Betty came to life in 1930 when women, having won the right to vote just a decade earlier, were finally liberating themselves from tight, uncomfortable undergarments like girdles with attached metal clasps that held their stockings up. For the modern, more liberated woman of the 1930’s, ‘garter belts’ and ‘roll garters’ offered a newfound sense of freedom and liberation. Not only did they secure a lady’s stockings without the use of awkward, pinching metal clips, they freed women entirely from the restriction and discomfort of girdles!
Betty’s garter wasn’t just a fashion statement; it was one of the symbols of her status as a modern, liberated woman. For more conservative elders, the image of young women dancing with flashes of a garter belt showing represented everything scandalous and provocative about the fashions of the day, making the placement of the garter belt as much a statement about the woman herself as the wearing of it.
The Story of Betty’s Famous Garter …….
In her very first film, Dizzy Dishes, Betty is wearing (on both legs) what were known as ‘roll garters,’ fabric covered circular bands of elastic that would roll over the top of each stocking to hold them up. From these mainly functional (but still sexy) garters, Betty moved on to the more sensual lone garter that didn’t appear until her 7th film “Silly Scandals.”
Animators working on these early films used ‘model sheets’ as a guide. These sheets were created to show the characteristics of each character, so that all the animators working on a film would be consistent about how they drew the details of a character. This didn’t always work as planned. The first drawing here (at the top of the page) is from a very early model sheet of Betty that shows the garter on her right leg--- a second drawing (right) from a later model sheet clearly shows the garter on her left leg, and states that it should always be there. In spite of this… and though Betty’s garter is usually on her left leg…. it sometimes appears on her right leg…. and if you look carefully you’ll even find a few films (like “Minnie the Moocher”) where, in the same film, it’s sometimes on her right leg and sometimes on her left leg!