Ivy Leaf's Diary

2017

 

 

 

Wishing all our Readers a Happy New Year

 

 

 

January 2017

 

Another year begins and what will it bring? Another calendar is a possibility but in some ways I think we have exhausted the possibilities here. However, one reader suggested that we create the missing 2011 edition. As somebody famous once said "There's nothing less saleable than an out of date calendar", but if that calendar contained some of the best and unused pictures from the last eight years and reduced the dates to two strips down the side of the page, perhaps it might sell. As you can see from the pictures on the right, the idea of this calendar has been in our minds for some time.

As always we will, thanks to our readers, pass on what snippets of information they share from time to time. Work on the book will probably progress in fits and starts as it did last year, but we took the opportunity when Victoria modelled for the calendar to take some pictures of her wearing elements of the collection (right).

Our fleeting contact with Lyn Locke last year was a sad reminder of what we missed when Lyn and Mike ran the Garters & Lace events.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a curiosity that I came across recently. I read the following sentence in a novel: "She was about fifty, overweight and corseted, with the manner of a headmistress." Not an unusual sentence until you realise that the book was written in 1996. I suspect that the author implied that the woman's shape was obviously the result of firm undergarments, possibly of the sort described below. It reminds me of the following excerpt: "I was expecting someone about sixty with tinted hair, an enamelled face, tight corsets, like a sort of toughened up Queen Victoria." This is a quote from John Wyndam's book, 'The Trouble with Lichen'. In this case, however, the book was published in 1960 when some older women certainly did wear corsets.

 

 

Italian Corsetry

An Italian reader kindly sent us a link recently to an excellent site www.ellicorsetteria.it that still produces traditional girdles from its 'Linea Alta Compressione' (High Compression Line - right). It is heartening to know that today, as always, there are Italian women who take care and pride in their dressing and appearance. The panty-girdle illustrated is a good attempt: the shiny nylon front panel harks back to the days of real satin panels, there is a zipper and decent boning. Well done the Italians. My husband, ever the car enthusiast, commented that 'Alta Compressione' might be a suitable name for Alfa Romeo's latest offering, the Guilia. He went on in this theme "The Alfa Romeo Guilia Alta Compressione driven by an immaculate and expensively attired Italian beauty, very shapely of course thanks to her Ellicorsetteria underpinnings. Like her car, she is very stylish, very fast, but possibly a tad unreliable. She would not turn up on time." My husband adds that the motoring press are very fond of Alfa's new offering; the car that is, not the imaginary woman.

Other Italian sites with many bras, girdles, corselettes and panty-girdles are Venus Corsetteria, Iber Corsetteria (est.1890), Every, Alba and Ghifer Corsetterias. The Alba for Fashion website is particularly stylish (left); how very Italian.

We are currently receiving a large volume of data on Italian foundation garments both modern and vintage. We have created a new page, Modern Italian Foundation Garments, to hold the plethora of images whilst traditional foundation garments are still retained on a greatly expanded and revised Italian page.

 

February 2017

 

We must apologise for the lack of recent updates, however, we have been indulging in the retired persons' privilege of travelling to warmer climes during the northern hemisphere winter. Tomorrow we will take the 14 and a half hour, long-haul flight back to Britain and begin the task of catching up with 'normal' life, updating the web-site and a hundred and one other tasks, the absence of which make holidays so enjoyable - up to a point.

 

A few small items of interest I read in a book published in 1954 by Molly Lefebure 'Murder on the Home Front'. This is a true account of a secretary who worked for a pathologist during the war and she comments:

I could never get them [detectives] to appreciate the difference between a corset and a roll-on. But perhaps it didn't really matter."

"But my missus, she's always last, she takes a long time to dress. You see, she wears one of these ;ere abominable belts and it takes quite some time to put on." By 'abominable belt I realised he meant an abdominal belt. But, when all is said and done, abominable is, I should think, a pretty good name for them. This  describes preparations to get into the garden air raid shelter. It is interesting to note that with bombs about to drop, the lady still takes time to get into her corsets. A similar episode is recounted in Gerald Durrell's excellent book 'My Family and Other Animals' (1956) where their house in Greece catches fire and they flee the building, his mother with her corsets fastened over her nightie. If you have worn corsets all your life, it is extremely uncomfortable to perambulate without them, bombs and fire notwithstanding.

In response to an examination question about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, a student writes: "Many a night-watchmen has come to an untimely end whilst sitting in his hut gazing pensively at a red hot brassiere."

 

 

March 2017

 

Gross Corsets

We have been in correspondence with a lady from Chile regarding the provenance of an 'antique' corset. It is labelled 'GROSS SUPPORT'. This is a trade name, not a description of the unfortunate wearer. I have reproduced our conversation together with the photographs that she sent of the corset in question. I can find no details regarding Gross Supports other than a short piece I wrote years ago. It appears to be an Australian brand judging by the label. Can anybody help?

 

Just a little curiosity. We recently came across a Spirella advertisement in the form of a calendar for 1939. By chance, the days and dates are the same as for 2017.

 

 

 

An interesting picture that reveals the structure underneath some of the 1960s Dioresque ball gowns, reminded me years ago of a St. John's Ambulance nurse who was called to attend a Royal garden party. She was amazed at the contrast between the floating silks and chiffons of the costumes with the rigid bones and brocading of their underwear that had caused some of the ladies to feel 'poorly' in the heat and stress of the gathering. We recounted a similar tale elsewhere.

 

The erudite Roger K has recently delivered his usual list of omissions and errors for which we are always very grateful. We do make mistakes because we are human, however, in cyber-space some little gremlin seems to remove pictures at random. Please let us know if pictures are missing. Roger alerted us to an excellent YouTube video from Lucy's Corsetry. If you want to buy a corset, you should look at Lucy's comprehensive and interactive guide.

 

Weddings

 

From time to time, we come across one of our web pages that has not caught our attention for a number of years. The page on weddings as seen from the Spirella point-of-view is a case in point. It used to have a neat feature where you had to guess what the women in the wedding photographs were wearing underneath their fancy clothes. By clicking on the picture, an answer would be revealed. Alas, no more. Whatever 'improvement' to our computer that Microsoft has deemed necessary in the last few years has rendered this feature (dynamic HTML so my husband tells me) obsolete. No wonder the threat of an 'upgrade' or a 'new operating system' brings strong men close to tears. To circumvent this irritating development, probably couched under the heading of 'improvements', we have simply created a new page called answers (the link is on the weddings page). Here is displayed the original articles straight from the Spirella magazines of the 1960s describing exactly what lies beneath.

 

Spring has Sprung

 

The Vernal Equinox is behind us and we are officially in Springtime. Shame about the torrential rain and temperature (40F). Confined to the house, we have decided to catalogue our entire collection of corsetry brochures, catalogues and books. This has been prompted by an Italian collector of such items who is looking to trade. We may well publish the list to see if anybody out there would like some original material.

 

 

 

Modification of photographs

 

In these days of PhotoShop and such like, how can you ever believe what you see? It is our normal policy not to modify pictures, however, sometimes, like on the far right, we might combine pictures for effect. However, after publishing the first calendar, our corsetiere friend, Mrs. O. commented on how bad the fit of the garments was on the models. Fair comment, however, the models were wearing simply 'best fit' garments that were made for somebody else. In this case, immediately to the right, and it was the photograph on the far right that reminded us, we did modify the bulging lacing on the model. Of course we could have pulled the lacing tighter but there are limits to which you can subject amateur models and to tighten the corset in Photoshop caused the lady less distress although she was moved to comment "I don't really bulge like that do I?"

 

Meanwhile, we came across a rather charming picture of a lady in her girdle peering discretely through the lace curtains. It reminded us of a similar picture that we took in 2011 whilst making the 2012 calendar. Here the lady in her tight corsets peers hopefully through the window. What are they looking for? Mr. Right no doubt. In reality, the lady on the right did find her Mr. Right shortly afterwards.

 

We came across an interesting advertisement from Triumph of Germany. We have described it in detail on the Triumph page.

Another interesting discovery was that during the (first) heyday of the rubber girdle in the mid-1920s, Spirella had jumped on the bandwagon as well and was marketing rubber girdles. Regard the article on the right.

It is apparent that the fitter has tried these girdles but prefers her 4035 (conventional fabric girdle) and, of course, proper corsets for steady wear.

 

April 2017:  Catalogue of Catalogues

 

We have recently completed an audit of all the literature that we have gathered over the years. My husband has made a spreadsheet that can be found on this link. We have prepared this so that if there are any collectors out there that are missing specific catalogues or brochures, please let us know. Some of the items we will donate freely, others we may put on Ebay; the best and most expensive due to rarity, condition or both, we will keep or donate to the appropriate museum. We can be contacted as always at

ivyleaf@corsetiere.net

 

It used to be said that New Zealand and Tasmania were a bit like the Britain of 50 years ago, however, we know New Zealand and it is bang up to date. This is probably good for the younger generation, however, for nostalgia buffs it is a disappointment. We have never visited Tasmania but I suspect it has been pretty well modernised too. It was, therefore, with a mixture of surprise tempered with sadness that we learned recently about the retirement of a long-time corsetiere in 2014, Mary Jackson (née Demeijer  b. 1948).

 

In April and December 2016, we commented on an arresting black and white photograph of Brigitte Bardot wearing a guępičre (basque). We have added another photo there from the same film "Two Weeks in September".

 

Whilst adding a few more cartoons to the website, we came across a poor resolution copy of a large lady asking "Have you one that stretches more than two ways?" in response to an advertisement of a two-way stretch girdle. Well, Playtex had the answer with its seven-way stretch Golden Girdle. Not only that, they used the character of an airline stewardess to promote the girdle.

So here's a challenge for you whilst we are on the subject of stewardesses and girdles.

Regard the four pictures (enlargeable) on the right. What story do they relate in the 1960s? Well obviously, there's an airline stewardess looking lovely in her uniform blouse and pencil skirt revealing just a hint of petticoat. Of course she is wearing a girdle; we all did then.

Once at the destination, her colleague enjoys the comforts of a well-earned rest in the five-star hotel before heading for the beach.

Wrong!

Tear your eyes away from the stewardess, the outline of the brassiere, her seamed stockings and the silky nightie, this is an advertisement for the carpet!! Yes. You can just make out the the girls are standing on a carpet made by the Chemstrand Corporation in 1960. I would love to meet their advertising manager.

 

In our researches, we sometimes come across cartoons that remind us of incidents that we have witnessed or of which we have been reliably informed. Ten years ago in Ivy's Diary of 2007, we published an excerpt from an article in a ladies magazine. "It’s common for airline passengers to kick off their shoes at the start of the flight only to find that their feet have swollen by the end and the shoes don’t fit. This is simply fluid migration and nothing to do with pressure, however, it is recounted that the fear of pressure caused one old biddy, unused to flying, enquiring of her travel agency whether the pressurisation would cause her arms and head to swell up after take-off since the rest of her body was confined by surgical stockings, corset and long-line bra!" The cartoon on the left demonstrates a similar effect when wearing one of today's more powerful shapers. An exaggeration as are most cartoons, but in reality, you cannot compress the human body that is mainly water, all you can do is to re-distribute it.

 

Another article that we wrote in 2003 concerned an arresting sight in the garden. "The lady next door is a frail, wispy 90-year-old, but 35 years ago, when I was starting university, she must have been 55. My mother didn’t really like our neighbour, who she regarded as a bit ‘racy’, moreover, her daughter had recently been divorced. In those days, divorce was quite rare and confined to the stars of Hollywood, not London suburbia. Certainly, one habit of this lady of which my mother strongly disapproved, came to light one hot afternoon in 1969. Our ancient gardener was tending the roses when he suddenly stopped still, and remained immobile gazing through the roses across the fence. My mother thought that perhaps he was having a seizure until she followed his light of sight. There was our neighbour watering her own plants attired in long-line bra and a waist-slip beneath which her pantie-girdle was clearly visible. My mother tut-tutted vigorously and the gardener guiltily averted his gaze." I think the cartoon on the right covers this one.

 

We have added a section on the Realform girdle company, not because we know much about it but because of a fascinating article from the Akron Beacon Journal.

 

 

May 2017

 

We received a very interesting email from Rachel Bichenor who has compiled an encyclopaedic blog concerning women in motor racing: Speedqueens. She reports that Dorothy Levitt, one of motoring's early pioneers, did not wear corsets but claimed to have a natural 16-inch waist. I find that unlikely unless she was particularly diminutive and photographs of the period suggest otherwise. What do you think?

 

An interesting Spirella card came to our notice recently (left). It is in French, however, Spirella never had factories or offices in France. It is, of course, from that Francophone area of Canada, Quebec. Such cards are always interesting in that one can look up the actual address and see what sort of house the lady occupied. Was it classy; was it run down or was it, as were the vast majority, a standard middle class affair? If one comes across a garment that has the corsetiere's or client's address on a label or a bag, one can then relate the garment to the lady that lived there, and by the power of Pegman and Google maps (below) we can see that somewhere in Herne Hill, SE London, the occupier of this house wore this actual laced-back corselette back in the late 1960s.

  

 

My husband is a great fan of the 'Carry On' genre of films. I do not share his enthusiasm, possibly because of my Dutch background, however, I came in to the lounge at the end of the film 'Carry on Loving' (1970) to witness quite an enthusiastic custard pie fight. I wondered if the pie fight in 'The Great Race' pre- or post-dated this version. It predated as it happens for 'The Great Race' was released in 1965. To be fair, I found the 'Carry On' pie fight a poor relation to that in the 'Great Race', not least because of the amazing score by Henry Mancini, but it is an interesting coincidence that two films should feature both corsets and custard pies. I suspect that is the only reason that Natalie Wood and Amelia Bayntun might be mentioned in the same sentence.

Amelia Bayntun (1919 -1988) wears a Spirella corset in 'Carry on Loving' that the company supplied and Natalie Wood (1938 - 1981) wears a pink silk confection in the 'Great Race' that Spirella definitely did not make.

  

 

June 2017

In our quest for new material, we came across two cartoons that, at some point we will drop into the cartoon page. These two are slightly different from the usual English seaside humour often referred to as 'toilet humour'.

The cartoon on the left is nearly self-explanatory, however, the text is rendered in both French and Dutch and they are not translations of each other although they fit the cartoon. The French translation is "I’m certain that he will not be able to resist!" and the Dutch version says "He will not think of another." How strange.

On the right, I'm sure a psychiatrist could write a thesis on all the hidden meanings present in both the cartoon and the caption. The artist responsible was the amazingly talented Fred Spurgin (1842 - 1911). He drew everything from the patriotic during World War I to the most ribald depictions of the stout lady at the seaside. Whatever his choice of subject, his sense of humour was always close to the surface.

 

Can anybody help us to determine from which Marx Brothers film this scene occurs? Groucho appears to be adjusting Margaret Dumont's corsets with a sword or dagger.

July 2017

 

Wishing all our American readers a great Independence Day

 

On two occasions (repeated below) we have made reference to people confusing the words 'abdominal' and 'abominable'. Some corsets were, indeed, abominable but abdominal is the correct term. We never thought however, that we would find a cartoon expressing exactly this mistake.

At a formal dinner, a retired major discovered that the lady on his left was a Spirella corsetičre. The lady was used to the stilted effect that such revelations could have on subsequent conversation, however, the major volunteered that his wife, "The old Memsaab" as he called her, wore abominable corsets to hold in her tummy. "I think you mean abdominal" the corsetičre replied. "Exactly!" retorted the major, "That's what I said."

"But my missus, she's always last, she takes a long time to dress. You see, she wears one of these ;ere abominable belts and it takes quite some time to put on." By 'abominable belt I realised he meant an abdominal belt. But, when all is said and done, abominable is, I should think, a pretty good name for them."

 

The Wonderbra

 

At the back of my mind, I had always associated Gossard with the Wonderbra, however, an article I read recently described the history of the Canadian Lady Corset Company. Moses (Moe) Nadler, founder of the Canadian Lady Corset Company, licensed the trademark for the Canadian market in 1939. By the 1960s the Canadian Lady brand had become known in Canada as 'Wonderbra, the company'. In 1961 the company introduced the Model 1300 plunge push-up bra. This bra became one of the best-selling Canadian styles and is virtually identical to today's Wonderbra. These bras have been sold in the UK since 1964 under license by the Gossard division of Courtaulds Textiles. This licence was not renewed in the 1990s. This now explains the association of Gossard with the Wonderbra; such is the power of advertising that Gossard sprang into my mind not the Canadian Lady Corset Company. Wonderbra also manufactured the Wonderbra Winkie panty-girdle that rightfully can be found on our Strange Names page.

 

On the subject of brassieres, and to be frank, this site is predominantly devoted to the girdle and corset, we came across some advertisements for Pulmonet, the famous German manufacturer of times gone by. The wistful look of their brassiere model really took my husband's attention (left). Their panty-girdle advertisement has been placed on our sporting pages.

 

Freedom

 

Talking of panty-girdles, Twilfit in the 1960s showed models in their lasted foundation garments "Join the Freedom Movement". This was powerful stuff in the 1960s: The Freedom Movement was the shout of the late 1960s generation who were actually echoing the Merdeka cry of the Far Eastern countries as they tried to break free from colonial rule after the Second World War. Breaking free from the girdle into the panty-girdle was small stuff compared to Merdeka but the social consequences would be felt around the world (at least that part of it that wore foundation garments).

Regarding freedom from constricting foundation garments (very much a late 1960s phenomenon unlike the 2000s move back into foundation garments) we found a couple of advertisements ostensibly aimed at the younger wearer. On the right, Ambrose Wilson proudly proclaim in the early 1960s "The belt for moderns". How quickly that would change.

 

 

Recently we have added a substantial number of cartoons, however, from time to time we find one that we don't really understand. The cartoon on the right by Bamforth (1842 -1911 - the classic British seaside postcard cartoonist) is simply a man peering round a door and seeing a lady (his wife?) dressed in her underwear. The comment is "Rubber".

I'm sure the man is not referring to the material of her corsets, so presumably they are partners in a bridge game that has completed a rubber (end of game session) and she was dummy (the non-playing partner). Is he asking her back to the table? Is she suggesting an alternative form of entertainment? Any suggestions would be welcome.

 

We have added a short section on Axfords corsets that we would like to enlarge in the future.

   

 

 

 

 

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