The mystery of 1950s girdles—instant poem
1950s girls wore girdles (instant poem)
It was the 1950s when I would squeeze my nether parts into a tube that ironed bulges into an oval shape like a sausage when you lower the lid of a toastie press to hurry it up and the sausage goes all flat and dry. Girls wore girdles. But why, why? Far from enhancing the glorious teenage waist, compressing our bumps and clefts achieved the opposite. Curves were gone and straight lines ruled. This gruesome tube was a prosthetic device to keep our trunk in line. Oh dear. How could I be so silly. Of course the girly girdle was not a beauty aid. but a twentieth century chastity belt locking our legs together and bullet bras combined an IQ test with fortifications in rigid cotton stitched into pointy grenades. ~Rachel McAlpine 2021~
The mystery of the 1950s girdle: freedom my a*s*.
You have to wonder why we forced our bodies into those elastic tubes. Believe it or not, the 1950s girdle was promoted as a revolutionary garment that would set us free.
You read that right. Truly. Look at the ad below where women in girdles are dancing and fencing, proving how freely they can move in a Berlei girdle.
This was a solution to a problem that did not exist. We already could move freely without the help of a girdle. We knew that, obviously: nobody wore a girdle to play tennis or ride a horse! It hampers movement big time.
And yet girls wore girdles to rock and roll dances. Oh yes. Under your dress the top of the girdle would roll down into a lump far less appealing than a spare tyre of flesh. The bottom would roll up, causing more anxiety. Seams and patterns left indentations in your flesh. They sort of hurt. They were sort of creepy.
Weirder and weirder: over the dreaded girdle we wore enormous swirly joyful skirts. Not slinky clingy slip dresses. Seven yards of fabric sprang from every waist exaggerating its tinyness. Everything else was fabulously overdressed.
This fashion had nothing to do with freedom. It had everything to do with control. Girdles were like mudguards in more ways than one. They were boy-guards.
In the context of the era, these garments were comparatively humane compared with 19th century corsets. That was the sell. Big deal!
Well, that was a long time ago in fashion and in the lives of us once-were-teenagers. Now it’s sports bras and briefs. A big bouncy bottom is an aspiration for some—and a faint memory for others.
Sorry not sorry
I know, I know, some of you might find this post a bit rude. Sorry not sorry. This was an aspect of my real life 60-odd years ago.Follow Write Into Life
31 thoughts on “The mystery of 1950s girdles—instant poem”
Girdled, corseted, stuffed into, brassiered up into pointy projectile missiles (nipple-less), plucked, shaved, permed, sliced, coated with foundation and make-up….. And yet, here we are, still here, still fleshy, still lumpy, still human….. Thank God.
You’ve said it all, Josaia. We are glorious survivors of the “beauty” industry.
Great piece Rachel McAlpine
I remember girdles all too well
My mother suggested we her four daughters all wear them as she did
They were kind of yukky, weren’t they? Maybe because they seemed so alien.
I missed the girdle era but I didn’t escape bloomers for gym and witches britches under winter uniform. They weren’t uncomfortable; just ugly.
One of the great inventions late to dominate underwear was–da da!–stretchy knitted cotton fabrics, as in t-shirts, tights, and panties. What couldn’t stretch had to be loose. Our first girdles were of industrial strength rubber. Witches britches were at least stretchy.
Yes, witches britches did have that stretch factor. 🙂
Oh I remember those horrible elasticated tubes – and living in a tropical country with high humidity, as I did, they were hell on earth. Nevermore! ever.
Oh no, not in the heat and humidity! My sufferings pale in comparison
Remember it well. and those pointed bras…
They were stiff and hard. Again I wonder why. Partly a technological challenge.
Torture devices. Just . . . UGH!
Wow, a great howl of disgust arises from the land. No, the world.
This makes me glad I am a bloke. I don’t know if you are at all familiar with the game of rugby, but when we packed down in the scrum we chanted “The secret’s in the underlift, the secret’s in the underlift, the secret’s in the underlift that’s in the Berlei Bra” – rising to a peak when we shoved hard on the last word.
What a glorious story. Some of those advertising jingles had a life of their own. Memes, I guess. From my husband I learned that the engineering principles behind the flying buttress were those of the strapless bra.
Anonymous is Derrickjknight.
I am the anonymous one
It was probably a sausage maker who designed the original! I am amused nowadays by the fact that it seems de rigueur to shave eyebrows and then stick on slugs in their place, often at an angle that gives a quizzical, or an amazed, look. Lips the size of whoopee cushions are another favourite!
I bet it was. At least the griddle (thanks, autocorrect) didn’t permanently disfigured our bodies. Only our psyches.
I suppose they had to come up with a quick plan when they ran out of whale bones!
We are horrified by foot-binding, yet continue to torture our bodies into odd shapes all for fashion. We are still waiting for the revolution!
I wish that wasn’t true
I never even thought twice about wearing a girdle, a slip, underarm perspiration protectors and high heeled shoes. I have abandoned all for sure.
Free at last!
Only subject to gravity!
You could not have said it better: “They were boy-guards.” For some young ladies, it was important that they still be wearing one when they returned home.
Haha! In parents, hope springs eternal.
It’s amazing to look back on all this! When my youngest daughter was at university her dissertation in her final year was on ‘pain for beauty’ and she covered foot-binding, lacing, corsetry, etc through the centuries and right up to our era, the 50s.
Wow, how fascinating that dissertation must have been. I bet you enjoyed it by proxy.
Loved this post. And then I was supposed to ‘burn my bra’. I never really understood how that was in my best interest, but women advised it as a cure for the girdles and pointy weird bras and all the absurdity you describe in your hilarious and spot on post. I used to examine my mother’s girdle and hydraulic bra drawer with repelled fascination as a child. What was all this industrial strength stuff for??? And now there are spanx which roll too, and are a mis-spelling of the word ‘spanks,’ invented by a woman who is now a billionaire and thinks women respond to spanks??? Fashion completely bores me. There are birds and wild creatures outside to explore for heavens sake!! Stores are bores!! Fashion is trashion. Women are much more important than the clothes they wear.
Wow, that’s a very clear point of view– love it. “Repelled fascination” is apt. There was something creepy and icky about those garments.