Foundation Garments

“Good figures are made, not born. It is up to you to make the most of your body’s contour as well as condition.” So said Johannah Letz in her book, A Youthful Figure is Forever. This point was made in 1966 regarding the wearing of foundation garments, and the point itself still stands today. Unless you have the most athletic, sculpted, and firm figure, a little bit of lycra stands to help smooth your shape where diet and exercise haven’t. What, you ask, is a foundation garment?

Generally speaking, a foundation is an under layer that either gently or firmly contours and supports the curves of your body so that clothes drape elegantly on you. Strictly speaking, a foundation garment is a girdle. For the purposes of dressmaking, a foundation layer flatters the body under clothing, and it protects fine fabrics from body oils and perspiration.

Johannah Letz, custom-corsetiere and patent holder of the first Uplift bra (1934), advocated that women from the age of 13 to 80 wear girdles daily, with everything from office attire and eveningwear, to sportswear and pajamas. Thankfully, we no longer live with such strict fashion dictates! And I hope you’d no more consider wearing a girdle with you gym shorts or nightshirt than I would. However, while fashion no longer requires daily girdling, don’t toss out the concept of a foundation until you’ve given them a good look.

“The success of your dress depends on your foundation”

Today, foundations are often called “shapewear” or “bodybriefers.” And shapewear includes everything from control top pantyhose to the Miracle Bra. You’re about to invest in a custom garment for several reasons, and one of them is that you want to look your best while wearing it. As a lingerie retailer, I know that fit is the first and most important element, it making you look good in your clothes. But I also know that the elegant and curvy figures of the most glamorous of women come with a little help from a foundation garment. Girdles–call them shapewear or bodybriefers if you prefer–are miracle workers for shaping the curves on every woman (next to exercise and a proper nutrition, that is). Shapewear provides different levels of control, depending on your needs. Choose light for smoothing, moderate for smoothing and shaping, firm or extra-firm for smoothing, shaping and reducing.

Foundation Garment

I’m not asking you to wear your grandmother’s underwear under your evening gown (though I admit to wearing a girdle under all of my formalwear). I am suggesting that you consider a foundation garment so that you have a finished, smoothed look when wearing your gown. This is not about sucking in the fat. This is about smoothing your shape! Think about it as an extension of your bra… why do you select one bra over another? Comfort, sure. Support, yes. And ultimately it’s also about making the best of your curves under your blouse–and sometimes, let’s be honest, it’s even about enhancing your bustline. A foundation garment does exactly the same thing, and will do amazing things for your appearance in your outfit. The following passage, while outdated for 2002 and everyday wear, still sums up the effectiveness of wearing a foundation with your formalwear:

Quoted from the Book of Fashion and Beauty, published in 1967:

The Seventeen Book of Fashion and Beauty

“Never underestimate the importance of your bra and girdle. They cannot substitute for diet and exercise in correcting figure problems, but oh, what a difference they can make in the fit and swing of your clothes. [Foundations] can and should make minor readjustments in your proportions through control and redistribution where necessary: by lifting your bosom to give you a prettier shape under sweaters and knits and allow the bustline darts of a dress to hit the right place; by flattening the tummy and firming the derriere so that your skirts do not cup and vertical seams fall straight; by smoothing bulges to make your thigh-line sleek and trim. Your choice of bra and girdle should be determined by two things: your own silhouette and the particular clothes you plan to wear.

“A good foundation is basic equipment even for the perfect figure, while to female forms less than divine, a little knowledge of the mysterious art of underdressing is a vital move in the subtle game of beauty bluff. Whether or not you are a little over-endowed around the bust or hipline can and should be entirely a matter between your foundation and yourself.”

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