What is a Garter Belt?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A garter belt is a type of women’s undergarment that became fashionable from the 1940s onward, and peaked in fashion in the 1960s. Prior to the invention of nylons or pantyhose, stockings worn under skirts usually came to mid-thigh, and they did not stay up well — most would fall given the opportunity. Initially, may girdles featured attachments that would keep the stockings in place, but gradually as girdles became less popular, the simpler garter belt was preferred.

Woman shopping
Woman shopping

This type of belt was a piece of fabric that fit around the waist and had several long, stretchy attachments that could be hooked onto the stockings. Usually, there were at least four and often six attachments in all. With the six-attachment belt, three attachments on each side were connected to the stockings, usually one in the front of the leg, one in the back, and one on the outer side of the thigh.

Some women preferred a garter belt with only four attachments, which would connect to the stocking merely in the front and the back of the thigh. These were thought not as secure, however, and didn’t function as well as the six-attachment version. They were good enough for many though, and easier to use.

The belt would have been worn with stockings, and usually with underwear, since the belt merely fit around the waist. It was frequently associated with eroticism, though it was a functional garment. Still, 1940s and 1950s, pin-up models were often featured wearing bras, panties, garter belts, and stockings. They continue to be thought of as sexy garments and can still be found in lingerie stores and any place where a shopper can buy silk, fishnet, or nylon stockings. They’re generally considered a lingerie accessory rather than a necessity in the modern day.

One disadvantage of this undergarment is that a tight fitting skirt generally showed the bumps and ridges associated with the connecting straps. The pencil skirts that began to be popular in the 1940s left little to the imagination, and certainly let everyone know that a person was wearing a belt. Tighter, form-fitting skirts helped make pantyhose extremely popular.

Additionally, eliminating this item from the standard woman’s wardrobe meant one less article of clothing to wear. Today, shoppers can find thigh high stockings that have enough elasticity to stay up on their own. The use of Lycra in nylons and stockings has made them more reliable, although some people still like the extra security of a garter belt.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


There seems to be the idea that all women really tried to dress so that the garter straps, clips and stocking tops did not show through their skirts or dresses. I don't think that was always the case. Very often, visible straps, clips and tops were a real fashion statement


Can anybody tell me where to find a vintage silk garter belt?

I really want to get a true, old-style garter belt for when my boyfriend gets home from the service next month, but I can't seem to find one anywhere.

Does anybody have any advice?


Are there any good tips for buying a plus size garter belt? I mean, can you try these things on beforehand, or do you just sort of know your size before you buy.

I really want to buy a garter belt, but I just don't know how to go about it.

Does anybody have any advice?


Very nice article -- my mom was one of those women who could never go out of the house without her stockings, and so she most have been the last woman in the world to wear a garter belt as part of her normal, every-day underwear.

Of course, she wore just a normal cotton garter belt, not one of those lace and satin garter belts -- in fact, she always felt that the lingerie-style garter belts were silly. To her, it was just underwear, the same as regular cotton undies.


can anyone tell me what a corset is ? i'm new to this stuff and would like to know ? please

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