Garter BeltsWhen it comes to stockings, one simply must cover garter belts and garters as well. After all, the two often go hand-in-hand to this day. Garter belts and garters are used to keep stockings from slipping down the leg of the wearer. Garter belts are rather intricate pieces of garment and – according to some – rather cumbersome as well. Although these days, their practical importance has diminished quite a bit and they're mostly worn for fashion, one needs to understand just how important these garments were in the evolution of hosiery.
Back in the days when all stockings were full fashioned, 100% nylon ones, garter belts were pretty much an integral part of the ensemble, for the simple reason that they completed and complemented stockings in an indispensable way. Picking the right size garter belt was just as important as picking the right size stockings. A too large garter belt would've meant sagging at the ankles, which is quite unsightly indeed, while a too small one would've made things extremely uncomfortable for the wearer. Eventually, it was the cumbersome nature of the garter belt/ 100% nylon stocking ensemble that lead to the invention of the pantyhose – at that time considered a huge improvement over traditional stockings.
These days, modern nylon/lycra hosiery is much more forgiving when it comes to sizing and garter belts too, therefore the classic look swung right back into style, and many a woman who hates pantyhose for one reason or another – has reverted to wearing stockings with suspenders. When it comes to esthetics, the modern garter belt/stockings ensemble beats pantyhose hands down, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
The best way to understand how garter belts came to be is obviously to take a historic look at their evolution, so here we go:
Garter belts evolved from garters. Garters were simple pieces of garment, usually just a narrow piece of cloth wrapped and fastened around the wearer's leg tightly, so it could support the weight and pull of the stockings over which it was tied/pulled. The first garters were worn just under the knee, at the narrowest point of the leg, where they would hold up much better than elsewhere. Later, as nylon stockings and elastic fabrics were developed, garters crept up to mid-thigh height, where they pretty much stayed to this day. Nowadays, garters aren't particularly popular. They're still an integral part of wedding traditions as the groom symbolically deflowers the bride by taking off her garter. Other than that though, one would be hard-pressed to find any garters anywhere, much less in day-to-day use.
Suspenders or garter belts appeared much later, and as their name shows it, they consist of a belt area – a strip of elastic fabric (nowadays mostly made of a nylon/lycra blend of the same type used for the actual stockings, and embellished with various flower- and lace patterns) to which several elastic suspenders are fastened which reach down all the way to the mid-thigh of the wearer where they're clipped onto the top of the stockings.
The clips used to fasten stockings to the suspenders are usually made of a tiny metal (wire) frame in the shape of an hourglass. A round rubber piece is then forced through the narrow part of the frame, clipping the hosiery to the suspenders for good.
There was a time in hosiery history when garter belts were considered obsolete, but they never failed to claw their way back into the fashion mainstream, where they remained to this day.
Nowadays, every serious hosiery manufacturer makes stockings (just take a look in our stockings review section) which have to be held up with garter belts. The look and style is still very much in, and it's not going anywhere any time soon. Together with nylon hosiery, garter belts have evolved as well: nowadays, there are countless styles and designs out there, as garter belts have become a canvas for the creative minds of hosiery designers the same way pantyhose and stockings have.
Our foray into the world of garter belts wouldn't be complete if we ignored the fetish aspect of these garments, but more on that in our stockings blog section.
Garter belts are usually worn with panties. The big question regarding the relationship between the two garments is whether or not the latter should be worn under or over the garter belt. As you can see in the attached picture above, wearing the panties under the garter belt often makes more esthetic as well as practical sense. There are women out there though who wear panties over their garter belts, so they find it easier to remove them when nature calls.
As modern hosiery evolved into its present shape and form, other technologies have been developed to keep stockings up. Silicone band stay-ups are the products of this evolution. They have pretty much done away with the garter belts, but they are a lot like garters in many ways. At the end of the day, garter belts and suspenders will probably never fall victim to newer hold-up technologies for the simple reason that the esthetic element they bring to the table is just too significant to do away with.