Worn either at the waist or on the hips, suspenders include a ‘belt’ made of a strip of elasticated material with four (or sometimes six) elasticated straps attached to each side. These suspender straps have rubber discs on the end which clip onto the stockings to hold them securely in place.
Known as garter belts in the US, they may seem like old-fashioned contraptions today, but they were very liberating for women when they were first invented in the 1920s. Before that, stockings were either attached to tight-fitting girdles, or held up by equally tight garters that would cut off circulation and dig into the skin.
The invention of the suspender belt not only freed women from those rib-squeezing girdles, but they also allowed skirt hemlines to rise. Finally, women could wear looser, shorter skirts than ever before, affording them greater freedom of movement.
During World War II, suspenders were routinely issued to WAAFs, and they became incredibly popular. However, they fell out of fashion in the 1960s with the arrival of the mini skirt. This higher hemline needed even higher hosiery, and tights quickly took over from stockings.