The word girdle originally meant a belt. In modern English the term "girdle" is most commonly used for a form of women's foundation wear that replaced the corset in popularity.
Constructed of elasticized fabric and sometimes fastened with hook and eye closures, the modern girdle is designed to enhance a woman's figure. Most open-bottom girdles extend from the waist to the upper thighs. In the 1960s, these models fell from favor and were to a great extent replaced by the panty girdle. The panty girdle resembles a tight pair of athletic shorts. Both models of girdles usually include suspender clips to hold up stockings.
Girdles were considered essential garments by many women from approximately 1910 to the late 1960s. They created a rigid, controlled figure that was seen as eminently respectable and modest. They were also crucial to the couturier Christian Dior's 1947 New Look, which featured a voluminous skirt and a narrow, nipped-in waistline, also known as a wasp waist.
A woman's girdle (in pink).Later in the 1960s, the girdle was generally supplanted by pantyhose. Pantyhose replaced girdles for many women who had used the girdle essentially as a means of holding up sheer nylon stockings. Those who want more control purchase "control top" pantyhose. Many women forswear girdles, stockings, and pantyhose entirely.
Girdles and "body shapers" are still sold to women who want to shape their figure with a garment. Some of these garments incorporate a brassiere and thus become functionally equivalent to a corset. However, they do not incorporate boning and hence do not produce the constricted waistline characteristic of Victorian-era corsets.
Like its predecessor garment, the corset, the girdle attracts a degree of eroticism. Some men like to wear female girdles, and/or find women attractive in them. In addition, the Australian feminist writer, Beatrice Faust, in her book "Women, Sex and Pornography" refers to a "slight but sustained feeling of arousal" when wearing a "moderately tight" girdle.
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