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