*Author’s note – This post does contain photos of lingerie and women in lingerie. If this is offensive to you, please do not read. Please use your own discretion.
Victoria’s Secret; La Senza; La Vie En Rose. If you live in Canada, you know what these names all have in common: undergarments. Although they offer enough bras, underwear, lingerie and hosiery to last a woman a lifetime, I often find myself very disappointed when I go into these stores. And why would I feel that way, you ask?
First, they offer very limited sizing options for full-figured and plus-sized women. If you are full-figured, there’s a much larger difference between the size of your rib cage and the size of your bust. Most modern bra designers don’t make bras for these “specialty” sizes—something women who get breast implants sometimes find out the hard way. (And for the record, I have never had breast implants. Just wanted to clarify that.)
Second, let’s just face it. If stores do offer full-figured or plus-sized options, most of the time they are just plain UGLY. It can begin to feel like all the pretty, dainty things are for thin ladies only, and that you don’t deserve to look pretty unless you look like them. It’s like you’re being punished for not being a certain size. And don’t even get me started on Spanx. Yes, I own quite a bit of the stuff and use it for certain garments, but who wants to jerk and hop around in an awkward dance across the room every day just to suck themselves into something that looks no better than sausage casing?
And last but not least, what about the glamour? Yes, I enjoy the comfort of cotton just as much as the next person, but what happened to the idea that a woman could look just as glamorous underneath her clothes as she does on top? What about that air of mystery—the very thought that a woman could be all business-like and professional, but be keeping a beautiful secret under her clothes that only SHE knows, and whomever she chooses to share that secret with? 😉
As I began wearing pin-up and vintage clothing, I found that some garments, like my beloved Admiral dress, didn’t seem to look quite right with my current collection of underclothes. Plus, trying to wiggle out of the vice grip of Spanx in a wiggle dress just to go to the Ladies’ Room was NOT an option. So I wondered what did women wear under these things when they were en vogue? As I looked into the solution, what I found solved more than just a silhouette problem…
Based out of Virginia, Secrets in Lace has been providing couture leg fashions and vintage-inspired lingerie and support garments since 1984. I first saw them on Bombshell Basics with Bettina May, and then saw her modeling the garments on their website. It was love at first sight.
As I searched the collection, I settled on two bras and one girdle all in black. They didn’t have the exact size I was fitted for professionally for one of the bras, but if you know how to convert band sizes and cup sizes, you CAN find alternative sizes that are basically the same bra.
The first bra was the Gina Balconette Bra. Along with providing an awesome fit, I couldn’t get over how COMFORTABLE this thing was. Everything was lifted and held where it should be, but wasn’t unbearable to function in. I would have liked a thicker strap for shoulder comfort, but nothing’s perfect. And no…. I’m not going to show you how this or the other pieces actually fit on ME. A girl’s got to have some secrets, right?
As for the second bra, this one was called the Intrigue Strapless Bra. With the straps in place, this bra did the job for everyday living and was comfortable, but I admit that I wasn’t as happy with this one as with the Gina Balconette. Because it was designed as a strapless bra, the straps tend to unhook very easily—not a fun feature when you’re rushing to get ready for work on time.
Without the straps, the bra is held in place by “grips” along the top and bottom of the band. These are the same grips used in stay-up stockings. As much as I wanted this bra to be my go-to for single-strapped and strapless gowns, it didn’t create the lift and silhouette I was looking for. Let’s be honest here; what strapless bra can? I’m now convinced that the only way to achieve the right look in less than a two-strap gown is with a corset or bustier. Oh well. Still got a good functional bra out of the deal.
And now the best part… The Rago Girdle. Officially called the 19” Zippered Girdle, this piece has been one of Rago’s longest-lasting designs, and that says something. They’ve been creating shapewear for women for over 60 years.
First, let me say that this is NOT like the garter belts or corsets you can get at one of Canada’s main lingerie stores. Those pieces are only meant to be worn for a few minutes at best, and then taken off (if you know what I mean). 😉 This girdle is meant to be worn and lived in, and there are two features that confirm this:
- The clasps are metal, which gives you a much stronger grip.
- There are six garter straps instead of four, which reduces the strain on them individually and evens out the support.
When you unzip it on the side, what you’ll find is a row of hook and eye closures like a bra. This gives you a better fit, but looks nicer because it’s all hidden behind the zipper. Now… getting into the garment. That was an interesting challenge.
Obviously, you’re going to need stockings for this thing. Unless you’re like a circus contortionist or have someone helping you, attaching the stockings and getting the girdle in place can be a bit tricky. However, I found the following steps worked well for me getting everything on while solo:
- Secure the stockings to the girdle by the back garter straps ONLY.
- Unzip the girdle, and step into it like you would if you were putting on tights or pantyhose, but leave it at your ankles for a moment. Don’t pull it up just yet.
- Sit down on a chair or your bed, and slip into the stockings like regular hosiery. Carefully work the stockings up to your mid-thigh area. The girdle will naturally follow suit and inch its way up too.
- Carefully pull the girdle up until it is at your waist, and do up the fasteners and zipper.
- Hook the other four garter straps in place on the sides and in the fronts of the stockings. They should now be in just the right “taught” position so that it isn’t too hard to secure them.
- Pull on the stockings or the girdle where needed to straighten everything out and make sure you have smooth lines all the way through.
- Smile and strike a sexy pose in the mirror. (Not critical, but it makes you feel better, doesn’t it?)
As I had hoped, the girdle created the streamlined silhouette the dress demanded, but still amplified my natural curves beautifully. It’s a snug fit, but I feel relatively comfortable while both standing and sitting compared to Spanx. Plus, it sure does wonders for your posture.
I’ve worn it a few times ALL DAY at work now, and the garter straps have not popped publicly at all. One did pop once, but that was in the Ladies’ Room and was quickly fixed. Ahhh… the Ladies’ Room. That has been fun when dealing with this thing. I have figured out a way to function in today’s modern restroom without taking the whole thing off, but let’s just say that there was a reason why working as a Bathroom Attendant was a more common job at one point in history. 😉
Now here comes the sad part: the drawbacks. Currently, the only way I know of for getting Secrets in Lace garments is through their catalogue or through their website at www.secretsinlace.com. I don’t know what kind of distribution agreements they have with retailers, but I have certainly told my vintage supplier about them, and hope that they can get them in. Having said that, because they are in the U.S., you know you’re going to have to pay more for shipping, the exchange rate, etc. Consider it an investment and a real treat if you’re going to buy from them, and be sure to care for them well so that they will last you a long time.
Another problem is that their selection of plus-sized stockings is very limited. Finding stockings ANYWHERE nowadays is a challenge as it is, but finding nice plus-sized ones can be almost impossible. As I type this, I just ordered a set of the one kind of stockings they have available in a plus size, so we’ll see how that goes. But there is one lingerie company that provides some great options. Though you’ll have to pay shipping and other costs as well, Frederick’s of Hollywood has some beautiful plus-sized stockings, along with dozens of other options available for women of all sizes. You might even be able to buy them in person and save some money if you go to one of their stores in the States, or have a friend there get them for you and send them up. To see their current selection, feel free to check out their website at www.fredericks.com.
When I first mentioned that I was getting the girdle, my mother-in-law’s response was, “… And you actually WANT to wear one?!?” I admit I laughed, but I see her point. Back in the day, women had no choice but to wear these undergarments. There was nothing else available. Modern bras and underwear have certainly made the world a much more comfortable place. But though they come with their own set of challenges, these bras, girdle and stockings are some of the most luxurious items I own, and I feel extremely beautiful when I wear them. When you feel beautiful, you feel confident. And let’s face it; your lover loves you for the fabulous person you are both inside and out, but can you imagine the expression on their faces when they find these little surprises? 😉
Now if you’ll excuse me, please, I’m going to go drool over some more dainties that are on their way. Ciao!
Always with love,
The Canuck Pin-up