I have recently spent time researching all the vintage girdles and other vintage lingerie recently added to the shop and more to come, finding details about them which are not obvious to the naked eye such as the brand, fabric and dating. Mid-read I suddenly felt inspired to clarify the difference between a corset and a girdle, as to those new to such foundation garments it may not be obvious in this era when we do not grow up exposed to such restrictive underwear.
A corset is an undergarment worn to hold and shape the body into a desired shape. Corset have been popular throughout history for both men and women but most commonly by women and famously during the Victorian period. Corsets are also used as a medical aid to help support the core of the body and back. Corsets are usually rigid sometimes with cups or support for the bust, constructed in sections and boned at the seams with lacing or hooks at the rear.
In contrast a girdle encircles the lower torso, often extending below the hips and unlike the corset rarely has cups or a bodice. The girdle is often worn as a support but was as a popular replacement to the corset from about the 1920s to the late 1960s. There are two key types of girdle; the open bottom or ‘step-in’ girdle (see below by Berlei), an almost tubular construction extending from the waist to thigh, and the panty girdle (see below by Bien Jolie), a tight device with gusset resembling either high-waisted briefs or athletic shorts. Girdles of both types often came with attached or removable stocking suspenders. Girdles can be either multi-paneled or cut from a simple two piece pattern and are usually made of strong elasticated materials.