A girdle is an elastic garment designed to shape and smooth a woman's figure from the waist to the thighs. Girdle history agrees that it was invented around 1910 by the French designer Paul Poiret, to be worn with the clothing he was designing. Compared to the fashions of the period 1830-1910, Poiret's revolutionary designs placed much less emphasis on the waist and fit much closer to a woman's body in the area of the hips and derriere. Modern girdles revolution became permanent in the 20th century. New understanding of the way in which women's bodies should interact with their clothing, and invention of the modern girdle, was a major reason why the corset, which had determined the shape of women's clothing for most of the previous five centuries, went out of fashion.
Girdles were worn by most women throughout the period 1920-70. Girdle history was an important part of the fashion aesthetic of these decades. A woman needed to be smooth and sleek if she were to look her best in most of the clothing of this period. Although girdles became the subject of jokes and the object of resentment when they went out of style in the 1970's, it is important to remember how much they were a part of the allure of the far more glamorous 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's
girdle history. Anyone watching the films of this period, observing the way women wore their clothes and moved through space, can see the effect of the ubiquitous girdle. The elegance of Grace Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Lauren Bacall, (the list could go on forever) was due in part to this universally-worn garment.
Modern girdles are constructed
of elasticized fabric and usually fastened with hook and eye closures, it is designed to shape and smooth a woman's figure, thereby producing a more aesthetically pleasing and attractive silhouette.
Girdle history tells us, that
a girdle can extend as high as the neck line (incorporating a brassiere) and as low as the thighs. A girdle may also include garters to hold up stockings. The origins of the modern girdle as a shortened descendant of the nineteenth-century corset can clearly be seen in 1921 advertisements, where the terms "girdle" and "corset" were used interchangeably. As the century progressed, shaping garments gradually came to depend less on lacing and rigid panels and more on rubberized stretch fabrics for more comfortable control.
Most modern girdles available today are made from an interweaving of nylon and lycra spandex. Contemporary girdles made from this blend are the most comfortable girdles that have ever been made. Although they are light and comfortable, they are almost as controlling as the much heavier and stiffer girdles that were worn before Lycra was developed in the early '60's. Girdle history shows, that the term "girdle" has acquired such a negative connotation that garments were marketed under names such as "shaper" or even "bike pant", but the garment has shown a limited resurgence. Girdle nomenclature can be confusing, as ads would feature such terms as shaper, control bottom, shapesuit, sports brief, body-briefer, long-line slimmer, hip slip. However, no matter what they're called, four basic styles account for the girdle history in the last fifty years. In the U.S., these are most commonly referred to as the long-leg panty girdle, the open-bottom girdle, the control brief, and the all-in-one.