Panty girdles have been around since the 1930's but were not very popular in the UK until the late 60's. The panty girdle only really became popular in the UK when panty hose started to replace stockings. The girdle illustrated is a Nymphit made by Supportu Supplewear. It is made of rubber, nylon and rayon. As you can see from the photo early panty girdles were designed to flatten the bottom as well as the stomach .
Until the 1970's most panty girdles were still fitted with removable suspenders. Materials used in the early girdles were still fairly heavy and it was only in the 1970's that lighter materials became more common. The Mirabel girdle (Model 661 L/70) shown above is used to illustrate this principle, though the girdle itself probably dates from a later period due to the very fine weave Elastane used.
In addition girdles were often printed in different patterns and colours as manufacturing techniques improved and public tastes changed. This girdle made by Marks and Spencers (model 17F/3020R) probably dates from the late 60's or early 1970's. The girdle has a rear seam that acts to clearly separate the two buttocks. This also suggests that the girdle was produced in this period. The garment has no boning but uses additional layers of Lycra to provide firm control.
Triumph were a popular brand of firm control girdles in the UK, and are still well known for Bra's and other foundation wear. Minimal boning is used to prevent the cuff waist from rolling down, but it is still a firm control girdle, with an attractive finish. This particular example was manufactured in Austria and the brand was first sold in the UK in the late 1970's. Until recently it was still available in the UK, and so the dating of this garment is difficult.
This principle of providing a seam to emphasise rather than minimise the buttocks is illustrated well in this rear view of the girdle.
No museum would be complete without the Playtex 18 hour girdle. These girdles are all firm control but are surprisingly comfortable. They do have rather a distinctive smell however which is not to everyone's taste. They sold consistently well from 1967 and are still available in the UK. This high waist girdle (style 2675) probably dates from after the early 70's as there are no attachments for suspenders. The unique Spanette material is made from rubber and cotton, and makes for a girdle that is rather warm to wear for long periods. The satin front panel provides firm control, and moderate boning (6 stays) again prevents it from rolling.
This model (style 2676) is similar but without the boning on the front panel. The longer legs also give additional thigh control. This is also likely to be a later model as it was manufactured in the Philippines rather than in the companies Scottish factory. These girdles are still available in the UK today, and so must have attracted a following of dedicated wearers. The girdles do seem to loose their elasticity with use however, and so it would be interesting to know the average life of such a garment.
The Berlei Instant Slimming girdle (style 831) is an extra firm control garment probably produced in the mid 1970's. The is surprisingly comfortable to wear given the high level of control. It is not such an easy garment to put on (or take off) but a crotch fastening makes going to the toilet relatively easy! Four stays on the back and sides stop the garment rolling down, and the front panel is also reinforced for extra control.
This Elastane girdle is made by 'Miss Mary of Sweden' and is a good example of an unusual firm control girdle that has been manufactured recently. The company specialises in the more firm control end of the foundations market, and this girdle is no exception. An unusual feature is the broad waist band (approx 5 inches) that is made of rubber elastic webbing. This holds the waist in and gives exceptional control to that part of the body. Two stays are also included to support the back of the garment. A front zip makes putting on the girdle relatively simple.
Marks and Spencers name is synonymous with underwear in the UK, and the company has continued to sell girdles (or shapewear) to this day. This high waist girdle is made from nylon and Elastane and probably dates from the late 1980's. Moderate boning at back,sides and front (six stays) is used to prevent the garment from rolling. It is a relatively light garment and reflects the trend towards less controlling garments after the 1960's.
Long leg girdles were not particularly popular in the UK, and I only have this one in my collection. The girdle illustrated is a Nymphit (model 652) made by Supportu Supplewear. It is made of nylon and Elastane, and the fine weave used suggests that the girdle was made in the late 1980's or even later. It is moderately boned with a total of four stays used at the front and back to prevent rolling. A side zip makes putting the girdle on an easy task.
This is a very firm control panty girdle using two layers of Elastane over most of the girdle and a third layer over the stomach. Four stays and a cuff waist stop it rolling down, and it is unusual in that Spencer are better known for medical corsetry in the UK. The fine weave Elastane used suggests it is not particularly old, and it would be interesting to find out when it was produced.
this Spencer garment (model 291) is a panty girdle designed to give firm support to the back and stomach. It is made out of Elastane and nylon and the firmness of the support provided can be adjusted by special quick release straps .
Two rigid stays run the back of the garment, and provide a high level of support to the back and stomach. It is not clear to me what medical condition this would be prescribed for, whether for back or gynecological complaints.
This girdle provides moderate control and uses a fine stitch Elastane in its construction. It is included as a final entry to this part of the museum as a reminder that my collection probably does not reflect what the average woman used to wear. The rest of the exhibits are mainly high waisted and firm control garments, and even when they were first manufactured were probably worn by older woman used to firm girdles, or women wanting a sleek line under their clothes for special occasions. By the 1970's most woman probably only wore relatively light girdles, and towards the end of this decade all forms of girdles became unpopular. Girdles were made of a lighter and lighter construction until it seemed likely that they would disappear forever. In recent years foundation wear has made some comeback in the form of shapewear but it is unlikely that the firm control garments available in the 50's and 60's will ever become popular again.
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