Garter (stockings): Wikis


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A woman in corset set garters in her stocking, in 1904
The insignia of a knight of the Order of the Garter.
A garter belt with guipure lace

Garters are articles of clothing: narrow bands of fabric fastened about the leg, used to keep stockings up. Normally just a few inches in width, they are usually made of leather or heavy cloth, and adorned with small bells and/or ribbons. In the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, they were tied just below the knee, where the leg was slenderest, to keep the stocking from slipping. The advent of elastic has made them unnecessary from this functional standpoint, although they are still often worn for fashion. Garters are worn by men and women.


Garters in fashion

A garter is often worn by newlywed brides. It is the groom's privilege to remove the garter and toss it to the male guests. The symbolism to deflowering is unambiguous. Historically, this tradition also relates to the belief that taking an article of the bride's clothing would bring good luck. As this often resulted in the destruction of the bride's dress, the tradition arose for the bride to toss articles of clothing to the guests, including the garter. Another superstition that has circulated is the male equivalent of the bride throwing her bouquet to the unmarried ladies, i.e., the unmarried male wedding guest who successfully caught the garter was believed to be the next man to be headed to the altar from the group of single men at that wedding. Traditionally, the man who caught the garter and the lady who caught the bouquet will share the next dance.[1]

At some American high schools, it is traditional for girls to wear garters to their prom. At the end of the evening, her partner removes the garter and keeps it as a souvenir. In some cases, the girls exchange their garters for their partners' bow ties.

In Elizabethan fashions, men wore garters with their hose, and colorful garters were an object of display. In Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, "cross braced" garters are an object of some derision. In male fashion, a type of garter for holding up socks has continued as a part of male dress up to the present (although its use may be considered somewhat stodgy).

Order of the Garter

A famous "garter" in English is the Order of the Garter, which traces its history to the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In the poem, Gawain accepts a garter from the wife of his host (while resisting her carnal temptations) to save his life and then wears it as a mark of shame for his moral failure and cowardice. King Arthur and his men proclaim it no shame and begin, themselves, to wear the garter to indicate their shared fate. At that point, however, the garter was a larger garment that was used as a foundation.

The Order, which is the oldest and highest British Order of Chivalry, was founded in 1348 by Edward III. The Order consists of Her Majesty The Queen who is Sovereign of the Order, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and 24 Knights Companions.

The origin of the symbol of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a blue 'garter' with the motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense will probably never be known for certain as the earliest records of the order were destroyed by fire, however the story goes that at a ball possibly held at Calais, Joan Countess of Salisbury dropped her garter and King Edward, seeing her embarrassment, picked it up and bound it about his own leg saying in French, "Evil, [or shamed] be he that thinks evil of it." This story is almost certainly a later fiction. This fable appears to have originated in France and was, perhaps, invented to discredit the Order. There is a natural unwillingness to believe that the world's foremost Order of Chivalry had so frivolous a beginning.

It is thought more likely that as the garter was a small strap used as a device to attach pieces of armour, it might have been thought appropriate to use the garter as a symbol of binding together in common brotherhood. Whilst the motto probably refers to the leading political topic of the 1340s, Edward's claim to the throne of France. The patron saint of the Order of the Garter is St. George and as he is the patron saint of soldiers and also of England, the spiritual home of the order has therefore always been St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle.[2]

Garter belts

A garter belt is a woman's undergarment consisting of an elastic piece of cloth worn around the waist to which garters are attached to hold up stockings. In British English they are known as suspender belts[3].

Modern women usually wear pantyhose, a one-piece pair of elastic stockings that continue up the body into a foundation garment; individual stockings, held up by a garter belt, are rarely worn as part of everyday dress. Nevertheless garter belts and stockings continue to be sold in many modern department stores as well as more specialized outlets. They are considered a reflection of their enduring role in erotic fantasy.


Medieval period

In the medieval period, garters were worn in a similar fashion. The Order of the Garter is the highest order of knighthood in Britain. It is based on the story of a gathering in which the Countess of Salisbury's garter fell off and King Edward picked it up and slid it onto his arm. He said it in answer to the knights snickering at the event, and the humiliation of the woman. To further protect the Countess, he called upon those of high rank before him and by the power of his authority, dubbed, created the Knight of the Garter.Its motto, "Honi soit qui mal y pense", evil to him who evil thinks, was said by King Edward in response to the snickering men. Also, in medieval times, the groom's men would rush at the new bride to take her garters off her as a prize.[4]

20th century

Garter belts were a common, popular alternative to the girdle (a larger garment designed both to shape the body and to hold up suspenders) in the 1940s to 1960s, especially among teens and young women. The garter belt was simpler and more practical than the girdle because it basically was used only to hold up stockings. It was considered more comfortable than a girdle. Some men's magazines, such as the vintage Spick and Span magazine, featured models in garter belts and stockings, sometimes with slips or petticoats.[5]

Present-day use

Garter belts continue to be sold for practical purposes, as some individuals may find this option more comfortable than pantyhose. There is also an element of sex appeal that may be one's primary motivation for the usage of garter belts, and these are often featured as sexual fetish clothing in popular culture and pornography. Variations of the garter belt include underwear with garter attachments reminiscent of images featured in men's magazines in the early 1960s. Garter belts today are available in a variety of colors and materials; the most popular are red or black satin. They are also available in six- and four-garter and up to fourteen variations. Many garter belts today are made of a mixture of nylon and spandex.

In ice hockey

Ice hockey players use a similar, albeit more masculine, version of a garter-belt for holding up hockey socks. As these socks are essentially wool tubes, they need to be kept from rolling onto the ankles. One may opt to utilise hockey tape for secure adherence; otherwise, a hockey garter-belt performs the same function. These are typically elastic featuring metal hourglass clips with rubber circles, allowing for adjustment and a locking mechanism to ensure a snug fit.


A garter belt normally features two or three garters attached on each side of a reinforced material strip worn around the waist. This 'belt' is usually at least 2-3 inches wide.

See also


  1. ^ "The Tale of the Tossing of the Garter and other customs". Retrieved 2006-10-14.  
  2. ^ Order of the Garter information
  3. ^ Marks & Spencer Online Catalogue
  4. ^ Friedman, Albert B., and Richard H. Osberg. "Gawain's Girdle as Traditional Symbol." The Journal of American Folklore 90.357 (1977): 301-15.
  5. ^ Spick magazine archives, Vintage lingerie website

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