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!).

front       rear

Mid-eighteenth century

"Long" Victorian

Fashion from Antiquity -- Minoan Corsetted Figure

Minoan "snake priestess", c.1700BC. The Minoan civilisation is the first in history known to have practised artificial restriction of the waist to improve the figure. The famous "bull-leaping" fresco at Knossos shows both men and women wearing only kilts with very small waists: There also survive a small number of statues of female figures with apparently corseted bodices, wasp waists, and long flounced skirts. This mysterious early appearance of corseted clothes and hourglass figures, three thousand years before they appeared again in Europe, has never been satisfactorily explained.  (contributed by "Stephen")

2 views - 1880s French long "Victorian" 

(contributed by "Michael")

What appears to be an example of the corsetting of small boys for medical correction

Edwardian representation

Victorian Spoonbusks




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 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.






(right) A good photo representation of the 'Gibson Girl,' the idealized American girl of the 1890s, as pictured by artist illustrator Charles Dana Gibson - this example sent by Harald W.

Below is a generalized drawing of the corset


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.






Understructure of
 a 1906 ribbon corset






A decent example of a ribbon corset

From The Delineator, August, 1901

Another actual vintage example, worn by a present day model, courtesy 'LatexHer':




A charming intimate photo

What a picture!  We are particularly impressed with the perineal strap*
on the lady on the left, next to the standing desk 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




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

Another such








Era maternity corset





Pregnancy/nursing corset
from the late 1800s



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

(above) Maternity corsets - enlargeable

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."


Click illustration
for full display


Above, a tightly-laced unidentified aficionada (these appear not to be altered):



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."

Click picture to enlarge  

Text               Another perspective





Le Rayonnant Nouveau Corset (1902)




(BELOW) Spirella Corsets - 1913 (click to enlarge)

"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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