Garters – The Undercover Investigation

Whenever my younger sister was fed up with something, she would exclaim, “Wouldn’t that rot your garters!”  I don’t know how she came up with that phrase, but it was catchy (especially coming from a twelve-year-old girl).

My own experience with garters was as a necessary but annoying piece of my wardrobe, used to hold up my stockings.  I am talking about pre panty-hose times, in the 50s and 60s.

In Nova Scotia, the winters could be severe with cold snaps and heavy snow falls.  We had to cover our legs since we never wore slacks to school.  Our winter underwear consisted of navy blue “bloomers”.  I remember them as being made out of sweat shirt fabric, and having an elasticized waist and legs.  They were not skin-tight but kind of “bloomed” out with gathers adding to our winter bulk. 

 We would also wear a winter undershirt.  Mine was usually white and if I remember correctly, it had garters pinned to it where we would fasten our stockings.  The undershirt was tucked in to the bloomers and then the stockings were pulled on.  The stockings were thick cotton sort of a beige-brown and we reached up inside the legs of the bloomers to fasten the garters to the stockings.

Really it was awful!  When I stood up, everything was taut and looked pretty good, but when I sat down the whole thing just sort of bagged around my knees.  Every girl I knew wore the same things.  I don’t know how I knew this because my little sister was still in diapers, but at least I wasn’t alone.

If I got a hole in the toe or the knee of one of the stockings, they weren’t thrown out – they were mended.  Yes, my mother would get out her sewing kit and stitch up the offending hole.  I have mended my grandchildren’s socks and they are just amazed.  They tell me I can just buy some new socks at the store but they seem proud of wearing the mended ones.

On dress-up days, usually church feast days, we girls all wore black wool dresses, with removable and washable starched white collar and cuffs and we wore white cotton stockings.  We still needed garters to hold them up.

I remember when I was a teenager, I was wearing my first pair of nylon stockings, a Christmas gift from my godparents.  I attached them to my garter belt (this was a recent addition to my wardrobe).  I was walking outside my house one day and I noticed a man looking at me and laughing.  My stockings were bagging up around my knees and the seams that looked so good on those actresses from the 40s and 50s, were crooked and spiraled around my legs.  So much for sophistication!

I got married in 1966 and spent the next two years in Africa, teaching school.  By the time I got back to Canada, garters were gone the way of the dodo, and panty-hose were all the rage.  No one was happier than I.

So I am puzzled by this return of the garter belt as a symbol of sophistication and sensuality.  All I have to do is think of the navy blue bloomers and the pinned on garters.  I shudder at the thought! 

Wouldn’t that rot your garters?