All enlargeable


(above) Kurt provides this example of the tightlacing of children in the Prussian court.  It is found in the German magazine P.M., It shows the children of the both Friedrich and Wilhelmina, one corseted into a
cone shape at an early age in order to facilitate the small waist in an easier manner. As Kurt says, this allows for the forming of the upper body, which is almost impossible when corseting begins in adulthood.

(above) Painting by Caesar van Everdingen of a two-year old boy


(below) 1911 girl's training corset, from French patent 14123 by corsetiere Lehmann

Related article on shoulder straps


1905 special school corset for girls' discipline




Natasha has provided these images of a corset,
meant for teens 13 to 15 years of age

Posture control was taken quite seriously


Peter O. writes:
"It is very hard to get images of the world's most ugly corset. But 1917 saw the introduction of the  the best corset for the beginning tightlacer, and remained in use for many years, with the application of varied boning in back.  Boning in back allowed for the spread of the pressure, largely preventing the straps from squeezing the shoulders.  Anybody could make that corset today."
(Image from Les Dessous Elegants, September, 1917)



A young lady's first corset

c1856 Front and back views of the first Symington machine-made corset,
stitched by Singer's sewing machine no. 1.
(Foundations of Fashion; The Symington Collection, ISBN 0850220890, page 8)

Peter O: writes of the above:

"In the old days, a lady started tightlacing on another way as today. She was shaped by a combined shoulder brace and corset, called the 'chest expanding corset.' Note how the shoulder strap from the front of shoulders goes around the back and meets in the front. I am sorry that no one today can make this quality type of corset and a similar corset design." 

Mike L. writes in response to Peter's comments above:

"I have in my hands a reproduction of a vintage 'Braceline corset' that matches the one pictured almost perfectly.  It was custom made and includes both the diagonal boning in the back and the detail flossing on the bone casing.  The corset I have was made by Melanie Talkington of Lace Embrace Corsets.  If any of your readers ask her she would probably be willing to send a picture of her Braceline corset for comparison." 


 More from Peter O.:

"To elucidate: The pictures above are of similar corsets, not the exact same, presented for the sake of example.

Various types of 'shoulder-brace' corsets were the STARTER corset for all corset users from the 1700s to c1919.  When women spoke about their first corset as girl,
they described them with shoulder-braces (see LISA's
text area).  Also, in the advertising of the day, all corsets marketed  to teenaged girls had a type of shoulder-brace. 
This is because the ribs naturally droop down by the spine and (it was felt) required the pressure of a back lace. Because the waist is longer and thinner when the ribs are
elevated, the ribs can better bear the pressure of a back lace.

Shoulder-brace corsets are not common as a starter corset today, due due their high price. Annalai on
Albert's Avenue wears a good example of such. Only Staylace has the
 power which can force the corset makers to make the olden day's style starter corset with shoulder-braces."
[Ed:  Would that were true!]

Paul R.  writes in response to the above:

"By the look of the photographs, the brace-line corset appears to be a orthopedic corset and not a first or training corset for a young lady. Would a reluctant young lady allow somebody to buckle up all those straps?  Or would fashionable young girl wishing to look grown up in her first corset want all those straps and buckles to show through her clothes? -which they would, even with the many layers worn by Victorian ladies. It was mentioned that the shoulder straps as worn by the very beautiful Annalai  were to correct posture. Well, I think its more likely to stop the infamous dowager hump that's found in more mature ladies. Check the adverts for training corsets for girls and they are usually back laced and not strapped tight, but strapping is normally found in orthopedic corsets or back braces and now in the S&M/B&D scene.


Mike L..  writes in response to the above:

"As a collector of vintage corsets who has spent many years researching them, I can tell you with relative certainty that this corset was not intended as an orthopedic corset, at least not in the terms that we would think of today.  First let me say this about corsets during the late 1800's:  At this time there were some distinctions made between orthopedic corsets and those worn for fashion, but the line between the two would have been much more blurred, as all corsets pose some orthopedic benefit.  In orthopedic terms, a corset or brace is a device or garment worn about the body to correct some ailment, deformity or imperfection.  A corset such as this one could have been worn to correct poor posture or what we now call 'kyphosis,' more commonly known as 'round back.'  But any corset would have been worn to hide a pendulous abdomen, or simply support the back from the weight of the heavy clothing that was worn. 

There are several factors, though, that lead me to the conclusion that this corset is not a brace:  First of all, the corset was made by the Symington Company, which is well documented as being manufacturer of highly fashionable corsets.  This company was known to make corsets for the Queen of England.  Additionally, it appears that this corset is made of a fine grade silk material, and was even dyed a dark color and decorated with finely detailed flossing over the bone casings.  Orthopedic corsets would have been made of stronger,  more durable fabrics (such as coutil) and left in their natural drab color.  Although flossing was used as a method for securing the bone ends, there were other methods that were more practical and durable from an orthopedic standpoint.  As for the buckles in the front, those were just indicative of what was available at the time this corset was produced.  Prior to the late 1860's, buckles were quite commonplace, as front fastening busks were not yet available or, at the very least, were just starting to be developed.  A good source that clearly documents this fact is a book entitled Corsets - A Visual History
.  Additionally, by using the buckles, they were able to eliminate the lacing at the back, making for a smoother line under the bodice at the back and making it easier for the wearer to put on and off.  Remember, gowns of the day had buckles and ruffles at the front, so it would be easier to conceal the buckles in the front. 

Shoulder straps, such as the ones shown, were also pretty common at that time, as brassieres were not yet invented either.  The shoulder straps prevented the wearer from slouching as well as helped eliminate the problem that I call 'back boobs,' which often occurs when the fleshier areas under the corset are pushed up and over the top.  Although this corset looks extremely rigid and excruciating, it really is not much different then any other corset during the 1800's.  All corsets were stiff and limited one's mobility, but, if properly fitted, would not have been any more uncomfortable than a tight belt or control top pantyhose.  Pain was only an issue when a corset was not fit properly or laced too tight.  This is still true today.  A corset should never be painful to wear; if it is, then there is a reason and it should be fixed.  The flossing alone on this corset would have made it very expensive, which just would not have been considered on something that was meant to be practical for medical reasons.  I hope you find this information helpful.  If anyone has any other questions concerning antique corsets I would be happy to try and answer them."



Here is a fascinating collage consisting of corseted children from history - to each side is an example, but the full collection is too large to display, even as a thumbnail, so click here to view it in its entirety.

[Compiled from many different portraits of girls and young women oil paints, different artists and different times.]



Corseting for younger boys in The Era

The corset is probably similar to this

Peter O. has provided this fine illustration of a French
children's corset (provenance unspecified).

Accompanying text:
CORSET en coutil mastic, bretelles, buse ou boutons, de 8 13 ans. 2.95

(CORSET in putty (mastic)-colored coutil, with straps, tube(?) or buttons,
from 8 to 13 years. 2.95)

Peter O.: "The training corset is not only a fantasy of John Willie's Bizarre from the 1950s, but has a form in an earlier reality. The corsets at left in the picture have long shoulder straps and the corset in top right has a stiff boned back, both in order to change the natural body into a trendy shape."
Grands Magasins de la Samaritaine, Paris;
Saison d't 1901
(A department store advertisement. See also above)
Known today simply as "La Samaritaine", it still exists, although it is currently "closed due to works for the purpose of security", as Indicated on the web site

"S." writes: This ad is especially interesting because it is for corsets for 'fillettes' i.e. young girls.  They are listed according to age!  The one in the center left lists 8, 7, 6 and 5 years of age with prices diminishing with age. The corset on the upper left is called a 'standard corset' with straps that cross in the back and which may be tightened as desired.  It lists 5 age ranges, 8 to 10, 11 to 12, 13 to 14, 15 to 16 and 17 to 18 years of age.

Chest-expanding adolescent trainer
Courtesy Rachael H.


Marie from France has found this picture and description
of a corrective backboard from 1872 (New Zealand):

"This particular example originally belonged to Edith, the eighth child of Vicesimus and Blanche Lush.  It is constructed of kid leather over a metal frame with various straps, buckles and brass buttons.  The posture corrector was made especially for Edith by F Wiseman's Ltd of Auckland at the order of Doctor Goldsborough.  In a letter of 1872 the Reverend Vicesimus refers to the posture corrector, writing: 'Doctor Goldsboro considered one of Edith’s shoulders was decidedly 'growing out' and promised to send down to us immediately a back-board for her use.' 

Soon after, Edith died of scarlet fever in April of 1876, at the age of 17, succumbing to the same disease that three of her siblings died of in 1854.  Edith’s posture corrector is on display at Ewelme Cottage, along with many other items said to belong to her and her siblings.

Keith L.'s true childhood experience (Submitted 2008):

"I have been looking on your web page entitled Corseting the Human Body. I am referring to figure two of page four ('Modern Milwaukee brace with narrow waist').

"I thought I would never see this again because, as a kid aged twelve, I was put in this exact type of brace with the narrow braced girdle. I am now aged sixty, but remember the brace as if it was yesterday. They showed it to me first with the girdle closed and I can remember saying to my mother that will never fit me. But they made it fit, not being satisfied until both halves of the girdle met at the back. It was so tight I could hardly breath, and was told this would get better as my body got used to the tightness. When  we got home my mother told me the girdle would never be loosened, that it was to be worn 23/7 and for at least five years. Bending was practically impossible, and sitting so difficult. The waist and abdominal compression could only be described as unforgiving. My pleas to loosen the girdle fell on deaf ears, and spent over five years in this constriction. The upper part of the brace was also set high so it pushed hard under my chin."


Mary writes:
"The advertisement for Reast 'Invigorator' corsets offers their product for 'boys over 5 years.' This seems odd, but supposedly there was a market. Does anyone have historical information about it? What age range would the boys have been? What form would the corsets have taken, and what would the boy have worn over it?"

Respond to LISA

Warren writes:
"I am interested in learning about corsets for children that were used to control their behavior and growth, provide necessary support, and improve their posture back in Victorian times.  (See ad for Invigorator Corsets that made corsets for children, with commentary and questions from Mary -above)  I would like to chat with persons knowledgeable in this area."

Write LISA -- if we have enough response, it will be made a forum topic (We suppose that Topic 36 may have some relevance also).

Mary writes:

"Further to the Reast Invigorator corset advert of 1893 (top) and Warren's response (above):
It is well known that middle class girls were often corseted from 10 or 12 years, to develop a small waist. I remember seeing an advertisement with drawings in The Strand Magazine from the 1890's. The puzzle is the reference in the Reast advert to corsets for boys over 5 years old. In the 19th century  very young boys were dressed as girls, until they reached 5 or 6. They were then 'breeched,' sometimes at a party, and put into clothes which were smaller versions of a grown man's. That meant tailored trousers or knickerbockers and jacket. It is difficult to understand how corsets could have fitted into this scenario. If we could find an advert with some drawings it might help."



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



Shoulder straps for 15-year olds

Advertisement found in
The Ladies World
(April, 1903)




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