Sunday, June 10, 2007

Foundation Garments

Remember in the first chapter or so of the book Gone With the Wind when Mammy is helping Scarlett dress for a party and Scarlett is holding on to the bedpost while Mammy pulls the strings of her corset until her waist was 17 inches? No wonder women had the vapors. That is the scene that came to mind when I saw this textile exhibition at the De Young Museum while we were in San Francisco.

Oh the crazy things we women do. Even as I look back at my lifetime I have to laugh at some of changes I've seen in undergarments. Do young girls still wear training bras? It certainly wasn't about participating in sports. What were we training?

Tell me what did an 18 year old girl who weighed 105 pounds need with a girdle? What could possibly need to be flattened or contained. Of course you could use it to hold up your on each leg. Or if you wanted to be a little more daring you could use a garter belt to hold up the hose. And who would dare go to a dance in a dress with a tight bodice and skirt with 200 yards of tulle without their Merry Widow bra that encased your torso with at least 9 vertical spiral wires. You had to dance because sitting down was miserable.

And what was the 50's thing with petticoats. You wore circular skirts or full peasant skirts with crinoline and/or starched petticoats underneath, miles and miles of petticoat. It was a nice fashion statement BUT in humid Houston without AC for the schools for most of the year it was incredibly hot. And you always wore a full slip under your dress. It must have been sometime in the 60's when we were brave enough to wear a half slip but only if the fabric of your top garment was thick enough so no man could see the outline of your bra.

Finally along came the late 60's, the time to rebel and burn your bras. I never did burn a bra. Did anyone really burn their bras? But I did feel very free and empowered when I didn't wear one. Of course, I didn't go braless at work so I guess I was in a controlled rebellion. I don't know how my brain connected things like being told I couldn't have a car loan unless my husband co-signed, with showing that bank that I was a woman of means and could pay off a car loan with out any co-signer. How not wearing a bra made the statement that I could travel in business just like any man. Well, I guess you had to have been in that time to understand.

Pantyhose came along about the time of the mini-skirt. Thank God, the garter belt clips would have looked ridiculous. Actually the pantyhose weren't too bad because it eliminated some other foundation garments but then they added "tummy control" and all women think they need "tummy control." Another garment of bulge, no jiggle, no wiggle. The pantyhose were the first thing I took off when I came in from work!

But somewhere about this time the bra manufacturers came up with the underwire bra. Obviously they must be very popular even to this day if you check out the lingerie shops but I think they are instruments of torture. And do women really wear thong panties? How do they do that?


pitchertaker said...

I can tell you, on the authority of observation, that young girls do wear "thong panties." And they wear their low-cut pants and thongs in such a way as to not hide their backside tatoo which is placed just above.....


Gin said...

Thank goodness I didn't live in the days of corsets and stays, I can't stand anything to be tight around my waist. I swear that man designed high heels and panty hose.

Billie said...

Frank, You have keen powers of observation! Hahaha

Gin, high heels are another blog entry. Definitely torture instruments....maybe not as bad as binding feet like the Chinese did at one time but close!