Lacings of History

Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs

LISA feels that much in the way of primary (first hand) information is missing from the Corset Community, and that some many of us would be interested in the
perspectives of those who actually wore them, all the way back to the Victorian era. We find that, in many cases, history is more amazing than fiction.

So, with that in mind, this area is devoted to actual experiences from the people who wore our favorite garment. 
These range from the results of interviews, to antique letters, to actual writings from those ghosts of the past.


A small illustrated article from the 1970's magazine Bizarre Review - 'The Corset'   Gift of the Noble Corset  - Article from Fancy Magazine (1962)
Full copy of Figure Training; Or, Art the Handmaid of Nature 1871)   Two excerpts from the old English magazine, Slant - How the lady signaled her amorous intents in the "good old days" by how she wore her corset! 
Corsets, Collars and Chains  (European Practices of Yesteryear)   Sound Advice to Mothers and Governesses Regarding Corset Discipline for the Beginner                  
The Family Doctor and People's Medical Advisor - Letter dated  August 31, 1889  (Corset Discipline - for children)   Victorian Yearnings: Enforcement of Disciplined Formality 

Ethel Granger

The Family Doctor section

Roger K. has  gathered, organized, and corrected OCR-errors in several of the Family Doctor  documents.  The first deals with three topics: the Figure Training of Girls, Backboards, and the Corseting of Boys, and is quite long.

Here is a collection of readers' correspondence from
 The Family Doctor, much of which relates to corsets.



Stephen K.:

"Here is an excerpt from The Family Doctor for the 18th of June 1887. As well as the headline article on 'Corsets and Tight-Lacing,' there is also a letter on the subject. I copied out a second letter on the subject of high heels; I don't believe a word of it, and indeed am skeptical about the corset material as well. There are references within the article to figures 1 - 6, and they are presented here (click one on left for full display). The first five figures were all on the front page, the sixth just inside."



(Non-corset printings are not included)

DNA = date not available






  Wasp Waists of the Past



  Waist Training Methods



  Advocates Old Fashions


varied dates

  Sundry Collection


21 Sep 29

  Stove-Pipe Waists


21 Aug 29

  Training a Human Wasp


21 Sep 29

  The True Wasp-Waist


28 Sep 29

  The Romance of the Corset


26 Jul 30

  Soldered in Stays


26 Jul 30

  Training Belts


28 March 31

  My Favourite Corset Model


18 July 32

  A Wa(i)sted Engagement


27 May 33

  Imprisoned in Whalebone


27 May 33

  A Stay-Lace Slave


29 Jun 33

  The Pains of Corsetting


30 Nov 35

  I Was Given a Job in a Drapery Shop


                24 Oct 36   A Victorian Girl's First Experience of Glove and Corset Wearing


30 June 36

  The Great Corset Mystery


26 Oct 40

  The Triumph of Elaine 



Cora's Lacing Ordeal

An Astounding Shoe Shop Experience

When School Teachers Were Slimmed



from Charles S.:

" interesting picture on Flickr of a 1939 newspaper or magazine article about a new range of lace-up corsets for evening wear. I have attempted to transcribe the text of the article below (some of the words were rather hard to make out, but I think I have got it right):"



This shapely model is not lacing herself up to get into a Gay Nineties costume. Her corset is the latest foundation to wear under the new 1939 evening dresses.
Early this spring, it became apparent that the slim waist with curves above and below would become the accepted new silhouette, especially for evening gowns. Most modern corsets are designed to slim the hips and leave a big bulge around the waist. To achieve the tiny-waisted, round-hipped silhouette, Maud Gardiner, corset buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, designed the modern adaptation of laced corset shown here. It is made of silk and lace supported by boning of celluloid-covered clock-spring wire, has a slide fastener in front, weighs one pound, costs $24.99. More than 600 of these garments have already been sold by leading shops throughout the country. Most women who wear it will have to be laced up, as of old, by their husbands.

Caption to top photo: Slim waistline for the new evening gowns is achieved by wearing a modern version of Grandma's corset. Proper adjustment of the laces reduces waist one to three inches.

Caption to bottom photo: Ten yards of lacing are needed so wearers can get in small waisted garment.




Washington Herald, Literary Magazine section, page 10, June 27, 1909
[Transcribed by Roger K.]

“The Smallest Waists in the World” [no author given]

Recently a prominent illustrated London newspaper made a world’s championship claim for a young English woman that no one in the United States has arisen to dispute—namely the world’s champion small waist.

It is almost beyond belief that a woman of mature years could live and have her being with a waist measuring only 12 inches in circumference, yet a bit of tape a brief 12 inches in length is ample to go around the wasp waist of the English woman put forward as the woman with the smallest waist in the world. This woman is tall and of Junoesque proportions, but she wears an unstretchable metal waist belt just an even 12 inches in circumference. Incidentally, the pride of  her husband in her slenderness is reflected in the fact that he exercised his ingenuity in the invention of an unstretchable metal belt for his wife’s size.

Other slender women were produced by this London newspaper, originally to combat the claim of a Parisian woman [presumably Polaire] to the smallest waist in the world. One of them can wear 13-inch corsets, another can wear 13¾-inch corsets. The former is a young woman who ordinarily wears 15-inch corsets and shoes with 4½-inch heels and says she is none the worse for it. The latter is a married woman who has been a tight-lacer from girlhood.

From Vienna comes the story of a young waitress of a prominent café in that city whose waist was the envy of all Viennese women who desire extreme slenderness. One night before her marriage to a rich patron of the café, this young woman, to win a bet to prove her tenuity, removed her collar, measuring a trifle over 12½ inches around, clasped it about her waist and then tied her neck ribbon around it, to the astonishment of the assembled company.

Tight lacing has not recently been very much the vogue, but periodically it is the height of fashion to have a wasp waist. Most of the possessors of extremely small waists began lacing when they were extremely young—literally stunting themselves as far as waist dimensions were concerned. The reign of tight lacing is always brief, and of considerable intervals of time, because of the general crusade against it and because, too, women suffer altogether too much inconvenience and discomfort in attaining small waists in a hurry.

While it would seem to the uninitiated that tight lacers are physically unwell, tight lacers defend themselves and declare that they are not anemic and suffering. The medical profession is positive, however, that tight lacing is a curse to womanhood and most of the world accepts this position as reasonable.

Captions to Three Photos:

Left: A 12-inch Waist. Though this woman is tall and Junoesque in proportion, she wears a 12-inch metal waist belt invented by her husband.

Center: This young woman can wear a 13-inch corset with ease; ordinarily she wears a 15-inch corset and 4½-inch heel shoes.

Right: A 13¾-inch Waist. This woman has been a tight-lacer since girlhood and can wear a 13¾-inch corset easily.

Peter M.:

"I thought you might like to see this article and subsequent correspondence that I have transcribed from a Welsh newspaper that
was published in 1894.  I obtained images of the originals from the
British Library 19th century newspapers site.

"While the original article is clearly corset related, the correspondence does wander off into a discussion about domestic discipline.  Certainly makes interesting reading!"

[All letters deal with FemDom and address the question, "Should husbands be punished?"]



From the eBook "The Gallery of Byron Beauties: Ideal pictures of the principal female
characters in Lord Byron's poems“ publisher New York, D. Appleton and company.

From Jürgen


Stephen K.:

From The Saint Paul Globe of Saint Paul, Minnesota, 8th May 1886

SPEAKING OF INTRICACIES of corsage the variations of fashion in the matter of lacing, buttoning or hook-and-eyeing that part of our raiment, and the shifting of the opening from front to rear, or from side to side, are enough to puzzle the wearer; and I take it as proof that girls generally go home from ball or supper sober when they are able to find their way out of their dress-waists without a diagram. There was a very wise physician at a reception the other night, and his own wife fainted in an ante-room. He guessed that she was too tightly laced, and he determined to ease her up. Her waist was one of those complicated constructions of assorted materials, and involved devices that are fashionable now. Well, the doctor imagined that he could let it loose without any trouble, He confidently began to unlace a ribbon that criss-crossed the vest in front. "1 don't think that will do it, doctor," I mildly interposed. But he gave a look as much as to say that he ought to know how the companion of his matrimony was hitched together, and I said no more, but of course he found, when the lacing was all undone, that the garment was as snug as ever. Then he observed a row of buttons, enormous in size and beautiful in decoration, extending from one shoulder across her bust to the opposite hip. These he tried to remove from the button holes that didn't exist. Next, took out a knife and deliberately cut them off, one after another. Still the waist was as tight and smooth as her skin. "I give it up, Clara Belle," he said, turning in despair to me. "Please help me." I showed him the concealed hooks and eyes that held the corsage together; but she came to just then, and I left them together to settle the question of spoiled buttons as best they could.

Jürgen sends these pages from a German language book entitled "Die Französische Revolution"

At left,  Marie Antoinette ("I wonder if (she) really had such a tiny waist????? A nice drawing though.")
Right: Princess
Lamballe (a lady in waiting)


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Formatting assistance by Roger K.