soft in texture, comfortable to wear, and should allow freedom of body action.
Choose foundation garments according to your figure type, your personal
preference, and the outer clothing to be worn with them. Trying on a
foundation garment before you buy it is the only completely satisfactory way
to select it. Walk around in the garment. Bend over and sit down. Do not
purchase garments which constrict you uncomfortably or fail to add to the
attractiveness of your figure. A girl who has invested in proper foundation
garments knows she looks her best and is confident that she is making the most
of her carefully chosen outer garments.
Jan King, “Killer
Bras: And Other Hazards of the 50’s,”
3-4: THE MERRY WIDOW. These were made from 50 gauge all-weather tarpaulin
canvas and reinforced with genuine whalebones procured from Moby Dick,
himself. The Merry Widow had the amazing capability of molding even the
plumpest of teenage figures into a perfect hourglass silhouette under prom
they could not be worn for long periods of time before we gals suffered some
pretty major side effects. Many girls sustained fractured ribs and became
woozy from oxygen deprivation about an hour into their dates. In this hypoxic
state, our moral resolve was severely compromised and we literally turned to
"putty" in our dates' hands. And if those hands were dexterous
enough to unfasten 76 sets of stainless steel bra hooks before you arrived
home, he ended up with a lot more than putty in them. Let's just say we had a
lot "riding" on that ride home.
Merry Widow bra also had some unusual moves of its own on the dance floor.
Utmost caution had to be taken during those tricky underarm spins, because the
bra remained steadfastly cinched to the waist and acted as a launching pad,
propelling your cleavage upward at full warp speed. This made it possible to
knock yourself out in more ways than one doing the shag. Plus, these bras were
so intractable, when you did the Cha-Cha, your bosoms would move from left to
right, but the bra remained steadfast, pointing straight ahead at your
partner. This made it tough for him to decide which set to follow and he often
ended up across the room dancing by himself.
11: THE GIRDLE: The 50's girdle was brought to you by the same people who
manufactured steel belted radials in Akron, Ohio. Made from crude neoprene,
these garments were built to withstand 15,000 pounds of female cellulite
packed under perilous pressure. It was common in the fifties to hear about
teenage girls who suffered a spontaneous "blow out" on the dance
floor during those dangerous slow dancing dips.
from waist to mid-thigh, the girdles strained to reduce both of these
anatomical areas into roughly the same circumference. Because they had metal
garter clasps which dug into the flesh, most women were able to tell their age
by counting the rings of broken veins indelibly etched around their thighs.
good news for parents was that the girdle served another purpose--and that was
birth control. There wasn't a teenage boy alive in the 50's who had either the
strength or patience on a date to successfully peel one of those babies off
his babe. And even if by some miracle he succeeded, the sight of the
mushrooming cellulite released from the flab under pressure would've stopped
even the horniest guy dead in his tracks.
Point of Interest: One teenage guy who witnessed this ghastly sight in the
front seat of his Dodge cleverly used this haunting memory to invent the first
safety air bag installed in today's automobiles.
12: Q. What was the only 100% effective birth control method in the fifties?
both c and d were pretty unappetizing.
17-18: GETTING STIFF: NO ALCOHOL REQUIRED
Cardinal Rule of Prom Gowns was that they had to be worn with no less than six
freshly starched crinolines underneath. In the starching process, the
following steps were ALWAYS taken to insure the crinoline stood out at a 90
degree angle from your body:
They were soaked for a full week in a supersaturated solution of sugar and
resulting product was about as flexible as Don King's hair. In fact, if you
tried to sit down in the crinolines, the front of your gown usually flew up
over your face. And naturally, there were those guys who were just so
"polite" that they'd be getting a chair for you every two
seconds--then running around the front to reap the benefits of the floor show.
67: THE 50's BATHING SUIT: A REAL BONER
the traditional one-piece bathing suit of the 50's? It had a little pleated
skirt which reached mid-thigh and lots of draping to conceal the bustline. In
fact, nowadays, this style could be worn to church. These suits were so
modest, they covered more territory than the Yukon. In fact they hid
women’s' saddlebags so well that cellulite went virtually undiscovered until
the late 60's
also had built-in shelf-style bras, molded with Formica contour pads strong
enough to launch the Space Shuttle. Furthermore, all of the suits in those
days had built-in rubber girdles. Even if you weighed only 75 pounds soaking
wet, a girdle under a bathing suit was a must. Remember, muscle tone was not
an important part of anybody's physique back then. So to give our bodies some
kind of shape, the 50's bathing suits had about two dozen "bones"
sewn into them--and if any of them broke, the suit would require a total body
84-85: BREAST CHECK: GETTING THE LEAD OUT
first step is by far the toughest part--assessing what you've got. You're
going to have to take a hard, cold look at your naked body in a full length
mirror Keep in mind that this alone can be a terrifying experience. You're
going to discover more lumps than you do in your mattress and count more rolls
than you'd see in a deli.
of you may become particularly distressed to discover that the cute little
puppy tattoo on your butt has grown to the size of a water buffalo. Or worse
yet, the perky little rose on your left breast has grown a six-inch stem over
the last few years.
sideways to check out the state of our breasts can be a real bummer. They will
probably look about as firm as last week's bratwurst and will have assumed the
same shape, too. To be truthful, nowadays most of us are wearing a size 36
Marge Caskey, “The Merry Widow: ah, sweet misery of life …,” West Seattle News Herald, July 8, 1981, p. B1:
It was one of those trans-generational remarks that just tumbles out and there you are, an only slightly redeemable relic in the eyes of your granddaughter.
“I wonder what this would have looked like with a Merry Widow,” I said jokingly as I helped my almost teenage granddaughter slip the flimsy blue chiffon junior bridesmaid dress over her head, past her training bra and down over her absolutely hipless young figure.
She raised a slightly penciled brow and stared at me in the bathroom mirror. “WHAT,” she asked, “is a Merry Widow?”
She knows that her grandmother never washed clothes on a scrub board or listened to Caruso on a crystal set. But I did exist before television and jet planes and that makes me irrevocably aged in her eyes.
I tried to explain.
“It was a bra contraption that was hooked together all the way to the belly button,” I said. “It was so tight you could hardly breathe, with wired cups and vertical boning and a little flap in the front that pushed your stomach in. Sometimes when you moved … it didn’t.”
She looked at me with amazement. “How awful,” she said from the depths of her 12-year-old soul. “How could you stand being so uncomfortable? CRAZY!”
She had picked the right words. Yes, it was uncomfortable, and yes, it was crazy. That jolted me into thinking how much has changed in the past 25 years in the way we think about clothes.
Today it is popular to talk about dressing FOR something. Women aiming for the corporate boardroom wear two-piece suits and bowed blouses because they are dressing for success.
Clergymen trying to keep a congregation together are supposed to stick to black suits with plain ties because they are dressing for authority.
Magazines and fashion designers show slithery satin blouses and tight sequined pants because it’s o.k. now to be dressing for sex.
We women of the tight-wired strapless bra generation dressed for character. We put up with the inconvenience of restrictive clothing because this was the price one paid to be well-groomed and attractive, and there was no use whining about it. If beauty came too easily, it wasn’t worth much.
Can you imagine trying to explain that to a 12-year-old girl?
The message always was, clothes were work. I treasured a pair of white kid gloves I had, even though when I put them on my hands would sweat and I could hardly bend my fingers. I always kept a hanky handy in case I had to pick something up.
We starched summer dresses until they stood like statues in the laundry room, then sprinkled them, rolled them into little balls, and stood for hours ironing them dry. We wore them with petticoats that raised welts on our legs on a hot day.
The examples are endless. We wore shoes with skinny heels that got caught in sidewalk grates, and girdles with little garters that dug into our thighs, and silk stockings with wiggly seams up the back that never stayed straight and were the despair of our lives.
Granddaughter kept repeating, “Why, why how COULD you?”
Doing these things gave us our fortitude. They increased our stamina, they were lessons in happy agony. I think I could have climbed Mount Rainier with the training my clothes gave me.
Fortunately, most of us learned that it was not just the spandex and cinch belts that kept us buttoned together. It was the invisible lacings of what we thought about ourselves. Then came liberation, when it was discovered that it was finally all right for clothes to be comfortable.
So I’m glad that my granddaughter was horrified with my talk about the Merry Widow, and thank goodness that nobody wears them anymore. It’s a better world for women, now. [Yes and no.]
There is one thing that bothers me, though. It’s a tiny cloud on the fashion horizon that isn’t bothering my granddaughter. She’s interested.
“All my girlfriends are getting those new pantyhose with the lines down the back. Have you seen them, grandma?”
Egad! Seamed stockings are coming back. Must history repeat itself?
Ann Combs, “Girdle Grief,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nov. 6, 1977, p. C1:
It had to happen, didn’t it? The nostalgia craze wasn’t content with “Happy Days,” old Mario Lanza records, and reruns of Jimmy Dean movies. Now some idiot wants to bring back the Playtex rubber girdle.
It’s not the Playtex people. They’re too busy crossing our hearts to lift and separate. Besides, they realize they made a mistake. Presumably they’re sorry, and they haven’t brought up the subject in years.
It’s B.P. of Battle Creek, Mich. who’s causing all the furor. Recently she wrote a letter to Mary-Lou Luther, The Los Angeles Times and P-I Columnist, suggesting a consumer write-in campaign to convince the Playtex people to bring back rubber girdles.
I read her plea with the same horror I would a request to resurrect the zoot suit, because as far as I’m concerned the rubber girdle deserves its place on the endangered species list, and its extinction can’t come a moment too soon.
I know whereof I speak. I used to wear one. It was almost a part of our uniform when I was a boarder at Annie Wright in Tacoma. Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if the faculty had had a hand in its invention, for in its iron grip young ladies remained young ladies.
The Playtex rubber girdle, for those who missed the experience and as a result still have normal circulation, was built on the order of a truncated wet suit with air holes. There were no front and back panels to eradicate “tummy bulge” or spreading hips. The entire girdle was on duty at all times, making the imprisoned flesh impervious to heat, cold, speeding bullets and casual lecherous advances.
It wasn’t a simple thing to put on or take off either. Rubber doesn’t slide easily over warm skin. Instead it bunches up, then snaps, leaving large welts that make you look as if you’ve been flogged.
Ideally, in putting it on, one’s body temperature should have hovered somewhere around 95 [?] degrees, but I never had time to soak in ice water before dressing for dinner. I had to dash in from a game of field hockey, take a quick bath, and rush to get dressed before the study hall bell. So I powdered myself and it.
In fact, I spent most of my teenage years in a cloud of Evening in Paris. Then I grabbed the top of the girdle with both hands and sprang around the room in wild contortions till it inched into place.
There was only one way to take it off and that was to roll it as fast as possible like a jelly roll from the waist down. Any delay and it gathered like a tourniquet around your hips, and you turned blue. More than one of my friends had to be cut out of her girdle before she expired.
But all of this I would gladly have borne for the sake of beauty had it not been for one final drawback. The rubber girdle tended to rupture.
I discovered this at the Sophomore Cotillion. In those days dances at a young ladies’ seminary were stuffy at best. Attendance was mandatory. Boys were imported by the bus load, and escorts were assigned. Protocol rivaled that of the State Department, and though we were instructed to enjoy ourselves, hilarity was frowned upon.
On this particular occasion fate had smiled upon me. My date was almost handsome—even taller than I. I felt resplendent in my strapless blue tulle with its dyed-to-match shoes, and as the first strains of “Moonlight and Roses” filled the gymnasium, he held out his arm to lead me to the floor.
All of a sudden I felt my girdle explode like the Teton Dam collapsing. There was a loud swoosh, and I lurched against him, clutching at his sleeve to keep from falling. Then I looked at my feet. There nestled around my ankles was my Playtex. I could hear laughter bubbling up around me, and I felt my date inching away. With all the dignity I could muster, I hobbled to the sidelines, then sprinted for the safety of my room. I hid there for two days.
So B.P. of Battle Creek, organize a campaign if you must. Write letters till your hands fall off, but don’t expect me to encourage you. Next thing I know you’ll want to bring back a Merry Widow strapless foundation, and you should hear what happened to me in one of those.
Patricia O’Brien, “Repressed? You Bet! And Here’s Why…,” originally in the Chicago Sun-Times, reprinted in the San Jose Mercury, Nov. 28, 1975:
Many people think the women of the 1950s were terribly repressed because they had flowery ideas about love, little pre-marital sexual experience, and they married early. They think this was strange, but it wasn’t strange at all, and I’ll tell you why.
Of course we were repressed, we women who grew up in the ‘50s. And of course we didn’t have sex, and of course we married early. All these things happened because of one very popular item of dress in the ‘50s that simply hasn’t been given its due as a shaper and molder of history.
It was the Playtex Living Girdle, and it certainly shaped and molded me. And its companion in history was the Merry Widow.
We were repressed because we were half-asphyxiated. Each day we stuffed reasonably normal-sized hips (maybe an inch or so of extra flesh) and reasonably unpudgy waists into a singular contraption known as the Pencil Skirt.
Visualize a pencil, and you’ve got the idea. These skirts were made out of four narrow strips of material with a five-inch slit up the front, not to increase sex appeal but to increase one’s ability to walk. We called them, quite rightly, “hobble skirts,” and no one laughed. Or cried.
Given the restrictions of the Pencil, you can see it was necessary to pay a good deal of attention to one’s superstructure, as it were, before putting it on. That meant wearing the Playtex Living Girdle, an ingenious device sold in a silver tube of cardboard in department stores everywhere, guaranteed to whittle, pare, hone, and squeeze unsightly fat. The Living Girdle did not fool around.
I’m convinced Playtex sold mostly Extra-Smalls. That’s the only size I ever bought, 38-inch hips or no, for the challenge was greater.
The first step was to turn the Living Girdle inside out and give it a good sprinkling of Johnson’s Baby Powder. Johnson’s Baby Powder is nice stuff, and it smells delicious on babies. It also smelled all right on the Living Girdle at first, but after wearing it all day, the aroma was distinctly of burning tires. Then one had to roll the girdle up like a sausage because, remember, this was RUBBER and rubber can rip, which had disconcerting consequences, which I will tell you about later.
Anyhow, once the Living Girdle was properly rolled, you pulled it carefully over one foot (watching the toenails) and pulled hard in the opposite direction, for otherwise it had a tendency to snap tightly around one’s ankle. Some people lost heart when they saw this phenomenon. They did not want a well-girdled ankle.
The next job was to work it around one’s other foot, and then get it up around the knees, without poking one’s finger through a hole. (All Living Girdles had carefully spaced-out holes in them, ostensibly so the body could still breathe. That’s why they were called Living. It was reassuring to first-time users.)
I forgot one important detail. A pair of gloves. Wearers of Living Girdles needed to carry a pair of gloves at all times, for no one has been known to get that girdle on or off without them. It wasn’t just rings or hangnails. A slight case of chapped hands could do it.
Once the girdle was worked up over the knees, the pressure was on. Now it had to be carefully unfolded until it was just doubled, easing gently, up—over—Uh! Success.
There was usually a short moment of giddiness, so it was wise to be standing next to a door or a wall. I used to think it was simply euphoria (I had done it again!). But keeping one’s head down and holding one’s breath for the usual ten minutes or so it took to get on the Living Girdle had its health problems.
Then it was time to put on the Merry Widow.
A Merry Widow was a cloth and rubber contraption that operated both as a brace and a bra. The brace part extended from beneath the breasts down to the lower waist where it met your Living Girdle.
Its one drawback was an unfortunate tendency to snap up in front when one sat down. This gave the illusion of pregnancy, which was terribly embarrassing, so it was important to keep an eye on that flap, and slap it down every time it flipped up. That kept us reasonably occupied during long movies. We didn’t think much about anything else.
Usually the Merry Widow and the Living Girdle ensured that we looked as beautiful as possible. (We became experts in bladder control, so as not to lose too many hours getting trussed and untrussed each day.)
One memorable weekend I visited friends in another city, wearing my favorite Pencil Skirt. They raved over what a slim beauty I had become. Little did they know, I thought with satisfaction, that I owed it all to the Living Girdle and the Merry Widow.
On the third day, my Living Girdle burst, and out poured me.
Humiliating? Oh, yes. But the most terrible thing was the knowledge I could no longer rely on the Living Girdle to preserve me as a mass of tube-slender flesh.
All my care, all my coaxing of that slippery piece of rubber over my body had been changed perceptibly. I abandoned Pencil Skirts, and started wearing the kind that required five yards of material gathered at the waist, pushed out to there with huge crinolines underneath.
All I wore under it for constraint was a waist cincher, which allowed a reasonable amount of air in my lungs. I subsequently discovered there was more to do in movie theaters with boys than worry about the flap flapping.
In a sense, it was my emancipation from the 50s, or, more accurately, from total acceptance of the idea that beauty required a high tolerance of pain. (It still amazes me that we waddled around, mono-buttocked and confined to two-inch steps, never seeing the connection with the Chinese custom of binding women’s feet at birth.) [Actually age six years was usually the earliest.]
We were certainly interested in sex. But our primary pursuit was ultimate control of our bodies, so we would be good-looking packages to be opened only after marriage—which should make it clear why we married early.
We married early, dear readers, so we could take off those damned Living Girdles and Merry Widows and breathe again.
No title--Author Unknown (from the Internet) Getting Ready for the Reunion!
With the towel firmly wrapped around my glistening body, I pulled out the black lace, tummy-tucking, cellulite-pushing, ham hock-rounding girdle, and the matching “lifting those bosoms like they're filled with helium” bra. I greased my body with the scented body lotion and began the plunge. I pulled, stretched, tugged, hiked, folded, tucked, twisted, shimmied, hopped, pushed, wiggled, snapped, shook, caterpillar crawled, and kicked. Sweat poured off my forehead but I was done. And it didn't look bad. So I rested.
A well deserved rest, too. The girdle was on my body. Bounce a quarter off my behind? It was tighter than a trampoline. Can you say, “Rubber baby buggy bumper butt?” Okay, so I had to take baby steps, and walk sideways, and I couldn't move from my butt cheeks to my knees. But I was firm!
Oh no...I had to go to the bathroom. And there wasn't a snap crotch. From now on, undies gotta have a snap crotch. I was ready to rip it open and re-stitch the crotch with Velcro, but the pain factor from past experiments was still fresh in my mind.
I quickly sidestepped to the bathroom. An hour later, I had answered nature's call and repeated the struggle into the girdle.
I was ready for the bra. I remembered what the saleslady said to do. I could see her glossed lips mouthing, “Do not fasten the bra in the front, and twist it around. Put the bra on the way it should be worn --- straps over the shoulders. Then bend over and gently place both breasts inside the cups.” Easy, if you have four hands! But, with confidence, I put my arms into the holsters, bent over and pulled the bra down...but the boobs weren't cooperating. I'd no sooner tuck one in a cup and, while placing the other, the first would slip out. I needed a strategy.
I bounced up, and down a few times, tried to dribble them in with short bunny hops, but that didn't work. So, while bent over, I began rocking gently back and forth on my heel and toes and I set 'em to swinging. Finally, on the fourth swing, pause, and lift, I captured the gliding glands. Quickly fastening the back of the bra, I stood up for examination.
Back straight, slightly arched, I turned and faced the mirror, turning front, and then sideways. I smiled. Yes, Houston, we have lift up! My breasts were high, firm and there was cleavage! I was happy until I tried to look down. I had a chin rest. And I couldn't see my feet. I still had to put on my pantyhose, and shoes. Oh... why did I buy heels with buckles?
Then I had to pee again.
I put on my (purple) sweats, fixed myself a drink, ordered pizza, and skipped the reunion.
Meet Girdle Girl by Claudia Connell Sunday, 8th March 2009
As one of Femail's Two Fat Ladies, Claudia Connell has been keeping a hilarious dieting diary since she vowed to lose weight at the beginning of the year. But is there an instant way to get rid of the flab without dieting or going under the surgeon's knife? Claudia road-tested the latest figure-transforming underwear to find out. . .
So is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Girdle Girl to the rescue! Although I should point out that she won't be coming immediately to the rescue, as I don't exactly fly through the air at the speed of light. In fact, once I am in my full costume, I can't run, walk, dance, laugh or jump without difficulty. I can, however, move sideways like a crab if required. OK, so I make a pretty unimpressive superhero and I'm unlikely to be the star of my own summer blockbuster, but I do fight the sort of crime that affects most women at some stage: flab and cellulite.
Everyone who watched The Bionic Woman on TV in the Seventies will remember the opening line where the voiceover dramatically announced: 'We have the technology, we can rebuild her.'
As a child, I used to dream of having supersonic hearing and being able to run faster than a truck, just like the Bionic Woman. But now, aged 42, I'm not so fussed about being able to hear a conversation on the other side of the room or leaping over a giant building. But I do fantasise about a midriff area that doesn't look like a festoon blind, and the days when the tops of my arms didn't resemble a side of ham in a delicatessen's window.
For years, surgeons have been able to rebuild and reshape women's bodies with breast implants, liposuction and tummy tucks. In order to obtain the Jessica Rabbit-style figure that I crave, I would need only to alter my breasts, shoulders, stomach, waist, bottom, thighs, upper arms and back. But what's a girl to do when her budget doesn't quite stretch to such major and costly intervention? Is there a credit crunch alternative? Well, I am delighted to announce that there is, and that the answer lies within - within your underwear to be precise. It is now possible to alter the shape of your body and drop a dress size without the need for a scalpel and bank loan. Control knickers are, of course, nothing new. It would be a safe bet to assume that every actress at the Oscars was wearing a pair beneath her frock - but that wasn't what I was looking for. As a size 14-16, my days of just needing magic knickers are gone - an all-encompassing body suit would be more suitable to my needs. Luckily, a company called Lipo In A Box have invented the very thing.
It's the brainchild of an American southern belle called Connie Elder. I called Connie at her home in Nashville to discuss my figure faults. It wasn't a short conversation.She promised to send me a box full of remedies that would give me the body I crave. Connie was able to take care of most of my body. She recommended two different body suits - one knee length for daywear and a calf-length one for evening, a waist clincher that would magically make my spare tyre disappear, and a pair of briefs that would flatten my stomach and lift my buttocks.The final touches were some shoulder shapers and breast enhancement pads. But there was nothing on offer for the dreaded bingo wings. It's no good having a goddess-like hour-glass figure and then, after a romantic evening, waving goodbye to your matinee idol beau, and knocking him out with one blow from an unruly lump of swinging arm flab. But those Americans think of everything. Flabuless is a new product which you wear like a sausage skin over your bingo wings to create a slim and toned effect.
I was like a child at Christmas when my parcels arrived. I don't think I ever envisaged the day when I would be wildly excited by a box of grandma-sized knickers landing on my doorstep.
I stared at them with a mixture of fascination and terror. How many people can boast that their underwear comes with a 24-hour helpline? Suddenly the idea of surgery didn't seem so scary after all. Lipo In A Box products are based on the compression bandages used by the medical profession. It doesn't sound sexy, but if it does the job, who cares? I divided the items into two batches: one for day to be worn under dresses and suits, and one for evening to be worn under longer, clingier dresses. Anybody who has worn control underwear will know it is not ideal for a girl in a hurry. The first piece of my Girdle Girl outfit was a pair of cycling-style shorts. They trimmed half an inch off my thighs, half an inch off my hips and an inch off my waist and, most importantly, persuaded my backside to shift back to where it used to live.
But not content with a mere inch loss from my stomach area, I pulled an additional waist clincher over the top, which whittled me down by a further two inches. My Ultimo gel-filled bra - worn by Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich - gave me a va-va-voom cleavage, while the Flabuless sleeves made my bingo wings magically disappear. The final touch was a pair of clipon shoulder pads, as Mother Nature, in her wisdom, decide to curse me with the narrow, sloping shoulders of a 12-year-old, meaning that nothing with straps ever stays in place. After 15 minutes off huffing, swearing and sweating, the result had better be worth it. So, what to put on top? For my day outfit, I chose a grey Marks & Spencer suit with a pencil skirt and jacket. A pair of black high heels completed the outfit. Normally, I strain to fasten the button on both the skirt and the jacket. Would that all change with my superhero underwear? My pencil skirt slid effortlessly over my hips and the zip went up in one go, while the jacket fastened with room to spare. If the underwear had allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief, then I would have. Usually when I sit down, I do so without too much thought, but I had to lower myself inch by inch for fear that something would give way. I also had to make sure my skirt didn't rise to reveal my flesh-coloured underwear - which started at the knee.
Standing up also required the assistance of two people, as my arms were starting to go numb from the Flabuless sleeves. My daytime body got the thumbs up from most of my friends, but would I pass muster in my evening dress? It was time for Girdle Girl to gain some additional super powers: the body suit. With its in-built bra, this beauty was going to tone my body. I lost track of how long it took to shove my wobbly bits inside, but it was long enough to necessitate a tea break. Connie from Lipo In A Box had also sent me a pair of 'perkies' - lightweight jelly inserts to go inside the bra, which promise the effect of a boob job but without the surgery.I added my waist clincher over the body suit, shoe-horned my bingo wings back into the Flabuless contraption and clipped on the shoulder pads. Finally I added a pair of bottom-lifting briefs. The dress fitted like never before - my waist had never looked trimmer, my bottom was so uplifted you could rest your mug of tea on it, and I was mesmerised by my new perky bust.To go with my new movie-star figure came a new movie-star walk. Unfortunately, not Marilyn Monroe's wiggle, but Frankenstein's Monster's lurch - a result of not being able to bend my arms or legs. After half an hour of marvelling at myself, I realised I needed to spend a penny. Suddenly I understood the reason for the helpline. 'I'm dying for a pee and I'm wearing a body suit and buttock clenchers,' I wailed down the phone. 'Ok. Calm down, if you check the garments, you'll see that they all came with a special, hidden opening, so you don't have to remove them entirely,' said the nice lady. Phew.I was prepared to sacrifice walking and eating, but fighting the call of nature was going to be too much even for Girdle Girl.
Dropping two dress sizes, having a visible waist and not having to lie down to fasten my clothes was wonderful. But it is a look that should be kept for special occasions; I don't think my flesh could withstand the restriction and discomfort. It was time to put the control underwear away and go back to being plain old, wobbly-sized 14-16 Claudia Connell. But my superhero outfit is safely boxed under the bed, just waiting for the next emergency call. Watch out for Claudia's next Two Fat Ladies diary in Femail. For more information about the products she used, visit Flabuless and lipoinaboxm.