History & Magic of Garters & Garter Belts
Above: from Ajour’s FW15 colleciton, Soft Underwire Bra, Garter Belt and G-string.
“The next time you have a romantic evening try wearing a garter belt or garter to add some spice to the scene!”
by Otaymah Bonds
Otaymah is author of the Glamour Gladiator and CEO of Eternal Women Inc, an Image Consulting company. She can be found trying to find great veggie cheese or at the spa.
Very few clothing items shout seduction but some pieces are so transformative that they create their own space in costume history. Garters and garter belts have achieved icon status in the world of fashion. They are so pivotal that ceremonies engage them and legends are built around them.
Garters have been used since before the 14th century. Both men and women used garters to hold up their stockings. During the Belle Époque focus began to shift in terms of seeing the garter as more distinctly feminine. Dances like the cancan popularized showing the usually forbidden undergarments of women, and garters were highly embellished to compliment the dancers attire. But it wasn’t until the 1920’s that garter belts were invented; due to the rise in hemlines, shifts in the female clothing silhouette, and the female demand for more liberating attire.
Above: Tragic Kiss RAVEN Blue Envy Garter.
Women had once been bound by corsets (suspenders attached to the corset held stockings up) however garter belts relieved women of the need for them since they could be used to hold up stockings instead. Plus garter belts went hand-in-hand with the more loose fitting clothing of the times. By the 1960’s women’s clothing made another shift and hemlines rose even more, as women also strove for more sexual liberation and the clothing needed to reflect that desire. Tights and nylon seam free pantyhose were invented and the garter belt and stockings became obsolete.
Above: Pompadour laser cut garter.
Like most things in fashion what’s old becomes new again and garter belts enjoyed a resurgence around the 1980’s and 90’s, with the budding of the underground burlesque and Rockabilly cultures. Artists like Dita Von Teese ushered vintage clothing back to the forefront of fashion. Thus wearing more traditional and somewhat restrictive clothes came back into vogue and began to be seen as markedly feminine. Garters belts became linked with effort and the idea of deliberate dress and glamour.
Above: Dottie’s Delights Tonight or Never Waspie Garter Belt.
While women are no longer forced to wear specific articles of clothing and may dress as they like some still opt for more complex displays of fashion, including the garter belt. The resurgence of vintage costume has made it exceptionally easy to find sites that sell garter belts and garters for purchase. There are even garter belt and lingerie enthusiast sites and groups! It is now possible to get garters in a vast array of colors and materials and anything from classic lace to latex is available. It is now possible to coordinate garter materials and colors to whatever your theme or color scheme. The next time you have a romantic evening try wearing a garter belt or garter to add some spice to the scene!