Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Spanx a ton—return of the girdle

By Star Lawrence
Reprint rights $15

Actually, girdles never went anyplace—over the centuries, “compression devices” morphed into fashion musts, then bedroom lusts, followed by tortured busts, and then back to lust.

Remember your first glimpse of a girdle? A flat, white, slightly quivering silhouette of rounded, female hips cast in rubber. Maybe your mother flopped it on the bed to accompany the stockings you have been begging to wear. Dangling from this odd creature were four appendages, rubber buttons that slid into metal holes.

Did a faint rubber smell emanate, one that never really left this mysterious garment? Did it undulate a little all on its own? Memory deceives.

The girdle was probably invented around 1910 by a French designer (naturally). He was inventing some form-fitting clothes and tut alors! women really needed some improvement. This was pre-Photoshop, remember.

Immediately, the corset, the bones a whale’s revenge, was unlaced and tossed. Most women wiggled into girdles between 1920 and 1970. Girdles were glamour (think Veronica Lake’s sleek, uni-cheeked, suspiciously firm hindquarters). This is when a nightclub was a nightclub. Perfume was Chanel. Lipstick was Cherries in the Snow.

The funny rubber smell gave way during rubber rationing in World War II, but soon returned and then was replaced by Lycra in the 1960s. Pantylegs were added, while the open style (two taut rubber panels with heaven--not fabric--in between) stayed popular in Europe.

Then in the 60s, expression came in and compression went out. The panty girdle legs showed under miniskirts (not a good look. let’s face it). Everyone was letting it all hang out. Girdles did the opposite, chasing human flesh around like a subtle game of Whack-A-Mole. They had to go.

Or at least go into hiding. Bras burned, girdles went in the drawer (probably for fear of burning rubber). They are still among us. They are called shapewear now. You find them in both “normal” and plus-size catalogs. Surprise, some women and men, too, still like girdles. Check with Mme Google—the Fanny Hill look is still abundantly available. The sauciness is even conveyed by the brand name of one line—Spanx.

One wench reportedly purred, “It is just amazing what a few ounces of rubber and elastic can do to a man with a rip-roaring girdle fetish.” Try to find that dude on eHarmony.

There is no accounting for tastes (or should that be waists?), but can I ask you devotees one question? .....

For punch line, please ask me about reprint rights at

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