Monday, January 23, 2023

Abandoned Words

I hereby list many words used in my lifetime which are now lost in the archives of memory.


Were a huge thing in my mother's time. Whalebones (or equivalent) holding in the tummy, hampering breathing, unhooked and peeled off with barely suppressed sobs at the end of the day.


In my time in the late fifties and early sixties they graduated to what were called "roll-ons" elasticated rubbery encasements, with dangling suspenders. Usually flesh coloured (at a price premium) or off-white. Often fetishized today. Or now known as "spanx" another female self inflicted torture device.


These were worn by both men and women to protect the shoes from the rain. The women's had accommodations for high heels. I barely missed that era. I remember how shabby and droopy they looked on the hall mats when my parents had a crowd over. They probably lasted a lifetime of wear.


In my mother's time, and nudging into mine there were what women called "costumes" which were the matching skirt and jacket, very formal, very proper. A woman usually could afford one or two costumes if she was lucky, as they were tailor made and quite expensive. Miniskirts, of course, blew all that away though I do remember wearing "costumes" with a mini-skirt and a matching jacket much to my granny's shocked expression when she first saw me thus "gallivanting" in such an outfit but she adored me so she kept her mouth shut tightly.

There are many more of course but I'm keeping this short today.

And, of course, I am aware that this was in Ireland in the fifties, early sixties and other countries many have had different words for such items.


  1. I knew/know all of these words but have no direct experience of them. That use of costumes is new to me though.

  2. We used to wear galoshes, as much to keep our feet dry rather than protect shoes. My grandmother wore a lace up corset right up until shortly before she died. I suppose she was used to it.

  3. I remember galoshes, my father wore them, and we girls and women were supposed to wear girdles. In fact, it was a requirement of the job when I first worked in bank. I told my mother I had to get one because I’d never worn such a thing before, and she just laughed. We were a family of skinny people and she thought that it was simply unenforceable.

  4. My mother talks of roll ups but galoshes were something I only knew through Enid Blyton books.
    I do remember a girl I grew up with who wore "support pants" in her teens. Only now I wonder who on earth suggested she needed to do that.

  5. Roisin in NY here. OMG www - I had almost forgotten about the roll-on and the galoshes. My mother wore the old corsets, flesh colored, finally ditched them for the roll-on. Got such a chuckle out of this !

  6. The models in that advertisement for corsets look as if they have no need of them, unfair to all women who thought they could look like that too just by wearing one. I don't remember "roll-ups" but I do remember "step-ins" which were similar but didn't have the suspenders. I wore one for a short time and don't remember why, but I gave it up very quickly.
    I've never seen galoshes and always wondered just exactly what they were, I thought they were like rubber boots but maybe softer.
    I remember Costumes though! When I was about twelve my dad sent me and my sister to a dressmaker to be measured for costumes because we were "young ladies" now. I put up with the measuring but when I learned what for I didn't go back. As far as I was concerned Costumes were for grown women, not for me. How could I possibly run about on the beach or climb trees in one of those??

  7. Indeed, corsets and girdles have now given way to Spanx and other "shapewear", which must be equally horrible to wear. But there are still a lot of women willing to endure pain and discomfort in order to match up to some idealised image of womanhood.

  8. When women with back problems wore a corset some found it lessened their back pain. I wonder if that's where the back support devices idea came from. Emma

    1. Anonymous, newly diagnosed with degenerative scoliosis and osteoporosis, I was wondering if maybe those corsets would have provided support for failing backs. I wish I had one to dig out and try!

  9. I wore a roll-on girdle till tights came in - in 1967 Ireland. We weren't sure if the boys would still look at us with interest if we showed our bodies as they really were but, oh my word, how much more comfortable were we after we abandoned them.
    Costumes, a very familiar word for the smart tweed suit. I think it was wholly Irish - I referred to costumes once when I moved to England from Ireland and was met with a blank stare!


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