By Adam Welsch
“Music has Charms to sooth a savage Breast …”
From Act I, Scene 1 of William Congreve’s The Mourning Bride (1697)
The inclusion in last Thursday’s post of Bette Midler’s song from Beaches about a fictitious bra inventor, Otto Titzling, got me thinking. I wondered how many other songs had been written about bras, panties, shapewear, or any other kinds of intimate apparel. After doing a little research, I found out that the answer was “quite a few.” What follows is an eclectic sampling of the ditties I found.
This first song was written by a woman in search of a better bra. According to her, “Sometimes you just need better support … I was inspired to write and sing this plea for something better because I have had so much trouble finding the right bra … most of the time they’re just not a good fit … they’re attractive but looks aren’t everything.” Here’s “The Bra Song.” Unfortunately, the artist’s real name is unknown.
This next song is a rockabilly tune from 1954 performed by Sid King and the Five Strings when they were known as the Western Melody Makers. According to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Sid King was one of the first artists to create, play, and record rockabilly music. Entitled “Who Put the Turtle in Myrtle’s Girdle?” this song is sure to get your toes tapping. Be careful – you may never be able to put on a piece of shapewear again without having these lyrics pop into your head.
The next song, “Just Panties,” was written for a play called Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical, a comedy based on the 1972 Academy-Award®-winning film The Poseidon Adventure. The song was inspired by a classic line delivered in the original movie. As Gene Hackman and Ernest Borgnine are trying to figure out whether or not Stella Stevens will be able to undertake a climb in her evening gown, Ms. Stevens says that under her dress she has “Just panties. What else do I need?” The following video combines the song, with scenes from the play and the movie. Please note that the scenes from the movie are rated PG, as some language is harsh.
According to an article on myLifetime.com, R&B singer Mya recorded “My Bra,” our next song, after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. According to the artist, “A bra is an example or metaphor of someone lifting you up and being your support system through a very trying time.” She says she acted as a “bra” for her mother during her time of need. Mya’s been a part of the Lifetime Network’s Stop Breast Cancer for Life Campaign for several years. In addition to recording “My Bra” (which was featured in Lifetime’s original movie Matters of Life and Dating), Mya has created public service announcements about breast cancer. The good news is that Mya’s mother is now cancer-free.
OK. So far, we’ve heard songs about bras, panties, and a girdle. What about corsets? Believe it or not, I found one of those too. “A Corset Can Do a lot for a Lady” was featured in the 1956 movie The First Traveling Saleslady. Performed in the movie by Carol Channing, the version below is sung by Fran Warren. It’s certainly not coincidental that both this song and “Who Put the Turtle in Myrtle’s Girdle?” were recorded in the 1950s, at a time when both kinds of garments were more prominent in American culture.
Although petticoats may not be considered by some to be “underwear” in the modern sense of the word, they are worn under dresses and skirts and would be considered by most as items of intimate apparel. The next melody is the theme song from the 1960s TV show “Petticoat Junction.” Here’s a great piece of trivia. Though the show’s principal locale, The Shady Rest Hotel, supposedly sat at the junction of two rail lines, only one line – the one to Hooterville – was ever mentioned in the show. Rumor has it that the creator of the series chose the name “Petticoat Junction,” to team up with the name “Hooterville,” as a way to take a jab at the television censors of the day. After all, the junction of a petticoat would be considered the most risqué part of the garment. Note the reference to “curves” in the song.
Not all of the tunes in this post are, shall we say, as well-known as the theme song from “Petticoat Junction.” The next song was written and performed by Wild Granny Faye and is called “Hang on to Your Bloomers.” Though bloomers originally (in the mid-nineteenth century) signified long, baggy pants that ran to cuffs at the ankles and were meant to be seen when worn under women’s skirts, by the 1920s the term also represented a type of women’s baggy underpants whose legs ended near the knees.
The last song, and the third one about bras, appears to have been performed at a small community theatre. Though lacking background music, the lyrics are quite clever and are sung to the tune of “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” It’s called “Bras I Have Known.”