1950s Undergarments in Fashion History

1950s Girdles
In the 1950s, glamour was what women wanted most. They had been deprived in the war and they had seen the Hollywood stars that had curves, nipped waists and breast uplift that almost reached their necks.

A variety of girdles existed to help achieve those contours and they are shown here in advert form. Most women and girls still wore girdles or opted for one of the newer lighter garments called a roll-on or some chose the opposite, a sturdy all in one corset. Twilfit were one of the household names for roll-ons and bras in the 1950s.

1950s Bras and Corselettes Adverts from 1953
In 1950s underwear, other support existed in the form of the all in one corselette such as this example by Roussel of Regent street selling at 8 guineas for this made to measure item. This was an expensive corselette at the time and was featured in The Queen magazine of the Coronation in 1953. The upper bra has a cleavage gap for low cut décolletage.

Roussel Corselette
Another corselette of the time also featured in 1953 The Queen magazine was the Marquise which also took into account the need for low cleavage unhampered by visible centre fronts of a bra.
It has a beautifully structured upper bra with the perfect cleavage gap for low cut décolletage. It would be wonderful to find such an interesting, well constructed corselette or bra top today. The company advertises swimwear here too and it is interesting to note that swimming corsets of the era looked much like this corselette.

My favourite advert of the Coronation Edition of Queen magazine was this one right which shows a magnificent corselette from Berlei, priced at just under £7. The name for it is wonderful and it’s called the Coronation Controlette.

1953 General Underwear Kayser Bondor Advert
Other underwear by companies like Kayser Bondor advertised all their underwear in one large advert like the one below.

This shows what the average woman of the 1953 era may have chosen to wear for underclothes dependant on the top garment. The items would have been available in the new nylon and also in pure cotton.

I particularly recall my mother wearing Broderie Anglaise petticoats such as the full slip at the very top of the image. This thumbnail makes a nice enlargement.

Sweater Girl Glamour 1950s
Brand names like Maidenform, Berlei, Triumph and the British Marks & Spencer bras under the St. Michael label, all sold excellent bras that gave the correct pointed, circular stitched, conical shape of the era.
The conical bra was the 1950s bra that gave the support silhouette for girls who longed to emulate the curves of film star sweater girls like Lana Turner and Jane Russell famous for the cantilever bra. Bras began to be revolutionized by the use of nylon, making them lighter, prettier and easier to wash. The pointed pre formed conically stitched bra was actually a fashion accessory, as without one, the sweater girl look was certainly not complete.

The K Line Bra English Rose Bra & Suspender Belt 1953
The two bra adverts below from 1953 put some emphasis on the use of new materials such as nylon and contouring the body in a lighter less stiff way. Bras in cheaper ranges include those by K. This K bra advertisement of 1953 clicks through to see construction details in close up.

Women also made their own bras from paper patterns or magazine guidelines for making bra and French knicker sets. The fabric they used was sometimes parachute silk, parachute nylon or old satin wedding dresses.

Advances in Fabrics for Underwear
After the War, once textile technology advanced, we saw new developments in all 1950s underwear items and many started to purchase what began to be called lingerie. The advert below emphasise that the suspender belt and 1950s bra are in the new easy care nylon fabric, but just as pretty in a broderie anglaise style.

Soon Elastomerics transformed foundation garments with power net fabric. The old elastic bra backs and straps were replaced by the newer elastomeric family of modern stretch yarns Courtauld’s Spanzelle or Lycra fittings. Overstretched rotted rubber bits that made bras and girdles lose their grip were gone forever.

The suspender belt also disappeared from the average wardrobe by 1970 as tights (pantyhose) were the easier simpler alternative. Stay up stockings with a self adhesive grip also made an appearance.

Ironically as power dressing returned in the 1980s there was a boon in more sensational lingerie of this type fuelled by programmes like Dynasty where characters lounged in all in one teddies and bodysuits.

Pretty form following underwear had been lost for 20 years when practicality was the only priority. Suddenly lingerie sales took off and soon women were wearing what was once underwear as outerwear and intended to be seen.

Now women can browse sites like Figleaves. There you can choose any lingerie item from a corset to self adhesive silicone cups or a structured bra to a balcony bra known as a 5 minute bra as it is mostly put on deliberately to be removed 10 minutes later. Maybe those women of the 1950s were more knowing than we give them credit.