LISA's Lacings of History - Tidbits

An excerpt from the book,
Adorned in  Dreams
  From Old Mail-Order Catalogues: The Long-term Effects of Early Corsetting - Academic brief  by Helen Stern. M.D.
A Brief Outline of the History of Women's Corsets  1791-1970   The Importance of Correct Corseting - Article from The Modern Priscilla (1911)
A Century of Corsets - Adapted  from "Lingerie – A History   and  Celebration Of Silks, Satins, Laces, Linens, and Other      Bare Essentials," by Catherine Bardey       

A short article, adapted from 'Lingerie, A Lexicon of Style'
by Catherine Cox

Corset Comments, 1868 – 1910   Wasp Waists - A Study of Tight-lacing in the Victorian Era Academic brief by Peter Martin
Corsets: A Bit of Debunking (Edward Shorter)   Society, Physicians and the Corset  (1979)              
Academic brief
by Gerhart S. Schwarz, M.D.
Debunking Corsetry’s Negative Image - Adapted from an article by Pandora Gorey        Waist Compression in the Aegean Late Bronze Age -       
Theses by  John G. Younger
Excerpts from the book Devon-Within Living  Memory      

Jörg has provided the text of The Corset Question in pdf format. (Alternatively, use "Save target as...")
A selection of correspondence from The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine (1867-1872) on tightlacing and figure training, with pictures.

Jörg has also made available the pdf version of Part One of a seminal fetish magazine:

Bizarre Nostalgia

Those of you whom have never seen this will find it quite fascinating!

In Norfolk, Virginia, at one time, a woman couldn't go out without wearing a corset. (There WAS a civil-service job -- for men only -- called a "corset inspector.")

However, in Merryville, Missouri, women were prohibited from wearing corsets because "the privilege of admiring the curvaceous, unencumbered body of a young woman should not be denied to the normal, red-blooded American male."

Only in America!

The New York Times,
September 16, 1907

"Tiny Waist Craze Seizes on London - Revival of the Fashion of Tightlacing and 16-Inch Corsets"

The Psychology of the Corset

From The Rewards of Taste, and Other Essays
by Dr. Norman Bridge (1902)

Posture and Foundation Garments, 1958


An article from The Evening World, 9 March 1894 (OCR)


Bridgeport Girls Furnish Shapes for All America. Sixteen Hundred Figures Available in One Factory.
Four Firms Turn Out Nineteen Hundred Dozen Corsets a Day.

An extract from the (non-fictional) book, A Trip to Manitoba, by Mary Fitzgibbon (1880):

"I cannot leave Duluth without speaking of the "girls" in the hotel, as they were called, in order not to wound the  sensitive democracy of the Yankee nature, which abhors the name of servant. There were three in the great
dining-saloon, whose superabundance of empty chairs and tables gave even greater dreariness to the house than its long, empty corridors. Pretty fair girls they were, neat in dress, but so tightly laced that it was painful to
look at them. Their slow, stiff, automatic movements were suggestive of machinery, and in keeping with the sleepy spell cast over the town. All the lithe, living gracefulness of their figures was destroyed for the sake of
drawing in an inch or two of belt."

Derek P. provides a curious take on our subject:

"Metro is a free newspaper, distributed at underground (subway) stations in the London area.  The Thames Tunnel is said to be the first underwater road tunnel of modern times, although today used by the underground railway.  Note in paragraph seven, that we are invited to 'admire the elegant curves' (of the tunnel), and 'to finish off the evening in style'.  Sorry about the quality of the picture – the newsprint scanned poorly, so I had to use a photo "

Corset Saves Life of Southern Oregon Woman in 1906

By 1906, doctors were warning women about the liver-mashing hazards of tight corsets.  Trend-setting models in Paris began calling them
"instruments of torture" and promoted the "bouncing health" of a woman's unconfined body. Alternative undergarments and cures soon arrived.

There’s disagreement just how dangerous corsets really were, and in at least one case in Josephine County, Ore., a corset saved a woman's life. 

In June of 1910, a Hugo woman discovered on her early morning walk with her dog that her rigid undergarment could double as a bullet-proof vest.  The Rogue River Courier reported that
Mrs. W.H. Henry and two friends were headed to a cherry orchard when they were startled by gunfire. Mrs. Henry felt a thud and a slight burning sensation across her abdomen.  The women
quickly discovered that a young man with a 38-caliber cap-and-ball revolver had shot Mrs. Henry accidentally when firing at her dog. 

Mrs. Henry wasn't seriously hurt, but her daughters insisted she seek medical attention.  Her doctor told her if it had not been for the peculiar circumstance of the ball striking a steel stay in
her corset, it would have passed directly through her abdomen and undoubtedly caused death.

Sources: "Corset saves life in peculiar manner." Rogue River Courier 24 June 1910 [Grants Pass Oregon] : 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Web. 18 Jan. 2016.
"Paris beauties give
up corsets." The Sunday Oregonian 19 Aug. 1906 [Portland Oregon] : 2. Historic Oregon Newspapers. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.



A short anti-fashion piece:

...from Sex Slavery (1890), by Voltairine de Cleyre (1866-1912)

Look how the ideal of beauty has been marred by this obscenity notion.

Divest yourselves of prejudice for once. Look at some fashion-slaved woman, her waist surrounded by a high-board fence called a corset, her shoulders and hips angular from the pressure above and below, her feet narrowest where they should be widest, the body fettered by her everlasting prison skirt, her hair fastened tight enough to make her head ache and surmounted by a thing of neither sense nor beauty, called a hat, ten to one a hump upon her back like a dromedary, – look at her, and then imagine such a thing as that carved in marble! Fancy a  statue in Fairmount Park with a corset and bustle on. Picture to yourselves the image of the equestrienne. We are permitted to ride,  providing we sit in a position ruinous to the horse; providing we wear a riding- habit long enough to hide the obscene human foot, weighed down by ten pounds of gravel to cheat the wind in its free blowing, so running the risk of disabling ourselves completely should accident  throw us from the saddle. Think how we swim! We must even wear clothing in the water, and run the gauntlet of derision, if we dare  battle in  the surf minus stockings! Imagine a fish trying to make headway with a water-soaked flannel garment upon it. Nor are you yet content. The vile standard of obscenity even kills the little babies with clothes. The human race is murdered, horribly, "in the name of" Dress.

ED:  Not sure what the author refers to by a "hump upon her back..."

Response from Roger K.: "Probably that refers to what used to be called a 'dowager's hump,' which is the result of aging  (shrinking + osteoporosis). Probably that was blamed routinely on the corset, like all other ills that predominantly affected women in the age when corsets were universally worn. Thus the author didn't need to spell out that it was fashion's fault. "Incidentally, older women often wore corsets with shoulder straps to counteract the slouched-forward posture that made this hump noticeable."

Response from Charles S.: "A 'humped back' seems to have been a recognised effect of a badly fitted and/or over-tight corset in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. I've seen references to it in other articles from the period, and it is even mentioned on LISA in the article The Specialist Corsetière´s Advice, and also in Gallery 32."



A scholarly and very interesting treatise:
Victorian Silhouette & Fashion Explained"

We were particularly intrigued by her discussion of sleeves (R)
(1895  Kerry Taylor Auctions; 1890 Sleeve Supports The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The extract at left shows what used be termed a 'handsome' lady


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