corsetrouseel1953This post is partially inspired by and dedicated to one of my sisters, who, in response to my father’s mention that he was glad not to have to be a woman and have to deal with bras, girdles, and such, said, “Dad, I don’t think woman wear girdles anymore.”

While it stands to reason that perhaps my sister missed the Lycra memo on account of the fact that she’s tall and thin (sorry to call you out like this KM), and girdles are widely viewed as a tool for overweight women, in my experience even curvy girls under the age of 35 seem to think that girdles are a thing of the past, an object worn by grandmother’s and spinsters.

What we have on our hands is a panty misunderstanding that’s resulting in day-to-day fashion catastrophes all over the country. I feel compelled to do my part in dispelling the anti-under garment movement and put to an end the notion that girdles are just for fat girls and see smooth silhouettes return to the posture of our nations young women, curvy and slim alike. This topic is going to be somewhat of a jumping off point for prettysmart blog on a series of themed entries having to do with matters of female grace and poise that we’ve somehow managed to lose in the 21st century, so it’s only natural that we begin with foundation garments.

Gird Your Loins: a brief history of the girdle

I had to chuckle as I was looking up the definitions for the words “gird” and “girdle”. specifically mentioned the phrase “Gird your loins” with this definition, gird or gird up one’s loins, to prepare oneself for something requiring readiness, strength, or endurance: He girded his loins to face his competitor.” I felt that this was a more than accurate description of any occasion that calls for wearing heels, which, in my opinion, is simultaneously an occasion that also calls for girdle wearing. We wear heels to make our legs look longer and more appealing, we have a myriad of bra styles to lift, separate, and be invisible under anything, and don’t even get me started on cosmetic surgery. The point I’m trying to make is, in a society so devoted to looking it’s best why is it that young women have become so girdle phobic? One reason could be that while making our evolution in to the modern woman, somewhere along the way  we’ve forgotten the basics. To understand the girdle as something more than just an ugly beige contraption you noticed in your mother’s laundry, it’s important to understand it’s history.

As far as my research has found, the girdle was invented somewhere around 1910 by French designer Paul Poiret and was a girdle_11121tstaple in woman’s lingerie until the late 60’s- early 70’s. Apparently Mr Poiret ‘s designs strayed away from the trend to place the emphasis of clothing at a woman’s waist and instead, fit his clothing closer to the body at the hips and tush, and for that fit he needed a new under garment that would help support and smooth a woman’s figure. Thus, he invented the girdle and soon it replaced the corset in fashion. The idea was to create a smooth and sleek silhouette under the clothing of this period, think Grace Kelly and Rita Hayworth (if those names don’t ring a bell, I highly recommend consulting google). If you are familiar with the names mentioned above, you’re probably also familiar with their signature grace and poise, part of which is due to their dressing habits. Girdles, while smoothing the lines of a woman’s figure also serve to support the back and stomach, which in turn helps with posture. All of which not only contributes to an elongated looking figure, but ease of movement.

One of the major misconceptions around the girdle seems to be that it’s only intended to be worn by heavier people, when the truth is completely to the contrary.


Jessica Alba wearing Spanx

In the beginning, the girdle was never meant to be the overweight person’s answer to fitting into a smaller size, but rather, to take every woman’s figure and make the most of it, so that you can wear your clothes with grace and ease. Which brings me to another part of the basics we seem to be forgetting about these days.

Clothing is supposed to accentuate our bodies and fit in a way that is flattering to them, but this is impossible if we’re asking our clothes to do things that they weren’t designed to do. I’ve seen the mistake made over and over again, and am guilty of having made it myself, of trying to fit clothing so that it corrects problem areas. Choosing a shirt because it covers a less than flat tummy, choosing pants that appear to flatten stomachs, or somehow magically make your butt look smaller than it is. The truth is, most women are either buying their clothes too big, or too small, in order to hide or correct their imperfections, and this doesn’t work because clothing is designed to fit.

You’re not doing your figure or your clothing any favors by trying to make them do a job they weren’t created for. This is where foundation garments become your best friend. They are made to smooth out, hold in, hold up, and do it virtually invisibly, so that your clothing can fit your shapes in a flattering and alluring way.

Eva Longoria also a fan of Spanx

Eva Longoria also a fan of Spanx

At this point, I realize that even after gaining a little appreciation for the history and the practicality of the girdle, the idea of the typically flesh toned, full-body, under armor, may not spell sexy to you. However, I urge you, in your eagerness to undress, keep an open mind…

As poignantly puts it, “A glance at fashion magazines of this period [40’s] will also give anyone a sense of the way the girdle was represented as a glamorous garment. Although, of course, ads and articles in fashion magazines had an agenda to promote the wearing of the girdle, the extravagant glamour of girdle ads and articles suggests that women found it plausible to associate girdles with perfumes, lipstick, slips, stockings, and all of the other accoutrements of femininity that tended to be associated with skies filled with stars and swirls, New York nightclubs, and Paris in the springtime. I certainly made this association of girdles with elegance, sophistication, and glamour, as I was growing up in the fifties. And I know that I was not alone.

Ladies, it’s not all about being all out there all of the time, you can’t get naked if you mostly already are. Just a thought.

Sara Blakely creator of Spanx

Sara Blakely creator of Spanx

So now let’s bring this back to today and discuss a little thing you may, or may not, have heard of called Spanx, and the woman responsible for revolutionizing the girdle world, Sara Blakely. If you think women don’t wear girdles anymore, think again. Sara Blakely, creator of Spanx was just an average person who wanted her clothes to fit better and with a little work and determination, (you can read Sara’s story at, she created girdles that are appealing, comfortable, and amazingly effective. So much so that they are a HUGE hit among celebrities, and have been featured repeatedly by Oprah. Spanx gives women an option for any body smoothing challenge and I can promise you that when you see the results and the way your clothes look over them, you won’t feel like you’re wearing your granny’s panties. You can be sure, celebrities aren’t blessed with a super gene that gives them perfect bodies, and even though they have personal trainers and chefs, there are things that not even exercise and healthy eating can fix. Under those gorgeous gowns on the Red Carpet there’s some serious body shaping going on. My advice to you is, don’t knock it ’till you’ve tried it! Set aside your fear of the bounce and wiggle routine associated with getting into a girdle and just see if the end result is that your jiggly bits (c’mon you know you’ve got ’em) jiggle less.