I find social history fascinating. The small nuances of time that govern cultural shifts, which in turn dictate preferences, social norms, and the way certain behaviors are interpreted is such an interesting thing to explore - everything is so incredibly interconnected!
Take the garter belt, for example. It used to be an essential undergarment but in modern society, its existence has been made obsolete in -by my count- at least three different ways. First, nylon tights - elastic enough to stay up on their own. Second, that clingy layer of silicone or latex that's affixed to the inside of thigh-highs: Even if you're not into tights, you don't need a garter belt to keep your stockings up (source). Third, the radical notion that a lady can have her bare legs out in public and yet the world will not implode. How novel.
These three points aside, a quick search of #garterbelt on Instagram reveals 63,000+ hits - Google can provide me with multiple options for purchase, and they still appear in modern TV and advertising! Why, then, haven't garter belts gone the way of the floppy disc and the pager? Perhaps more relevant to this particular post - why did I want one?
Why do I want more?
I can get 'why are they still popular' into a sentence of ten words or less: Society has told us to find them attractive. Just because I disagree with the principal doesn't mean it's not true. As for why I want to be involved, I'm still asking myself that question, but if I like the thing, does it really matter? I do have a pair of thigh high handknit socks that need holding up, and I do like wearing stockings to keep my legs warm in the winter, but there's some sort of draw here that I can't entirely explain. Maybe it's historical? Because I think they're pretty? It could be the technical drive to finish a new project. I really don't know. To be honest, it's not that important. I wanted to make a thing, and I had all the supplies (okay, except the clips) already in my bramaking stash, so there was really no reason to keep stalling.
For some reason, I had it in my head that the garter belt was going to be infinitely more complicated than it turned out to be. I followed this tutorial to draft the pattern, which took altogether less than half an hour, including a lot of photo-research to get the curve shapes right, and also moving the side seamlines around, just because I could.
I didn't think I was going to get the fit right on the first try, so I didn't invest too much time choosing colors or materials - but I'm glad I invested a little because it's actually pretty spot on! I did take the time to dye my strap elastic and clasp, and I'm happy i did even though they ended up a different purple to the other elastic I used.
Construction-wise, it was basically a bra frame without the cups. I sewed each piece together, burrito-ing and sandwiching seams whenever possible so there are no raw edges on the inside or outside, then topstitched everything with a medium-length straight stitch (My alternating panels of rigid and stretch fabric meant the stitch didn't matter too much). After that, I added a lighter weight 'underbust' type elastic to the waistband and finished the arches with an adorable, decorative picot elastic.
Next, the hook and eye, and last the garter straps: six pieces of 6" long strap elastic sewn with a slider and a clip, and then attached to the belt with a ring. Optionally, one could attach the straps without rings, but these rose gold ones I had from the Tailor Made Shop came in a set, so I figured I might as well use them. Besides, I was kind of in a 'the more hardware, the better' kind of mood.
(I'm very close to being in a 'this wearable muslin needs a matching bra' kind of mood if we're being honest here)
Including dyeing the strap elastic, I was finished with my new garter belt in less than two hours. Honestly, I don't know what I was so afraid of.
(Note on sources: The hardware is from Tailor Made Shop, the front panel is a scrap of recycled sari silk I picked up a while ago, the powernet and elastics are from a factory outlet shop in Auckland, and these thigh-highs are from Smith and Coughey's, and it was a stressful shopping experience, but I do like the stockings!)
The clips are supremely fiddly to attach to my thick woolen socks, but that hasn't stopped me from wearing them! It did take me a while to get the tension of the straps adjusted correctly so everything was comfortable for both sitting and standing, but to be completely honest, once I had that figured out I nearly forgot I was even wearing it! In the few weeks between the making and the blogging of this project, I've worn my new garter belt several times - it's the dead of winter and I can finally wear my skirts again! No more cold legs for this girl! I imagine the adjustable straps will be good as the elastic ages, but they're also fabulous because my stockings are all different lengths. If there was any doubt about whether I'd be a person who wears garter belts - there isn't now! Not only was it easier to make than I thought, it's also easier to wear.
Realistically, the quantity of required garter belts for my wardrobe is probably firmly in the 'less than or equal to one' category - along with formal gowns and absurdly long swishy coats- but I'm already finding myself in want of another two, at least. Not to mention some gowns and coats...