Family Doctor - 1


(Selected from the Wikimedia site at


 In the case of a girl, her hands should always be tightly gloved in strong kid, and her shoulders firmly strapped back by braces in order to flatten the back. The compression of her waist should commence at fourteen, as if begun young no ill consequences will ensue from even the strictest figure training.

Can any reader tell me where the books on figure training, mentioned some time since by a correspondent, can be obtained, or any others on the same subject?


Kensington, W., August 13, 1889


SIR,-I can quite endorse the opinion of several of your correspondents advocating corset discipline in the management of refractory children. A lady friend of mine has two daughters aged fifteen and sixteen with whom it has proved a complete success. They are both members of the tennis club to which I belong, and used to be much remarked by their rough behaviour, as they played more like school­boys than young ladies. Their mother was advised to make them wear their stays while they played, instead of leaving them off, as they usually did; but she did more than this, by having them fitted with very long, heavily-boned stays, with stiff, broad busks, which, of course, quite prevented stooping, besides being very uncomfortable. They were laced very tightly when they next appeared, and I never saw girls so much improved, for they were now well behaved young ladies. Their figures were slim­waisted, and the lacing was so effective that, playing or sitting, they were obliged to keep erect. Their hands were encased in long, well-fitting kid gloves, which they were not allowed to remove. They now played a quiet, lady-like game, and looked very pretty and graceful, being laced so tightly that ungainly movements were impossible. Their mother says she finds this means of restraint is very beneficial, as it enforces patience and submission. When there is any need for punishing either of them, it is easily done by tightening the culprit's lace so as to entail an extra degree of discomfort as discipline, as well as improving her figure and carriage. These girls never know now what it is to be without constant pressure and restraint, for at night their already slender waists on being released from their day corsets are immediately enclosed in others having flexible busks and laced in an inch smaller than before. Their hands are kept constantly gloved both day and night in very tight kid, and fastened by bracelets to prevent them being removed, and are becoming beautifully white in consequence.



SIR,--I hope you will kindly allow me space in your valuable journal to answer the question your correspondent, "Raymond," asks me in his letter on "Corset Discipline" in your issue of November 30. My wife was no exception to the general rule of brides being nervous at their wedding, so she was afraid of being too tightly laced. Her waist measured nineteen inches, and it was with great difficulty that her dress was made to meet. She had eighteen-inch C.B. corsets of the very best quality, large in the bust, and very fully boned. Her figure was greatly admired for its elegance. She was married in her travelling dress of a kind of buff cloth with thick ivory silk facings and pleats, and wove strap shoes of buff kid to match. They had heels of four inches and a quarter only, three inches being on the outside. The soles were rather narrow, and the toes pointed, but not very sharply so, and were very tight and shapely. As the time was the early part of June these dainty shoes were not changed after the ceremony, but worn till the evening, when they were changed for still higher heeled chaussure.

I am glad to find "Raymond" admires a tightly­laced waist, and is not afraid to say so. It has a grace of form one never gets in a looser one, however small the waist may naturally be. If a correct census of opinion could be taken, I think it would be found that among women as well as men the great majority would be of the same opinion. And the same with high heels. But women are afraid to say so, as they are of all arts for improving upon nature; even those who practise them will not admit it. It was only when chignons became universal and of an impossible size that their falseness was admitted. So only when tight lacing becomes universal among ladies, as it seems very likely soon to be, and the size of the waist becomes always quite unnaturally small, shall we have ladies talking-about it with candour--"a consummation devoutly to be wished."—I am, Sir, yours, faithfully,

"SCIENCE AND ART." to "Raymond";

Kensington. Dec. It 1889.



SIR -I have seen several numbers of your interesting paper, and have read the various letters upon the above subject, and thinking that my own and sisters' experiences might perhaps be of service to your numerous readers, I write you this letter.

I may as well state that I am the eldest (twenty-three) of four sisters, and they have been subjected, at first unwillingly, to the most elaborate process of figure training. My three sisters are aged about twenty, eighteen, and fifteen respectively.

My mother is a most firm believer in the virtues of tightly-laced corsets, and says that no girl who intends having a figure ought to remain without well-made corsets after the age of twelve.

I will write of my own experience first. I am, as I have said, twenty-three years of age, tall, and naturally slender--height 5 feet 7 1/4 inches, waist 16 inches, bust 34 1/4 inches, hips 35½ inches. You will see by these that my hips and bust are both well developed, and my waist, which is round and beautifully tapering. All four of us wear French corsets, which are always better cut, I fancy, than English ones, and last longer. My mother's four principal rules were--

1.     Half an inch per month reduction when practicable.

2.     Never to wear corsets that have begun to lose their shape.

3.     To have corsets well and firmly boned at waist and hips, lightly boned bosoms, and these latter gored, even for young girls, as it aids the early development of bust. The corsets should be low in front, but high in backs.

4.     To have as little underclothing as is consistent with warmth and health, and what is worn to be thin and well fitting.

We have always had these rules strictly enforced, and with the addition of high-heeled boots coming midway to the knee; the result has been that both I and my sisters have small, well-formed feet and trim, slender waists. I give for your readers' information the accurate measurements of my three sisters:--

Edith, age twenty, waist 15 inches, bust 32 inches, hips 34½ inches, height 5 feet 5 1/4 inches.

May, age eighteen, waist generally 14 1/4 inches, bust 33½ inches, hips 35 1/4, height 5 feet 6 inches.

Rosetta, age fifteen years three months, waist (now) 16 3/4 inches, bust 31 Inches, hips 31 3/4 inches, height 5 feet 2 inches.

I myself wore stays when eight years old, but they were only very slightly boned, and were Intended more to restrain my figure than to compress it. At twelve my figure was very good for a young girl, my waist measuring 21 inches. Soon afterwards I was laced into a shapely, well-boned corset of 18 inches, but only drawn in to 20 inches, so that I hardly felt any discomfort, except from the steel busk. I was pulled in half an inch at a time till the corsets met without difficulty from top to bottom. I wore these stays and others of the same size for a year, and never suffered from pain. All this time I was wearing short dresses, and mother said she should not reduce me till the summer came, when she should let me wear longer frocks and less underclothing. I was very proud of my trim little waist, and would have had it pulled in tighter.

In the summer my mother got still smaller stays, and my waist now (a quarter of an inch at a time) was gradually reduced to 16 inches, my longer dresses enabling me to discard drawers and all underclothing except one petticoat, wearing only a thin, close­fitting silk vest and a short muslin chemise. When my waist was only 16 inches, for a time I must confess to pain and indigestion; but these soon passed off, and, except that my appetite was small and my complexion somewhat paler, but good, I was as well as ever, and took a strange delight in my slender, well-laced figure. A few months later I went to a school, which, although not positively what might be termed a tight-lacing one, was one where tight stays were the rule, and not the exception. Girls were not forced to tight lace unless their parents wished it, and then a mother could rely on her orders being carried out to the letter.

My own mother wished me to he reduced as small as was possible, so I was pulled in little by little, without suffering "the agonies of pain" which several of your correspondents allude to, until I spanned but 15 inches at the end of my first term at that school. On my return home for the holidays my mother was delighted, and I was not a little proud of my slim waist. Of course I will not pretend that with so small a figure I suffered no pain or inconvenience; for after meals my stays often felt horribly tight, although my appetite was very small for a girl of my age. My hips were almost always numb and devoid of feeling, my carriage was naturally stiff and awkward, and my complexion colourless, but of a creamy, transparent pallor, which, as I have good features, is not altogether a disadvantage. As, however, any pain I suffered was very inconsiderable, and my waist was the talk of my friends and the envy of my girl acquaintances, I was quite ready, upon my return to school, to submit to further reduction. Fraction by fraction, and indeed almost imperceptibly, my waist was reduced until the minimum in point of size was reached, and for the last eighteen months of my school life I rejoiced in the distinction of a waist of 13 inches. Of course exercise, except of the gentlest description, when drawn in to such an extent was out of the question and the lady principal showed a wise discretion by insisting that all the very tightly-laced girls should at least once a week loosen their corsets till they only fitted their figures closely and not tightly. By this means the girl's health was undoubtedly saved, and I commend the practice to all those who admire a dainty waist and wish for good health. I, however, have walked as much as two or three miles when laced to 13 inches, but, of course, stooping was quite out of the question.

All the time (two years) that I was laced so exceedingly small, I never wore a scrap more underclothing than was absolutely necessary. In summer a fine­knitted silk vest, no drawers, one petticoat, and a thin chemise. In winter a warm, but thin, silk vest, chemise and tight-fitting riding drawers of chamois leather, buttoning closely on to the edge of my corset and one petticoat. I left school at seventeen, and for a year continued my smallest corsets, and then my mother said she thought my figure was sufficiently trained and I was allowed the comparative freedom of 16-inch stays, the size I wear now, except when I lace on special occasions to 15 Inches. These 16-inch corsets (after the extreme compression through which I have passed) allow of an elegant carriage, and all the freedom that a girl who values a good figure could desire. I have very good health, complexion beautifully clear. All my sisters have been treated in the same way, with the best results; even the youngest has a splendidly-developed bust for her age.

Here on the Riviera is a paradise of small waists; one sees dozens of women with well-laced figures and tiny waists. In most young and fashionable girls, above 18 inches is considered of medium size; there are a score or so in Mentone, Roccabrune, and Nice under, and I know quite half a score who measure less than 17 inches. I have seen quite children with well drawn-in rounded figures, and I know several girls under fifteen years of age with waists of 18 inches or less.

There are three girls, sisters, staying in this hotel, all three of whom have waists as small as my own, and, notwithstanding this, they are great walkers and dancers.

I hope the information contained in this letter may be of service to ladies desiring to improve their own or daughters' figures.

My mother will be pleased to recommend a girls' school in the South of England where, although tight lacing is not the rule, the figure is strictly attended to if the parents desire it.-- Yours &c , F. L. M.

Roccabrune, Jan. 24, 1889.



SIR.--While the correspondence is on, I should just like to ask one question. Would the ill effects of a reduction of a waist from 23 inches to 17 inches (outside the dress) be felt after having been laced for eighteen months?

We have two cases in our family. My elder sister, age twenty, had a waist, two years ago, of 23 inches, but in six months reduced herself to 16 inches, and has remained that size ever since. She has not had a day's illness during that time, beyond a cold in the head. She states, moreover, that the feeling caused by these tight stays is quite enjoyable--certainly not in the least painful. I have seen her play tennis for hours when laced in, and never seem exhausted. Her mode was to bee in about an inch per month, and as her mother did not object she frequently slept in them.

My other sister is two years younger, and is of a slighter build, and measures half an inch less at the waist.

They both wear high heels--about 3 inches---to their walking boots. Their dancing shoes are made with the same size heel, but to allow for an inside cork sock of 1 inch. A lady friend of my sister, who is companion to a titled lady, when on a visit to us, was wearing boots with 4-inch heels and an inside cork sock of half an inch. She says she finds it quite as easy to walk in these as in low ones, but would prefer to have them about 3 inches. She only wears them 4 inches because it is the wish of her mistress, who, by the way, is frequently laced-in to 14 inches. I am inclined to think, after what has come under my notice, that tight lacing and high heels, indulged in to a moderate extent, is not so harmful as some would have us believe.

I could mention four or five other cases of ladies in the same tennis club as I belong to who indulge in both, and are anything but invalids.

I enclose my card, and beg to subscribe myself,--

Yours truly, F. S.

Rainham, Essex, Jan. 24, 1889.



SIR,--During the past two years I have read with great interest the letters which have appeared almost weekly in your columns concerning dress and termed "rational" or "irrational," according to the point of view of the writer; some speaking in praise of the corset alike as to the beauty, or supposed beauty, of its effect, and to the pleasure its wearing affords--some, indeed, being carried away by enthusiasm on both these points: while other correspondents go equally far on the other side.

It has occurred to me that if those who have taken part, or who are interested, in these questions, whatever side they may take, were to organise a fancy costume ball, which might he confined to your readers and their friends, it would prove of great interest and a decided success. I doubt not that an excellent working committee could easily be formed among the gentlemen who have joined in the correspondence. Not residing in London, I could not assist, but I would make a long journey to be present.

Some correspondents have expressed doubts of the existence of the phenomenally slender figures described by several writers. Their presence at such an assembly as here suggested would be the best means of proving whether their possessors continue in good health or not, and whether such exceptionally slender figures were really beautiful and worthy of emulation or not.

It is needless to add that any who have taken an interest in the question of high heels v, low would also take part in the proposed assembly. I leave the suggesting of time and place to others.



SIR --Many of your correspondents on this subject seem to me to suffer pain and inconvenience from this practice merely because they either make too sudden a reduction in the size of their waist, or else carry it to such an extreme that it is bound to cause some injury. My wife five years ago began to lace herself, but not more than an inch per month. She is now sixteen inches, and has remained at that size ever since, notwithstanding that she has often been inclined to reduce herself still smaller, just for the delightful sensation caused by being tightened an inch smaller than usual. While she was undergoing the reduction, her practice was to sleep in stays an inch smaller than she wore during the day. Consequently, when they were let out in the morning they were, comparatively speaking, loose. If those who lace would follow this example, I firmly believe that tight lacing could be indulged in by any healthy girl without pain, and with a deal of pleasure. She has worn high heels (which the Rational Dress party also abuse) for eight or nine years--her walking boots with 2½-inch heels and her dancing shoes with 3-Inch. Notwithstanding, even when laced into a 16-inch corset, and wearing 3-inch heels, she is able to walk for twelve miles without being unduly tired. She is the mother of two children, and is in a perfect state of health, and says on no account would she forgo the pleasure of wearing her tight stays and high heels. -Yours sincerely, ALFRED CLARKE.

East Dulwich, Dec. 18, 1888.



SIR,--I have been much interested in the discussion which has taken place in your columns upon these two subjects, and should like, with your permission, to make a few remarks. Until I saw a copy of your valuable paper upon a bookstall I must confess that I knew little or nothing of the items which go to the making of a well-dressed woman. Of course, I knew in a dull, masculine way when my sisters or any other lady of my acquaintance were well dressed, but by what means this end was accomplished I did not endeavour to discover. My sisters' slender waists did not much excite my curiosity, not that I supposed them to be natural: but although I thought they looked more trim and chic than larger waisted girls, I did not trouble myself about the matter.

I bought a copy of your paper and showed them some of the letters, and also the illustrations on the front page of young ladies whose waists were certainly smaller than any I have seen. They seemed delighted with the pictures, and asked me to let them see the paper every week. I asked the eldest (Maude) whether she tight laced. "Hardly at all," she replied. "Why, my waist is 18 inches; half as big again as this girl's," pointing to one of the figures in your paper: "but I shall lace a little tighter now, shan't you, Belle?"

Belle, my youngest sister but one, who admitted to twitching her staylaces a little, and had a waist of 17 inches, said she should. My sisters, even the youngest (aged sixteen), have since "gone in" for waist nipping with not only my mother's sanction, but even approbation. They had stays made at one of the best corsetières, and pulled themselves in inch by inch until all three possessed waists of 16 inches.

They admitted suffering much pain, and they told me "the pinching sensation was at first perfectly horrible," but after few hours only a dull, numbed feeling came; and although their faces were very white and bloodless, and their thighs felt numb and dead, they did not faint or suffer any pain worth mentioning. Of course, their round, small waists, tapering figures, and full busts were much admired. They were none of them satisfied, however, and made up their minds for 15 inches, or perhaps a trifle less. Corsets of the requisite size were got and laced on, but after a fortnight's trial all, except my youngest sister, had to give them up. The agony of such compression was so intense that even she, slight though she was, had to give up lacing below 16 inches, as my mother got frightened at her constant headaches, loss of appetite, and giddiness.

My sisters seem to think that to lace below 16 inches (the size to which they now confine themselves) is impossible for any length of time--at least, to anyone but a girl whose waist has been systematically compressed from early childhood.



SIR,--Seeing you have not published any letters upon tight lacing since March 16, I thought I would send you a tabular summary of the correspondence upon the subject.

I may say that I have the whole correspondence, except, perhaps, three or four letters; but I do not think that these would materially affect the results of the table.

Number of letters from March 27, 1886, to February 23, 1889 ... 165

Number of writers on tightlacing

Ladies / Gents.

     In favour     45     49

     Against       32     25

     Neutral        5      9

Number of writers who have given tight lacing a full test:

FOR: L--45  G—-20;   AGAINST: L--7   G--1

Number of cases quoted or described where the size is given:

FOR: L--68  G—14;    AGAINST: L--34

Average size to which laced:

FOR: L--14  G—19;    AGAINST: L—14½in

Average size to which the anti-corset writers who gave personal experience had been laced to:

                     AGAINST: L--15 3/4in

The average size of the cases quoted by the tight lacers up to January 12, 1889 was 16 inches for ladies: but the subsequent letters described very extreme cases, and thus the average size was made smaller. It may, therefore, be fairly said that a size below 16 inches indicates either a very unusual degree of compression or great natural slimness; and this is borne out by the statistics of the corsets sold in six months, as published in the number for January 28, 1887, which gave 17½ as the average size of all the corsets sold under 20 inches waist measure.

The cases quoted by the anti-corset party include those mentioned by "Hygeia" in her letter of September 3, 1887, upon the training in English and Parisian schools.

In making out the table I was at once struck by the great discrepancy in the apparent practical knowledge of the actual feelings, &c., caused by well-fitting corsets, between the two parties, all the lady writers in favour of tight lacing having written from their own personal experience, while, on the other side, only seven out of the thirty-two lady writers had worn tight stays, and in every case they appear to have been laced below the average size.

It may he interesting to add that the relative proportions of the two parties, their mode of argument, and the percentage of serious injury to the health of the whole of the cases quoted are almost identical with the corresponding items in the controversy on the same subject in the public papers between 1860-70. --I remain, yours truly,

Leeds, May 10,1889. A MODERATE LACER.



The health of the girls at her school was excellent, and, notwithstanding her waist is still but 20 inches when corseted, although 27 inches would be nearer the mark when free, she has never had a moment's ill-health since I have known her.

I hope we may soon now have the promised further letter from "Carl," who deserves great credit for the care taken with his daughters.

When "Moderation" last wrote she told us she should be particularly careful to be well corseted and shoed on the occasion of her marriage. It would be very interesting now if her husband, "Science and Art," would tell us what was the size of her waist, and would accurately describe her "chasseur" both at the ceremony and for the going away. Could we also hear what are her views as to gloves?-- Yours. &c.,

RAYMOND. from R. D. B.



SIR,--As it is a long time since you kindly printed a letter from me in your valuable journal, I hope you will allow me again to appear in your correspondence columns, as I have some more personal experience on the above subject that may be interesting to your readers. But first let me protest against the cruelty that seems to have been practiced on some of your correspondents by their parents or guardians in order to give them elegant figures. As a rule real pain is quite unnecessary, and girls should never be forced to endure it against their will; but I think they should be encouraged to lace tightly, and only be made to lace closely.

Close lacing may be defined as lacing that is easy and gives no pain, and but little inconvenience. Tight lacing is not only difficult, but gives great inconvenience and often pain. Some people enjoy pain of certain kinds--burning the mouth with hot pepper or pickles is a common form with men, and tight lacing a frequent form with women. Of the two the latter is preferable, as it gives pleasure to so many others, while the former is merely selfish. Still, I am no advocate of tight lacing, though I would not find fault with others for doing it; but I think a sufficiently elegant figure can be obtained by close lacing, only It should be continuous. I know this by experience. I have occasionally laced very tightly when I wished to be particularly small, but I found if often painful, and letting oneself out afterwards undid much of the good to one's figure that the tight lacing had done. I, therefore, did what so many of your correspondents seem to have done, viz., sleep in stays. I find like "The Mother of Three Daughters" that it is best to have sleeping stays very flexible and cut low; all one desires is not to let the body expand. In this way I have reduced my waist to a very elegant shape, though not to the tiny size mentioned in your early numbers of last year of Bella and Mabel M., or Bertha G., "the child martyr," and many young ladies will be horrified when I say that I am 18 inches, and sometimes 19 inches, and yet I find myself smaller than most ladies I see. Many of your correspondents give the size of their stays as the size of their waists, and even talk of lacing into 15 inches in 15-inch stays. This is impossible, as 15-inch stays would not give a smaller waist than 16 inches. I once laced myself into 17 inches, but it required strong stays of only 15½ inches to do it.



SIR.-It is now about a year since you favoured me by inserting a letter upon the absorbing subject of tight lacing and high heels. Of the latter I shall have something to say in another letter if you will give me space in your columns. The former, after your article headed as above, is more on the tapis. Since last year I have had a much better opportunity of seeing the action of tight stays upon an average figure, for I have married one of your correspondents who, under the title of "Moderation," has written several letters that you have inserted in which she gave her opinion and personal experience.

I am myself an intense admirer of a tiny waist, and that it should be artificially produced by tight lacing only adds to its charm. Yet experience has shown me that great care is requisite even for quite moderate lacing, or injury will be done. The way it injures is simply through lowering the system and producing anĉmia. This itself brings many evils in its train, but indigestion is the most likely one when tight lacing is indulged in. If this becomes chronic it is a most difficult thing to cure. This was happening to my better half, and she had to let herself out from 19 to 22 inches, with the result that the anĉmia has disappeared, and the indigestion is almost well It was chiefly for the want of proper air and exercise that the anĉmia came on (all newly-married ladies are so enamoured of their first house it is difficult to get them out), but there is no doubt it was favoured by lacing even to that moderate tightness she was used to. But the cap was given to it all by trying to sleep in stays, that soon brought on irritation of the mucous membrane. Corset wearing at night may be all very well for young girls, but for women of twenty-nine, like my wife, it is somewhat risky.

There is no doubt than many girls and young women can well bear having their figures reduced permanently and yet remain perfectly healthy, but it must be carefully and scientifically done. A well-known society belle, who may be seen at most of the private views of picture galleries, has had her figure thus trained to 18 inches, and an exquisite shape, though she is very tall and fully formed. Yet she is always in the most robust health, is witty and vivacious; quite different to the sickly, stupid person the hygienic school would have us believe all tight-lacers are. Of course, this is a very different size to the 14 inches mentioned in your article as possessed by the young lady at the corsetieres. It would be most interesting if you could obtain a photo of this young lady, showing her waist at this size, and reproduce it as a block (with the face altered, of course) by the Meissenbach or some analogous process. I am sure there are many of your readers who would be most interested, never having, like myself, seen a waist so small in real life. The number would be sure to have an enormous sale if the pose made a pretty picture, Even without the numerous letters from your small-waisted correspondents, your article conclusively proves that tight lacing does exist, and when it does so without injury to the tight-laced I think it is a thing to be glad of.

We are so differently made that what is harmless and even beneficial for one is very injurious to another. All young ladies cannot tight lace, but a very large number can do so with impunity. However, like everything else, it must be done properly in order to succeed. The amount of reduction that can be effected varies greatly with the individual, but lies between 6 and 9 inches below Nature; seldom is it possible to be less. Some of the healthiest women I know, though they have not extreme tenuity, yet have beautiful figures, and a waist very much below their natural size. Everyone who has any pretensions to being well and fashionably dressed have waists reduced 3 or 4 inches, though often they do not know it themselves.

The civilised lives led by the "Upper Ten" do not require that they should work hard, and they generally have so much superfluous strength that they are often tempted to run into extravagances of life and action to use it up. In such cases the restraining influence of tight lacing is actually a boon, and at the same time it gives great pleasure to others to see it. In other cases, again, where the girl is weakly, to tight lace her would be positively wicked. It is well, however, that the drawbacks of tight lacing should be known, so that if it acts injuriously the symptoms may be recognised at once and the proper means taken to overcome and counteract them. Thus:--

1. It reduces the size of the stomach, thus weakening digestion. Hence care must be taken not to over­load the stomach; take nourishing and digestible food, the meals very regularly, and four times a day. Avoid heavy meals at night. The stays should be gradually loosed during undressing, not loosed suddenly. In cases of very tight lacing the lady will probably wake feeling hungry and faint, in the early morning at, say, 4 or 5 a. m. It is well to have a biscuit, sandwich, or sponge cake, with a glass of milk, by the bedside ready to take in such cases, as the reduced stomach is not able to take on board enough to last the twelve or fourteen hours between dinner and breakfast. Avoid stooping, and if the stays are made of a good shape, probably no evil at all will result if the above rules are adhered to.

2. It impedes the strong action of the heart, and

3. It prevents full respiration.

The above two may be taken together as producing anĉmia and a low state of vitality. To overcome this take plenty of fresh air and gentle exercise, avoid sudden or violent action, sleep with the window open, and be careful to avoid colds. Lawn tennis may be indulged in quietly, but tournaments should not be played, or anything that gives a pain in the chest or causes breathlessness. When illness is thus avoided, the reduced size of the waist will become after a time as second nature, and robust health may be enjoyed if the reduction has not been too great or too sudden. The individual will become, as it were, another person who is naturally slimmer.

I think, Mr. Editor, I have put the matter fairly, and shall feel much honoured by the appearance of this letter in your valuable journal. So much ignorance is shown as to the least injurious form of corset for reducing that I will send you another note presently showing the vicious and proper lines upon which they should be built.

Apologising for the length of this epistle, --I am, yours faithfully, SCIENCE AND ART.





"I shall be pleased, Madam, to give you any information I can, if you will kindly not mention our firm, as, you understand, the principals would not like it, nor our customers. I know two or three of the funny ones would be fancying I had told you heaps of things that I probably shan't."

With these preliminaries we plunged into the subject which someone recently stated to be one of "national importance." Our first interview was with the leading assistant of a firm not a hundred miles from Regent-street, whose slender figure and healthy looks must prove a good advertisement for the much-abused article which was lying around us in all shapes, colours, and sizes.

"Yes, undoubtedly tight lacing is on the increase. During the summer the loose blouse bodices rather hid the fact, but if our order-book and my experience of nine years is to be trusted, waists will be smaller than ever this season. Of course a lot of nonsense has been talked, and the correspondence in two papers (one a Society one), all of which I have read, has, as far as I can see, only led to smaller stays."

“What would you think, the average waist in the upper and rich middle classes?" "Well, I think for the upper class twenty-one to twenty-two inches, and for the rich middle-class perhaps a little less. No, not smaller. You know that is very small for the average; the natural waist would average 27-28 inches, so, you see all, or rather most, women pinch more or less."

"Oh, no! I'm not offended. My own waist is not quite seventeen, and I've laced a good deal smaller than that. I will call Miss J--, one of our assistants, before you go; you shall see hers."

"Do I think lacing hurtful? What a funny question to ask me; but I will answer honestly. No, not moderate lacing. I don't think there are many ladies, and certainly no young ones (except the very stout or very delicate) who could not keep their waists at eighteen or nineteen inches without trouble. Of course lacing to thirteen or fourteen inches is a different matter altogether." "Excuse me. Do you mean to say that such sizes as those are possible?"

"Oh, dear, yes! We have three young ladies, two are at school at Brompton, who have their corsets made with thirteen-inch waist measure, and I suppose we have eight or ten, more than half rich manufacturers' wives or daughters, who confine themselves to fourteen inches. They begin young: in fact, it is now quite usual for little girls of ten or eleven to wear real, stiffly-boned corsets like their elders in miniature. This pair is for the Hon. Mrs. D--'s little girl; she is twelve. They are just as carefully made--look at the stitching--as her mother's. They are nineteen inches in the waist." They were of satin, beautifully made, very stiffly whaleboned, and, except as to size, as my informant said, just like a grown woman's corset.

"There have," continued my informant, "been a great many letters published concerning tight lacing in schools. Where there are a lot of young ladies there is sure to be a little twitching of stay-laces, and, of course, where one begins there are sure to be some who follow. I think the statements have been very much exaggerated. We have a very large clientelle, especially amongst what are called 'finishing schools,' and I only know three or four where very tight·lacing is anything like general, and only one where the young ladies (of course with their parents' consent and wish) are encouraged in it, and that school is out Brompton-way." "We don't, as a rule, keep anything under seventeen inches in stock, and. as we make principally to order, we only keep the best French and Viennese styles ready-made. The corset you noticed in the window--the green satin one--is fifteen inches, and a sample of our own making. For a full figure I will call Miss J--."

Miss J-- soon made her appearance, and proved to be a tall, nice-looking young lady, rather, but by no means excessively, pale, and almost the first thing we noticed was her figure, which either in Queen Anne's time--when, if we can believe the prints and diarist, waists were often constricted to thirteen inches by the fashionable beauties of the day--or in the Victorian era, would serve for a model of slenderness and elegance according to fashionable tastes. Although measuring but fourteen inches, there was a suppleness about her waist that added much to her grace of figure.

"Oh! no, madame," she remarked, in reply to my query, "now I am used to it I really like tight lacing. Of course I was very uncomfortable, and stooping about much is impossible even now, without very considerable discomfort, but our business doesn't require it, I have been here in London five years now, and have worn my waist at its present size three years, and my health is as good as ever. “

"You don't think even very tight lacing injurious then?"

"No, certainly not, as far as my experience goes. Half the ill-health that is attributed to it--consumption, colds and such things--are, I am certain, more from the wearing of insufficient underclothing than tightly­laced corsets. What do you say, Miss S--?"

Miss S-- agreed.

"Of course, with a waist as small as mine one cannot wear a heap of thick underthings, they must fit well; and then you can wear quite sufficient, and have no need to go about, like some of our smallest-waisted clients, with next door to nothing on under their dresses." Miss S -- informed us that the smallest pair of corsets they had made lately were fourteen inches, and that there was undoubtedly a large and increasing sale of the sizes from sixteen inches up to nineteen inches. We took another look round; inspected some of the different and newest shapes, by means of which we women seek to charm, an admiring glance at Miss J ---'s slenderness as she returned to the mysteries of the inner room, and then after thanking Miss S -- for her kindness, started further west, to interview Madame E-- upon the engrossing subject.

Luckily madame was in, and "would see the lady in a few minutes."

The room was evidently one of Madame E--'s show rooms, and contained plenty to pass the time away. Besides numberless boxes containing articles of paramount interest to a feminine mind, dainty articles of under attire were displayed on chairs and tables, whilst numerous "dummies" displayed examples of the corsetière's art of all shapes and sizes. Our meditations were, however, cut short by the entrance of Madame E-- herself, whose elegant figure was in itself a speaking advertisement of her ability to--shall we say--improve upon nature.

Passing over the preliminaries, we were soon in the thick of the burning subject. Madame was very ready to give information, and although speaking with hardly any trace of accent, her flow of words immediately betrayed her as a Frenchwoman.

"Certainly," said she, in answer to our question, "the waist is smaller than it has been for years, and will be smaller still. When my customers begin tight lacing they seldom give it up until they have reached an elegant slenderness."

"Yes; I have a great many American clients. As a rule I don't fancy they lace tightly till they come to Europe and see the slender figures here. They are generally slight, seldom given to "embonpoint", and one can work wonders in a very little time with a slight figure."

"Do you make the very small sizes often?"

"I make a good many pairs in a year nineteen, eighteen, and seventeen inches--perhaps twenty or thirty pairs of sixteen and fifteen inches, very few smaller. Once now and again a pair like these (pointing to a pair of blue satin corsets which we had admired), and then never for an English lady. That pair was made for an Austrian Comtesse--ma foi, she had a figure superb, magnificent! I have never seen its equal. The Austrians know how to lace."

"You don't mean to say any woman ever wore a corset like that, Madame? Whatever size is the waist?"

"Truly, Madame, but I do! I have made her six pairs altogether, three when she was in London, and three have been sent to her since in Vienna. They are very small--one English foot round the waist--but they enlarge, stretch you call it, in wear at least one inch, although they have side steels, and are made so strong round the waist. Ma joi! the Comtesse had a figure if you like. Do I think small waists are ever likely to die out? Well, fashion changes, but not the love of a small middle. My Planche, and other costume books, show me small waists for centuries; as small, smaller, than we often see now, and never was it so easy and comfortable for a lady to obtain une belle taille un fine taille as now."

Madame glanced at her handiwork with a look of conscious pride, and readily gave us permission to make a sketch.

"Yes, I do think there is a good deal of corset wearing at night," she said in reply to our query, “mostly among young ladies. I make night corsets for several young ladies at school, but of course it is only the very tight lacers which do this. I fancy the practice is growing, though."

Our conversation was interrupted here by the entrance of one of Madame E—‘s assistants who announced a particular client, and our interview terminated. Madame expressing voluble regrets at having to cut the conversation short so abruptly.

At the other four places at which we called we were able to learn nothing new, but in every case the opinion seemed to be that waists were smaller, and that tight lacing was undoubtedly on the increase. At two places we saw corsets of fourteen inches, and were told also that there was a steadily increasing sale for the smaller sizes.

Apparently the Rational Dress Society has much yet to accomplish.

O. H. from O. H.


At sixteen or seventeen tight lacing may be begun, and stays worn night and day, if the waist is to be reduced extremely small; shoulder-straps should by this time have become unnecessary. Gloves should be frequently worn indoors as well as out, and narrow, very pointed-fingered gloves slept In habitually. Pointed, high-heeled shoes should always be worn so as to get thoroughly accustomed to them. The complexion should be carefully preserved from the sun, and kept white and smooth. I have heard of finger­nail corsets, also of girls sleeping in thimbles to make the fingers pointed and pretty, but have always found that sleeping in strong. narrow-fingered gloves keeps the hands small and the fingers taper. Extremely white, soft hands are acquired by constantly wearing gloves and rubbing with almond paste at night.

In conclusion, I should be glad to send my photograph to any address that would find "Carl," and should like to see one of his eldest girl (both to be returned), and I think he would find that my figure is as upright, well developed, and slender as his daughter's though I never had time to wear back­boards or any appliance than strong, very tightly-laced stays, and my waist is under 16 inches. We could both obliterate the faces of our photos.-- Yours truly, WELL TRAINED.

Brighton, September 27, 1889.


SIR,- The discussion which followed the reading of Mrs. C. Stopes' most interesting lecture on "Dress," at the closing meeting of the British Association, certainly seems to indicate that some of those people who are most ready to give to the public their opinions on these questions hold themselves one-sided and unfair views. Only two ladies, Miss Finlay and Miss Lydia Becker, had a word to say in excuse of the corsets which we all wear, and without which all but the slenderest of figures would appear unsightly. It is so often ignored that, while the natural waist cannot be improved upon in a nude statue, it often would not contrast sufficiently with the size of the bust to appear graceful when skirts, more or less bouffante, are draping the figure from the hips downwards.

But more especially unfair were the criticisms on crinolines. Nothing was said in favour of those ample garments which we wore--alas! 'tis now twenty years since. Now, in my own experience, the short, looped-up "balloon" skirt and coloured petticoat, coming no lower than the tops of the trim Balmoral boots, was by far the most comfortable walking dress which we modern ladies have ever had permission to wear, being both cool and light in summer, and warm in winter, while giving perfect freedom of action to the limbs beneath. By means of this fashion, whether for walking exercise, skating, or dancing, a young lady could retain the airiness and freedom of her childhood's short frocks, while adopting a length of dress decorous for her more mature years. As for appearances, let anyone look at a picture of our Princess of Wales surrounded by her eight bridesmaids: or recall to mind some fair young debutante of that epoch in all her billowy muslins, with many a snowy flounce and garland of flowers. Contrast with this the tight, dragging, "eel skin" dress and tie-backs of a later fashion so quite unsuitable for healthy exercise of any sort. In all these matters, of course, there are cons, as well as pro's, not the least important of which was that a silk dress took up fourteen yards of material. But still, why not have some fairness in discussing even the much-maligned crinoline?

Some of us may go yet farther, and agree (in whispers) that even the deadly high heels may have advantages! -I am, Sir, yours truly,

EX-QUEEN CRINOLINE. September 20, 18S9.



SIR,-Permit me through your excellent paper to make a few suggestions for the improvement of girls' dress. In dress reform there is more hope of success if no striking outward change is made. So it shall be with my proposals, which might be extended to ladies' dress. Lightness of weight, allowing free movement of the limbs, yet affording sufficient warmth, must be striven after.

There seems no reason why a girl's neck and arms should be so thinly clad; let, then, the chemise be high in the neck and long in the sleeves. Of course, the ordinary low-necked one could be worn with a low-necked dress. Petticoats, as heavy and cumbersome, should be abolished, and cloth knickerbockers, reaching almost to the knee, worn in their stead. These would be much lighter, and answer every purpose that the former answer. (l once saw two girls who had no petticoat, but, instead, black silk knickerbockers.) If it were desired to hide the knickerbockers, and certainly whenever greater elegance of dress is wanted, ordinary white drawers, reaching below the knee, might be worn over them. Then there would be a frock reaching far enough to cover the knickerbockers, but yet short enough to let the trimming of the white drawers peep out. For girls under ten, shoes and stockings would complete the costume. Girls at ten should be put into well­boned stays, which should be laced tightly enough to prevent stooping, and later on tightly enough to produce a waist of the desired size. For my part, I confess I like to see a well-grown girl with the slenderest of waists, nor should I object to English gentlemen lacing as tightly as are the Prussian officers, who are noted for their wasp waists. Of course, when desired, the frock could gradually become longer and longer.- Yours, &c ..



Their mother was very careful of their frocks ... their skirts reaching two or three inches below their knees, displayed ankles and legs encased in black docked stockings. Their figures were encased in regular, rather closely-laced corsets, which, as many people used to say, gave promise of very slim, tightly-laced figures. When they came out, their hands and complexions were always carefully protected from injury from the sun or air. I have heard many people say, and agree most sincerely, that the girls were as pretty a couple as one could see anywhere, the delicate combination of the dress of a young girl of thirteen or fourteen with the rather slender figures and confined waists and white and soft, but still girlish, hands and fair complexions of the sisters making them a very rare and lovely picture. Tight lacing for a young girl does not look nice, and is bad for her health; but at seventeen or eighteen, when more "grown up" dresses are usually worn, and the maid gets instructions to draw in all the slack of the long silk lace, then she will begin to take pride in her tight-fitting stays and improved appearance.

I remain, your always constant reader, YOUNG STAY WEARER.

Brunswick-place, Brighton, September 23.



 SIR--I think it a pity that the backboard should have so completely fallen into desuetude in this country as it has, for I think "Carl's" training of his daughters is quite the exception, and I do not know of any place of London where such a thing can be obtained. Perhaps "Carl" does, and could enlighten me, or would he lend me one of his for a day or two to have copied?

Abroad it still exists, as a young lady of my acquaintance, just returned from a first-class Belgian school tells me that a strong backboard was worn during class time by any girl who showed signs of round shoulders or stooping. Very strong and tightly-laced corsets were also the rule of the school, and they were drawn in an extra inch on Sundays, when they were allowed to receive visitors.

And what is a little discomfort to the advantages of a nice upright carriage, with flat back and full-developed chest and bust, so noticeable amongst girls whose figures have been properly trained? I know that, although not one of the fair sex, and no longer in my teens, I would willingly submit to the discomfort of both corset and backboard to be cured of my round shoulders and stooping habits, the cause of many a headache and indigestion, but it is not everyone who has the good fortune to have parents, or someone in loco parentis, with sufficient experience and good sense to look after these matters. -Yours truly,




SIR,--Like your correspondent " Science and Art," I am an ardent admirer of a very small waist, and I fully agree with him that the fact of its having to be produced by tight lacing only adds to its charm. Curiously enough, as a coincidence, exactly the same principle is enunciated in the letter in the same number from "Ringlock," who, speaking of earrings for ladies, and the opinion of some people that piercing the ears is barbarous, most happily observes that it is just this little bit of "barbarousness" which gives the earring its piquancy, considered apart from its gracefulness. This is emphatically true, and it is to this delightful piquancy that is due the perpetuation of certain modes, whilst others which are elegant only pass away as quickly as those which spring from some passing caprice. There is no more piquant charm than that of a fashionably-booted foot. A well made, dainty boot is exquisitely pretty, but had it this recommendation only the style would change incessantly, as it does now in certain particulars; whereas the high heel and narrow toe have a power which keeps their charm fresh from year to year, however much the ideas of Madame La Mode may vary as to material, colour, and so on. The stylish heel imparts an attractive poise to the foot which nothing can equal, whilst the narrow, roguish toe also is infinitely smart. It likewise is an element of smartness. Everyone knows how vastly superior is the witchery of a kid glove for being so tight that it seems like a skin that by some magic is prevented from contracting the least vestige of crease or wrinkle. And it is just the same with a pretty boot.

With a slovenly carriage, a thick waist, and bad boots and gloves the most expensive toilette may appear dowdy in the extreme; whilst a comparatively simple and cheap dress will look wonderfully smart upon a well-corseted figure, whose owner is well set-up, and who attends to the important details of dressing her hands and her feet in the nattiest manner.

Such being my view of dress, it, of course, follows naturally that I am a great advocate of giving girls the advantage of frequent drilling and dancing lessons, and of insisting upon every requirement of the instructor being met with accuracy and precision. Most girls require some standing in the stocks to make them turn out their feet equally, and also to accustom them to sit or stand without shuffling their feet about. An occasional movement is, of course, well enough and desirable, but constant shuffling and shifting must be rigorously put down. The backboard and collar should be used regularly to ensure a good carriage, the collar being sometimes used at a very high level indeed; and girls should be accustomed to perform their drill thus whenever required.

Although I have never been through any personal experiences of these things myself, I have had ample opportunities of observing their effects in the person of my wife, who had only just before our marriage (now five years ago) left, at the age of nineteen, a very strict finishing school, where all means were adopted, such as those I have referred to, for securing to the girls the most elegant and fashionable appearance possible. Every day there was either a dancing or a drilling lesson, and every day the backboard and collar were worn for at least an hour, and often for two or three hours. The stocks were the certain fate of any girl who had to be twice spoken to as to her feet. The corsets were, of course, of the best and stiffest, and laced extremely tight, and the chaussure and gloves always of the best and most fashionable. To improve the hands it was the invariable rule that every girl slept in her gloves, and also that she never went out of the house without them.

One rule, which was, no doubt, a severe one, certainly operated with great success. This was to invariably punish any girl who under any circumstances got her gloves or boots soiled and dirty. The result was that in time the girls acquired under this dispensation the power (commonly supposed to be the special property of Frenchwomen) of doing anything without getting glove or boot soiled in the least. To this day I often marvel after one of our long walks how it is that my wife has contrived to traverse any quantity of muddy pavement without getting a speck on either boot.



SIR,--Please allow me to offer a few remarks in reply to "Old Fashioned," who regretted, a couple of weeks ago, that the old-fashioned stocks and backboard had gone out of use as a means of imparting good carriage to the rising generation. Possibly my information may also be of interest to those of your readers who, like myself and good wife, believe that lounging habits are ungraceful and injurious.

My daughters wear regularly the old-fashioned implements of discipline, and, although their feelings have perhaps not been consulted, they by no means find their restraint a torture. There is a happy medium in the use of everything, and in this particular branch my wife, although exacting, is far from cruel.

Our eldest girl, aged nineteen, wears a backboard of very old pattern, originally made for her mother when at school in Bath. It consists of a flat plate of metal, somewhat pear-shaped, that extends from the nape of the neck downwards to the loins, and across from shoulder to shoulder--covering the back exactly, in fact, and hollowed to fit the figure snugly. This is strapped closely to the body by broad shoulder straps (comfortably padded, and arranged to buckle in the centre of the back out of the wearer's reach) and a broad leather waist-belt, also padded and buckled behind. The backplate is covered with blue leather, and when properly fixed is immovable upon the body, partially because the waist-belt is shaped to cover and closely embrace the hips. In the centre of the backplate is a small brass box somewhat like a watch, through which slides a vertical rod carrying at its upper end the "collar"--really the most useful part of the apparatus. Inside the brass box is a lock which fixes the vertical rod and collar at any desired height; and in front of the collar is another minute lock to prevent the chin being unlawfully released! All the locks and straps. I must say, have been renewed several times but the backboard and collar are just as my wife wore them, and their beautifully chased or engraved bright portions are still perfect.

My second daughter wears an appliance similar to this, with the addition of two hooks or padded crutches, which come from the back under her arm­pits, and have smaller shoulder straps to keep the arms in position therein. This, I feel sure, makes the elevation of the chest more complete, and avoids the slight chafing caused by shoulder straps passing under the armpits.

The backboard worn by our youngest daughter is similar to the last in pattern, but the back is of polished wood (easily renewed as she grows), and the staff and collar are screwed at a fixed height to the wood direct. This does not allow her the freedom at her desk that her elder sisters gain by having their collars lowered, but by the time she is ready to be fitted with the more graceful and permanent steel backboard, her fixed collar will have enforced that erect carriage of the head and neck that is so ample a repayment for the present discomfort.

The "stocks" are simply oblong boxes of polished wood, in which the two feet are placed heel to heel, and the toes turned outward. A lid then slides in from each end, having two half-round apertures to embrace the ankles. These lids have a lock at their point of contact in their centre which effectually prevents the withdrawal of the feet during the required period of discipline.

These appliances may sound very barbarous to those who favour the ungainly slouching habits far too common nowadays, but by their aid the following round of daily exercise has blessed me with three of the most graceful and, I will say with truth, healthy girls to be found in England. Their daily life is about as follows:-- On rising, each is strapped to her backboard, the youngest, of course, having her collar, and consequently her chin, at a very high level, the two elder having theirs only half high, but all, nevertheless, securely locked. After breakfast, at 8 a.m., the collars are raised to an equal height, and all, including their governess, have amusement in the garden, coming into the schoolroom about nine. Lessons proceed until luncheon, after which comes a period--about one and a half hours--of walking drill and calisthenics, in which is added to the ordinary backboard a long one reaching across the shoulders from wrist to wrist, and keeping the elbows well behind. After drill the three collars are removed entirely, and, with their backboards concealed by their ordinary dresses, all three girls go out to spend an afternoon in the park or upon the heath. For dinner the collars are again fixed, and we dine in happy fellowship, the girls afterwards standing in their stocks, with the collars elevated and the long backboards across their shoulders, for about two hours during the evening.

It may interest some of your readers to know that my wife is in the habit of using several other appliances, and of enforcing many, perhaps irksome, postures at drill with the ultimate object of perfection in view; but of these I shall be pleased to write if you can spare the space.

Concluding this lengthy letter, I may say that both pretty heels and small corsets count among her system of rewards. All our girls are confirmed wearers of night stays, in addition to what may be new to your readers--i.e., finger-nail corsets.--Believe me, Sir, yours truly, CARL.

P.S.--I shall be pleased to reply to inquirers through the FAMILY DOCTOR if you will permit, but do not desire private correspondence.

Camden Town, N.W. 1. to "P. V. S."; from Medicus P.

2. to "Old Fashioned"; from Carl


I have carried out much the same system with my stepson, as he was very unruly, so at fourteen I subjected him to the régime of the stay-lace, and confined him in a long, stiff corset, which I tightened periodically, but, of course, never removed. He soon ceased to rebel, and has become a submissive subject to corset discipline, which renders impossible all unseemly indulgence of lolling about. As his stays are not allowed to be loosened, he has to exercise great self-control at meal times, being naturally rather greedy, and is consequently much improved in health. He is now nearly sixteen, and wears a beautifully-moulded stiff corset 17 inches long,

from Finished Figure; from Old-Fashioned


… a steel busk to prevent stooping. It clasps his figure tightly for its entire length, and only allows his waist to measure 18 inches. Of course this entails a certain degree of discomfort, especially during the night, but it is only what many girls have to submit to while they are at school, with the addition of backboards and stocks, which effectually sacrifices all ease and freedom. This discomfort is the important part of corset discipline, and must always be maintained, especially with boys, by tightening their stays periodically, for when he is under the regime of the stay-lace, and his figure enclosed in stiff, unstretchable stays, he is easily made to submit to its being squeezed tighter and tighter, and by the irksome restraint which this entails he is constantly reminded that he is not his own master


Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, would, I am sure, derive great benefit by the judicious use of the corset, and were it more used for both sexes I doubt if there would be so much bodily suffering as there is at present.

Being tightly laced acts as a good disciplinarian, and prevents over-indulgence in both eating and drinking, which is the cause of so many of the ills that man is heir to. I think corset training at schools should be brought more into use both for girls and boys. Those who were difficult to manage and careless about their carriage could be put under a strict course of figure training; but due regard must be had to health in using this restraint. To be extra tightly laced would serve as a great punishment in cases of misconduct, and would prevent the pupil from taking part for the time being (at least, with any comfort) in the usual games and amusements. If stooping (which is one of the great causes of indigestion) is indulged in the pupil might with great advantage he obliged to wear a backboard or extra long busk during school hours.

This discipline would make the girl or boy subjected to it more tractable to the ladies having their management, as they could always threaten them if disobedient with a tightening of their already tight corsets to the extent of an inch or more for long or short periods. This threat would be quite sufficient, and they would feel that they were not their own masters in everything, and learn to bend their will to those placed over them. I think this system, if not carried to a ridiculous extreme, a more reasonable way of guiding the young than that ancient and barbarous custom advocated by so many of those who have written to your paper--I mean birching and flogging. I should make it very disagreeable for any master or mistress at any school who would punish my girl or boy in such a way. I am, however, happy to say that they do not require any severe measures being used, and my wife and 1 find that a kind word and a little reasoning is all that is required when they are disobedient.

The corset system of training has no danger under the care of a judicious and experienced lady, and who but a lady can give that gentle polish to the manner and bearing of both girls and boys?

--I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully, EXPERIMENTUM CRUCIS.

P.S.--Shall be glad to privately give any information I can to your readers. London, June 13,1889.



SIR,--The present tendency to luxury renders good discipline daily of more and more importance, and youths are in the nature of things even more liable to injury from unbridled license than are girls. For them, therefore, even more than for their sisters, a period of discipline is extremely valuable; and in the course of discipline both direct punishment and a certain amount of general curbing and restraint are most desirable. In this connection the compulsory wearing of stays at once suggests itself as equally beneficial to either sex. Of course, by stays I do not mean the absurd flimsy things one only too often notices, but good, strongly-boned, stiff-busked, firm corsets, producing an elegant, long-waisted, tapering figure, and rendering impossible all Indulgence in unseemly careless lolling about. The corset is the very type of good discipline, and to be thoroughly well corseted without reference to whether he will or no, is an excellent reminder to any lad, no matter how much impressed with his own importance, that he cannot have all his own way. The degree of tightness must vary, of course, in particular cases, but as a general rule it may be considered that in a moderate time any pupil, whether youth or girl, may be required to lace to two-thirds of the natural waist measures. Strict uniformity of lacing should, however, be avoided; every pupil having a corset for ordinary wear, and one for best an inch tighter and extra stiff. At least two days in the week there should be some active exercise without the corset, as by this means the natural figure is preserved and the effect of the corset made much more beneficial both as regards discipline and as regards appearance. Of course, however, the details of when relaxation is to be allowed and when extra restraint is to be applied, must be left to the unquestioned discretion of the powers that be.

I can quite well fancy some horrible screaming by some of the sentimental amongst your readers at the idea of compulsory "tight-lacing"; but it is the necessary sacrifice of a certain degree of ease and comfort, which is its special merit so far as discipline is concerned, and for which it is deliberately chosen. In the same way use may be made of long kid gloves of delicate tints, which are required to be kept fresh and unsoiled; and so also with thin kid boots with very high heels tapering to an extremely small base. Both gloves and boots should, of course, be the very tightest fit. It is wonderful how neat the feet and hands can thus be made to appear, and I cannot blame a lady for smartening up her charges in this way, even it were only for her preference as a matter of dressiness, to having them about her in freedom roughness, and all the glory of independent rudeness. Many Austrian ladies, indeed, do have pages of gentle birth, whom they take solely for the gratification of their own vanity in having such smart attendants, and with whom they are extremely strict; the pages being thus put out by their friends on purpose to have the benefit of the discipline; which, if the lady happens to be quick tempered, is at times very sharp indeed, as I have the best of reasons to recollect, having for two years been in attendance upon an extremely pretty girl of about three and twenty, a most capricious martinet.

As to the best persons to administer discipline I have not a moment's hesitation in giving my voice in favour of the fair sex. It is quite a different thing for a lad to cower under the bullying of some burly pedagogue, and for him to be sharply disciplined by one whose reliance is not upon physical strength, but upon the privilege of her sex. In the one case it is a mere keeping down by sheer might; in the other the pupil is learning to yield and bend his will not to power but to duty.

I know it is often said, as if it were something very wonderful indeed, that a young lady set In authority over pupils of the opposite sex, perhaps only a few years her juniors, and knowing herself free from the possibility of retaliation, is apt to become tyrannical. It is quite true, and the discipline is so much the better so far as the pupils are concerned, so they have no cause to complain. With regard to the lady, it should be remembered that It IS one of the privileges of a pretty woman to be tyrannical: and I do not see why a pretty woman should not avail herself of her privileges just as well as anyone else.

From fifteen to sixteen and a half I was at a very strict discipline school. Thence I passed under the gentle dominion of the young lady I have already mentioned. I daresay if there had been anyone to tell me I was cruelly used I should have been thoroughly miserable, but as there was not I was perfectly happy, and not a little vain of the elegant appearance I made In the smart dresses I was required to wear. I do not pretend that I liked pain any better than other people, though I had extremely good opportunities of judging what a small hand can do, either in the way of administering ringing slaps upon one's cheeks, or applying a riding whip in any available place, whether hands or feet, or arms or legs, and can pronounce silk tights to be a most inefficient protection against a jockey's whip handled by an angry woman. But the prettiness and piquant soupcon of vanity of my young patroness rendered it impossible to bear malice towards her even when most exacting. So I was perfectly happy, and I am perfectly certain that the sharp discipline I underwent did me an immense deal of good.

May I just say another word or two in answer to Borne questions that have appeared in your paper?

First, as to the odious habit of biting the nails. This is most disgusting in either sex, and must be stopped however severe the means that have to be employed. I remember a young lady who, after numerous devices had been tried in vain, was at length cured by being made to wear gloves with needles sewn into the fingertips. To prevent her taking these off she had metal bracelets, which tightly clasped her wrists and fastened with springs that could only be undone with a key which was kept by her maid.

I have seen a similar device applied to the ankles of a young lady who insisted upon taking off in the house the very tight boots which her mother required her to wear.

The best cure for anyone who will unlace a corset is to take a little piece of strong, thin chain and fasten it just loosely round the corset waist with a little padlock. There is no discomfort, and the pupil, so long as he or she submits, need not even know the guard is on, so far as feeling it goes. But let the adventurous spirit cut the lace, and a very different tale is told. I have never known anyone repeat the experiment. I tried it once in early days, and found that quite enough. I cut the lace early in the afternoon, and I shall never forget the tender weal I wore for days after, for the key was not brought to my assistance until bedtime.

To cure a habit of stooping whilst sitting, there should be an extra stiff busk, a good deal curved in at the bottom, inserted after the corset is laced on. If the head is persistently stooped also, a woolen ball may be fastened under the chin, having a darning needle fixed in its centre. Before I was taken in hand I stooped and slouched in a way that made my step­mother almost ashamed to let me walk with her, and I can vouch for the method of cure I have described being most efficacious. - I am, Sir, your obedient servant.




SIR,--I have long thought that what is called "Figure-Training" may be utilised in a direction little known in this country, though perfectly understood in France and Austria. Recent facts which have come to my knowledge have confirmed this view, and shown me that the most potent of all known methods of dealing with the "bumptiousness" of modern youth is absolutely neglected here through ignorance of its practical value. At the same time, no doubt the virulence of the self-styled "Hygienic" party is still an obstacle so great as almost to preclude parents and guardians from assisting their other efforts for the good of their children by the utilisation of the corset.

The correspondence in your journal has conclusively shown that (under proper supervision, and in the hands of reasonable people) no harm of a physical nature results; whilst great moral improvement undoubtedly follows when a proper system of mental training is connected therewith. Of course it is not contended that well-behaved children need, or would be benefited by any kind of special discipline, but the class that does need it is daily increasing, and ought to be considered as requiring as distinct a method of education from ordinary children as those who amongst the poorer classes are confined in what are called "reformatories." The benefits, however, of the latter institutions are restricted exclusively to the poor, whilst the children of the upper classes often stand quite as much in need of special supervision as any that are placed therein. Under these circumstances a few schools have been established in England for special discipline, but so little are they in harmony with the modern notion that parents are to give way to children on all points, that they dare not even publish their addresses, and up to the present time I am actually unacquainted with a single proprietor, although I know of some localities where schools exist, in which the corset-discipline is practised. When we speak of discipline we must remember that tightness is a question of measurement and degree, and that what one understands by the term is different from that intended by another. But I believe the schools in question advocate and maintain the use of an actual amount of uncomfortable pressure as a means of restraint, and as an evidence of submission, as well as an excellent means of improving the carriage and promoting elegance of appearance. It is quite natural that those who know nothing of the beneficial results thus produced, should regard this as a mere "fad," or possibly as an anachronism, deserving of the severest condemnation.

At first sight it must appear unaccountable that moral good could be attained by eccentricity of costume or restriction of what are, in ordinary cases, justly regarded as wholesome activities. But on further inquiry I find that the method pursued has some advantages, not only for girls, but also for boys who have evinced an overbearing and intractable disposition. For it is found that the restriction above­mentioned renders it easier for ladies to take the government into their own hands without the assistance of masters, and as they alone can carry out a system of domestic supervision in all its details, this gives the schools in question an advantage otherwise absolutely unattainable.

Of course the mere wearing of stays (however sedative, both from a mental and physical point of view) is only one element of the system pursued, but it is properly made the basis of all, as without it the other details would insensibly be got rid of, and the school revert to the ordinary type.

It would be too much to expect that the conventional pedagogue should look upon such a method of moral training without hatred and contempt. He despises that which he does not understand, and declaims about the primary necessity of making boys “manly." True, manliness is good if it can be combined with other good qualities, but practically we often find that it is this premature notion of being “manly" before the proper time, that is at the bottom of half the misconduct of children who are running in the broad way that leadeth to destruction. When the notion is further encouraged by foolish mothers and selfish so-called "friends of the family," a condition of awful depravity is often established, where different circumstances would have produced opposite results. When the proper time comes, in the judgment of the boys' natural guardians, then a totally different physical method ought, in some cases, to be pursued, but not until obedience, respectfulness, and a habit of deferring to the judgment of older persons is fully established. In this way boys get the right kind of start in life, and are, in almost every respect, better situated as regards their own future, whilst the homes which their misconduct has disgraced and degraded may become again examples of punctuality, politeness, and orderly Christian behaviour.- I am, &c .•


London, 6th April, 1889.



SIR,-I think your correspondent Mr. Pratt will have to go further back in the page of history than the time of Francis I of France in order to find the origin of tight corsets, or even of the all-potent busk, which he so much objects to. A reference to your back numbers will settle this point; but I am not quite clear as to the fact of wearing stays constituting a man "an effeminate dandy." The example which he has chosen is singularly unfortunate. Bulwer Lytton was a fine all-round specimen of humanity, whether he wore stays or not; and if he ever could have had occasion to try conclusions with "dear, dirty Tennyson," I am not at all sure that he would have got the worst of it. As well might your correspondent sneer at Shakespeare or Julius Cĉsar because they chose to wear earrings, and merely because in England it has ceased to be a national custom.

As for the supposed cruelty of subjecting children to the discipline of the corset, in the hands of proper persons it is the mildest and most easily graduated means of reformation ever introduced, and may well replace the present hypocritical and ineffectual systems.--I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


Queen Victoria-street, London, E C.,

Oct. 9, 1889.


SIR,--As a medical man I must utter my protest against the compulsory wearing of stays as a discipline for young people of either sex.

I am sure tight lacing must be bad for a growing boy's health. At the same time the theory is an admirable one, and with certain modifications, a most wholesome regime for a rough, conceited lad who should be made to feel that he cannot do as he likes.

Now I venture to affirm that what I may term glove-discipline provides a sufficiently irksome and restraining power for a disobedient lad, and for the time will prevent him running riot and using his boisterous powers in unmannerly ways.

Permit me to describe a part of my school routine which I went through some years ago at a very strict establishment.

The principal was assisted by his daughter, a young lady who, when I went, had not long left a finishing school in Paris. If we incurred her wrath she often ordered us to have a spell of discipline gloves. We then had to wear a tunic with the sleeves cut away at the elbows, giving room for a pair of twelve-buttoned tight pale kid gloves to be exposed to view.

The gloves fitted us perfectly, and were carefully cleaned before we put them on. We were obliged to keep them free from the least vestige of a stain, and this could only be done by sitting or standing quiet, or reading some book which was scrupulously clean.

The top buttons were tied with thin ribbon, and the knot sealed with a little wax, and stamped with the crest of our pretty tyrant. Woe betide the unhappy delinquent who did not keep the wax intact. If when we went to her boudoir for inspection she found we had soiled the kid, dire results overtook the culprit, for he had to hold out his palms to be slashed by a long birch rod consisting of three thin shoots bound together at the end with a piece of white kid to prevent her exquisitely delicate soft white fingers suffering any inconvenience from the friction during the energetic exercise.

As a boy of eighteen I have begged my smiling executioner for mercy, as the pain was most severe. I can vouch for the success of the glove discipline, and I am confident it is far safer than the punishment of the corset.

We dreaded it, as it put a stop to our freedom for the time, and we were in fear of soiling the kid.

As a substitute and a useful one for the dangerous stays, I recommend for rude and rough lads the discipline of the gloves. I should be much obliged if you can insert this.  --Yours. &c., P. V. S.


SIR,--I think your medical correspondent, "P.V.S." would somewhat modify the opinion he has expressed respecting the "injurious" effects of corset-wearing on growing boys, if he looks at the question from a different point of view. The class of persons dealt with are, ex hypothesi, belonging to the upper ranks of society, and do not need to earn their bread by manual labour. The cultivation of athletics cannot, therefore, be put in comparison with moral benefits, such as a habit of obedience and the restraint of an intractable and, where it gets the opportunity, a tyrannical, frame of mind. The whole future of the boy is at stake, and it is not of the least importance whether he is or not one of the Oxford eight or the All-England eleven. That mischief can be done by tight lacing is, of course, possible; but it is wonderful how few genuine cases have yet been produced. Let it be recollected that there are at least five kinds of corset wearing--1. loose: 2, comfortably tight: 3, painfully tight: 4, injuriously tight; 5, dangerously tight. Of these the interval, from a physiological point of view, is considerable between each stage and the next. So that injury can only result from the deliberate ignoring of Nature's warnings unmistakably given.

I quite agree with the idea of the glove discipline; but "six-button" gloves of any moderately light shade answer the purpose well; and it must be remembered that extreme particularity assumes a set of surroundings very difficult of attainment.

As for caning or birching the hands, there can be no doubt whatever of the injury thus liable to be done to a delicate and all-important member of the body. But the same objection does not apply to the old fashioned method now being revived, which (unless the infliction is of a downright savage character, partaking more of passion than of discipline) has never within the memory of man done the smallest possible injury to either boy or girl. --I am, Sir, your obedient servant, MEDICUS P.

Imperial Club, 3, Cursitor-street, W.C.,

Sept. 6, 1889. 

Peter Farrer is the editor of nine books containing material on the corseting and "petticoat-punishment" of boys. These consist mostly of extracts from British magazines and newspapers from about 1840 onward. the most notable is The Regime of the Stay-lace: Further Selection of Letters from Victorian Newspapers (1995). All are available from In particular, they are listed under his name here.

US Amazon customers:  List of his books here.  

Return to LISA's Main Page

Return to TextArea