SOUND ADVICE TO MOTHERS AND GOVERNESSES REGARDING CORSET DISCIPLINE FOR THE BEGINNER
Author, date, place, and manner of publication unknown
SELECTION OF THE CORSET
Every careful mother or governess should take her child or charge to one of the well-known corsetieres recommended in the Wasp (an English magazine) who makes a specialty of designing corsets for training the youthful figure. Any one of them will be able to advise you and to carry out the latest, most scientific ideas in designing the best type of constrictive wear for the youthful trainee.
Some mothers and governesses in an excess of zeal make the mistake of strapping up the young hopefuls into a veritable suit of armor, and lace them in to a degree far beyond the fundamental requisite tightness necessary for the first corset. By forcing the girl of 12 or 13 into a training apparatus much more severe than required, she is prejudiced against the whole process of shaping and disciplining her figure and may never get over this first impression. Furthermore, if the first corset is too heavy, too rigid, too severely shaped, and too tightly laced to start with, the health of the trainee may well be adversely affected.
So, generally, the careful mother or governess should abide the advice of the trained corsetiere. She will design for your charge a corset as easy and comfortable as it is possible to make and still fulfill the requisites of confining, directing and shaping of the growing figure. This first corset should be long enough to restrict and control all bodily movements from the shoulders to the knees. It should be rigid enough to compel an erect, proper posture, sitting, standing, walking, or reclining.
The corset should be made with two heavy, preformed shaping steels on either side of the back lacing. These shaping steels, formed and tempered into an S-curve, are designed to enforce the proudly arched backline, and, in conjunction with the broad, rigid, busk in front, help to enforce proper carriage of the whole body, with the hips well back, the torso inclined forward from the hips, bust and chest held up high and shoulders, neck and head, back. The boning supplementary to the busk and shaping steels should be heavy enough to insure proper fitting of the corset when it is laced closed. Normally, ten bones or steels on each side are sufficient if properly placed.
The best material for facing and lining the corset is strong, high-quality kid leather. It does not stretch and is gentle to tender young skin, preventing rubbing, gouging and other common skin irritations. It does not slip or slide readily on the skin. It imparts its own supplementary rigidity to the corset and may be quickly and easily cleaned by using a damp sponge.
According to all authorities, the corset should be firmly anchored at top and bottom so that it cannot move up and down on the figure and so that the corseted girl cannot move independently of her corset. At the top this may be best accomplished by the use of wide, padded leather shoulder straps sewn in at the fixed ends to the back of the corset. The straps should be crossed behind the wearer’s back and go over the opposite shoulder, with the strap attached to the right side of the corset being drawn over the left shoulder, and the one on the left side over the right shoulder. The straps are then drawn under the armpits through a leather loop and attached to each by a regular buckle and strap-hole arrangement. When the straps are properly adjusted and buckled they anchor the top of the corset and prevent downward movement of the garment on the wearer’s body. They enforce proper carriage of the shoulders, preventing slumping or rounding and at the same time force the shoulder down and back. They draw the wearer’s back into the back of the corset, raising the ribcage, lengthening the waist and further arching the back in the process. Careful, precise adjustment of the shoulder straps is most important. They should not be drawn up too tightly. If the corset-wearer’s shoulder blades are drawn back firmly together, the requisite degree of adjustment will be attained. The subject should be examined from time to time to see that chafing or irritation of the armpits does not occur. Careful padding of the straps at this point and the daily application of talcum powder will largely eliminate such irritations.
The best means to anchor the corset at the bottom, firmly and securely, is by means of boot straps. Six strong leather straps should be sewn and riveted to the bottom of the corset, two in front, two on the sides and two in back. These straps should be drawn through buckles sewn and riveted to thigh-length kid corset-boots. The buckles should be attached to the boots about six inches above the knees. The boot straps should be drawn up tightly enough to prevent upward movement of the corset on the figure.
The corset-boots, which must be carefully fitted, should be lightly boned to prevent wrinkling. Five light flexible bones reaching from the shoe part of the boot to the boot top are sufficient for this purpose. The boots should be very long; fitted up to the line where the upper thigh joins the torso. The shoe of the boot should be designed with a short vamp, high arch, and high heel; a two-inch Louis heel is high enough for the beginner. The interior of the shoe should be carefully padded to prevent foot irritations and should fit the foot very closely. Such a fitting will tend to inhibit growth of the feet. When the shoe portion of the boot is properly fitted and laced, the wearer should not be able to move her toes or any part of the foot within the shoe. The boot above the shoe must be closely laced to shape and confine the ankle, calf, knee and thigh. The mid-point of the thigh between knee and torso should measure one inch smaller with a tight tape over the laced boot than without them.
DRESSING THE TRAINEE
To dress the trainee in her figure-training paraphernalia these general rules should be followed to obtain the best results:
1. Before putting on the boots the feet, legs and thighs should be copiously powdered. Then, using a shoe-horn the feet should be eased into the shoes and the boots laced close from the bottom to top, where the laces are securely tried.
2. Before putting on the corset, the subject should stand erect with her back arched. The unlaced corset is then wrapped around the figure and the front-clasps of the busk fastened from bottom to top.
3. The boot-straps should be fastened but not drawn up, to prevent the corset from riding up while being laced.
4. The front laces adjusting the corset apron below the busk should be laced closed. This will bring the booted thighs close together and place the corset wearer in the proper posture for the actual lacing.
5. The lacer should then start at the bottom and work up to the top, working all the slack out of the two sections of the back laces.
6. After this has been accomplished, the lacer should start at the bottom again and slowly but firmly lace the two sides of the corset together, working from the thighs up over the posterior to the waistline and thence to the top of the corset. After making sure there is no gap at any point between the two sides of the corset, firmly tie the laces in hard, double knots which cannot slip.
PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF THE CORSET
Since the corset is primarily a mechanical device to enforce certain desired physical changes on the wearer, let us examine the new trainee, now laced and strapped into her training apparatus, to see what the exact results are.
If she has been correctly corseted her thighs are drawn together, regulating and restraining her stride to the lady-like length of twelve the fourteen inches. Her hips and posterior are closely confined but not tightly laced. She should measure at least one inch smaller over the buttocks with the corset laced on than without it. This has the effect of drawing the lower portion of the front busk closely into the abdomen, compressing it and holding the lower internal organs securely in position. The now tightened portion of the corset between hip-bones and the rib-cage forces this section of the torso forward and at the same time exerts upward pressure. Particular pressure has been placed on the muscles of the small of the back at the waistline. The pressure of the laced corset in this general area largely inhibits abdominal breathing and confines the muscles of the stomach. It holds the floating ribs in an almost static position, restricts movement of the diaphragm, and aids the front busk and stays in forcing the rib-cage up and out. The compression at the waist necessary to bring about these changes should be at least two inches and never more than four inches for the beginner. In other words, using a tight tape, the waist should measure at least two inches smaller with the corset laced on than without it. The corset above the point of the breastbone should fit easily, permitting the wearer to raise and lower the upper chest in high costal breathing. As time goes on and the corset is further tightened, diaphragmatic breathing will be completely eliminated. The upper chest will expand and grow, so that with the aid of exercises the well-trained girl or young woman actually will have a larger chest and greater lung capacity than her uncorseted contemporaries, as well as a higher, fuller, bust.
REACTIONS OF THE TRAINEE TO THE FIGURE DISCIPLINE
Mothers and governesses who are confirmed corset-wearers are sometimes unsympathetic toward the newly corseted girl. They should remember their own early training and adopt an attitude of sympathetic firmness. To do this they should have a clear idea of her physical and mental troubles and discomforts.
First, it should be noted that she is not unbearably uncomfortable. Her boots and corset are not severely laced and while she certainly is not at ease, she is definitely not in serious pain.
She will not like her tight-fitting boots. She many have been used to easing her feet by wriggling her toes or perhaps removing her shoes at her own volition. This she can no longer do since her feet are confined in two closely fitting molds. She has not been accustomed to high heels and high arches and her feet and legs will ache a bit from the unnatural strain. The legs and thighs of her boots are closely laced and she is of course unaccustomed to this general pressure from toe-tip to torso.
The corset itself will be an unpleasant surprise to the new trainee no matter how strongly it has been advocated and its purpose and benefits explained. The close-fitting corset apron and the compression in the thigh-hip area confine and restrict her normal stride; prevent her from indulging in such tomboyish activities as running and jumping, scurrying up and down stairs or galloping about like an ungainly colt. She can move only in a restrained, dignified and lady-like manner.
Constriction of the central portion of the body will be particularly irksome at first. The neophyte will find that she can no longer bend readily from the waist and must learn to bend from the hips and knees only. The pressure on the small of the back necessary to enforce the proudly arched back-line will be particularly onerous. She will have a stifled feeling because of confinement of her diaphragm, which will be quickly eliminated by training to breathe by raising and lowering the upper chest. She will become very tired of having her shoulders strapped back into a practically immovable position.
It might be mentioned at this point that the seated posture is more severe for the trainee than any other. In this position the tension over the posterior is increased; it draws the lower portion of the busk into the abdomen, forcing the chest and bust up and arching the back more extremely. It will be literally impossible for her to sit in low, easy chairs, but if she sits well forward in straight-backed chairs of the proper height, sitting still will not be intolerable. Even so, the new corset-wearer will try to avoid sitting, and it is advisable to urge her to spend several hours a day seated so that she may accustom herself to that position.
Speaking more generally about the trainee’s reactions, she will have a general sense of tension and strain. She will also feel unbalanced in her new posture. She can no longer relax but must maintain a proper erect posture sitting, standing, walking, or lying down. She can no longer move except within the confines of her restrictive apparatus and she will instinctively resent this loss of freedom. As one trainee aptly said, “I feel as if I had been laced and strapped up into a heavy steel and leather portable prison from which there is no escape.”
No single factor is more important in setting up a training regime than early establishment of the principle of constant wear. The trainee must be made to understand from the outset that her corset and boots will never be loosened day or night except for sanitary requirements. This is a hard and fast rule. She should be told why constant wear is so important, and why the rule that the wearer can have absolutely no control over the laces, buckles and straps which adjust her training garments, is absolutely necessary.
It should be explained to her that by wearing her corset and boots constantly, day and night, she will become both mentally and physically adjusted much sooner than if she wore them during her waking hours only. Furthermore, this method is much better for her health, because her whole body and in particularly her internal organs have a real chance to adapt themselves to the corseted position and are not subjected to a nightly change from a confined to an unconfined condition. It should be mentioned that when the corset is removed the figure spreads and it is therefore impossible to make steady progress in “fining” down the figure. By keeping the figure under corset compression for all but an hour a week (the time necessary of ablutions), it will submit to the dictates of the corset much more readily, and be easier for the trainee in the long run. In order to attain the desired dimensions of the smart, well-trained figure – a waist of eighteen inches of less with bust and hips in proportion – constant wear is the only method to follow as far as health and happiness are concerned. This is a scientific fact. Many women will testify to its benefits, and research has confirmed their testimony.
A word of caution is in order in regard to constant wear. Most mothers and governesses will find that the average trainee will not accommodate herself readily to this rule. And that soon after she has been harnessed up she will beg you to loosen this strap or that lace “just a little” for “just a few minutes.” You must be firm on the subject and at the same time explain to your charge that it is in her own interest that you forbid her any easement. She may resort to crying spells and even hysterics to appeal to your sympathy. Calmly resist these appeals and make it known that you will continue to resist them and in a relatively short time these emotional upsets will cease.
The average trainee will particularly not like wearing her corset at night. At first, under this discipline, she will unquestionably be restless, uncomfortable and unhappy. In bed she has probably been wont to relax free from restraint and now she finds closely confined and compelled to maintain the same strained posture at all hours, day and night. The temptation to release herself, to tamper with her laces and straps, will be almost overpowering at night when the rest of the household is asleep and she is free from supervision. For this reason it is advisable to restrict the movement of the hands while the trainee is in bed. The best method to accomplish this restriction is to attach wide, carefully padded leather cuffs to both sides of her bed in a position where her wrists would naturally fall if she were lying in bed on her back. Fasten the cuffs firmly and securely about each wrist so that she cannot slip them over her hands. With the cuffs buckled on in this fashion the girl will be unable to reach any of the fastenings of her garments. She will also have to sleep on her back, which is the preferred position because it allows full upper chest expansion in the breathing. The new corsetee may not like the restraining cuffs but she will rest more tranquilly with them on because she will not be faced with the temptation to tamper with her clothing.
During the first nights of bed-corseting, the young lady will be very restless and will not be able to sleep well, but within a surprisingly short time Nature will take its course and she will be able to sleep as well as she ever did. It might be added that it is a good practice to ease out a little the shoulder straps at night. This will help relax the subject while still not permitting her to round her shoulders.
There is no necessity for any extra restraining devices during the daytime. Proper supervision and back-fastening under and outer clothing will effectively prevent the new corset-wearer from tampering with the adjustments of her restrictive garments. She should not, however, be left alone for long periods. Nor should she be left in the company of another girl of her own age.
Another very important factor in a correct figure-training regime is proper supervision of the trainee’s diet. The general rule should be small, easily digested meals at frequent intervals. The aim should be to feed a well-balanced diet sufficient in quantity to keep the growing girl in good flesh.
The reasons for such a regimen are obvious. The digestive organs are strictly confined in their corseted position, and if they are overloaded by large, bulky meals, the result will be an uncomfortable feeling of fullness followed sometimes by indigestion and severe distress.
A few simple dietary rules follow:
1. Five small meals a day should be substituted for fewer and larger ones. A suggested schedule is breakfast, 8 A.M., a light lunch, 11:00 A.M., lunch, 2:00 P.M., afternoon “tea”, 5:00 P.M., and dinner at 8:00 P.M.
2. Stimulants, such as tea and coffee, and of course alcoholic beverages, should be forbidden.
3. Sweets should be held to a minimum.
4. Heavy, doughy, bulky foods should be avoided.
5. Liquid intake should be regulated to prevent discomfort.
6. Dietary emphasis should be placed on eggs, lean meat, butter, milk, cream and boiled or baked potatoes,
7. Administration of a daily fish-oil tonic is very beneficial.
8. The food should be eaten very slowly and every mouthful thoroughly chewed before swallowing.
9. Sufficient fruits and roughage should be fed to induce regular bowel movements. The young corsetee should be watched closely in this respect since there is often a tendency toward mild bowel irregularity during the early period of the figure-disciplining process. She should be trained to have one bowel movement a day immediately after rising in the morning. (See note from reader) To put the child on the commode or W.C. for a bowel movement it is necessary to let out the boot straps, open the front apron and loosen the lower section of the back-laces from the curve of her posterior down. The upper section of the torso is confined and the internal organs remain in the corseted position while the bowel movement takes place. Within a short time she will have no difficulty if this practice is adhered to and careful supervision if exercised.
Also very important to the health and happiness of the trainee is regular exercise. Her corseted physical development depends in large measure on supervised exercise of the proper kind in the proper amounts.
No exercise is more beneficial for the newly corseted girl than regularly scheduled, long, brisk walks. A good plan is to arrange for a two-hour walk every other day and to have a two-hour deportment and exercise period on the alternate days.
During the first few weeks the walks should be rather short, gradually increasing in length as the subject learns to move easily and rapidly under restraint. After a month or so the mother or governess should enforce a policy of longer, brisker walks, and should, within a six-month period, schedule walks as long as eight miles during the two-hour walking period. Walking at such a pace does not permit dawdling or rest periods and will give the trainee sufficient exercise to tire her thoroughly and healthfully so she will rest well at night. Walks should be scheduled regardless of the weather. If the subject is well bundled up in inclement weather, no harm will result from outdoor exposure in rainy or wintry weather.
On alternate days the two-hour exercise and deportment program should be held indoors with open windows. This program may be varied but should include the following:
1. Fifteen minutes of breathing exercises;
2. Thirty minutes of Swedish drill or calisthenics with light Indian clubs;
3. Thirty minutes of deportment drill, including training in going up and down stairs, sitting down and arising from a chair, curtsying, and picking up objects from the floor gracefully;
4. Fifteen minutes of military walking drill to crisp commands with correct, perfectly erect posture and proper carriage strictly enforced;
5. Thirty minutes of fencing instructions, dancing or rope-skipping to a induce grace and ease of movement in the corseted subject.
Again, as during the walking periods, the policy should be to keep the subject exercising briskly throughout the two-hour period to bring on a healthful feeling of tiredness.
It is decidedly beneficial to set up a regular schedule for the trainee and to adhere to it closely. A recommended regime follows:
1. 7:00 A.M. – arise
2. 7:00-7:30 A.M. – Inspections, ablutions, sanitary requirements and dressing the subject for the day.
3. 7:30-8:00 A.M. – Brisk walk in the garden.
4. 8:00-8:30 A.M. – Breakfast.
5. 8:30-11:00 A.M. – Studies in the school room.
6. — Light lunch.
7. 11: – Studies in the school room.
8. – Lunch.
9. 2:00-2:30 P.M. – Afternoon rest, lying down fully clothed.
10. 2:30-4:30 P.M. – Walking and exercise periods on alternate days.
P.M. – Sewing, crocheting, knitting and other handiwork.
12. 5:00-5:30 P.M. – “Tea.”
13. 5:30-6:30 P.M. – Music and dancing lessons.
14. 6:30-7:30 P.M. – Supervised free time to be used for selected reading, writing, etc.
15. 7:30-8:00 P.M. – Dinner
16. 8:00-9:00 P.M. – Preparation for bed, undressing, inspection, sanitary requirements, tightening corset and boots if laces have become slack, hairbrushing and fastening into bed.
17. 9:00-7:00 A.M. – Bedtime.
It is not the purpose of this section to treat the normal academic schooling of the trainee, which will of course be undertaken, but to speak of education only in regard to figure-training. There are several means to help to the new corsetee to adjust herself mentally to the fact that with the lacing up of her first corset she had commenced a life-long regime of figure discipline.
1. She should be required to learn “The Corsetee’s Creed” (below) by heart and to recite it three times daily.
2. She should be required to read the monthly issue of the “Wasp,” and all other articles or books setting forth the doctrine of figure-training and its benefits.
3. She should have as little contact as possible with uncorseted girls or women, but they should be pointed out as horrible examples of the shapeless uncorseted figure.
4. Conversely, the persons with whom she is in daily contact should be strictly corseted as a good example to her. It cannot be expected that a girl who has been required to don strict training garments will accommodate herself to them if those who impose this discipline do not practice what they preach. It is most beneficial for the trainee if her mother, her governess and other older female members of the household are strictly corseted and conform to general figure-discipline, including constant wear.
5. Flattery is a gentle agent of persuasion. If the new corsetee is complimented by members of her family and by friends on the improvement in her appearance, feminine vanity will play its part in making her adjustment to figure-discipline easier.
One hour a day should be devoted to teaching the trainee the
history and philosophy of corset discipline, stressing the life-long advantages
of such discipline against the temporary discomforts involved. These
advantages, which may be elaborated on indefinitely, include the following:
(a) The strictly corseted figure is fascinatingly attractive to the male sex. The tiny waist and an elegant erect posture are almost universal objects of admiration and almost certainly guarantees of a successful, happy marriage.
(b) The girl who has undergone a careful course of figure-training will arrive at maturity in better health, will tire less easily and generally be more active and vivacious than uncorseted or incorrectly corseted young women.
(c) Corseted beauty lasts indefinitely. Once the proper measurements of waist, bust and hops have been achieved through corset compression they are relatively easy to maintain throughout a long and happy life.
(d) Just as the corset forms the body of the growing girl, it also forms her character. The girl who has undergone the discomforts of strict figure-discipline and has achieved the feeling of corseted well-being, will generally be attractive, upright, dignified, and submissive to proper authority.
As the figure-training routine progresses, with the subject being more and more severely confined and compressed, she will first become physically dependent on the corset for support, and begin to be uncomfortable without it. Later still, she will start to enjoy that pleasurable feeling of uneasiness that only very strictly corseted women know, and will rejoice in the painfully pleasant tyranny of the tightly laced corset and the distinctive feeling of physical and mental well-being resulting from it.
THE CORSETEE’S CREED
I appreciate the privilege of having my figure trained for my future satisfaction and happiness, and I am truly grateful for my lovely corsets, dainty high-heeled slippers (or boots), and other accessories for the improvement of my health, posture, and appearance.
I know that a tightly laced corset insures an elegant, erect carriage, and proper breathing, that it aids in digestion, promotes good health, and that it enhances the natural beauty of the figure by nicely tapering off the waist into delightful slenderness, beautifully arching the back, and uplifting the bosom. I know that tight-fitting slippers with tapering high heels make one’s feet appear smaller and give ladylike chic and elegance to posture and walk. Therefore, I shall submit readily and cheerfully to all measures necessary for the training and improvement of my figure; and I shall think lightly of the temporary discomfort inevitably accompanying proper figure-discipline. I know that the initial irksomeness and inconvenience of strict figure-training is unimportant, when compared with the resulting improvement in the beauty and elegance of my figure, which easily can be retained during my entire life. I know that a tapering small waist, a daintily shod foot, and an erect elegant carriage are greatly admired and will bring me many compliments; therefore, I shall never be guilty of slothfulness, carelessness or weakness in the matter of dress, but shall at all proper timers endeavor to be correctly gloved, shod, and above all, corseted, whether at home or abroad.
Further, that I shall ever aid and assist others in achieving and maintaining a well-laced, attractive figure, daintily gloved hands, and elegantly shod feet; and that I shall at every opportunity by precept and example promote diligently the practice of strict figure-training.
Further, that whenever I shall have charge of growing girls, I shall consider it my privilege as well as my indispensable duty to see to it that their figures are properly and strictly trained into pleasing proportions for their future advantage and satisfaction.
REMARKS ON “THE CREED”
The trainee should be required to memorize “The Corsetee’s Creed” and recite it at regular times each day, while maintaining a perfect posture and in the presence of an older person in authority. The latter should insist upon the trainee pronouncing each word clearly and distinctly and of reciting the Creed in a sincere and convincing manner. This is important; for it is fact that a formula like the foregoing, if pronounced frequently and in a proper manner, will go far prepare the trainee’s mind to receive the truths expressed therein, while a perfunctory, spiritless delivery will be utterly ineffective for this purpose. Consequently, never permit the corsetee to slight this duty of hers in the least, but make her put her whole heart and soul into the daily recitation of ‘THE CORSETEE’S CREED.”
reader writes, regarding enemas and the Victorian corseting routine
Interesting historical quote from Charles S.:
From The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (beginning of Chapter Two): Miss Morstan entered the room with a firm step. She was a blonde young lady, small, dainty, well gloved, and dressed in the most perfect taste.
Footnote to the above in The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The
(published by W. W. Norton & Company, 17 Nov 2005 with annotations by Leslie S. Klinger):
In an age when at least one popular British magazine, The Wasp, dealt almost exclusively with the art and science of the proper corset fit for young women
(one did not purchase a corset alone but with the help of a professional corsetiere), correctly fitting gloves were essential. According to “The Corsetee's Creed,”
to be recited by the wearer, “I ... shall ... at all proper times endeavor to be correctly gloved, shod, and above all, corseted, whether at home or abroad.” Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information advised, under “Etiquette for Ladies,” “Never be seen in the street without gloves. Your gloves should fit to the last degree of perfection.”
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