As corsetry became more elasticated the word girdle came to replace corset, though a girdle is really a corset by another name. Girdles became more popular as women became more active and so by the 50's and 60's were more common than the old fashioned corset. Some older women still wore the traditional corsetry however. Early girdles were also very heavy, and often had little elastic in them! Over a period of time there have also been considerable improvements to the technology of corsetry manufacturing. For example, early elastic panels only stretched in one direction, and could not be manufactured in large sections. Advances in technology brought two way stretch rubber, and then synthetic rubbers (elastane) that could be spun in finer and finer weaves as the manufacturing technology developed. This also meant that firm control garments could become much lighter in construction.
|Rubber (40's)||Lycra (50's)||Fine Weave (70's)|
I have examples of front fastening busk corsets/girdles that rely on elastic rather than lacing for adjustment. The model illustrated is the Angela model made by Galaxy. It is made of viscose, cotton and rubber, and probably dates back to the late 40's or early 50's.
I also have an example of a Nu Back/ Nu-Ease girdle that was fairly rigid but used overlapping panels to allow adjustment. It is a model from the Liberty range (LS 1716) made by the Symington corset company that was based in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. This style was developed in the 1930's but the example given below is probably from the 1960's as the elastic material is relatively light. The elastic only stretches in one direction however, making the use of stays (12 in total) and the overlapping panels essential to stop the garment riding up or down in use.
The overlapping sections allow the wearer to bend without the garment riding up. It is slightly disconcerting to wear however as it makes a slight creaking noise when you do. The girdle is fastened by hooks and eyes that run down the whole length of the girdle.
The girdle shown above (Fantasie model 20G10) is made of a heavy rubber and is well boned throughout. It is made of two way stretch material, and rigid bones are used in the front panel making it almost as firm as a busk. It is zip fastening rather than hook and eye and a total of 10 stays. Four of these are very short however and are used to reinforce the waist band.
Garments had to be heavily boned in order for the waist not to roll down, and the girdles of this period were often fastened with hooks and eyes rather than zips. As materials developed a combination of different design styles were tried.
The garment also uses the older style suspenders made of metal and that need to be manually adjusted. Later girdles introduced self adjusting suspenders with clips made out of metal and then plastic.
This Spirella corset/girdle is zip fastening and was made to measure for a particular client and is made of a distinctive striped cloth used by Spirella and has elastic inserts. It is well boned (10 stays) and has a side zip fastening. I have a number of examples of this style and suspenders do not appear to have been put on these as a matter of course.
This elastic girdle (model 2059) is firm control, with a rigid boned front panel. It is ornately cut and reinforced to provide additional support above the hips. A full length side zip makes getting in and out of this girdle possible!
As was common during the 50's and 60's the girdle has a satin stretch back panel to provide the flattened silhouette required of fashion at that time. The girdle comes complete with six metal suspenders. These are self adjusting.
This Gay Slant (model 2420) was produced in the late 50's and early 60's and is made out of rubber. The flower patterns on the frosted satin front panel makes for an ornate and pretty girdle that give a considerable amount of control. As with many other girdles of this period it gives firm control, flattening stomach, hips and posterior.
The girdle is of a heavy construction and as well as having 6 bones at front, side and back, also has a satin stretch back panel. Girdle sizing is through the Berlei five figure types system, as unlike the later Berlei girdles a perfect fit was essential owing to the more rigid nature of the girdle. Zip fastening was also essential for this garment.
Berlei emphasised the importance of careful fitting of their girdles, provided training courses and even badges for trained corsetieres.
Frequent washing was also recommended to prolong the life of these elastic garments.
The girdle illustrated is a Berlei Gay Slant (Style 762) dating from the late 1960's or early 1970's. Early models on this range used rubber but later this was replaced with the much lighter Lycra. It is still a firm control garment for all its lightness, and has 4 stays on the sides and back to stop it rolling down. A side zip also makes it easier to put on and remove. In common with many UK girdles it has four rather than six suspenders. The front panel is made from a non stretch satin, with overlapping panels to allow easier movement.
Berlei also produced the instant slimming range in the late 1970's and this is a very firm control garment even though there is no zip fastening. This girdle is made of Elastane (Lycra by another name) and has long boning at the sides, and short bones at the back and front back to prevent rolling (6 stays in all). This garment also has a one way stretch front panel for extra control. The garments were produced in a range of styles including panty styles. This is also of a heavy duty Elastane with rigid front panel, bones, and a cuff waist to prevent rolling. Plastic fasteners are also used on the suspenders. This girdle may not be particularly old, as the Instant Slimming range was continued into the early 1990's.
This girdle (model 7748) probably dates from the 1990's as the Elastane used is reasonably fine mesh, and is relatively light for its strength. Twilfit were also known to be producing girdles of this type during this period. Again it achieves firm control by a combination of Elastane, rigid panels and boning (6 stays).
No collection is complete without an example of the 18 hour girdle, that was introduced in 1967 and has been sold in the UK ever since. The model shown ( 2670) is a high waist version, and is thought to be fairly modern. Made from the unique rubber and nylon fabric Spanette, this girdle is firm control without any boning.
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