‘One of the things that I do to help myself is wear a corset, and treat it like body armour. This empowers me and makes me feel like I can deal with whatever comes my way.’
Elinor from The Nylon Swish is a British born blogger and vintage undergarment aficionado living in Sydney. After struggling with body confidence, Elinor began to embrace vintage style in 2013, starting with stockings, girdles, bullet bras and corsets, and then gradually incorporated vintage outerwear into her look. She found that she ‘developed a newfound confidence almost overnight’ and wanted to share this experience with other women experiencing similar problems. She started her blog, The Nylon Swish in January 2014, and it has evolved into a great source of information for vintage lovers, as well as an online shop.
Elinor kindly allowed me to exclusively publish these beautiful new images by Russell Thomas. We spoke about Dita, body image, cross dressing, misinformation about corsets, and the pleasures of a perfect vintage foundation.
Welcome to Victory Lamour. What first got you interested in vintage, and specifically vintage foundation garments and stockings?
I have loved burlesque since I was a child and there have always been good books hanging around my mum’s house, such as Dita von Teese’s book – Burlesque and the Art of the Teese/Fetish and the Art of the Teese, so I was exposed to the vintage aesthetic at a young age. I grew up in a very small town and frivolities such as red lipstick and pretty dresses were seen as being ridiculous and over the top. I went through a phase of trying to dress in a more retro style, including my underwear, but I was laughed at, even at university.
A couple of years ago I met my partner, who loves foundations and fully-fashioned stockings. At the beginning of our relationship he took me to the What Katie Did boutique in London and told me to choose anything I wanted. I came away with some lovely pieces that I will treasure forever. Everything changed from that day onwards. He taught me how to wear the correct foundations for my body and encouraged me to try different styles. He made me feel beautiful again, and for me that is what vintage foundations and clothes represent, feeling beautiful and feminine.
As you’ve written, ‘There is a very common misconception that vintage style underwear and stockings are too uncomfortable and restrictive for daily wear.’ What tips do you have for vintage lovers who want to start to wear vintage and reproduction undergarments but don’t know where to begin?
That’s a great question, I have seen so many people jumping straight into very firm undergarments that don’t fit them properly and this often puts them off completely.
I would suggest starting with a deep suspender belt with no less than 6 straps. Make sure that it sits on your natural waist rather than on your hips and only buy metal clips; if you don’t follow these two rules you could end up with stockings around your ankles!
I would then suggest wearing cheaper stockings at first. I buy a lot of my stockings from Stockings HQ and some only cost a few dollars a pair. One of the biggest complaints amongst stocking skeptics is that they think that stockings will fall apart as soon as they are out of the packet. This is not true but it certainly does take a bit of time to get used to being gentle with them, and not walking through bushes as I used to do. If you wear cheap stockings, it won’t matter so much if they get laddered. Once you have mastered cheap stockings, upgrade to something a bit fancier.
You have been outspoken about the misinformation around vintage foundations, girdles, waist training and corsets. Can you tell us what some of the biggest misconceptions are?
I think the funniest thing I have been told is that corsets can cause women to drown. A lady came up to me at a market once and scolded me to selling corsets (they were actually girdles), because women aren’t able to run away from an incoming tide if they are wearing a corset and would therefore drown.
On a more serious note, I am constantly asked if what I’m wearing hurts, but if it hurt, I wouldn’t wear it! Foundations and corsets are designed to be worn for long periods of time, if they feel uncomfortable, it is likely that the garment is the wrong size and/or is being worn incorrectly. I would also warn men and women to thoroughly research waist training before going down that route; I won’t go into it too much here but it needs to be a well informed decision and one needs to have the correct corset with which to train in. (To date I haven’t done any waist training.)
I have several tattoos, and they all mean a lot to me. Each makes me think of the particular life experiences and ideas they symbolise. They are reminders of my life, and for me, a personal way of claiming my body as my own. Can you tell us about what your ink means to you, and what experiences (if any) prompted your choices?
I have quite a few tattoos… I have a small Chinese symbol that means ‘Buddha’. When I was 19 I moved to China and made friends with a German guy who had been living in Shaolin temple for over the last 10 years. I was having a bit of a life crisis at the time and he helped me to focus and encouraged me to continue studying. One day we were sat in a café and he doodled the symbol on a napkin. I secretly took that napkin and got the character tattooed on me the same day.
The other tattoos mean a lot to me but only because of the people I was with at the time. I got my first tattoo in a Chinese flea market, and my arms were tattooed by one of my favourite people, Gore from Chapel Tattoo (Melbourne), he was my first friend when I moved to Australia. I asked him to tattoo a leopard, some peonies and a he chose everything else, I trust him completely. I have one tattoo that has a practical purpose, I have big feet (Australian size 11) and people would regularly comment on their size. I got fed up with feeling self-conscious about them so I decided to get a tattoo on my foot to distract people. I haven’t had a comment about the size of my feet since.
You are very open about depression and your body confidence struggles, and by telling your story, you connect strongly with readers. I found that by telling my story, it encouraged a lot of people to share theirs with me. It’s an honour, but can also be hard at times. Does your openness prompt a lot of people to tell you their stories, and if so, how do you find it?
Yes, I receive so many emails from both men and women alike. Women, as you mentioned, tend to ask body confidence issues, whereas men usually ask me questions relating to cross dressing.
It has taken me a long time to not only accept my body, but to love it too. It genuinely breaks my heart to hear women talking negatively about their own bodies, and it can sometimes be upsetting. As I have said many times before, I’m not interested in hiding women’s bodies with foundations, instead I want to help make the most of their natural form and show how their clothing will sit better thanks to it’s sculpting effects, which in turn will make them feel more comfortable with themselves. One of the things that I do to help myself is wear a corset, and treat it like body armour. This empowers me and makes me feel like I can deal with whatever comes my way.
I have spent a lot of time talking with men who either simply enjoy wearing women’s clothing or feel that they need to, for whatever reason that may be. I want to help people to feel empowered, and if some men get that from dressing like a woman, then I am here to support them.
I have seen how badly low self-esteem can damage people so if I can help in anyway, I will. It can be draining at times, but it’s also extremely satisfying.
You have been using Periscope to talk through your lingerie and demonstrate how to put on things like bullet bras and girdles properly. You get a wide range of comments, from technical questions and fan comments to trolls. This particular exchange cracked me up: Random guy: ‘show boobs’. You: ‘Look, if you want to see boobs, go to Google.com. You don’t need to see mine.’
How often do you use Periscope and how do you find the experience?
I have only been using Periscope for a month or so, but I love it because it is so instant and cannot be edited. I decided to show people how I get dressed most mornings, to stop them from thinking that it takes a long time or that it’s not possible to dress yourself. It was terrifying doing the first few broadcasts. It has taken me a while to get used to posting photos of me in my underwear on the internet, so getting dressed in front of strangers was really scary. A few people think I’m doing it for attention, but I’m quite happy getting dressed on my own without everyone watching, I just want to break down some of the misconceptions that come with retro underwear. The fact that it’s live is great, too, because it shows that I make mistakes, such as choosing the wrong girdle or the wrong length of stockings. It’s important to me that people see that I mess up as well. I can’t get it right all the time.
Some of the comments that I get are ridiculous! It’s mostly the men who make stupid comments, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I think a lot of men think that women only wear underwear for them.
I actually wear it for myself which a lot of guys can’t seem to comprehend.
Thank you for joining us, Elinor.
All images by Russell Thomas.
Words by Tara Moss AKA Victory.