May 17

All About Girdles

Corsetry was changing rapidly in the late twenties and early thirties, and as new lightweight elastic fabrics became available, new undergarments made from them began to replace the previous rigid laced corsets. New terms were devised for these garments, and these terms were rapidly adopted by the new generation to distinguish their modern garments from their mother’s museum pieces. The girdle was invented around 1910 by the French designer Paul Poiret, to be worn with the clothing he was designing. It is made to aesthetically mould a woman’s figure and may consist of garters. Any girdle is designed with a rubber like fabric which is tied with hook and eye closures

Spigel 1960s girdle

1960s Girdle by Spigel

Corsets were usually put on by wrapping them around the body and then either hooking them together or lacing them up (referred to as Wrap-ons), younger women generally chose the relatively lightweight garment which was knitted as a seamless tube on a circular knitting machine. These were generally put on by turning them inside out, and upside down, stepping into them and then rolling them up into the right position. They were called Roll-ons, and this first generation of women adopted this term as the general name for girdles.

A girdle encircles the lower torso, perhaps extending below the hips, and worn often for support or to smooth and flatten the wearers tummy and buttocks. It can extend significantly above her waist, though if it covers her breasts it becomes a Corselette.  The word girdle originally meant a belt. In modern English, the term girdle is most commonly used for a form of women’s foundation wear that replaced the corset in popularity. In sports, a girdle may be similar to compression shorts.

Although the original Roll-ons had no seams, the term soon came to be applied to any girdle which did not have a zip fastening, or other opening. I suspect that many of the ‘roll-on’ generation continued to use the term after they had graduated to more serious underwear, rather than admit this to their friends.

More mature women wore a firmer elastic girdle with a zip fastening. They stepped into them to put them on, so they were known as Step-ins. Firmer girdles usually include boning, especially if they come above the waist, and may have openings, with hook and eye and/or zip closing, to facilitate putting on and taking off. So we have Laced girdles, Zip fastening girdles and panelled girdles.

Girdles may either be open at the bottom, or closed, in which case they may also have legs. They are divided into two main groups; Open Girdles or Open Bottom Girdles (OBGs) and Pantygirdles. Both groups are further subdivided according to the height of the waist, and type of construction, and panty girdles are subdivided according to the length of the legs.

The twentieth century women’s girdle attracts various references in literature, often in a disparaging way. For example, Marilyn French in her classic book, The Women’s Room, is very critical not only of the girdle itself, but also of the virtual compulsion to wear one, a compulsion which existed until the late 1960s

Playtex open botom girdleOne of my first experiences in womenswear was around the age of 12 when I first tried on my mother’s Playtex open bottom girdle. The feel of that girdle when wearing a tight skirt and walking around the house perhaps captured my imagination and has driven my desire even today to wear sexy feeling underwear. Idda van Munster, a connoisseur of the vintage look says, “A woman wearing a girdle will walk and sit with a charming, careful grace that is distinct from the impression produced by the ungirdled informality. In addition to the pleasant tactile feeling of a girdle, many women enjoy the vintage feeling, the sense of dressing and moving like the truly classical Hollywood actresses.  A girdle is like a great fitting bra, it is the foundation to an incredible outfit that will give the wearer the support and confidence to look and feel her best”

Today  modern women say the girdle was created by men who wanted women to look like something which they thought women “should’ look like….. Is there a man on this earth who has worn, or who would wear, something extremely uncomfortable so that he would look good for a woman? No, I think they stop at using a comb and aftershave and some don’t even use those nowadays”

Scroll down in this article to the comment from “Katie Cahill”. Her beau, Michael, from Ireland, convinced her to wear a girdle, but she countered only if he wore one too. The outcome is surprising.

Happiness is a flat tummyEvery generation of women has a garment that is supposed to help eliminate bulges, bumps and all manner of obvious lumps. My grandmother wore a corset. I used to have to help her pull together both sides and snap it shut. I remember struggling with it as if I were reeling in a large tuna. I would try to encourage her to try to simply wear a bra, but she was adamant that it made her back feel good and made her figure look more youthful.

Today it is the pantygirdle. There’s the story of the woman hurried into the restaurant at Selfridge’s in a waft of powder, perfume and parcels. As she joined her friends for coffee, she gushed in a voice audible several tables away, “I’m so sorry to be late. I was trapped inside my panty-girdle!”

Another woman said’ “Yes I did and they were horrible. My mother was quite cross with me when I stopped wearing them telling me that I would suffer with a bad back if I didn’t wear them. I already was under a specialist for a bad back and, later, after seeking private treatment I was told to throw them away as they were the cause of my problems. They were bad for the circulation, gave us indigestion, made us roast in the warm weather and so I could go on.”


Well, now, a new generation of fat flatteners has emerged called Spanx. You can purchase one for almost every part of your body. They recently came out with one that addresses the front and the back like a suit of armor. I tried the pantyhose on with the control top, because if anything is “out of control” it’s my stomach. I walked around the house a few minutes and ripped them off. The relief I felt was immediate. I knew at that moment that I was meant to have it “all hang out.” Let’s face it, all these under garments that promise miracle results, lose their miraculous possibilities once you take them off. Perhaps working out and eating less might just be more of a miracle. But for us, the glamour of femininity is too big a draw. But then I still need something to hold up my panties.

And then, just for pure enjoyment, let’s watch the Girdle Girls

Next, here is a five part video series on the girdle as you may remember them.


Finally, wth many thanks to a reader, here are links to two chat sites talking about girdles. You may find them interesting

Chat Room 1

Chat Room 2


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