I'm listening to "Radio Boston," a local show on public radio, do a segment about Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed the string of parks and waterways we call the Emerald Necklace. Nice, until the three chatters began to chuckle about Olmsted's original name for the project: the Jeweled Girdle. "Racy," one of them called it.
Not really. For the first 900 years of its recorded history, girdle meant simply "A belt worn round the waist to secure or confine the garments; also employed as a means of carrying light articles, esp. a weapon or purse," says the OED. The tie around Brother Cadfael's robe, the belt on which the household keys are carried, a decorative sash -- all have been called girdles.
But the OED's first citation for girdle meaning a kind of elasticized corset worn below the waist dates only to 1925. Since the Emerald Necklace project began in 1878, and Olmsted died in 1903, it seems very unlikely that he was acquainted with the girdle as an uncomfortable specimen of what we now call "shapewear." As for "racy," well, I'm guessing the guy who offered that opinion was thinking of a garter belt, an obsolete item (practically speaking) but one still considered sexy in some circles.