A Brief History Of Garters and My Favorite Designs
Disclosure: All of the garters reviewed here were personal gifts to me. All opinions are my own.
When most people think of garters today, they think of a wedding tradition, or of a garter belt used to hold up stockings. They rarely consider the textile bands used to secure stockings from previous centuries. The earliest garters had no stretch and were tied just below the knee to hold up their hosiery. Garters and stockings then were not gendered as they are today, and intricately designed garters were worn by all.
Before the invention of elastic, some garters even contained coiled metal springs to give the accessories a little stretch. However, by the late 19th century, early elastics found their way into garter straps attached to corsets, or in the form of ‘hose supporters’ (early suspender belts that were either pinned onto corsets or tied around the waist). However, the older style of garter had not yet fallen completely out of favor.
The 1920s saw a revived popularity for banded garters. Newer forms of elastic were more stable, allowing for greater fit flexibility and comfort. These garters were also worn higher on the leg in consideration of the higher hemlines of the period. Garters of the 1920s are arguably some of the most iconic. Many incorporated beautiful ribbons and exquisite embellishments such as ribbonwork and embroidery.
Unfortunately, as beautiful as these garters were, they gradually fell out of favor. Corsets evolved into girdles and suspender belts, and stockings into pantyhose and hold ups. People valued the comfort, longevity, and affordability of these newer styles.
Despite their lesser ‘practicality’, old fashioned garters hold a very special place in my heart. I adore the aesthetics of 1920s lingerie, and I firmly believe that beautiful lingerie doesn’t have to be practical. It can be beautiful just for the sake of it. Consequently, my lingerie wardrobe has a few sets of garters alongside my trusty suspender belts. I’ll be discussing some of my favorites here. They are all handmade by individual designers, at a range of different price points.
Previously garters are the closest that I’ve found to original 1920s garters, with incredibly similar fabrics, designs and stitch techniques. TLA earlier shared some of Previously's more elaborate creations incorporating cascading rosebuds and delicate beading.
These particular garters are made of silk taffeta ribbon with a cotton lining, with the elastic stitched in place for an even gather and to prevent twisting. The ribbonwork flowers are hand stitched from a delicious ombre ribbon, with cord ‘leaf’ loops. The elastic join is covered by cotton herringbone tape on the garter interior, with the ribbonwork motif covering it on the exterior.
Previously's garters are handmade in the USA and intended to be worn just above the knee. The standard size can stretch up to 21”, but they are made to order so the designer can also make them to measure.
My pair were a gift, and I believe that they are the standard size. I find they sit better a bit higher up on the thigh for me, and are intended to be worn relatively tight so they actually hold up stockings (rather than just look pretty like so many modern garters). They also work well for everyday wear. They’re comfortable and do a relatively good job of holding up stockings (albeit not as effective as a garter belt, though it’s not fair to compare the two!)
Piper Ewan's garters are a luxe interpretation of the traditional 1920s style garter. The garter base is made of contrasting silk ribbons, stitched into a channel that contains elastic. They are embellished with decadent hand-stitched ribbonwork roses and leaves, made of a gorgeous ombre wired ribbon and finished with Swarovski crystals. The join of the elastic is covered on the interior with hand stitched Piper Ewan brand labels. These garters are handmade in the USA and are available both as standard sized and made to measure.
Piper Ewan's garters are also suitable for all day wear. I wore these for my wedding reception, and they stayed in place for 15 hours straight without me noticing any slipping or movement. My only minor quibble is that you have to take a little extra care when dressing, as the elastic can twist slightly within the silk ribbon channel.
Cristina Aielli makes one of the most luxurious garters I’ve ever laid eyes upon in my entire career. Unlike the other garters featured in this article, it’s not intended as a functional garter to hold up stockings, but as a contemporary bridal accessory. These garters are sold individually rather than by pair, and are made to measure by the designer in Italy.
My garter was a made to measure style. Unfortunately in the fortnight before my wedding day I was so stressed, I lost a lot of weight unintentionally and a couple of inches off my thigh! Thankfully the garter still had enough tension to sit right at the top of my thigh, and on the day itself I wasn't thinking about my clothes fitting perfectly.
Everything about this garter screams couture. The elastic is encased in ultra soft silk satin. The elastic joins (at the luxuriously branded gold plated clasp), are finished with delicate hand stitches. The focal point of the garter is of course the glorious floral embellishment. Layers of Chantilly lace and embroidered tulle have been hand-cut and hand-stitched together for a textural feast. The floral motifs come to life with three dimensional layering and are exquisitely embellished with iridescent sequins and a mix of glass beads.
The luxury experience is amplified by the beautiful packaging this garter was contained in: a gorgeous matte white box with the foil printed branding, the garter itself displayed on a handmade brocade pillow. This garter is truly an heirloom to be treasured and passed down.
Readers: Do garters form a part of your lingerie wardrobe? Would you consider wearing them in place of a garter belt?