Monday, January 18, 2010
Undead Molly's Guide to Garter Belts
As I get older, I feel my personal aesthetic choices getting narrower and narrower. Sure, sure, one can do anything one wants in theory, but in reality one doesn't want to be mistaken for a homeless person, soccer mom, or geriatric prostitute. I find myself turning more and more to the fashion and glamor of decades past for guidance. It allows me to be feminine and girly without misstepping into age inappropriateness, trashy Jersey wife-ishness, or trend victimhood. One hopes.
It's not always easy in Vermont, though. We simply don't have the boutique variety required for a dedicated vintage look. One item I have a lot of trouble locating is the garter belt.
First of all, this is not a garter belt:
It's a garter. These are garter belts:
You can see that it really is a belt. It encircles Bettie's waist and has straps that hang down and end in a type of fastener called hose grips or garter grips. They look like this:
The top of the stocking lays flat over the rubber nub to be secured in place by placement of the metal bit.
Most women probably have never given garter belts a second thought. They're considered a pretty bit of history - antiquated, obsolete. Why would anyone want to fuss with an extra bit of underwear when we don't have to wear thigh high stockings any more? Well, I know that not everyone agrees but I find tights and pantyhose to be the most itchy, absurd, uncomfortable, unsexy, unfeminine creation of modern hosiery. Add to that unhygienic - wearing panyhose can contribute to the development of yeast infections, bladder infections and bacterial vaginosis because they trap warmth and moisture, creating a perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to flourish. So no, nobody HAS to wear thigh high stockings, but since I have the choice I strongly prefer the more comfortable and feminine option that does not turn my crotch into a cootie incubator.
Aside from all that, they're just plain unflattering on pretty much everyone. Except maybe her:
The most common type of thigh high you'll find in stores in the "stay up" variety. These feature bands of tacky silicone inside the top which are, in addition to the stocking's inherent elasticity, supposed to keep the stocking in place and eliminate the need for a garter belt. While the silicone does help a lot, I think that the manufacturers are blatantly overselling. They'll stay up well if you are wearing them for a very short time, indoors, not moving around much. Many factors can contribute to the silicone losing it's hold on your skin: friction, gravity, skin oils, sweat, dead skin cells sloughing off. The tops of thigh highs are not just in danger of slippage, though, they can also roll down. If you're wearing stocking with a seam up the back they end up slowly twisting and migrating around as you wear and readjust them until you end up with a sloppy, crooked line. Quel dommage!
A garter belt eliminates these worries. You just put it on and go! The only trouble I have with garter belts is finding them here in Vermont. Actually, I can find loads of them, the trouble is finding good ones. There are specific things I look for:
1. Solid construction. Most of the belts you find in department and lingerie stores are decorative and intended only for special occasion rendezvous, not long term wear. They're flimsy little bits of cheap elastic and lace that will not be comfortable or stay in place.
2. No three dimensional details. The little rosettes, bows, and lace ruffles might look cute in the store but they don't look very cute at all making mysterious bumps and ridges under your dress. You want it to fit as smooth and invisible as possible.
3. Metal hose grips. I have never encountered a plastic grip that wasn't an infuriating waste of time and money. They bend, they break, they end up in the trash.
4. A true belt. I often see garters attached to corselettes or girdlettes.
A corselette (AKA corselete, Merry Widow, or Basque)
These are often very nice and quite comfortable, but they can make it quite difficult to pee. If you can't picture why, well, I don't know how to explain it without a series of diagrams. I wear these fairly often but never if I know I'm likely to be drinking and therefore peeing a lot.
If I can't find a true belt I'll look for something that at least has a very high "skirt".
5. Non-white. I have plenty of white garter belts because there are plenty of vintage ones around. What I have great difficulty finding are decent garter belt in other colors - especially black! There are loads of black garter belt available, but they are mostly of the filmy, froo-froo, non-practical variety. The solid ones I find (like those pictured above) are sadly way out of my price range.
Was this topic really worth an entire blog post? Maybe not. But more and more people are getting into vintage fashion, so who knows? Maybe it will prove useful to someone, somewhere. And maybe one of you has a lead on a secret source of good, affordable, black garter belts!