- Robin Whittle email@example.com 23 September
A Note on Sizes
Listing by Manufacturer
The ancestor of the modern girdle was the foundation, a combination
of brassiere and elastic corset pioneered in the thirties by Warners
with the introduction of the two-way stretch in Lastex. In the fifties,
girdles were constructed with rubber elastic and the newer stretch
net fabrics in rayon or nylon. They were classified as:
Girdles often carried a reminder of their evolution from laced-up
foundations in the form of a tiny, non-functional bow in the front of the
waist. This ornamental vestige persisted into the sixties, when it was
replaced by other tiny appliques or vanished altogether. Bras in
this era were usually of non-stretch cotton or nylon. All-in-ones
or corselettes and torsolettes combined a girdle with a long-line
bra in one garment to give a long smooth line. The corselette,
combining a bra with an open girdle, was very popular from the
early fifties and usually appeared as plain functional styles.
The torsolette was a long-line bra extending below the waist with suspenders
on longer straps or ribbons, worn under formal dresses, and developed into
fantasy garments like Warners' Merry Widow. These garments were
of complex cut, often incorporating elastic darts or inserts, to
overcome the limitations of the materials. They had a high labour
input and were therefore expensive: in 1959 a lady might pay over
5 guineas for a high-fashion girdle or 8 guineas for a corselette.
The introduction of the synthetic elastic fibre Lycra by DuPont in
the early sixties made possible the stretch bra, and also much simpler
and softer pull- on girdles which were basically one-piece designs
with a double-layer front panel. But more elaborate styles were
soon developed, with patented control panel designs such as Hickory's
"Caress Control". Bras and girdles could now be promoted to wider
markets as alluring, even fun, clothes. By 1968 most makers were
producing them in coloured and flower-patterned fabrics for the teenage
and young adult markets. The open girdle or hip girdle was worn
with stockings. It always had suspenders (attachments for stockings,
called garters in the U.S.A.), fixed to the lower edge. There were
usually four suspenders, or six on some upmarket styles. A slip was
worn over the girdle, and panties were worn either either under or
over it. Figure support was achieved by reinforcing fabric panels,
called control panels, that made some sections of the girdle less
elastic. The simplest construction was in two sections joined by
seams at the front and back with a control panel, cut from the same
fabric, in front.
A design refinement was to run two main seams down the sides of
this front control pane, which could then be formed by overlapping,
rather than as a separate piece, with a third seam at the back.
Alternatively, two seams could be placed at the sides of the girdle, again
with a third at the back; the control panels could then take the form of
bands across the front and anchored to the side seams. Waistbands
usually came to the narrowest part of the waist, as the girdle was
intended to support the hips and abdomen. To reduce the waistline,
there were high-waist girdles reaching 5-8 cm higher. In the fifties
this extra height was achieved simply by increasing the vertical
dimensions of the girdle with the top boned to prevent it rolling.
More modern high-waist girdles usually have a broad elastic waistband
added on to the standard design.
The introduction of pantyhose in the sixties caused a fall in
popularity of the open girdle. The pantygirdle had been invented in
the thirties, but until the introduction of light stretch fabrics it was not
popular. In the sixties it became the commonest type of girdle,
as it could be worn directly under pants or with pantyhose under
a skirt, giving welcome freedom from bulky layers of underwear.
At the same time, the corsolette evolved into the bodysuit, closing
at the crotch with hooks-and-eyes or press studs. Pantygirdles
usually still came with suspenders that could be removed from
their tabs when not needed. Styles ranged from briefs to the long-leg
pantygirdle with legs extending to the mid-thighs. "Hostess pants"
(called pantsliners in the USA), which sheathed the whole leg in
lightweight lycra, were briefly on the market here in the late
The basic form of the bra is the bandeau or shortline, with each
breast enclosed in a cup supported by a centrally placed strap and a
band around the chest (the diaphragm band) joined by hooks-and-
eyes at the back. Bra cups were commonly constructed with two panels
in the lower half and one panel in the upper, forming a T-shaped
seam pattern. Later designs often have one seam only, either horizontal
or diagonal and slanting from the point where the strap is attached
down to the midline. Cups built from four panels joined by seams
forming a cross were also tried in the early sixties. Padded bras
had cups with a layer of soft fibre between two cloth layers.
The stiffened cups of the contoured bra gave the desired conical
to the breasts; this concept originated with circular stitching,
introduced by MaidenForm back in 1936. A continuous spiral of
stitching was more readily machined, and was used in Berlei's 1953
Hollywood Maxwell bra and other American designs like the Spirella.
On the other hand, the minimiser bra was designed to flatten the
breasts with cups made of thick, non-stretch fabric. Other bras
used various types of internal supports (also pioneered by MaidenForm)
or lift pads to raise the line of heavy breasts; and for figures with
a "midriff bulge", the longline bra extended down to the waist
as like corset.
The underwired bra was developed in the forties to enable more
cleavage to be shown; a rigid curved wire under each breast enabled
the straps to be moved to the sides of the chest where they would be
invisible under low, wide necklines. The cups could now be reduced
to three-quarters or less of their full depth to expose the top of the
A further development was the plunge or decollete bra, with cups
that came to the top of the breast at the side but plunged low
in front, often with a single point of contact between the cups.
This led to the development of the push-up bra in which underwiring
light padding were used to give maximum cleavage and uplift. The
most successful bra of this type was the Wonderbra, patented by
Canadelle of Canada in 1964 and later marketed around the world
under licence by Gossard. There was also the front-opening fashion
bra with a continuous back but the cups joined by a central clasp
But for wearing under strapless evening gowns and very plunging
necklines, a strapless bra was needed. These were underwired or
contoured bras which dispense with straps by providing a firm fit
with a broad elastic diaphragm band. And convertible bras had
removable straps which could also be worn in bandeau or
halter-neck style, or crossing behind the back according to the
style of gown or summer frock.
There had been a big market for corsetry for teenage girls since
the fifties in the USA, where there was at least one brand name,
Teenform, specially for this market. Corsetry for schoolgirls caught on
more slowly in Australia where suspender belts were part of school
uniform but girdles were semi-formal wear. Special junior bra and
girdle styles such as Liberty's Gro-Bra were first launched here
in 1964. All department stores had large corsetry salons, and designers
and fitters from the major manufacturers toured to advise customers. Berlei's
Jean Plant and Jenni Peterson, Formfit's Judy Gibbs and Enid Conran,
Gossard's Ida Christie, Hestia's Helen Lingen, Moira Meakes and
Pamela Wrigley, Hickory's Barbara Gold and Warners' Judith Bowen
became household names.
Styles in Australia followed cues from overseas, particularly from
the overwhelmingly large market in the USA. Designs released here
lagged at least six months behind releases in America, and further
behind the new designs exhibited at the annual International Corsetry
Fairs in Cologne.
By the end of the sixties, corsetry was cheaper than ever before
or since due to the volume of retail sales. Good quality bras could be bought
for around $A5 and girdles for $A7-10. However, the many advertisements
for clearance sales and price reductions on corsetry appearing
in 1969 suggest that this boom had already peaked.
In the seventies there was a simplification of designs because
corsetry was no longer high fashion. The exotic colours and print
fabrics disappeared; they had never caught on as they easily showed
As early as 1965, overseas designers had begun a contrary trend
toward "invisible underwear" such as the body stocking, in the
high fashion market. But clothes at all levels of sophistication
were becoming sloppier in this era, expressing a society with looser
standards and more casual lifestyles. Though few women followed
this trend to the extent of literally burning their bras, many now
preferred a more rounded and natural line. A few manufacturers
continued to supply the reduced demand, and there was a Sydney
mail-order company, Star Form, for customers unable to find their
favourite styles in the chain stores.
A revival of classic fashions at the end of the 1980s renewed an
interest in high-quality corsetry at the upper end of the market.
By 1990 Hickory was again sending fitting consultants on tour of
Myers and John Martins, although corsetry was still poorly represented
in downmarket stores. But the market for these garments was still
small, and prices in real terms were much higher than in the late
sixties and more comparable to those at the beginning of that decade.
The majority of bras were available in sizes 32 to about 42. Cups
were sized A, B, C, D and DD. Most girdles were sized S, M, L up
to XL or XXL. However, some manufacturers produced their more
expensive girdles in sizes according to waist measurements in inches;
eg, Hickory's Four Spot and Diamonet girdles were introduced in sizes
24 to 31.
[Note: these may be captions to photographs in the original catalogue.
The original file's formatting was a mess – I think whoever scanned
the catalogue did not sort out anomalies around the illustrations.
I started trying to clean it up but in the end left most of it verbatim.
One day, I may sort it out. R.W.]
(Note: the date headings here are differently placed from the origional
text, which was, for instance
Australia's major manufacturer of corsetry was founded by a Mrs Burley and Mrs
Gower in 1907 and had become a multinational by the thirties. The Sarong was
their main girdle design throughout the 50s and 60s. Its front overlap was
outlined by seams which extended down the front of the leg, leaving both the
sides and front panel seamless; this construction was rarely chosen by other
makers. Various other original styles designed to increase freedom of movement
were marketed under the name Fancy Free. Berlei was taken over by Courtaulds
Unda-Lift Bras with full horizontal-seam cups in white leno.
Sarong Firm control girdles in white stretch nylon and rubber
with four suspenders fixed to seams at the back and front of leg; overlapping
front panel and satin lastex back panel. Open girdle (step-in) with zipper at left side.
Corselette with full horizontal-seam cups; low back.
Sarong Firm control girdles in white stretch nylon with front
overlap panel covered in embroidered
nylon marquisette; left side zipper and satin lastex back panel, four fixed suspenders. Open girdle.
Corselette with nylon marquisette horizontal seam cups.
Criss-cross Bras in white nylon and cotton
to match the Sarong girdles; full
horizontal-seam nylon marquisette cups supported by crossover
front with deep cleavage; adjustable non-stretch straps.
Bandeau with small elastic inserts in diaphragm band.
Medium control open girdle
with four fixed suspenders; front
overlap panel covered in embroidered nylon marquisette; side panels
of white leno elastic.
Bandeau bra in plain white
cotton. Full horizontal-seam cups
joined at the midline with petal-shaped Cordtex supporting
panels; stiff Cordtex front diaphragm band with small elastic
inserts at the sides; adjustable Twinflex elastic non-ride back;
adjustable non-stretch central straps.
Firm control open girdle
(step-in) in white stretch nylon with front
and back seams. Non-stretch satin front panel overlaid with a nylon
marquisette applique of flowers and leaves; non-roll high waist,
Talon zipper on left side; six suspenders. The sides of the front
panel were boned. Produced in nine fractional fittings.
High-waist open girdle (step-in)
in white stretch satin and leno
with overlapping front panel; firm control. Four fixed suspenders,
zipper on left side.
Step-in girdles reissued
in white stretch nylon with left side
zipper and Flatterbak stretch satin back panel. Open girdle.
Hi-waister girdle. Corselette with embroidered nylon horizontal seam cups.
Bandeau bra in plain white
cotton with dacron crossover diaphragm
band; full T-seam cups, adjustable non-stretch straps, light side bones.
Bandeau bra in white cotton;
crossover diaphragm band with small
elastic side inserts; embroidered full T-seam cups with Easy-Lift, adjustable
non-stretch straps. Sarong Firm control high-waist girdles in white lycra with back seam and
satin Secret Stitch front overlap; 3" waistband lined with Helanca. Seams extend down front
of leg on pantygirdles, meeting the overlap join of the non-roll legbands. Open girdle with side zipper.
Pantygirdle with 6" leg. Sarong Junior Light or medium control girdles in white lycra with back seam
and nylon lace Secret Stitch front overlap. Seams extend down front of leg on pantygirdles, meeting
the overlap join of the non-roll legbands. Open girdle. Boy-leg pantygirdle. High-waist girdle.
Open girdles in white lycra
with seams at back and front of leg
suspenders; nylon floral lace-covered front overlap redesigned with curved seam and allowing freer
movement; no side seams. 1" waist junior girdle with front bow on non-roll waist. 2" butterfly waist
with elastic waistband covered by front panel.
Bandeau bra in white or black
lycra lace; crossover diaphragm
band with small elastic
inserts at the sides; full T-seam cups joined by a bow; adjustable straps.Gothic Bras in white cotton
with small embroidered floral pattern. Full T-seam cups joined at the midline with petal-shaped
Cordtex Arietta support panels; adjustable Twinflex elastic back; adjustable stretch straps.
Bandeau; diaphragm band with elastic inserts flanking Cordtex front. Longline; elastic panels at the sides.
Make Believe Bra in white cotton with lycra lace stretch straps continued along top of cups; T-seam full
cups contoured with foam rubber, separated by midline seam with bow.
GiGi Light bandeau bra in black or white marquisette for teenagers.
Bras in white or black lycra
lace with lycra back and sides;
central stretch straps; full T-seam cups
separated by midline seam and bow. Bandeau with lycra inserts below plain cups. Bandeau with lycra
inserts below contoured cups. Longline with front overlaid by lace; elastic waistband.
Reissue of 1963 styles; new
variants included: High-waist pantygirdle with 7" leg.
High-waist pantygirdle with 7" leg and side zipper. Fancy-Free Girdles in white lycra with front and back
seams. Overlapping control panel cut to body contours in front and back. No lace or embroidery; four
suspenders; tiny rosette bow. The pantygirdles had an expanding mesh Action Insert at back of leg, and
were at first promoted as sports girdles with ads showing women fencing or playing tennis.
Pantygirdle with 3" leg.
Pantygirdle with 5" leg.
Pantygirdle with 7" leg.
Convertible contour bra in white lycra with nylon lace cups and detachable semi-side straps.
High-waist open girdle for
firm control based on the Sarong-Plus
design; the waist was
extended 3" with the normal shallow-V non-roll waistband. Open girdle in white lycra with side zipper;
lace-covered front panel with bones concealed by pale blue criss-cross ribbons. An expensive older-style
girdle designed for maximum control. X-tasy Girdles in plain pastel-coloured lycra: pink, blue ice, lemon
soda or sherbet (green). Oval front panel with an embroidered flower motif; control panels crossing across
front anchored to side seams. Light or medium control. Open girdle. Panty brief with boyleg.
Pantygirdle with 5" leg; detachable concealed suspenders.
Contour underwire bra in
tricot: pink, blue ice, lemon soda or sherbet. Full T-seam cups separated by midline seam, side straps,
lycra back. Matching X-tasy girdles. Long-leg pantygirdle in white lycra for maximum control with side
seams and the same front panel as the X-tasy, but with more complex overlapping control panels forming a
triple thickness in front. Non-roll waist, 8" leg, four detachable suspenders.
Girdles in white or fleshtone
lycra with floral embroidered
front panel corresponding to the overlap on
earlier Sarong designs. The pantygirdles were usually worn without suspenders. Leg bands plain. An ad
showed a family of women, grandmother to early teenage daughter modelling various styles from the range.
Boy-leg brief with light control panel
Pantygirdle with 4" leg, light control panel [# 706].
Pantygirdle with 6" leg, light control panel [#709].
Pantygirdle with 4" leg and heavier control panel [#714].
Pantygirdle with 6" leg and side zipper [#736].
High-waist brief with elastic waistband and cotton gusset.
Pantygirdle with 6" leg, vent above crotch [# 744].
High waist open girdle.
Firm control girdles in two
layers of white lycra,
with all-over control from the inner layer which was
cut away in strategic spots to improve freedom of movement; kite-shaped marquisette front panel surrounded by
complex stitching and smooth clinging leg bands; with front and back seams, four concealed detachable suspenders.
Pantygirdle with 4" leg.
Pantygirdle with 6" leg.
Firm control pantygirdles in white or natural lycra with front and
back seams; kite-shaped front panel with marquisette inset; full
control panel over thighs; four detachable suspenders.
Pantygirdle with 4" leg.
Pantygirdle with 6" leg.
Low-cut bandeau bras in white
or black nylon with lycra back;
three-quarter T-seam cups, semi-side straps. For evening wear. Bandeau with plain cups.
Bandeau with contoured cups.
Fancy-Free Medium control girdles in white lycra with contoured Shapemaker
panels added over thighs, 1.5" lace trim on legs, no expanding inserts in legs; now promoted for
Pantygirdle with 3" leg. Pantygirdle with 5" leg [# 566].
Underwire bras in white,
natural, wedgwood or coco-creme nylon
crochet with satin straps and lycra back; separated T-seam cups. Bandeau with full cups,
central straps. Plunge bra with three-quarter cups, semi-side straps.
Formfit designs from the U.S.A. were manufactured in Australia in the fifties
by Merica Pty Ltd, and known as Formfit-Merica. Later the parent company
became Formfit International, and the local company known as Formfit Pty Ltd
remained Australian owned until 1991.
Bras with side support in
white poplin; full horizontal-seam cups
joined at midline seam
of garment; straps angled to side. Bandeau with embroidered cups and elastic side darts [# 551].
Skippies Girdles in white Lanolised Elastic; four suspenders, no ornament:
Pantygirdle with 3" leg, front and back seams, plain elliptic front panel; non-roll half-waistband at back;
nylon tricot crotch and detachable suspenders [# 843].
Open girdle with side seams, kite-shaped front panel; side
bow; 2.5" boned waistband with crossovers
in front and back [# 918].
Open girdle with front seam, plain elliptic front panel,
lightly boned 2" waistband, and satin elastic
Down Stretch back panel [# 943].
Open girdle with front seam, plain kite-shaped front panel
with simple bow; non-roll half waistband at
back, lightly boned in front [# 944].
Open girdle in white stretch
nylon with front seam running
through an overlap, patented as
Centre-Pull, covered by an embroidered panel framed by seams continuous with four suspenders.
No side seams. 2.5" lightly boned elastic waistband. Medium control.
Underwire bra by Emilio Pucci
in white or black lace marquisette;
cups; support panel under each cup is continuous with the broad stretch side straps; small central rosette.
Made in small sizes [# 200]. Incanto Underwire bra by Emilio Pucci in white embroidered voile. Narrow
side straps. Low-cut cups separated by midline seam expose cleavage; lycra back [# 267].
Bras in white cotton.
Full horizontal-seam cups joined at
midline. Plain narrow central straps.
Wing-shaped supporting panel under each cup; tiny bow.Bandeau [# 555]. Longline [# 556].
bras in white cotton with full T-seam cups joined
at midline seam and centrally placed
stretch straps: Embroidered with small leaf pattern, with adjustable straps; central bow [# 590].
In floral lace, with low back, adjustable straps [# 592].
In floral lace with broad frilled straps continuous in a
cross between cups to the lower edge of the stretch back
Embroidered with small leaf pattern, with adjustable straps; cups with small lift pads on inner side. Could
be worn as a tennis bra [#596]. Longline bra with broad stretch straps continuous down the curved
lycra back panels joined by 11 hooks-and-eyes; broad elastic waistband, full separated T-seam cups in white
cotton embroidered with small leaf pattern [# 692].
Padded bra in white dacron
Zephaire embroidered with small leaf
pattern; full T-seam cups padded
with Kodel separated by a bow; plain central straps. In small sizes only [# 880].
Girdles in white, black or
powder buff terylene with front and
back seams, Triple V panels at front and
kite-shaped control panel at back; non-roll waistband with small bow. Open girdle with four fixed
Bras in white embroidered
Tetoron and lycra with full T-seam
cups, the lower part contoured with
fibre-fill and the seam curved, separated by a midline seam. Bandeau with ruched stretch straps.
Longline with broad plain straps and low back.
Firm control girdles in white
lycra with front and back
seams; zipper in centre of a non-stretch lace
front panel; overlapping inner control panel, four suspenders.
Open girdle. Long-leg pantygirdle; 6" legs with lace trim.
Girdles in white Bri-nylon
and stretch satin with side seams;
narrow oval front panel; double V of inner
front control panel anchored to the side seams. Open girdle. Pantygirdle with 6" legs, four detachable suspenders.
Side Show Bandeau bras in white or black nylon Swiss lace and lycra; adjustable stretch straps and back, low-cut
under the armpit; contoured T-seam cups. Open girdle in skintone lycra, plain with embroidered nylon overlaid
Girdles in white, black or
"mink" floral jacquard lycra; front and
back seams with control panel over
back and kite-shaped in front. Waist shallowly V-shaped in front and trimmed with a bow. Six suspenders.
Brief with detachable suspenders [# 831].
Pantygirdle with 4" lace-trimmed legs; detachable suspenders [#834].
Open girdle [# 936].
Side Show Reissued in white, black, mink, blue or pink floral jacquard lycra to match the Flowernet girdles [# 586].
Pantygirdle in white lycra
with all-over control from an inner layer
over back and sides, and a kite-shaped
control panel in front. Small nylon marquisette overlaid front panel; bow. 4" legs trimmed with lace. Six concealed
Plunge Underwire bra in white, black
or skintone nylon lace with lycra
back, convertible side straps, slanting
three-quarter cups contoured with fibrefill, separated by a bow and topped by lace.New Wonderwire
Underwire bra in white floral voile with joined three-quarter diagonal-seam cups; lycra back, narrow straps angled
from centre [# 235].
Girdles in white or skintone
lycra with front and back seams, and
inner control layer cut away in
strategic points to allow freer movement. Heart-shaped front panel with embroidered ornament in centre.
Four suspenders, tiny bow in front. Medium control. Brief with gusset crotch, boy leg with lace trim, [# 851].
Medium-leg panty with oval crotch, grip leg bands,
concealed suspenders [# 854].
Long-leg panty with oval crotch, grip leg bands, concealed suspenders [# 856].