There are never many new programmes on television, plenty of reruns though. Perhaps the lack of imagination and wit of the older writers, but we seem to be stuck either in ‘Big Brother’s House’ or somewhere in a jungle. I am not a fan of reality programmes in the least, but some of the reruns from another era are interesting in comparing the way we lived, and seeing the changing world of fashion.
Floral dungarees are just as much in fashion now as they were 70 years’ ago, with a few minor changes of course. I doubt however, the fashion from the period dramas are likely to be repeated.
In the world of clothing, the corset, ‘stays’ as they were originally known, have been around from the middle ages. Worn by both men and women to change the shapes of their torsos. Until the whaling industry brought in whalebone, bodices had been laced and stiffened with paste to smooth the female figure. The ‘whalebone’ is actually a keratinous material found in the upper jawbones of whales and was used to filter plankton. It’s a flexible material as well as robust and was cut into strips to be inserts into linings of outer garments.
It was during the 17th century, that stays were used as undergarments which moulded the figure into a conical or ‘V’ shape. During the 1800s, the ‘stays’ became corsets when the hour-glass figure was very much fashionable and a necessity for social standing. It did have some pitfalls though, the small waist which was desirable at the time reduced the human torso to as little as a 16 inch waistline, causing breathing problems and was no doubt the reason for the need to carry smelling salts, to relieve the feelings of faintness.
The corset never died out, although becoming less of a fashion undergarment and more of a surgical appliance. It was still used to shape the body and reduce bulges but it also became a support to prevent backache.
The roll-on girdle was liberating from laces, hooks and buckles and general ironmongery involved in getting the right shape and control, but until tights came on the scene, suspenders were still necessary to keep stockings up.
I was considered to be an ideal size for my height and taking a size 12 (UK), I thought I was too thin and wanted to put weight on! Perhaps due to fashion magazines which promote very small sizes, the shapelier female figure was replaced by a thin, shapeless, boyish figure with common sizes being as small as size six or eight (UK). With no shape to control, gradually fashion became less restrictive, it could be the hippy era which appreciated comfort, leaving the corset fashion to Burlesque, Goths and as an outer garment once again.