vintage lingerie collecting, wearing and care guide

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Vintage lingerie has become highly collectible in recent years due to the nostalgic look worn by burlesque fans such as Dita Von Teese.The corsets , waist cinchers and girdles are great for giving that smooth cellulite free line beneath  clinging dresses favoured by self confident women with a sense of nostalgic Vargas glamour. No self respecting wiggle dress femme fatale would be without the correct foundations to create a fashionable silhouette .Modern equivalents are decidedly unalluring compared to those racy vintage garments with frills, lace, ribbon and colour.
Vintage underpinnings demonstrate the ability to improve on the short comings of nature. With a talent for lifting a sagging bust, pulling in a larger waist and giving an enviably flat stomach and trimming the hips.These ingenious creations offer a non surgical solution to figure problems. The correct foundations are a must for anyone contemplating old fashioned sex appeal and in the past explained the trim figures of Movie stars and fashion conscious women. Exclusive couture houses literally built suitable foundations into their gowns creating a garment designed to flatter the lucky owner of such decadent luxury.
For the vintage or modern prom dress - a waist cinching long line strapless bra is invaluable for improving the figure and creating a slimmer rib cage and small waist. These long line bras can be difficult to get into and you may require help from another person.Lady Marlene and Goddess are well known both for contemporary and vintage long line bras.Modern Goddess bras are generously sized even by American standards and can run a cup and half larger then normal.
A common pitfall with suspender attachments is rotting rubber. Grips can be easily replaced but if you are worried check with your seller about the condition of the suspender buttons. Sometimes the metal slides will rust this is also worth asking about. If the garment is especially nice and just needs rejuvenation - suspenders can be easily replaced. Naturally you want to be certain you are not paying top money for a garment with poor elastic and ruined grips so do enquire prior to bidding.
Another important factor in choosing a girdle is hip spring. Back in the 50's girdles, merry widows and corsets allowed hip spring of 10 to 12 inches and you should measure your waist and hips to check out the difference for a well fitting garment.Many of these were made by Symingtons who besides using their own label produced underwear for Marks & Spencer and Worth - for the latter they produced a very seductive merry widow

A vintage 60's Triumph Waist cincher
I would also warn you that power net can perish so it is worth asking the seller about the condition if you are in any doubt.Zippers can become jammed. WD 40 is great for freeing a stubborn zipper. Be patient as the sight of a beautiful vintage garment with a broken zipper is not a pretty one. Those older zippers for undergarments were very strong and replacing a broken one could prove expensive and difficult.
Expect to pay a premium for black lingerie as it was considered very naughty and only a limited amount was made compared to white garments. Anything made by Spirella is likely to command a higher price as these items were custom made for an individual buyer.The quality offered by Spirella was extremely high and price reflects this.Vintage Marks & Spencer lingerie is often attractive and well made. The earliest labels are white with black or blue stamped writing. In the sixties the embroidered white and blue labels were introduced and the eighties saw the introduction of the white label with bold red and black writing.
Often when dating a garment with suspenders - check the buttons. The older 30's and 40's suspender grips had a rubber button with a small metal centre. The grips were always metal and plastic grips were not widely used until the late seventies. When laundering a garment with rubber buttons do avoid damaging the grips by keeping them out of the water as older grips from the thirties can easily crumble.During the earlier part of the twentieth century suspender attachments on all garments were often wider then those from the 50's onwards when narrow grips and elastic gained favour after the war - especially for younger women.
Meanwhile if you find that perfect girdle or corset - buy it slither into that wiggle dress and enjoy.
Waist cinchers are excellent for creating a defined hour glass waist. They are boned and the best ones have spiral wires which are longer lasting (cheaper garments had plastic boning which can be very prone to distortion)  cheap boning has a nasty habit of poking through the garment at a strategic point. Always check that the  bones or wires are straight without visible distortion.With a cheap garment you can remove and replace poor boning simply through opening the top of the boning channel tape and replacing the damaged bones. Usually waist cinchers have suspenders (often detachable) and a strong inner tape which fastens at the waist pulling it in to give the wasp waist look popularised by Sophia Loren. Those fifties ladies knew a thing or two about creating an attractive hour glass figure.
Bras from earlier decades are fascinating. From the famous pointy shape through to the padded upholstered bust thrust there is a wide selection - the circle spiral stitched bras with four sections will fetch a higher price due to desirability and collectible factor. American bras are often sized more generously then the British brands French bras often run smaller. Although it is difficult to locate anything above a C cup in a vintage bra - it is not impossible.
I suggest that you measure the cup of a well fitting bra horizontally and vertically and have the seller give you the measurements of the bra that interests you. This will give a rough guide for fit. Although I must warn you that some bras offer greater versatility then others. Bullet bras that are too small will leave empty points and plenty of spillage which can offer embrassing dents. You could pop a little cotton wool in the points but it is worth being aware of. The padded bust thrust bras can be works of art elevating and emphasising the cleavage but do check that the padding has not disintegrated or you will feel as though you are wearing a bra with small pellets inside (not a good feeling).
However demi and half cup bras can often give a fantastic look if they are slightly small as here a little spillage looks great.
France was known for racy black satin underpinnings with suspender grips having a very stylish narrow grip and button . Often a crisp nylon taffeta fabric called perlon was used in Europe. It frays easily so before wearing a fragile garment strengthen it with fray check available from most haberdashery shops.
.The continental vintage sizing can be puzzling to convert Ideally a seller will include measurements for you to compare with a garment that fits.
Vintage panties are often offered on Ebay. Be certain and check out the quality of elastic as it will perish in time. I recommend delicate hand laundering in cool water for these garments especially nylon tricot as it can be prone to fading or melting.
Sometimes a garment will be offered with shop storage soiling. These typically rust coloured or yellow marks will often remove nicely with denture tablets.On no account use bleach unless you want your lovely vintage under garment to dissolve and yes it did happen to me.Do be careful with drying your garment. The best method is simple air drying as exposure to heat can damage elastic.
Measurements worth checking include leg circumference and hips for knickers.
If you want the delicious  nylon chiffon come hither pegnoirs and nightgowns it is important to enquire about armhole circumference as often they do run small compared to today. Sheer nylon can get little picks where it has become damaged and snagged. A couple of these are inevitable but if you are paying a good price be sure and enquire about any damage to the nylon fabric.
To save blushes vintage lingerie is often offered as a private auction. Many buyers have reservations about using private auctions but others apreciate the privacy and discretion. If you are concerned just check the feeedback of the seller and make your decision based on that criteria.
Vintage stockings can be very expensive depending on rarity and just how desirable they are.Expect to pay extra for seamed and silk stockings. If you decide to buy a pair be sure and invest in some thin cotton gloves to avoid snagging them. I also recommend popping them in the refrigerator for a few hours as this is known to strengthen them prior to putting them on. It goes without saying that you should check your toe nails before sliding a stocking over your foot. Silk, cotton or wool stockings can be vulnerable to moths so keep them safe in a sealed bag with either cedarwood balls or a bag of lavender.Should you have any concerns about used stockings pop them in your freezer for six months to rid them of any moth larvae before wear.
However one draw back with vintage lingerie is undoubtably size and availability especially in larger sizes. There are a few sellers that offer retro garments including knickers, frilly petticoats and suspender belts. Often a large range of colours and sizes can be obtained.There are some lovely retro inspired garments and they have the advantage of fresh snappy elastic, new fabric, size selection and  guaranteed unused.
If you want to familiarise yourself with vintage lingerie styles you could do worse then to invest in a few vintage Frederick's of Hollywood catalogs often offered on Ebay USA. There is also a book on Frederick's lingerie but this is elusive and quite expensive.
Here in the Uk during the early seventies we had a company called Kesmans. Kesmans was famous for catalogues of saucy lingerie which easily rivaled Frederick's for audacity and style.The American strip artiste Lili St Cyr also produced racy burlesque style lingerie. Her designs often fetch quite a high price and occasionally her catalogues appear on Ebay USA.

A selection of retro style nylon chiffon bikini panties - inspired by the naughty panties of the 60's and 70's. British Home Stores were known for this type of saucy revealing knickers during the seventies.
Silver Rose were another Mail Order company specialising in sexy lingerie. These people had a shop in Finchley and their designs were popular during the 70's and 80's during the hey day of Glamour models and page 3 girls.
Since many British Manufacturers defected to China - much modern lingerie has lost it's charm.Vollers (available on line) are known for their high quality reasonably priced retro styled corsetry but they are an exception. Most of the items available on the High Street lack the va va voom factor of the past.

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