It was my fourteenth birthday and I was dying to start wearing stockings and high heel shoes. In my usual manner, I began to campaign for them well before my birthday arrived. When I saw the package all wrapped in pink, I knew immediately that I had succeeded. Upon opening, I saw beautiful silk stockings that had seams that ran down the back of the leg. I squealed in delight. Momma said that we could go to Bob Ellis and I could pick out a pair of high heel shoes after I came home from school. I could barely get through the day. That afternoon, we headed for King Street and I was in awe at all the beautiful high heel shoes that I saw. I don’t know why I fell in love with a beautiful pair of maroon high heel pumps that had the toes and heels out with a strap on the back. Momma tried to talk me into a different color and a different style, but my mind was set on those maroon shoes, although nothing in my closet went with them. She purchased them and we were on our merry way. I felt like I had hit the jack pot of all gifts.
At that time, I had no idea how I would keep those stockings up. Momma gave me some little elastic garters and showed me how put them on my legs and roll the tops of the stockings down. She also told me to put on white gloves when I put on my stockings to keep them from snagging or running.
She carefully demonstrated how to straighten up the seams that ran down the back of her legs.
I kept saying, “Momma, I’ve got this. I know how to do it now.”
She smiled and let it go.
In those days, I thought I knew just about everything about fashion that she could not possibly know. The following Sunday when I got ready to go to church, I began to put on my stockings.
This was going to be a snap, so I thought. I did exactly as she demonstrated, but somehow, I could not get those garters tight enough. They were cutting the circulation off to my legs when I got them tight enough to hold up my stockings. I looked behind me to see if my seams were straight. They looked like the hair pin curves going up the road in the mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get them straight. I was so afraid that they would run or snag. Finally, I thought I had accomplished the mission.
I was dressed to the nines (hat, gloves, high heels and purse) and started out to walk to our church which was about eight blocks from our house.
The first block I walked, everything was fine so my confidence level went up a notch. However when we were on the last block, I felt something slipping. My stockings had slowly slipped down below my knees. I ducked behind a bush and tried to straighten them and get them tighter. I think one seam was clear in the front. I somehow managed to tighten them with the seams in the back, crooked, but in the back, and I was on my merry way. (Thank God I had my white gloves on.) All was well until I began to climb the two flights of stairs that led to the entrance of Trinity Methodist Church. I could feel the stockings slowly slipping down my leg as I took one step after another. By the time, I got to the top, I looked and the stockings were almost at my ankles. Momma was waiting in the narthex, saw my dilemma and pulled me into the coat closet. She quickly fixed my stockings and garters for me. I was close to tears.
She put her arm around me and said, “Honey, you will learn how to do this right. I promise you.”
When church was over, fortunately everything was still in place, but I waited until everyone had left and went into the coat closet and took off my silk stockings and garters and walked home with bare feet in my beautiful topless, heel less maroon high heels.
When my sister came home from college the next year, she introduced me to the garter belt. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Why had they not invented this before now. I saved every penny I had to buy this beautiful new invention. Imagine, this simple little gadget could actually hold up your stockings.
That same summer, I discovered pancake makeup for your legs, so I did that until my legs were tanned enough from going to the beach, to not need any stockings at all.
Somewhere in my distorted mind when I was fifteen, (by that time a pro at wearing stockings and high heels), I thought I needed a girdle to hold in my stomach. The truth of the matter was that I weighed 102 pounds and my stomach was as flat as a pancake. I had no fat on my body and nothing needed to be held in. But, my perception was that I needed that girdle. I begged Momma to let me get one, but she constantly refused telling me how silly I was, that I did not need a girdle. I saved every dime that I could until I finally had $5.95, the cost of a playtex girdle.
“But Momma, the ad said, it makes you look a whole size smaller (that would be a size two). It stated that the new non roll top stays up without rolling down, without a seam, stitch or bone. It will leave you delightfully free, no matter what size you are. It controls, slims and supports you. It is known everywhere as the latex girdle in the slim tube. Plus it had hidden magic fingers.”
I bought the pitch hook, line and sinker. So much so that I began saving every penny I made from baby-sitting to purchase one. I took me almost 24 hours of sitting with unruly kids at 25 cents an hour to save that amount of money.(in two to four-hour clips). Finally, I had enough to make my special purchase.
Off I went to Belk’s Department Store Lingerie Department to get my girdle, size extra small. Now they should never make a girdle in extra small. If you are extra small, you don’t need a girdle unless you are fifteen and have a distorted view of yourself.
My measurements at the time were 32-23-33. It was that extra inch on my hips that I just had to get rid of. I bought that yellowish rubber girdle, that had clamps (which could be removed) to hold your stockings up built right into it, so you didn’t need a garter belt. It was made to go right over your skin with no panties under it. I couldn’t imagine not wearing panties, so decided I must have read the directions wrong. It did say to powder your skin before putting it on.
I was getting dressed to go to a Methodist Youth Rally and decided, it was time to wear my Playtex girdle. I have to tell you, it was June and the temperature outside was close to 100 degrees and the humidity would make you sweat as soon as you walked out of the door. It was what we called in the South,”frying an egg on the sidewalk” weather. However, nothing or no one was going to keep my from wearing my girdle. I took my bath and put on talcom powder just like the directions said, but I put on my panties.(who goes without underpants?)
I continued to read the directions and it said to carefully roll the girdle down to the garter snaps, roll it carefully up the stomach before putting on your stockings. Since it did not allot for the panties, as I rolled, they began to get caught up in the girdle. I worked and worked until I finally got it loose and had it in place. I was so pleased with my stomach. It was as flat as a pancake and my hips definitely looked smaller. I put on my cotton full-skirted dress and was ready to go. (now who on earth needs a girdle when they wear a full skirt?) I thought I looked like a goddess if I do say so myself. I knew my friends would all be so envious, my looking so thin and all.
I arrived at the Rally. The first part was held in the church that was not air-conditioned. All was great the first hour we were there, and my thin looking self was having a great time. Somewhere into the second hour, my stomach began to hurt. I could also feel the sweat running down my legs. I was miserable, almost doubled over in pain. I thought there was nothing to do but go into the Ladies Room and remove the girdle. So I did. I was not prepared for what was about to happen. As I began to lower the girdle, it got caught up in my panties and as I was trying to retrieve it, the skirt on my dress became entangled in the girdle and underpants. I was stuck in the toilet stall and was too embarrassed to ask anyone for help. I tugged and struggled, but the more I tugged, the more of my skirt got caught in the girdle (not to mention my half slip). The girdle was going to kill me, I was sure of it. The neck of my dress was almost at my knees and I was bent over at the waist. I decided, the only way out was to remove my dress all together, then take it all off at the same time. WRONG. I did this, but the dress became more entangled into the girdle. One of my friends came in to check on me and said they were about to go outside for games.
I simply said, “I’ll be out in a little while”.
Believe me, there was nothing simple in that statement. There was no way I was going to tell my friend what was going on. I had no idea, just how long I had been in the bathroom in a strangle hold by my girdle. Finally as I stood there with only my strapless bra on, I held my dress that was totaled engulfed by my Playtex girdle along with my underpants and half slip. I somehow had to get them untangled and get dressed before it was time for the Rally to end. The more I tugged, the more tangled it all became.I think the hem of my dress got a little damp when I accidentally got too close to the commode. I thought I knew I shouldn’t pray for something like this, but I also knew that only God could help me now or I was going to stay in this stall all night long. I thought about Momma saying you’ve got a turtle in your girdle. Now I know what she meant. I guess God took pity on me because, a miracle happened and I got the dress, underpants, half slip and girdle untangled. I quickly put on my panties (there was nothing quick about it as I had to retrieve them from the girdle and it was not about to let go without a fight). My dress was more rumpled than an unmade bed. It certainly did not look like the pretty cotton dress I had come in with. How in the world was I going to go out where my friends were, how was I going to explain this to them? I thought I was going to die right there on the spot. They would find me in the stall of the Ladies Room at John Wesley Methodist Church with nothing but my bra on, dead as a door-nail. Headlines would read, GIRL DIES IN CHURCH LADIES ROOM, STRANGLED BY MYRTLE, THE TURTLE IN HER GIRDLE. That made me work even harder to retrieve my clothes. I could hear Momma’s voice saying, “Honey, you don’t need a girdle.” I would never ever question my Momma’s wisdom again.
Finally, I walked out of the Ladies room, with my dress wrinkled and a little damp on the hem and my hair that had gone totally straight from the humidity and heat of the Ladies room with sweat (as opposed to perspiration) running down my back and legs. As I walked out the door, I placed my $5.95 Playtex girdle in the trash can and never looked back.
When I got home, Momma asked me what in the world had happened to me. I simply said I got in a fight with a girdle.
She laughed and said, “Oh, you mean Myrtle the turtle who gets in your girdle?”
“Yes ma’am, it was that Myrtle, she was the one who did it.”
It seems that many young ladies that wore the Playtex Girdle in the South Carolina heat had the same experience as I did with Myrtle, the turtle in her girdle. I never wore a girdle again, or at least not one made by Playtex, even if it did come in a slim little tube and have magic fingers.