Oh la la! Negligée & Corsetry

The "Fitting" Restriction of Undergarments



       The design of the New Look was clearly something that had to be worked for. Most women are not born with the waspy waist, shapely hips, and exaggerated breasts that the image called for. Suddenly, wartime 'Rosie' found herself riveted all over again- this time, in a corset.


       The undergarments of the fifties may seem archaic in our modern day world, but serve as an effective symbol of the pains women had to take to conform to the standards of fashion and beauty.

A fifties woman in her corsetry prior to slipping into a fitted dress. (1, p. 45)
The Tools

       The importance of curves cannot be overstressed. Stuffing her body into a stiffly boned undergarment was usually the only way for a woman to be able to achieve the look. The garments were given fun names like "Romance," "Merry Widow," "Pink Champagne," "Loveable," and "Sweet and Low," making them seem attractive to the ear. Initially, the bones of such garments were made of whalebone or steel. Thanks to modern technology, however, they were soon replaced by synthetic materials such as plastics.

       Girdles, worn to produce the ultra-pinched waist, were made out of thick, white nylon, as pictured in this advertisement.



  An advertisement for "Heavenly Bodies" undergarments, from a mid-1950's Sears Catalogue. (14, p. 89)


The Sweater Bra

       Breasts were given the most encouragement and 'support.' They were padded and advertised for the uplifting qualities. The "sweater girl" look was key, which involved unnaturally pointy and shaped breasts. Now that the restrictions of the war had been lifted, there was a great increase in the availability of nylon, elastic, rayon, and other manmade materials. These were more lightweight, durable, and comfortable than their predecessors, as well as cheaper to make and purchase.



The advertisement at left appeared in Mademoiselle, October 1958. (6, p. 77)  

The caption reads:

"Ask for the cup size you'd like to be! If you're an AA, become an A- in a padded bra by Miriam Gates! Hidden inside, sculptured pads of soft foam rubber lifet you into new, pretty curves!"