Garter Belt

AKA: suspender belt

How to say it: gahr-ter belt

Traditional Features:

  • sits on the waist
  • usually made from elasticated fabrics – often lace and/or mesh
  • 4 straps hang down from waistband – 2 on the front, 2 on the back
  • clips at the ends of the straps attach to stockings
  • back closure
  • can be very decorative

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origins of the style: The modern garter belt became a popular piece of fashion lingerie in the 1920s. Prior to this, a basic version existed, consisting of a strap around the waist or around the neck that extended down to attach to the wearers stockings. This style was worn in the 1880s but was soon phased out as stocking began to be held up with straps attached to corsets.

In the early 1900s women began to move away from the corset, but continued to wear stockings and the responsibility for keeping them up fell to the girdle. As women became more active, even the girdle became too restrictive and a lighter, less cumbersome garment was required – the modern garter belt was born.

Garter belts were very popular in the 1920s as womens fashions became more revealing and the introduction of artificial fibers made stockings more available to the masses. Skirts were shorter and stockings became more of a true fashion item, rather than a way to modestly cover ones legs. Garter belts of this time period were often quite plain and made from silky fabrics, they also tended to be a more substantial garment than the majority of garter belts seen on todays market. Garter belts continued to be popular until the 1960s when the mini skirt and the introduction of nylon tights made the garter belt obsolete.

As the 20th century progressed tights continued to be the most popular choice of hosiery, but the garter belt maintained a small presence in the marketplace and in the 1980s and 90s the style had a revival as women looked for something different or took their sartorial cues from vintage fashion and celebrities like Dita Von Teese.

After this revival the garter belt became a highly sexualized garment, worn more for intimate encounters than for the function of holding up stockings. These sexual connotations continue to be linked to the garter belt in the 21st century as the garment has become highly decorative and somewhat flimsy compared to the earlier, 20th century models. While it is unlikely that the garter belt will ever recover the popularity it enjoyed in the 1920s, the garter belt has found its niche in intimate apparel and will no doubt continue to be a favorite in the bedroom for many years to come.

Origins of the name: The term ‘garter belt’ come the fact that it took over the job of the original garter and is in the form of a belt. The word garter comes from the Old North French word gartier “band just above or below the knee.

Garter Belts in the modern marketplace

In the 21st century the garter belt is seen more as a garment for seduction than one for everyday wear. Despite this somewhat niche area of fashion, there are a large number of garter belts on the market that range from simple, functional styles to highly decorative, and sometimes complicated, designs that are definitely meant to be seen by another person.

 

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I got my information from: The Lingerie JournalThe Conversation, Furtive Lingerie, and the  Fairchild’s Dictionary of Fashion

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