"The Engagement"


The Engagement

Original Fiction by James Hodgson ©2004



“Just lace me a little tighter,” I begged, as Justine pulled on my corset laces. It felt like the original sin, as I was squeezed in. This would show them, I thought. If I could lace tighter than any of the other girls I would illustrate just how much I was prepared to take.

For when I was just 13, I was forced, while protesting vehemently, into my first set of proper corsets. I still remember the pains I had to go through to satisfy my parents’ wishes to have me in a corset and acting like a ‘proper lady’. Since then, four years ago, my waist has diminished drastically, and now I can lace myself down to 18 inches and remain there all day and night. I think it was about last year that I thought I should turn the situation around; if they wanted me corseted, then I would lace myself tighter and tighter until I split in two. 

I had heard some girls at school talking about how tight they could lace, but none could enjoy it as I could. They stopped complaining only when there were boys around. I did not mix with them, but decided to engineer a situation where, instead of complaining at the corsetiere’s, I would remain silent and be fitted with whatever corsets they thought I should wear. It was through this silent rebellion that I found my true passion in life.
Over the last year, I have sat, stood, and danced in ever-tighter corsets, much to my parents’ delight. I played along with their desires to have a true lady as a daughter. My mother was always excitedly talking about my coming-out ball, and how she would surprise me with a beautiful dress to wear. Nevertheless, over the last year, I fear that they are beginning to see through my little plot, or maybe it's just that mother looks down upon the practice of tight-lacing, saying that it is unbecoming for a woman to pant while she is dancing. I, however, do have one thing in my favour: I have what the corsetiere calls an 'elastic waist.' Indeed, it is true. For I have been able to take each waist reduction with a minimal amount of fuss, and after a couple of sleepless nights and some training corsets, I am ready to wear smaller corsets all day, without too much pain. However, I must confess to a certain delight at the pain.
This morning, Mother came to my room as I was being dressed and announced that my corsetièr was coming over this afternoon and that it was time to start preparing me for my coming-out ball.
“But mother, I thought I was ready.”
“No, my dear. Mr. Jones is coming with a new set of corsets for you. I think you will like them a great deal.”
All the while she was telling me this, I was standing with my hands on my hip spring, facing the mirror, as I was pulled in.  I felt a little flutter of excitement, but when I noticed my mother had laced a little tighter today, I had a feeling that my little plot had begun to blow up in my face. Once fully dressed, I went downstairs to the living room to begin my lessons.
After a light lunch, it was announced that Mr. Jones had arrived, and Mother quickly ushered me into my boudoir to begin the fitting. I had known Mr. Jones for the last four years, and he had always been kind to me, making me the most beautiful undergarments in all of London. Though I knew his services did not come cheap, it was worth it because his corsets neither chafed nor dug in. They were always excellently made and relatively comfortable.
“Hello, Felicity.”
“Hello, Mr. Jones.”
As we exchanged pleasantries, his assistant was unpacking my new sets of corsets: a day corset, a training corset, and some spare laces. As she fed the laces through the holes, Mr. Jones went through what I would be wearing for the next few weeks. He picked up a rather long, plain white, training corset. “This, my dear, is what we’ll start you off in. It's longer and rather tighter than you’re used to, but I think, given a little time and patience, you will grow accustomed to it and be ready for this one.”

With that, he picked up the box, and took the most beautiful corset I have ever seen. It was a deep blue, with yellow trimmings around the top and bottom, but I could not help noticing how well-boned it was—it held its shape so rigidly you could almost stand it up on its own.
“But this one is only for special occasions, so I have made this other day corset for you. I think you will find it a little more practical. It is not quite so long, but I assure you we did not skimp on measurements. All of these corsets you will have to wear at 16 inches.”
With my taste buds whet, I simply could not wait to get on with the task of preparing myself for the training corset. I was slowly unlaced and unbuttoned from all my skirts and corset until I was almost naked in the middle of the room. It is funny, I never minded this in front of Mr. Jones, he being always so professional; I never once felt embarrassed. With no time wasted, the training corset was put around my middle and the lacing began. First, I was pulled in from the top, and then from the bottom. I was so used to the process that I hardly noticed my waist getting any smaller; in fact, it felt increasingly comfortable. I had no stomach muscles to speak of, so standing out of corsets was rather tiring for me. It was only when we got to my limit that I had to begin to concentrate on holding my breath and drawing myself up to my full height as I was pulled in ever tighter. With one last tug, I was tied off and measured.
“I think that’s far enough today, you’ve lost just over half an inch. Well done. Now what I want you to do,” addressing my mother, who was paying close attention, “is to keep this girl laced night and day, and whenever you feel there is a bit of slack at the waist, just pull her in a little tighter. After the first week, I want you to let her wear the day corsets, and I think that in no time at all we'll have a 16-inch waist in the room.”
I felt a little like a dressmaker’s doll—all the adults were talking around me and I was held rigid in the middle by a long tight corset of a type I had not worn before. The hip spring was much more pronounced, and my torso held in a very definite cone-shape above that. I could feel the pressure upon my ribs as I struggled to find my breath. Nevertheless, as usual, I was back to my normal self once my breath had settled. My mother showed Mr. Jones out, and then came back into the room.
“Now, my dear, for your surprise. I have invited a dressmaker over to fit you for your ball gown, but I’ve bought you a little present that I would like you to wear today.”
With that, she rang the bell and smiled at me. I felt wonderful. After a minute or so, the doors opened, and in walked a very tall lady, followed by three assistants, each one carrying a dress. My heart was giddy with excitement as they were laid upon the bed. One was a deep red with darker stripes on the skirts, the other was green, and the last one was yellow.
Each more opulent than the last! The dresses were so beautiful I felt that, once wearing them, I would be truly beautiful.  As I was helped into the bustle and petticoats, I could feel the delicious material envelop me as I was laced, tied, and buttoned into the dress. With each layer of skirts and petticoats, I began to feel the allure of such dress. The extreme bustle pads accentuated the sumptuous materials around my legs, which had the effect of accentuating the smallness of my waist.

All the while I was being dressed I was not spoken to by any of the ladies in the room.  When I was, it was a command to raise my arms or hold my breath or to turn to the mirror, or away from it. I got the increasing feeling that I was simply a model for the skirts and dress I was wearing, a template for the fashions of the time. Though I felt delicious, I did notice how people’s attitudes towards me changed in that short period.
"Could you lift your chin a little?" asked the dressmaker as she did up the myriad of buttons on my bodice.
Once they were fully done up, I could feel the choking effect of the collar.  "Mother, does the collar have to be so tight?  It’s making me feel a little giddy."  I could feel a noticeable lack of oxygen.

"Yes, my dear. It is intended to keep your posture upright."
"I don't think there's much chance of me slouching in this dress. But whatever you say, mother." I had to acquiesce. I thought it important to pretend at least that the experience was a little uncomfortable. I would not pretend to you, dear reader, that it was a particularly comfortable experience, but I have to admit that it was tremendously exhilarating.  My body, encased in such a tight and long corset, as well as the weight and sumptuousness of the dress, made me feel so feminine it was wonderful.  As I walked around the room once dressed, I felt the flowing lines of the yellow dress brush the carpets, and their weight around my legs was delightful.
"Right my dear, let’s get some shoes on you," said the lady, as an assistant pulled a pair of high-heels out of their box. "Could you sit while we try these on you, please?"
I rustled over to the chair, with the skirts and bustle accentuating the sway of my hips. I was used to wearing a bustle, but this one was a little bigger than I was accustomed to and meant that I could only perch on the edge of the chair (to the sound of much creaking and groaning of staylaces, though I can assure you, they did not give one single millimeter). As I sat, the pressure made me put my hand to my concave stomach. I could not see it over the ridge of my bust, but I could feel the rigidity at my waist, and was quite taken aback—in fact, it made me feel a little breathless. Nevertheless, I lifted the skirts to allow the ladies access to my feet. The shoes had such steep heels; I could feel my calves straining to adjust themselves to their height.  Indeed, they were so long, the laces went up to my ankles.  But I sat with my hands to my concave waist and my head held high while the shoes were tightened; when they were finished, I could not wait to be standing once again, as my waist was beginning to complain bitterly at my seated position.
"There we are.  All done. Could you stand up for me please?"
As I tried to stand, I felt suddenly hindered by my corset and indeed the high heels; my muscles were not permitted to work as they normally would.  I slumped back into the chair with a bump. It hurt me, and my chest heaved in and out beneath my bodice; the material over the dress deflating and then being forced outwards.
"Are you all right? I am so sorry—I should help you up. Many of my ladies fall like this when they are not used to their new attire." The lady fussed concernedly over me. With a hand to my heaving bust, I answered that I would be fine. With much creaking of laces, she and an assistant helped me up into a standing position.

As I teetered on the stilt-like heels, I could feel the overall pronounced effect they had on the wearing of the dress. As I walked around the room, I could feel the accentuated roll of my hips as they jarred up with each step onto the soft carpeting, my skirts and petticoats making the most delicious rustling noise. The silken lines of the dress’s browns and yellows reflected the light from the window and showed in the pleats and folds of the dressmaker’s art.
Later that day, after lunch, it was announced that Lord Charles and his son were to come to visit. His son, Henry, had been a childhood friend of mine. Sometimes his boyishness made me dislike him intensely, but he was overall a very nice boy, and I must confess to having a small crush on him. For as he got older, his manners  improved, and he would at times take me for a walk around the grounds as our parents talked over things that are more serious.
“What wonderful timing. Just I have a new wardrobe, mother. Do you think I should change into something a little more formal?”
“No dear, we simply don’t have the time. Nevertheless, let me check your stays.  We do not want them coming undone do we? Come upstairs and we’ll sort you out.”
I followed her through the hall and up the long staircase.  As I walked, I noticed just how warm I felt between my legs—I was beginning to feel quite aroused. This corset was certainly feeling wonderful, despite the ache at my waist:  I felt so alive, though a little hampered as we negotiated the stairs. I knew how she felt now. Such dresses are not for the faint-hearted, and now that I was wearing my first adult style, I would not say anything, for fear of being unlaced fully.

The corridor to my bedroom was long and cold, and the heels of my shoes clicked on the wooden flooring, I could feel each step right through the corset. My whole body felt taut as we walked into the bedroom, where Justine was waiting for us.
“Oh, mother, thank you so much for these dresses. I simply adore them.”
“It’s nothing my dear; I just want you to find a good husband. And a small waist and beautiful dress will go a long way in helping you.”

“I know, mother.”
It was true: Lord Charles was well known to like a small waist, for all the ladies said of his wife that she had been laced to minuscule proportions at the behest of the lord. Indeed, she was said to wear corsets all of the time. However, I do not know how much of that was simply gossip. Nevertheless, my mother said that whenever he danced with a lady at a ball, he always chose those with the smallest waists. All of this was running through my mind as I thought about his son, Henry. Perhaps he, too, liked a lady to tight-lace, and if that was the case, then I should not disappoint him.
“I feel a little faint, mother. Do you think you could fetch me a glass of sherry, or something to calm me, please?”
“Of course my dear—would you like us to loosen your corset at all?”
“Oh, no, thank you, I’ll be alright in a minute. It is just the stairs. I’ll be fine; I just need something to steady me, could you?”
“I’ll be back in a bit.”

Then to Justine she said, “Would you just check her laces haven’t slipped, I’ll be back soon to check.”
With that, she turned stiffly, her hand on her hip, and walked back the way we had come. My ruse had worked.
“Right, Justine, I’d like you to pull me in a little tighter, I want to look my best this afternoon, and a faint heart never wins. Could you do it before my mother gets back? And if she does get back, just tell her that you are just pulling in the slack.”
The servant set about undoing the buttons on my bodice.
“Be careful, I don’t want to have to sew any of these back on,” I said, rebuking for her clumsiness. I was not normally so grumpy with the servants, but I was in a hurry and wanted to get it done before my mother came back.
Once my bodice was on the bed, I ran my hands over the stiff corset’s bones. It had not given at all, and was just as beautiful to me now as it had been this morning. I moved over to the mirror and prepared myself for being laced a little tighter. I had my doubts that we could get it any tighter, but it was worth the effort.
She undid the laces as I took a deep breath, and then, with a sharp tug, she pulled for all she was worth. The laces moved very little through the holes, but they did move.
“Oooooh, that’s about right,” I groaned. Now I was into the territory of being too tightly laced, and I knew it. Despite knowing this, I was prepared to make the sacrifice just to make a good impression. I gathered myself as Justine helped me into the bodice again. My chin high in the air, I felt so regal and sensuous, as the corset allowed me even less air than before. But the dress was now fitting better than ever, and though I knew I would have to loosen this corset a little later, I felt about ready to try tight lacing for a period.
“Just tell mother the laces had slipped a little. Don’t worry, if she finds out.  I’ll tell her it was my idea.” With that, I said that she could go, after I arranged with her to meet me here later after Sir Charles had left.
“Here we are dear—are you feeling any better now?” asked mother, as she came back into the room.
“Yes. The laces had slipped a little so we had to lace up a bit, but I feel all right.” (A little light-headed, but it was nothing that I hadn’t felt before.)  I thought it best to give the appearance of a little honesty, if only to conceal my earlier lie, and to explain why I was tighter laced, in case she noticed at all. 

I smoothed the material of the bodice with my hands as she checked the appearance of my skirts. I was ready to receive guests, and with that, we both walked downstairs to the library to await their arrival.
As I sat and waited, I could not take mind off my newly tightened corset; it was really beginning to dig in. I had never realised how important it was to lace down slowly and, in my haste to impress, I had just put myself in trouble. For I did not want to be fainting when Henry got here. Unconsciously, I slid my hands around my waist, so much so that my mother began to look a little concerned.

All the while, I could feel my chest rising with each breath, and I never felt that I had enough oxygen in my lungs. Nevertheless, it was worth it.  I could feel that delicious sensation of warmth between my legs, and my excitement grew as the hands on the clock ticked closer to their visit. I thought about what he might say, and what he would be wearing, and if he would notice my new dress. All of these thoughts disappeared as I heard the doorbell.


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