erotic engineering

Porte-jarretelles, known in the US as a garter belt and in the UK as a suspender belt, is a machine of modest dimensions, designed to hold up women’s stockings. Suspended from a belt that runs around the waist are four strips of elastic fabric that reach out to grab both stockings by the cuff.

For a secure connection to be made, however, an intermediary connective device had to be invented, one that could hold a soft, fragile fabric that was sensitive to strong tensile forces. The problem was complex and multifaceted. Stockings made of silk were extremely delicate and would fare badly if attached to a rigid device. Additionally, there is much stretching and friction in that particular region of the human body, not to mention the considerable strain caused by the independent movement of the legs.

The resulting device consisted of a bottom plate covered with elastic cloth; at the tip of this plate sat a small button, over the top of which would slide a gynomorphic steel-wire clasp. The cloth for the clasp came in three colors: white, black, and pink. In deluxe models, a satin ribbon was folded over the mechanism, mainly for aesthetic reasons, but also to prevent overlaying clothing from getting entangled.

This solution was a piece of engineering so brilliant that later connoisseurs of fashion and historians of engineering and technology reasoned that only the greatest engineer of them all—Gustave Eiffel—could have been its inventor. Therefore a story, as unimaginative as it was apocryphal, began to circulate: that Eiffel’s wife suffered from sagging stockings and that the great man, in a moment of marital understanding, sat down at the kitchen table and drew a sketch of a new device—a garter belt designed around the famous slip-clasp.

I found the above information about my favourite lingerie item after typing “Erotic Engineering” into google. It’s an intriguing phrase also encountered here in an article written by John Ryle and published in the Guardian in 1998

The RuPaul lookalike in a lace microskirt plying his trade on the Avenida Augusto Severo in downtown Rio is one of the wonders of the world. His eyelashes are like spider’s webs; his hair, straightened and dyed, tumbles to his shoulders; his decolletage would put Pamela Anderson to shame. And there are others. They are wearing satin hot-pants, leather bikinis and denim cut-offs, carmine lipstick and six-inch heels: all the dress-sense of international hookerdom.

Ru Paul found here

During carnival in Rio, men en travesti are highly visible, on the street, in the pages of glossy magazines, and on the floats of some minor samba schools. There are even carnival groups that parade entirely in drag. These are mostly amateurs, though, out for the day. They would not want to be called travestis, a word that, in Brazilian Portuguese, normally implies a sex worker. For professional travestis the partial inversion of social order that is one of the features of carnival – and the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure that accompanies it – are a year-round phenomenon.

Travesti found here

Hormones and injections of silicone simulate female secondary characteristics. Nips and tucks do the rest. What travestis do not go in for are sex-change operations. Such operations are illegal anyway in Brazil, despite its reputation as the world capital of cosmetic surgery. But this is not why travestis don’t go the whole way; it is because, by their account – and there is no other available source of information – their clients are looking for a sexual partner who is neither male nor female, but a paradoxical combination of the two, a sexual chimera, a fantasy of polymorphous perversity, with the look and feel of the feminine and the penetrative capacity of the male.

image found here

There’s a book about this, just published in Brazil, called Erotic Engineering, an assemblage of photographs and interviews with travestis – and one or two of their mothers. I was sitting on the plane home reading it. It’s a curious book, halfway between a medical text and a chat-show transcript, with pictures to make your eyebrow stud rattle. It certainly kept my neighbour’s elbow off the armrest.

image found here

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44 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Cool post, Nursie. I find stockings and suspenders so sexy and also compared to panty hose they let our girl bits breathe.

    • well you know I’m a big fan of stockings ;-)

  2. Excellent. Surely the suspender belt is a marvel of erotic engineering. The liberal use of photos is of course very welcome!

    Sex changes are illegal in Brazil? Strange… Curiously one country I was surprised to learn where sex changes are perfectly legal and frequently carried out is Iran. Second only to Thailand in the number of operations

    • I saw a doco about sex changes in Iran – fascinating

  3. Googling that could have landed you at our Capetown friend’s! ;-)
    Isn’t Howard Hughes credited with a similar invention-the brassiere?

    • For Jane Russell wasn’t it?

      • Yes.

  4. Man, I miss living in a big city. The closest you get to transgender down here is the waddling mass in the Wal-Mart at 2am, that could really go either way – and you really have no desire to learn WHICH way. Oh, the flamboyant parades and the fun of people watching, especially in Boystown.
    Jeez, whoda thought a discussion of garter belts could make me homesick? :D

    • Why did you move John?

      • Because the bank had this completely bizarre concept that if I didn’t pay my mortgage (because my company had fired me for too much time off sick), that they could kick me out of my house. Since the only people willing to put me and the wife up were our friends a town over from here, voila! A Chicagoan in financial exile in Ohio. (Too much time off work for chronic migraines that hit in 1999, just FYI.)
        Sounds like fun, no? :D

      • Ooh migraines. I’m a chronic sufferer too. My sympathies

  5. as brilliant as those garter clasps are, i find them maddeningly difficult to operate at the worst possible moments – as in “the doorbell is ringing and i’m not dressed yet!”

    love the garter photos – many happy rememories of ‘corset friday’…

    • Let’s do another one next year daisyfae!

      • Seconded!

      • Thirded? :D

  6. Miami is too hot for all these trappings. Simple bikini or shorts and t-shirt

    • I haven’t worn a bikini in years

  7. Now you’ve made that annoying Chris de Burgh song pop into my mind…

    It’s an interesting argument that the market dictates whether you have the chop or not, frankly I’m not convinced. I think the ‘attachment’ goes deeper than that!

    The King

  8. I never knew there was so much engineering involved in such things. I guess someone has to design them.

  9. Gynomorphic, Erotic Engineering and Hookerdom. My three favorite new terms!!

    • I’m going to fight you for “gynomorphic” my new favourite word.

  10. Still not as good as a belt and suspenders. ;-)

  11. i’m surprised you didn’t have the whole row (on the plane) to yourself.

  12. Kernickers over or under the suspension machinery?

  13. There is little that makes a woman feel like a woman than a suspender belt and corset. I enjoyed reading this very much, thanks Myra :)

  14. Mmmm. The first four photos made me miss you a bit, my little flower.

  15. “gynomorphic”? Did you make that up?
    And you thought all I did was look at the pictures!
    Heck no I read the article……………………after lookin’ at the pictures for about 45 minutes.

    What can I say? I’m a garter guy!

    • Hey jimmy, nice to see you here again

  16. I should have worn a garter belt the other night – pantyhose are the invention from hell.

  17. “Erotic Engineering” might describe the complex series of pulleys and flying buttresses that are my bras.

  18. “Pantyhose”…surely the worst word in the entire American dictionary

  19. An astounding educational treatise. Bravo.

  20. Just love the how the words erotic and engineering sound so well together.

  21. Love the post title. Makes me want to wear suspenders.

  22. I am enamoured once again by your beauty, myra! We do miss it so!!

    As you can tell, I do love the old-fashioned trappings. Garters, stockings, corsets, and even undies that tie ever-so-prettily on the sides, making access so much easier ;)

    • Your husband’s a lucky man ;-)

  23. corset fridays are surely missed. sigh….

    (love the yellow/champagne pic at top….that was one of my fav’s)

  24. I also never realised so much work went into the development of a perfect suspender belt. Personally I’ve never found them the slightest bit sexy, I’m one of the minority of men who prefer tights. A bloody nuisance for the women wearing them though, I’m sure.

    Anyone who dresses and behaves in a way that’s sexually ambiguous has my admiration and fascination. Always a refreshing change from those identikit males and females who seem to be adhering slavishly to some manual of gender stereotypes.

  25. Seems like there could be some math involved…
    let’s see… did I carry that one? Is something inversely proportional to the square of a hypotenuse… wait… what’s happening right now?!

  26. There have been times when I was watching Ru Paul’s drag race that I thought that those guys know more about how to look devastatingly female than most women, including me…. Love that show

  27. “Suspender Belt” Leave it to the UK to make it sound unsexy.


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