A Girl and Her Girdle Pt II

vintage image 2 1950 women in girdles reading a book

“The Story Begins in the Middle” Vintage 1955 ad Warner’s

I figured out very early on that every female had a figure flaw.

But luckily when it came to figure problems a slew of manufacturers had it all figured out.

A good girdle was a must have for every mid-century gal no matter the season.

So despite the fact that the spring of 1959 was a real scorcher, I learned –at the tender age of 4- that sweltering weather was no excuse for a lady to let her figure flaws show.

vintage lingerie ads illustration 1950s  women in girdles and bras

For everyday wear, Mom’s summer time favorite girdles. “Enjoy a cool cool summer in Coolaire – Flexess new “air conditioned” fabrics- fashioned into figure flattering girdles” (R) Vintage ad Coolaire Girdles by Flexees 1952 (R) Vintage ad Gossard girdles for Summer 1955

Summer Silhouettes

Memorial Day had come and gone and along with the seasons first appearance of white shoes and wicker bags, revealing swimsuits and little summer dresses made their debuts.

Meaning, m’lady’s silhouette came under severe scrutiny.

Did the fear of midriff bulge cause panic in my mid-century Mother?

No sireee!

While some women panicked, nibbling on celery sticks and cottage cheese, subjecting themselves to the pummeling paws of a Russian masseuse at a fancy milk farm in order to shed winter weight and attain a svelte figure, Mom knew there were more effective ways to whittle your waist.

A well made girdle was all a gal needed to fit in.

Mom had recently purchased a new dress at Orbachs-a Molly Parnis knock off that was as easy on they eye as it was on the purse.

It was perfect for the big June Jamboree Dinner Dance at the El Patio Beach Cub. Despite the endless buffet and Viennese table served at the dinner, fitting into her new figure flattering number would be no problem.

Smart Cookies

vintage illustration 1950s housewife refrigerator and 2 women in girdles eating

American abundance- More of Everything you want (L) Vintage ad Admiral Refrigerator 1954 “Holds more than 120 pounds of frozen food.” (R) Vintage Warners Le Gant  Girdle ad 1955

In mid-century America you could have your cake and eat it too…literally. Why deprive yourself of that groaning board of American goodies.

Clever ladies knew that with the right girdle you could take command of your beauty and enjoy a wonderful new kind of figure that never existed before.

Ever wish there were two  of you? Warner’s asked provocatively in the  1955 ad for their le gant girdle shown in the ad above.

”One to splurge on shortcake- one to be a fashion plate! Seems like such a shame to choose- but here’s good news: with the Warner’s Le Gant no girl really has to. We’ve styled it in new persuasive elastic for the girl who munches and bunches in just that order.”

Go Figure circa 1959

women in Lingerie girdles bras illustration 1950s

Vintage illustrations from Formfit Life girdle ads (L) 1951 (R) 1950

Saturday night of the big dance I watched eagerly as Mom got herself ready.

Wandering into my parents bedroom, I sprawled out on the fancy quilted satin bedspread, the sounds of “Make Believe Ballroom” on WNEW playing on the GE clock radio, mesmerized as my Mother went through her metamorphosis .

The noisy oscillating fan in the bedroom only seemed to move the muggy air around the bedroom offering little relief as Mom prepared for the evening. Putting her face on would be no easy task as beads of perspiration kept a perpetual shine that no amount of Angel Face powder would subdue.

Mom emerged out of the bathroom shower in a great gust of steam, her fresh from the beauty parlor coif carefully encased in a polka dot plastic shower cap, a light dusting of Cashmere Bouquet on her damp body brought a veil of fragrance scenting the room.

vintage ad Bestform girdle illustration woman in bra and girdle

“Curbs your Curves from waist to hip! Made of flexible airy nylon, this is a girdle to control your pounds, extoll your curves. Giving your hips a hooray! All at a purse easy price with money over for the matching bra.” Vintage 1952 ad Bestform

I watched in sheer wonderment as she wiggled into her latex girdle.

With the skill of contortionist or an enterologist at the circus, the fact that she could deftly squeeze her body into such a small rubberized container never ceased to amaze me.

Of course in the hot weather girdle wrestling could make her a raving beauty but she would end that eternal tug of war with a generous dusting of  talcum powder, that promised to allow your girdle to slide on smooth as silk.

 

vintage catalog image women in girdles 1959

Girdles from Spiegel Catalog 1959

Savvy Mom knew figure flattery, glamor and comfort began with the perfect fit in a girdle and like most gals had quite a selection to choose from.

Hip Hip Hooray!

vintage photo 1950s woman in girdle and bra blowing bubbles

“How Incredibly young and comfy you’ll feel in these weigh- nothing, do everything girdles! Sheer magic!” Vintage girdle ad 1950

For tonight, Mom’s new Perfect-O girdle, a high performance job that put an end to tummy bulges, was so lightweight that it made her just adore being “taken in.”  The ads were true-“The wonderful supple design, a neat play of satiny panels to snip off inches where every girl needs it most. Yes, inches. You can tell by the tape-and you’d better because you’ll never feel it.”

Looking in the mirror she thought this was the most flattering girdle she’d ever owned. How heavenly to discover-suddenly that you have the figure you’ve always dreamed about! Such flattering, flattening social security in something so delectably pretty to wear.

Mom could happily indulge in all the duck a la orange and Baked Alaska she wanted, confident of the containment provided by the girdle.

Vintage girdle ad 1954 woman in lingerie

Vintage ad 1954 Life Girdles by Formfit

“What you put on first makes all the difference,” she instructed me. “Full skirt or slim skirt, shirtwaist or strapless gown…what you put on first adds the finishing touch. That’s why it’s so important to wear a girdle keyed to every outfit. The girdle that’s so wonderful with your tweeds wont have the same talent for silks!”

As usual she would quote from my great Uncle Bernie: “A girdle frees your step while it sleeks your figure.”

His considerable girth notwithstanding, when it came to girdles Great Uncle Bernie was an expert.

My corpulent Uncle Bernie Posner was the president of Perfect-O-Figure Foundations founded by his father my Great, Great Uncle Max.

Even with his drooping eyes clouded over with cataracts, Bernie had an eye for the ladies and their figures and never hesitated to pass his wisdom gleaned from over 40 years in the ladies undergarment business.

Smoke and Mirrors

1950s lingerie formfit ad illustration woman in girdle and bra

Vintage Formfit girdle ad 1954

Whatever the occasion, Uncle Bernie couldn’t resist the opportunity to proselytize the gospel of the girdle.

Even at family backyard barbecues, while other uncles busily debated baseball , Uncle Bernie, now in his dotage, could rhapsodize poetic about ladies foundations. regalinged whoever was willing to listen.

I was always an eager ear.

His pink fleshy face flushed with enthusiasm, Uncle Bernie would impress me with the importance of a good foundation in life…at least as far as a girdle was concerned.

Sitting on his lap, he would explain to me  – always while nibbling on a fistful of Veri-Thin pretzels that -“Every woman needs to be Fit!”

Of course he wasn’t talking about fitness regimes, but instead the importance of the proper fit of a foundation garment. “Figure glamor begins with a perfect fit in a girdle” was his mantra.

lingerie girdles diet

Nodding in the direction of my perpetually slim Aunt Lois who was known to hoist a can or 2 of Metrecal from time to time, he continued.

“You need not diet or deny yourself the good things in life,” he said authoritatively, a stinky pre-Castro cigar clenched between his yellowing chicklet teeth. “You need take no dangerous drugs or tiring exercise. You are absolutely safe when you wear a good rubber girdle. You appear smaller the minute you step into a perfect-o-girdle.”

Wide eyed even as a 4-year-old I was tantalized.

Wagging his swollen sausage like fingers at me he warned: “If you are over twenty, you are in danger of ptosis (sagging) of the abdominal muscles. This causes a bulging abdomen and the hips appear too large. You need a good girdle to give you uplift and support!”

He paused long enough for the point to stick, jabbing his wet cigar butt into than ashtray.

Taking It All In

vintage illustration woman reading book in lingerie formfit 1949

Vintage Illustration Formfit Girdles Ad 1949

I absorbed this information, storing it away for a future destined to be filled with girdles and garters, just as a previous generations of women in my family had done.

Our family was intrinsically bound up in the world of girdles, a business built on the bulging bellies and swelled hips of women and the ever-expanding cultural expectations and changing fashions.

Bernie’s retelling of his father business was legend in our family and he had a captive audience in me. His watery eye lit up in delight at the telling and I never tired of listening to him, greeting his familiar stories with the same enthusiasm as hearing a favorite fairy tale.

Foundations

lingerie corsets posner SWScan02118

My mothers Great Uncle, Max Posner had been a tailor back in Russia so when he came to NY by way of London in 1883 where he had established a reputation as a skilled corsetier , he quickly found work in the ladies flourishing corset business.

“When Pop first started working here, everyone wanted to look like statuesque Lillian Russell.” Bernie explained describing the popular, amply bosomed, massive-hipped woman.

Plumping Up not Pumping Up

 Vintage Corsets Illustration

Vintage Corsets Illustration

By 1900 plumpness was still fashionable. The Ziegfeld Girls and the Floridora girls, the chorus girls of the smash musical were held up as beauty’s ideal with their full breasts and rears, plump thighs and arms and soft bellies.

“Women may have wanted smaller waists,” he remarked, happily tapping his toes in his gleaming white leather Italian slip-ons, “but you can bet your sweet life they wanted lush curves, 40 inch busts and thighs that could measure 53 inches all around .”

It All Adds Up

vintage illustration ad for ganing weight
“No one wanted to be a Toothpick Tessie,” Uncle Bernie would exclaim. “Underweight girls would cry themselves to sleep, hopeless that they were doomed to a lifetime of skinniness.”

What was a gal to do if she didn’t have the luscious eye-catching curves required to fill out a turn of the century dress?

A clever tailor, Uncle Max knew he could help women transform their appearance .

“Posner’s Scientific Perfect Physique Foundations,” Uncle Bernie explained referring to the companies original name, “promised healthfully and scientifically to help round out the entire form until a woman was fully developed.”

“Skinny Minnies,”  Bernie continued impaling a deviled egg on a toothpick as he spoke,“could fill out their scrawny bony figures with a number of devises that Pop supplied.” False breasts, thighs and calves were available in addition to rubber backs and hips that had “natural” dimples designed into them.

Vintage Fashion Catalog illustrations Corsets Sears Roebuck  1903

Vintage Fashion Catalog Corsets Sears Roebuck 1903

“And individually constructed corsets took care of a lot, yes indeedy,” he’d say with a satisfied smile.

My great Uncle Max was in great demand.

 

The New Woman

By about 1908 the voluptuous hourglass figure started to slowly fall out of favor, as the Gibson Girl with her comparatively  more slender, youthful figure burst on the scene, becoming the new standard of beauty.

vintage illustration lingerie corsets 1908

The New Woman was still bent in an exaggerated S Curve and still possessed the voluptuous bust and rear that the times favored requiring heavy corsets. Vintage corset Sears Roebuck 1908

A true gal on the go, this New Woman was as comfortable with a tennis racket as she was setting the table.A well fitting corset was more important than ever.

vintage fashion catalog illustration corsets lingerie 1915

Vintage Corsets 1915 Sears Roebuck Catalog

 

vintage lingerie corset stout women

Stout Women needed slimming Vintage corset ad

With Max’s trained hands any bothersome bulges were slimmed down by his stylish garments. His patented armor-lastic stretch corsets were flying off the shelves.

“With the end of WWI,” Bernie continued, “things were changing with the speed of lightning!”

vintage lingerie corsets

Vintage Corset and Corselettes

The flapper was just around the corner.

Ain’t we Got fun

 

vintage lingerie 1920s corsets bandeaus

The Flapper with her stylish boyish figure required, garments to securely bind her flesh, flatten her bosom, slim her hips and flatten buttocks

vintage lingerie corsets 1927 fashion illustration

Vintage Fashion Catalog Corsets, Brassiers 1927 Eatons

As flaming youth roared, Uncle Max began to slow down. Eager beaver Bernie took over the business, quickly changing the name to a snappy Perfect-o-Foundations, more fitting with the roaring twenties.

vintage catalog fashion illustration lingerie corsetlette girdle 1920s

1926 Corsetlette Girdle -Sears Roebuck Catalog

When the flapper burst on the scene with her new boyish silhouette of slim hips and flattened buttocks , Perfect O-Foundations and other lingerie manufacturers were forced to change tactics to modernize for women who might forgo the old-fashioned corset altogether.

No nudnik, Bernie knew this was no passing trend and jumped on the bandwagon expanding the corset business to include girdles.

What with the popularity of the flapper and her streamlined look, the girdle business boomed. After all you couldn’t Charleston without one!

The die was cast.

 

vintage fashion catalog illustration lingerie corsets girdles 1929

Girdles For Betty Co-ed 1929 Co-ed Corsetry Sears Roebuck Catalog

Girdlelicious

The 1930s signaled the return to a more womanly shape and his girdles promised slimming flattering figure loveliness thanks to the miracle of latex.

photo woman vintage lingerie corsets 1933

Before and After 1933

 

“The Modern Miss could say goodbye to old-fashioned corset bones and stays.-miracle latex used in all the latest girdles was as easy as putting on a pair of gloves,” he said fairly swooning.

 

vintage illustration ads women in lingerie girdles and bras

Vintage Ads Life by Formfit Girdles (L) 1948 (R) 1951

Modern girdles, he explained, made of tree grown liquid latex were designed without a pesky seam stitch or bone yet these new girdles would mould you smoothly allowing complete freedom of action, and controls your figure for your busy active life.

“Slimming loveliness can  be all yours!” he promised me, hungrily ravaging his right-off-the-grill burger.  I watched in fascination as the rivulets of grease dribbled down the precipice of his double chins leaving an oil slick in its. wake.

“It doesn’t take a lot of money to get the figure you want,” he concluded with  big smile. “All it takes is a head on those pretty shoulders.”

Sheer Magic

lingerie girdles lycra fairy godmother

The Miracle of Lycra Spandex- Fairy Godmother to Women Everywhere.  Invented in 1959 it wasn’t until  1962 until  the full scale manufacturer of Lycra went on the market , expanding possibilities for women everywhere.  Girdles were no longer only peach, ivory, and black instead bright pastels and patterns became the rage. (L) Vintage ad 1962 Hollywood Vassarette Girdle and Bra (R) Fairy Godmother Cinderella Walt Disney

“But the best was yet to come,” he whispered to me. A new miracle fabric had been created, one that was very hush hush.

Even as Bernie spoke, chemists at DuPont were hard at work developing  the century’s greatest miracle…one that would change the business forever.

Like all fairy tales, this story had a happy ending.

Just as  the beautiful princess rode off into the sunset saved by her prince, so helpless women world wide in need of figure control would be rescued with the arrival of that years greatest miracle- Lycra Spandex .

A match made in heaven, they would live happily ever after!

 © Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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19 comments

  1. Is it wrong that I really want to wear girdles?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely not! A girdle can be a gals best friend

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sally great webpage – you are absolutely correct wearing a girdle daily is a gals best friend.
        Back during the “Golden Age of Girdles” a girdle was a women’s best kept secret. I have come
        to the conclusion that are also serious health benefits to daily being in a decent vintage girdle like
        the ones in these pictures. The benefits have to do with the fact that has humans we stand erect
        over a period of time standing erect gravity and time has a very negative effect on our internal
        organs. Wearing a decent firm boned girdle will support and hold your internal organs in their
        normal natural position. Yes a decent vintage girdle does take a little time to get use to but so
        well worth it, and really is your best friend. Come and join us sometime to discuss girdles
        http://www.voy.com/224381/
        You can also reach me at toms_0321@yahoo.com

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sally – First great website – keep it up, get the message out how great girdles really are and they
        definitely are your best friend. When out in public and you look around most women will choose to
        wear a bra, but no girdle. Both a bra and girdle for women definitely go together. You can tell most
        women really do the aid of girdle. I believe that most women have no idea how beneficial wearing a
        bra and girdle daily really is.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. autosoma

    As shapeware goes perhaps the girdle isn’t right for today, but they are so better for the art of concealing than revealing. I prefer to see my partner in a girdle rather than a suspender belt.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing all those great ads. Many have pointed out that, as off-the-rack clothing became widely available early in the 20th century, women had to use girdles, etc, to standardize their bodies to the sizes that were available in stores. Dressmaking mannequins — used for creating patterns — had the shape of a girdled body. In the 50s, 60s, and even later, this meant that a woman’s buttocks had to be pushed down and flattened to fit the seams of their skirts. Oddly, very few girdle ads show a side view, although the Formfit ad from 1951 gives you some idea of the “ideal” bottom’s shape: No roundness or gluteal development was allowed.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Pingback: Vintage Booty Boosters | Envisioning The American Dream

  5. I have done some research into foundation wear – I am now convinced that there are some serious health benefits from choosing to daily wear a decent vintage girdle similar to what are pictured on here. We as humans stand erect, standing erect and gravity, over a period of time has a very negative effect of ones internal organs. Wearing daily a well fitted vintage girdle will for sure counteract this negative effect and support and hold your organs in their normal natural position.
    This is an excellent article http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Posture_%26_Foundation_Garments
    I welcome people to be part of the discussion on girdles and corsets: http://www.voy.com/224381/
    There is also a girdle chat room: http://www.chathour.com/chatroom/Girdle_Chat
    You can also reach me at toms_0321@yahoo.com
    Spread the positive word – “Girdles are great”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. How did they pee back then with those things on? No seriously. Was it a production where you had to take the whole girdle off?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SIGH…a preacher’s kids girlie magazine…SEARS ROEBUCK and MONTGOMERY WARD…till your Mom catches you at it or mentions it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on THE MARVELOUS MUMFORD and commented:
    PART OF A GUY’S GROWING UP.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Things to Consider When Looking at Kibbe’s Celebrity Examples | Style Syntax

  10. A good girdle can help you feel and look better with out using a lot of diet stuff like mentioned above. Get the right fit and you are good to go,so they are good for you all day long enjoy them, enjoy life.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I wish they still had some of these old style girdles around they felt good and you looked good in them. People didn’t know you had them on and they did a good job of slimming you down with out a lot of discomfort. The ones shown in the spiegel catalog were some of the best in those times and felt good to have on for a long day or evening out. I herd from a couple of friends they even looked good under some swim suits.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: 20th Century Fashion Icon Icon Prestels – Dolove.info

  13. George

    Great web site!
    Oh yes women in girdles. How I loved looking at the girls in my high school class wearing mini skirts & occassionally seeing the welts of their stockings & the bumps of the garters holding up their stockings. I remember after college during one of my first jobs, I was standing behind a woman wearing a tight business suit. I noticed what appeared to be seams running down each buttock. I KNEW she was wearing a satin seamed panty girdle underneath.

    The Good Old Days!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. For myself I wanted to see what it is like to be in a vintage girdle. I located a professional corsetiere for a fitting and put me through Girdle Training. The corsetiere fit me in a Rago 6210 long legged high waisted boned and zippered panty girdle. The Girdle training was to learn how to first put on a girdle, lay down on a bed lean way back pull up the girdle hook the hooks and eyes and stand up, I was amazed when I stood up the support the girdle gives my stomach and back was fantastic, I felt great with much more energy. The corsetiere told me to keep my stomach muscles relaxed and just let the girdle do its job by giving me needed control and support, she explained this takes a little time. She also had me develop a daily routine wake up, put on my girdle every day and go on with my day. She explained that a girdle really is not just for getting all dressed up, but should be worn even when just relaxing around the house. I followed for a few weeks what the corsetiere told me and she was correct you really do feel great when in a girdle, and you do get to the point where you love being girdled.

    Like

  15. Pingback: Doll-Sized Girdles, 1954 | witness2fashion

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