By Adam Welsch
Though fast disappearing from the contemporary lexicon of American English, the term “girdle” was for decades a ubiquitous term in the realm of women’s foundation garments. Today, the term “shapewear” has supplanted it, and modern shapewear often bears little resemblance to the heavily stitched and thickly paneled girdles your grandmother wore. Still, if you slip and use the word “girdle” when referring to a piece of modern shapewear, no one will have trouble understanding you. After all, the girdle occupies an almost iconic standing, infused as it is with both a sense of nostalgia and a hint of humor. To honor its membership in the pantheon of lingerie terms, here’s a collection of quotes referencing the garment that bridged the gap between traditional corsets and modern shapewear.
“Love is much nicer to be in than an automobile accident, a tight girdle, a higher tax bracket, or a holding pattern over Philadelphia.” – Judith Viorst, American author and journalist. (Redbook)
“A husband is a guy who tells you when you’ve got on too much lipstick and helps you with your girdle when your hips stick.” – Ogden Nash, American poet noted for his light verse and humor.
“It’s not enough to swing at the ball. You’ve got to loosen your girdle and really let the ball have it.” – Babe Didrikson Zaharias, professional golfer, track-and-field Olympian, and one of the greatest female athletes of the 20th century.
“I’ll put a girdle round the earth in forty minutes.” – Puck, from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act II, scene I, describing the speed with which he will retrieve a magical flower.
“I’ve never really had any special girdle machines or anything like that. For me, it’s really healthy foods, exercising, playing with the children, and going to the park – normal things.” – Heidi Klum, German supermodel speaking about the time she modeled lingerie only two months after giving birth to her son Henry.
“As I look … at all these trusting and loving faces … tears come into my eyes … and if you must know why … it’s because my girdle is killing me.” — Gracie Allen, American comedienne.
“Look, you can get yourself cut and stitched, or you can get a good girdle. The day before my first Emmy show, I went to Sears and bought a really good girdle. And I’ve worn that thing to every single awards show since.” – Jane Kaczmarek, American actress.
“You shall be free indeed when your days are not without care nor your nights without a want and a grief, But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.” Kahlil Gibran, Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer.
Truvy: “Clairee, you know I’d rather walk on my lips than criticize anybody…but…Janice Van Meter…” Clairee: “I know…”
Truvy: “I bet you money she’s paid $500 for that dress and doesn’t even bother to wear a girdle.” Clairee: “It’s like two pigs fighting under a blanket.”
Truvy: “Well, I haven’t left the house without Lycra® on these thighs since I was 14.”
Clairee: “You were brought up right.”
- Dolly Parton and Olympia Dukakis in Steel Magnolias.
So the next time you hear that your favorite celebrity has started wearing shapewear, or that one of your girlfriends has fallen in love with a thigh slimmer or body glove she recently bought online, or that your nearby department store is having a sale on torsettes, pantliners, or control camisoles, remember how that spandex family tree all began. Remember its matriarch – the girdle.