Styles and History

Children and Tightlacing

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Images from The Fashionable Lady of the Nineteenth Century

Museum images from a 1987 Dutch exhibition

Museum images from a 1994 German exhibition

 2 views - Early-nineteenth century (1819)
(Photograph of corset in the possession of the Kyoto Costume Institute)

On the left are short and front-lacing late 18th century stays, on the right are long stays from the early 19th century (perhaps ca. 1820). These were not all that constricting and would not  really have produced a wasp-waisted silhouette (though the removable busk to be inserted down the center front of the the one on the right would enforce straight posture!).


Mid-eighteenth century

"Long" Victorian


3 views - 1880s French long "Victorian" 


What appears to be an example of the corseting of small boys for medical correction-  More on this

Edwardian representation

Victorian Spoonbusks           More on this



Stephen writes:

"Here is an [interesting] picture I
scanned; I do not know what book it was, as it was a [torn-out page.] Of the four corsets, I am particularly taken with the name "Plastique", suggesting not "plastic," in our terms, but rather the idea of permanent reshaping - "plastic" being originally an adjective describing something whose form may be changed readily, but which doesn't change back afterwards. Presumably, this corset was intended for long-term figure training!"


"The below photo was published in a French monthly periodic L'histoire N°264, April 2002. Its title is: 'Inside a 'maison close (brothel), 2nd half of XIX° century' (NB: I can't translate 'maison close.' 
It was a place where prostitutes practiced their art under the control of a boss, like in the recent French movie Rue des plaisirs)." - Frank

This 1907 corset, which appeared in Canadian House and
Home Magazine
(March 2002), was photographed by Andrea Johnson, of the
Lovesick website.

We thank her for the opportunity to display it here.



A charming intimate photo

What a picture!  We are particularly impressed with the perineal strap*
on the lady on the left One does not see them too  often (even on the
outside of a petticoat, as seen here on this beautiful photo).

*Perineal Strap:  Often attached to the corset, it was used to anchor the corset, as well as for
securing napkins/towels both for menstruation and, on children, to prevent "exploration." The
"perineum" is the area  between the thighs, covering the vulva and anal parts.


A very good example of a French
turn-of-the-century straight-front,
contributed by Susan, of the

Elegant Lacing Site





Here is what appears to be a Victorian ribbon corset with a concealed front
(tightlacing ribbon corsets are a modern
innovation pioneered by C&S Corsets.)
They were meant to be worn as ornamental OUTERWEAR OVER a conventional under-corset.

Pictured here is one at 18 inches.


(right) A decent example of a ribbon corset
From The Delineator, August, 1901

(below) Another actual vintage example, worn by a present day model
ourtesy 'LatexHer':



Understructure of
 a 1906 ribbon corset



Now and then, we are asked about nursing corsets. 
Here is a good Victorian example.


Crinolyn points to this blog discussion of Era maternity corsets,
replete with pictures
of a rare unworn Royal Worcester
y Corset c. 1892 - very interesting.




Era maternity corsets




Pregnancy/nursing corset
from the late 1800s


Pictures, showing an anatomical model (presumably 19th Century) of a pregnant woman in a tight corset: 


Victorian Maternity Corseting -- an interesting response from Dr. Beaumont:

Q: What about maternal and fetal health among the tightly corseted?  I think about the numbers of firmly corseted  upper class women who died in childbirth or suffered other complications versus statistics for the uncorseted--African-American slave women, etc. Wouldn't the liver stress matter at some  point-when both fetus and corset are compromising the liver? I realize you are not advocating corsetry as  maternity wear.  Even so, what do you think?

A: In general, Victorian maternal corseting was intended to provide support, and several maternity corsets were designed specifically for that purpose. Their waistlines would not have the fashionable emphasis. However, the question is raised regarding the combined effect of corset compression and uterine expansion.

My conclusion from reviewing historical material is that comfort would be the primary factor in  determining how tight a maternity corset would be worn. If insufficient room would be left for breathing, the corset would be loosened to provide that space. The upper GI organs would not be affected more than before, because the overall volume would increase with the expanding uterus.  Rather, the next effect would be that of maintenance of overall pressure as the corset would be adjusted. To determine the risk factors, it would be more a question of localized pressure and general discomfort. It must be noted however that tight corseting up to the 4th or 5th month was not considered a major issue, due to the limited expansion up to that point. Then, with the fetus surrounded and filled with fluid, IAP (intra abdominal pressure) itself would not be a significant concern. Direct focal compression would be a risk factor, such as from worn out corsets with protruding bones, but generally these would flare out, not inward.  As I have mentioned, I would not advocate corseting or tight lacing during maternity, but it is interesting to note that many complications did exist during the medically less advanced years. Yet, I personally feel that corseting and tight lacing did not play a primary role in these complications. The poor hygiene and nutrition were chief sources of trouble. The simple notion that blood letting was viewed as a treatment for many illnesses is another example. Another is the use of alcohol and other drugs during gestation which, in my opinion, had a far greater impact.     -Dr. B.

MEDICAL AREA - information and advice

The original caption on this states
that the picture was taken on 12 Jan 50 in
 New York,  and the two women  show corsets
from the  late 19th and early 20th century."

Contributed by Ian


Don J. writes:

"This illustration was in the files of the corsetiere of a young ladies finishing school. It was used to make the pattern for the corset she would wear at graduation. Although the pattern was made the day she was enrolled, the corset was not made from it until 6 months before graduation or when her waist was less than 4 inches larger than the patterns waist size. Then she was  placed in a corset  made from this pattern, which she wore at least 23 hours a day, and  her waist was reduced at a rate calculated to close the corset a few days before graduation. She was closely supervised and was never permitted to  remove or tight lace her corset. The school prepared her to be comfortable in her corset which she would wear the rest of her life. This is an illustration of the type of corset used in this school around 1880."   Full pattern




    Mike submits this wonderful
       "queen-sized" example the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London - the scans (picture and text) are from Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail, by Lucy Johnston, published by V&A publications.  It is dated as 1890-1900, and is described as a "ventilated corset suitable for sports and summer wear."

Text            At right, a similar corset



Beautiful 1905 (right) and 1887 (left, British) bridal
corsets displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Modern bridal corsets



Le Rayonnant Nouveau Corset (1902)



(below) Spirella Corsets - 1913

"Maternity feature" Style 52

     Style 80

   Style 593

    Style 22

   Style 136

    Style 191

  Style 321

    Style 360

   Style 434


(left) This is a drawing (apparently without the stomacher)
of a 17th century corset made partially with metal

(right) This style is really fairly close to the so-called 'Georgian' style


Ancasta writes about c1662 corsets, as depicted in the below painting:

"I wear a copy of this dress throughout the year. There was no separate corset, or stays, worn during this period, with the stays actually being incorporated into the garment itself. My dress is 
reconstructed from an original surviving complete example. Boning was solid with narrow cut whale-bones, and the fashion was for the bodice to be off-the-shoulder, so ladies were unable to move their
 arms  much once tightly laced in. This style of 'incorporated stays' was in fashion from 1630 to 1670.

 "Here are a couple of photos of a well-known set of 1670's stays in the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is basically the
exact-same structure as the 1660's stays, but they had returned to being a separate item by the 1670's. The waist is
 narrow  (around 19") and the item is thought to have been made for a small-built lady for court wear.

Note the narrow boning and the amount used, and the cut being off the shoulder, restricting arm movement. The sleeves are removable, thought to be an addition for winter wear. People have
 made  copies of  this and found them to be comfortable in wear. Below is a link to a pattern of this and another late 17th century stays should your readers like to attempt to make one."



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