||Marks and Spencers|
Berlei was a popular brand of corsetry in the UK, and well into the nineteen nineties produced a range of firm control girdles.
Early garments were fitted using the Berlei sizing system developed in the 1920's. Sizing was calculated using a complicated nomogram, that estimated body type depending on relative hip, bust and waist measurements. Popular garments were the Instant Slimming and the Gay Slant ranges, but the company also produced the Sarong and Sarongster girdles in the 1950's.
Gay Slant is worthy of particular discussion as the garments were produced for well over thirty years (since 1962) with very little modification after the mid sixties when Lycra replaced a rubber based powernet net for its construction . This early model illustrated here dates from the early sixties, and is made of a heavy material complete with boning on front, sides and back, and a one way stretch back panel. Berlei invented a sizing system for corsetry based on five basic figure types back in the 1920's and this was used until the early sixties when more elastic materials made this unnecessary. This girdle was therefore produced in a range of types and sizes to accommodate these differences. Later versions of this girdle used the much lighter Lycra, and did not need to use the Berlei sizing system.
Gay Slant was a very effective girdle and was produced in medium and firm control models as this tag from an early 1970's model shows. High waisted models included a rigid front panel and boning down the sides and back to prevent rolling.
The firm control high waist zip step in and panty girdles were probably the most popular though corselette styles were also available when the range first came out.
Berlei was originally an Australian company , but a UK subsidiary was set up in the 1930's. Berlei sold well in the UK consistently, and was the only UK manufacturer allowed to keep its name on garments produced for the Services during the 2nd world war. In the mid nineties Berlei was taken over by the Cortaulds group, and whilst the brand name remains girdles are no longer produced. Along with Playtex, Berlei girdles were heavily advertised on the UK television. The following advertisement dates from the mid sixties.
In the late1970's Berlei also produced a range of girdles described as "Instant Slimming". These were very firm control garments designed to minimise problem figures. They were characterised by a wide and rigid stomach panel, and it was common for this range to be produced in high waisted styles complete with boning.
However these were probably not as popular as the Gay Slant, as sales of the latter continued well into the 1990's whilst the Instant Slimming range was discontinued.
At one time it was estimated that about one in every three people wore Marks and Spencers underwear and so there must have been large numbers of women in the UK wearing girdles with the St Michaels brand name on them. Marks and Spencers did not manufacture the garments themselves however, but rather used large manufacturers such as Courtaulds to make them for them. The St Michael brand has stood for quality for a long time in the UK, and the girdles produced were no exception to this.
A wide range of girdles were available, ranging from light and medium control through to firm, and even extra firm control garments. The extra firm control garment illustrated above is probably from the 1970's.
The model illustrated above is from 1987, and similar models were still being produced well into the 1990's.
Playtex is one of the most well known brands of girdles in the UK, as during the 1960's and early 70's they were heavily advertised on television. The most famous model in the 1960's and 70's was the 18 hour range, which were unique in being made out of a non lycra stretch material using elastodiene and nylon called Spanette.
The garments have a unique feel and rubbery smell, but were obviously popular as the range sold well for over thirty years and are still obtainable now. A wide range of styles were available, but long legged styles were not common in the UK. the longest style available was the boy leg style, and this was only available in the panty girdle rather than in the corselette.
The advertising concentrated on how comfortable the girdle was, with the punch line often being that the woman was wearing the girdle without realising she had put it on. Another theme used was a woman complaining that " My girdle is killing me!", and then being advised to wear an 18 hour girdle instead.
The 18 hour girdle was available in the UK from 1967 until the new millenium, but in addition Playtex promoted a more conventional range of girdles made out of elastane, called the "I can't believe its a girdle girdle".
Silhouette is another famous make of corsetry in the UK , and were the first company in the UK to use American style advertising techniques involving the use of television and heavy advertising in the press. The little X girdle was a best seller in the late fifties and this continued until the 1970's when girdle wearing in the UK became unfashionable. The image promoted was of a lithe young woman wearing a black leotard leaping into the air. Later colour images were used to illustrate the same theme.
As with other companies they produced a range of garments providing light through to very firm control girdles. The Rosebud range was promoted in the 1970's, and promised control with roses ( a rose pattern was woven into the elastane used ). The girdle promises control with comfort, and also offers the "extra strictness" that curvy girls need.
This is one of my favourite girdle images, and I have included a much larger version so that you can get a high resolution printout if you wish . Click on the image itself or select this link ( Larger Silhouette image).
Their very firm control range was called "One Minute Diet " and as the illustration shows was also a formidable garment.
Spirella were a bespoke corset company that specialised in the made to measure market. Customers would be visited in their own homes and fitted for made to measure corsets and girdles.
They even had their own corsetry club and newsletter and organised social events! The company flourished in the 50's and 60's in the UK, but as foundation wear became lighter the need for bespoke services became less. The advert below is from the early 1960's and shows a variety of heavy duty girdles and long line bra's.
Eventually in 1986 the company was closed, having complained that sort of people who bought their products had "fallen off the end of the world". Spirella got its name from the spiral steel stays used in modern corsetry, and I believe that the company invented the spiral steel stays that became the basis for most supporting underwear when whale bone ceased to be used.
Spirella produced very firm control garments often with heavy lacing and busks. Even their lighter garments were formidable, and were clearly targeted at the more matronly figure that needed good support.
Triumph is an Austrian company that produces firm control girdles and corselettes up to the present day.
Along with Berlei and Playtex Triumph have featured heavily in mail order clothing catalogues , and until the mid 90's such advertising was common. These days the company is more famous for its bras, and produces the hugely successful Wonderbra. The company is also famous for the Doreen range of bras, that is reputed to have been the best selling bra in the world. Certainly it has sold consistently for over 30 years, and so the companies claim may well be true.
The Doreen range also included a high waist panty girdle in the UK and on the continent , but corselettes appear to be their major corsetry range. Products include the Ideal range providing firm control, and a deluxe version called Comfort Ideal that is also firm control, but is cotton lined for additional comfort and warmth in winter ( also promoted as being cooler in Summer due to the natural fibres).
A large number of other brands of girdles and corsetry have been sold in the UK over the years, but the number of different brands has gradually diminished as the popularity of corsets and girdles waned. Some companies such as English Rose, Court Royal and Symington have ceased to exist, whilst others continue in a different form.
Fantasie are still in production, but along with Gossard now concentrate on producing bra's rather than foundation wear.
The once well known firm of Twilfit (Coopers Textiles of Ashbourne) has finally been taken over, but is understood to be still producing foundation wear. In the late 1990's they were still advertising traditional foundation wear.
This included very firm control garments, as the following illustrations show.
Whilst there has been a decline in UK manufacturing, some companies still import garments to the UK. Triumph has already been mentioned, but other companies such as Miss Mary of Sweden also import a selection of firm control garments for the UK market.