1950s Lingerie History – Bra, Girdle, Slips, Panties, Garters

1950s girdles 1950s lingerie

1958 Lingerie –  panty girdles, bras and Merry Widow corsets

The 1950’s were all about glamour, and Hollywood’s Golden Age stars were setting trends that every woman in America was after. Think Jane Russell, Lana Turner, and Marilyn Monroe. Big breasts, big hips, and small waists were a must- and if you didn’t have them naturally on your own, not to worry- there’s some 1950s lingerie for that.

The hourglass silhouette of the 1950s happened much thanks to the lingerie of the time. To achieve the desired fit and look of clothes on the outside, it was important to have the correct garments underneath to push up or flatten down areas of the body that needed to be. The many styles of lingerie include bras, panties, slips, petticoats, girdles, stockings, and garters.

1950s Lingerie: Bra

1950s bras

1950s Bras Styles

There were many different styles of 1950s lingerie bras to choose from in the fifties. Strapless, longline and bullet bras were among some of the most popular just to name a few. The 1950s silhouette demanded bigger busts to balance out the required big hips. Instead of a natural 1940s bra that separate the breasts towards the sides, the 1950s bra pushed the breast in, up and out to new extremes. Bigger was better. Natural was not the ideal look as it was in the 1940s. 

1950s bras were either made of cotton, nylon, or rayon and ranged from about $0.98- $2.50 depending on the fabric and the design.  To add some glamour, bras could have taffeta trim, floral prints, lace, elaborate stitching, or accent bows. Elastic wasn’t always as durable and reliable as it is today, so caring for your lingerie was especially important. Hand washing was a must!

1950s longline bra

1952 Pink Longline Bra

Long line bras were especially popular because they were said to “slim the diaphragm, control and uplift.” They were usually strapless with uplifting cups and boned support down to the middle waist. With a low back cutout they also made it possible to wear strapless gowns or halter top dresses.

1+50s longline bras

More longline bras in various lengths

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strapless Bra - One of the more expensive styles was the convertible bra, which is still popular today, that  had straps that could be taken off. Many strapless bras had latex on the inside and “stay-up boning” that were supposed to prevent your bra from slipping down. For extra cleavage, bra cups were reduced to 3/4 or 1/2 cups (eh hem, the push up bra?)

1950s strapless bras

Early 50’s strapless bras

1950s bullet bras

Pointed bras, aka Bullet Bras

The pointed bra, whirlpool bra, bullet bra, or sweater girl bra  remained popular throughout the late forties and fifties due to their ultra feminine look. The pointed pre formed conically stitched and padded bra is what gave the breast a false point and enhanced weight. Without the protruding bullet shape most 1950s dresses, blouses and snug knit sweaters would be ill fitting.

1950s breast bra falsies

Falsie breast inserts with and without nipples

The foam rubber breast falsie complete with pointed nipple were more popular then women would admit to owning. They gave shape and volume to women who lacked it naturally. Falsies had their downsides though. Poor quality rubber absorbed orders and disintegrated quickly. Some came covered in satin and lace to make them prettier.  The alternative was a paded cone that unfortunately when worn and bumped into, went flat. There was no dainty way to pulling the point back out again. The inflatable bra was another option but also prone to bursting under pressure. Oh the embarrassment!

Make your Own Bullet Bra, step by step tutorial and pattern from VavoomVintage. For any size bust!

1950s bras history

More 50’s bras

1950s Lingerie: Panties

1950s underwear women panties

1950s Panties Underwear

1950s underwear, called panties, were high waist briefs with a elasticized waist and leg bands. Think granny panty and you are right for the fifties. They were not snug fitting, although a plain panty was needed for tight fitting pencil dresses whereas ruffled and decorated panties were fine under full skirts.

Briefs and panties with the smoothest fitting were meant to eliminate the need for a sanitary belt and give you comfortable protection. Panties were available in either white, nude or pastel colors like baby blue, pink, mint green and yellow. Some youthful panties also featured prints. Panties were made of cotton knit, rayon or satin. Trimmings were lace, embroidery and ruffles.

1950s Lingerie: Corsets

The corset was essential to achieving the perfect ‘50s figure, but it definitely wasn’t built for comfort! There was a wide variety of corsets worn during the decade in combination with a bra, girdle or panties. The steel boning used in the past was gradually replaced with plastic and celluloid, and zippers took over for hook and eyes in the back, making them at least easier to get in to.

1950s corsets

1957 Corsets

The full corset covered the entire torso, and included bra cups and straps. A full corset would either stop at the waist or extend down several inches below. Later in the decade the 2-way stretch corset was introduced, which had to be rolled on. It was combined with a girdle for full-body shaping.

1950s corselet

1955 Corselets

The corselet was a more modern version of the corset with an attached bra. They nipped in the waist and hips, smoothed the tummy and raised the bust up with padded half or 3/4 cups. The strapless corselet was called the Merry Widow, after a movie of the same name.The name Merry Window is used instead of corselet today.

1950s Merry Widow corselet

1957 Merry Widow Corselets

1950s waspie waist lingerie

1958  Waist Corset / Girdle

The ‘waspie’ was a popular corset during the ‘50s. It was about 8 inches wide and pulled in just the waist. It was very rigid and gave a lot of shaping. This type of corset was the most fashionable and often used underneath designer clothing. It had to be combined with a long-line bra, girdle and hip padding to get the perfect hourglass look.

1950s Lingerie: Girdles

1950s girdles

Skirt shape girdles

1950s girdles were still a required undergarment for most dress and even pant shapes of the 1950s. They were preferred over corsets by most women. The slim fitting sheath dress, aka wiggle dress, would expose a woman’s bumps and rolls if it were not for the slimming effect of the mini skirt shape girdle. The skirt only came down to the mid thigh so that women could still walk and sit freely. Even more comfortable was the legged girdle called a panty girdle. Short or long legs both slimmed the hips and thigh. Most modern shapewear is based on the panty girdle style.

The fluffy swing dress of the 1950s didn’t need a full girdle but a short low waist girdle kept the hour glass shape intact. Even slim cigarette pants and capris benefited from long leg “panty girdles.” Girdles almost always had garter snaps, two in the front and two in the back. They often had zippers for an easy on and off and were made of light knit nylon and cotton covered “Lastex.” Girdles for fuller figures often had boning, wires, and stiff fabric reinforcements. Even with all the support the consumer demanded lighter and more breathable corsets.

“Young or mature, women made their complaints about girdles known, because companies repeatedly trumpeted improvements in comfort. Several firms began to cut the lower front edge in a high upward curve to reduce discomfort in walking. Sarong famously brought out a crisscrossed lower front to move with the wearer’s stride. Legs of panties were redesigned for ease in wearing, and both top and bottom of the rear of the girdle were engineered to prevent riding up—a major lament. Removable, even disposable, crotches remedied the panties’ laundry problems.” - A to Z Fashion, Jane Farrel- Beck

1950s corselets roll on style

1952 Breathable Roll On Foam Corselets

New fishnet mesh fabrics helped with circulation and improved Nylon fabrics reduced weight. By 1959 DuPont made a 2 ounce girdle which is about the same weight as a Spandex body shaper today. In extreme summer weather women simply went without a girdle and wore less confining dresses such as the blouson, empire waist shift, or the chemise.

1950s girdles explored new colors for lingerie. No longer just white, basic girdles came in off white, almond and light gray or bold red, purple, and salmon pink. Floral embroidery, lace, and appliques added beauty to the girdle.  Prices ranged from $2 to $25 for a top of the line girdle.

How to Put on a Girdle (1950s Advice)

To easily get into your girdle, it is recommended that you dust your body with talcum powder to allow the girdle to slip on more easily- especially in the hotter months.

For a step-in girdle, fold it over 2 to 3 inches at the waistline and ease into it finishing off with rolling up the fold to meet your waistline.

1950s Lingerie

1950s Colorful Lingerie- plaid? Why not.

1950s Lingerie: Garter Belts

1950s garter belts

1958 Garter Belts

Most corsets, corselets and girdles came with attached straps to hold up 1950s stockings. For some women who chose not to wear any of these shaping devices a garter belt was used. It was simple a short girdle with straps for the stockings. Some were thin and light while other were wide and elastic so as to provide some shaping support. It was mostly naturally thin women and teens that chose to wear a garter belt by  itself.

1950s garter belts photo vintage

Gasp! These ladies are showing off their garters

1950s Lingerie: Slips and Petticoats

1950s slips lingerie history

1950s Basic Slips. Love the colors!

Beautiful and luxurious, the slip was firmly woven from quality cotton or rayon crepe or rayon satin with rich lace, fancy eyelet, ruffles, pleats,  embroidery or applique. Slips came in full lengths, down to the knee, or half lengths, from waist to knee. Half slips were worn with one piece dresses while two peice suits or separates were worn with a full slip. A full slip should cover the bra completely and should not show under clothing. 1950s slips usually had thin adjustable straps. Common colors were pink, peach, light blue, navy, yellow, Nile green, black and white. Their beauty rivaled that of 1950s nightgowns.

Petticoats were usually rayon, cotton, or taffeta and had a detailed hem with maybe lace, ribbons, bows, or eyelet cutouts. Usually white, petticoats were tea-length or shorter depending on what style dress was going to be worn over it. The hem is one of the most important parts of the petticoat- mostly because there was a chance it might be seen, so of course it had to be cute. Ruffles, floral designs, and bows were often the accents on hems. Many slips added the petticoat bottom ruffles into one garment.

1950s slips lingerie

1952 Satin Slips for Party Dresses

How to wear a slip: In the 1950s it was recommended that you put on a slip or petticoat over your head as to ensure that any straps do not break. A slip should fit over the bust and be long enough to meet the hem of the dress. If a slip or petticoat can be seen underneath your garment, they should be shortened at the hem. White or light slips work best for most clothing while a dark slip is needed for dark blue or black clothes.

1950s slips long vintage

Embroidered and lace slips- my favorite!

Shop 1950s Style Lingerie:

 

Wearer's Pride Waist Corselet in Black from ModCloth
 

Wearer's Pride Waist Corselet in Black from ModCloth

$49.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Black & Pink Leopard Rouge Et Noir Underwire Bra
 

Black & Pink Leopard Rouge Et Noir Underwire Bra

$59.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Cream High Waist Buttermint Garter Panty
 

Cream High Waist Buttermint Garter Panty

$64.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Brown & Black Animal Print & Satin Bow Two Piece Lingerie Set
 

Brown & Black Animal Print & Satin Bow Two Piece Lingerie Set

$37.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

1950's Style High Waist Brief Girdle
 

1950's Style High Waist Brief Girdle

$38.70

Buy at: HerRoom

1950s  High Waist Long Leg Shaper Girdle
 

1950s High Waist Long Leg Shaper Girdle

$44.10

Buy at: HerRoom

Shirley of Hollywood Stay Up Thigh Fishnet Stockings
 

Shirley of Hollywood Stay Up Thigh Fishnet Stockings

$10.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Cuban Heel Sheer Stockings
 

Cuban Heel Sheer Stockings

$13.99

Buy at: Halloween Express

1950s  Vintage Classic Molded Strapless Bra
 

1950s Vintage Classic Molded Strapless Bra

$40.00

Buy at: HerRoom

White Lace High Waist Sugar Panty
 

White Lace High Waist Sugar Panty

$48.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Rago 6101 High Waist Brief Girdle w/ Zipper
 

Rago 6101 High Waist Brief Girdle w/ Zipper

$43.20

Buy at: HerRoom

Vintage Dot Stay-Up Thigh Highs
 

Vintage Dot Stay-Up Thigh Highs

$16.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

White Floral Dizzy Underwire Bullet Bra
 

White Floral Dizzy Underwire Bullet Bra

$54.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Waist Cincher with Garter Straps
 

Waist Cincher with Garter Straps

$42.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Vintage Seduction High Waisted V Back Panty
 

Vintage Seduction High Waisted V Back Panty

$19.98

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Contrast Lace Band Thigh Highs-2 pack
 

Contrast Lace Band Thigh Highs-2 pack

$24.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Backseam Plus Size Stockings (1 Pair)
 

Backseam Plus Size Stockings (1 Pair)

$9.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Sheer Lace Top Stockings (2 Pairs)
 

Sheer Lace Top Stockings (2 Pairs)

$24.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Scene Study Corset
 

Scene Study Corset

$30.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Quilted Waist Cincher
 

Quilted Waist Cincher

$14.99

Buy at: AmeriMark

Formal or Latter Corset in Beige
 

Formal or Latter Corset in Beige

$48.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Backseam Stockings (2 Pairs)
 

Backseam Stockings (2 Pairs)

$16.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Vintage Style Peach Satin Harlow Deep Garter Belt
 

Vintage Style Peach Satin Harlow Deep Garter Belt

$58.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Vintage Style Peach Satin Harlow High-Rise Panty
 

Vintage Style Peach Satin Harlow High-Rise Panty

$34.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Vintage Style Black Satin Glamour Waist Cincher
 

Vintage Style Black Satin Glamour Waist Cincher

$88.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Vintage Style Peach Satin Harlow Bullet Bra
 

Vintage Style Peach Satin Harlow Bullet Bra

$58.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Soft Pink Lace Three Piece Blush Lingerie Set
 

Soft Pink Lace Three Piece Blush Lingerie Set

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black Flocked Dot Lace Three Piece Lingerie Set
 

Black Flocked Dot Lace Three Piece Lingerie Set

$49.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

White Lace Sugar Underwire Bra
 

White Lace Sugar Underwire Bra

$59.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Cream Mesh Buttermint Underwire Bullet Bra
 

Cream Mesh Buttermint Underwire Bullet Bra

$59.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black & Pink Leopard Rouge Et Noir High Waist Garter Panty
 

Black & Pink Leopard Rouge Et Noir High Waist Garter Panty

$56.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Vintage Style Black Satin Maitresse High-Rise Panty
 

Vintage Style Black Satin Maitresse High-Rise Panty

$34.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

White Floral Mesh High Waist Dizzy Panty
 

White Floral Mesh High Waist Dizzy Panty

$39.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Simply Smooth Waist Corselet in Pearl
 

Simply Smooth Waist Corselet in Pearl

$49.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Long Leg Panty Girdle
 

Long Leg Panty Girdle

$13.59

Buy at: AmeriMark

High Waist Girdle
 

High Waist Girdle

$21.99

Buy at: AmeriMark

Leonisa 22239 High-Waisted Girdle with Butt Lifter Benefit
 

Leonisa 22239 High-Waisted Girdle with Butt Lifter Benefit

$35.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Rago 6195 Diet Minded Satin 'n Smooth Panty Girdle
 

Rago 6195 Diet Minded Satin 'n Smooth Panty Girdle

$38.70

Buy at: HerRoom

Rago 679 Long Leg Girdle Panties
 

Rago 679 Long Leg Girdle Panties

$35.10

Buy at: HerRoom

Rago 6206 20" Girdle Panties
 

Rago 6206 20" Girdle Panties

$49.50

Buy at: HerRoom

What Katie Did Glamour Girdle
 

What Katie Did Glamour Girdle

£47.25

Buy at: MyTights

Need I Say Roar? Corset
 

Need I Say Roar? Corset

$44.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Elegant Underpinnings Contouring Shorts in Peach
 

Elegant Underpinnings Contouring Shorts in Peach

$54.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Properly Layered Undies in Black
 

Properly Layered Undies in Black

$24.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Polished Appearance Garter Skirt
 

Polished Appearance Garter Skirt

$64.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Black Stretch Power Mesh Waist Cincher
 

Black Stretch Power Mesh Waist Cincher

$39.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black & Leopard Stretch Waist Cincher
 

Black & Leopard Stretch Waist Cincher

$39.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black Lace High Waisted Leg Shaper
 

Black Lace High Waisted Leg Shaper

$36.75

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Pink & Black Full Corset with Garter Belt
 

Pink & Black Full Corset with Garter Belt

$60.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Black Lace High Waist Stretch Panty
 

Black Lace High Waist Stretch Panty

$15.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Rago 21 Waist Cincher
 

Rago 21 Waist Cincher

$38.70

Buy at: HerRoom

Rago 2202 Lacette Longline Bra
 

Rago 2202 Lacette Longline Bra

$41.40

Buy at: HerRoom

Rago 824 Lacette Waist Cincher
 

Rago 824 Lacette Waist Cincher

$34.95

Buy at: HerRoom

Top of the Longline Bustier Bra
 

Top of the Longline Bustier Bra

$47.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Wacoal Longline Bra
 

Wacoal Longline Bra

£60.00

Buy at:

Longline Lace Underwire Bra
 

Longline Lace Underwire Bra

$39.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Elila 6421 Long Strapless Longline Bra
 

Elila 6421 Long Strapless Longline Bra

$56.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Carnival 730 Full Figure Wide Strap Longline Bra
 

Carnival 730 Full Figure Wide Strap Longline Bra

$53.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Carnival 720 Full Figure Camisole Longline Bra
 

Carnival 720 Full Figure Camisole Longline Bra

$53.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Longline Front Close Bra
 

Longline Front Close Bra

$22.10

Buy at: AmeriMark

Longline Posture Bra
 

Longline Posture Bra

$21.99

Buy at: AmeriMark

BLACK SATIN UNDERWIRE BULLET BRA
 

BLACK SATIN UNDERWIRE BULLET BRA

$39.99

Buy at: Amiclubwear

What Katie Did Maitresse Suspender Belt
 

What Katie Did Maitresse Suspender Belt

£31.00

Buy at: MyTights

What Katie Did Harlow Suspender Belt
 

What Katie Did Harlow Suspender Belt

£31.00

Buy at: MyTights

What Katie Did Maitresse Narrow Suspender Belt
 

What Katie Did Maitresse Narrow Suspender Belt

£31.00

Buy at: MyTights

Silicone Bra Inserts
 

Silicone Bra Inserts

$19.99

Buy at: AmeriMark

Wacoal Retro Chic Full-Busted Underwire Bra 855186 (Black) Women's Bra
 

Wacoal Retro Chic Full-Busted Underwire Bra 855186 (Black) Women's Bra

$60.00

Buy at: Zappos.com

Spanx Haute Contour Retro Chic Panty - Pitch
 

Spanx Haute Contour Retro Chic Panty - Pitch

$98.00

Buy at: Shopbop

Grenier 503 Vintage Boy Leg Shaper Panty
 

Grenier 503 Vintage Boy Leg Shaper Panty

$44.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Vintage Shaper Garter Skirt
 

Vintage Shaper Garter Skirt

$39.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Jezebel 86174 Indulge Retro Slip
 

Jezebel 86174 Indulge Retro Slip

$55.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Knock out! KO-7000 Lacy Tap Pant
 

Knock out! KO-7000 Lacy Tap Pant

$34.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Culotte Slip
 

Culotte Slip

$11.99

Buy at: AmeriMark

2 Pack Half Slips
 

2 Pack Half Slips

$14.99

Buy at: AmeriMark

Shadowline 1302 Snip-it Slip 28" Slip
 

Shadowline 1302 Snip-it Slip 28" Slip

$24.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Jones New York 620218 Lace Half Slip 18
 

Jones New York 620218 Lace Half Slip 18

$26.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Jones New York 620222 Lace Half Slip 22
 

Jones New York 620222 Lace Half Slip 22

$26.00

Buy at: HerRoom

Black Scalloped Lace Tea Length Knit Slip
 

Black Scalloped Lace Tea Length Knit Slip

$68.00

Buy at: UniqueVintage

Give Me Gracefulness Full Slip in Black - Long
 

Give Me Gracefulness Full Slip in Black - Long

$34.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Enticing Evening Half Slip in White
 

Enticing Evening Half Slip in White

$26.99

Buy at: ModCloth

Va Va Voluminous Petticoat in Black
 

Va Va Voluminous Petticoat in Black

$59.99

Buy at: ModCloth

All Over Lace Short Shaper Skirt with Garters
 

All Over Lace Short Shaper Skirt with Garters

$39.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

11" Short Shaper Skirt with Detachable Garters
 

11" Short Shaper Skirt with Detachable Garters

$24.95

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

Long Lace Trim Robe
 

Long Lace Trim Robe

$55.90

Buy at: HipsAndCurves.com

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About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

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