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"THE SIN AND SCANDAL OF
The Gentlewoman has commenced what it describes as "A crusade against this modern madness." Those women who have not been guilty of the folly and iniquity of tight-lacing, or, being free from it personally, have given no thought to the subject, will (says the editor) stand aghast at the widespread wickedness that is practiced by girls and women who are addicted to this pernicious habit. I have been led to take this step because the hundreds of letters which have reached me from the young asking advice how to achieve a narrow waist, and from older ones giving their experience and des- cribing their sufferings, all proved, what I had not previously imagined, that the tight-lac ing habit had become a sin and a scandal. A corset is a perfectly innocent and useful feminine requirement when not applied with that tension which strangulates. Woman may continue to wear them and exhibit a waist, although when this desire first began to exert itself is hidden in the mist of antiquity. That she recognised its possibili- ties in the days of the Greeks is certain, for did she-encircle herself round the middle with golden zones? And this became a
practice which one need not reprehend for
there was no harm therein; but it was a beginning of more serious things. Still, we
have to come down to the time when Gaul became Romanised to find the introduction of the corset, in the form of "a corselet of thick stuff which moulded the form, rather than an instrument of torture which distorted its lines." So says M. Robida in his "Ten Centuries of Toilette." The following extracts from a number of letters which I have received will (adds the writer) give some idea of the sacrifices endured in order to attain a foolish and undesirable end:
"I want to ask your advice about the easiest way to reduce the size of my waist. I live with a relative who insists that I must reduce my waist to 17 inches, as she says, ' No man will marry a girl unless she looks smart.' What would be the best set of
corsets, or would it be a good thing to wear a leather belt strapped on underneath them; or would it be best to sleep in a corset, and tighten it gradually day by day ?"
"Will you be so kind as to tell me, when you have the space in your interesting paper, if you have ever heard of anyone beginning tight-lacing as early as this? A friend of mine has a wonderfully slender figure, which she says is the result of her mother putting a flannel band round her, when she was only a year old, to mould her soft bones. At six she wore a corded corset with whalebones, and at thirteen her mother had her tightly laced, making her waist only fifteen inches." ¶"I am a confirmed tight-lacer, and enjoy the feeling so much. I am tall, and rather inclined to stoutness, though I never let my waist exceed seventeen inches, night or day. My maid can sometimes lace me in to fifteen and three-quarter inches if I have no break- fast, but I cannot walk out of doors. The feeling is delicious, though painful, when, I sit in the drawing-room.''
"Some weeks ago, for a very great dinner- party, I was laced and squeezed in till I measured only sixteen inches, and everyone complimented me on my beautiful creamy whiteness, like a statue. I could not eat anything, and the pain was very considerable, but every ether girl in the room was flushed and hot whilst I remained cool. Do you think a permanent steel belt would keep my complexion always like this? One of my sisters wears a zone night and day, and likes the support."
"I send you my sister's experiences in a very similar case. She was seventeen when she suddenly had a great desire to reduce her twenty-one inch waist to size slightly over sixteen. We tried at first to dissuade her, but she persisted. Her regime with re- gard to food was dry toast and a little soup for breakfast at eight. Then a good walk, and very light luncheon at one, purely of meat and stale bread, and very little liquid, generally water. Then a ride or more walking, and at
dinner much the same food as at lunch. She kept very much without any interval to this system of diet the whole time. Of course she was always well1 ! laced in, and her waist was strictly confined, even at night. She reduced herself from half to three quarters of an ineh every month. She always went to bed late. After nearly a year of this régime
we were forced to admit that she. was much improved in appearance, her figure .being exquisitely slender, her com- plexion very clear and white, but against this we often thought of the number of times she had left the table with a crav- ing for food, and gone to her lessons or long walks nearly as hungry as before her lunch, but after a couple of months her appetite was-very much diminished. We sometimes remarked that before dinner she would hurry up to her room, and make her maid draw in her lace extra tight to pre- vent any desire to eat much."
"Mother wants to know when you are going to publish the promised letters you received concerning tight-lacing. I have only lately left a finishing school, where tight-lacing was almost compulsory. I can, owing no doubt to the gradual lacing tighter and tighter, now wear sixteen-inch corsets without any inconvenience."
" My cousin wrote to you this week, but forgot to ask your opinion of this régime for a family, of girls-the eldest nineteen, the youngest thirteen. She has a great desire for them all to have slim, pretty figures, and has a fixed idea that girls eat too much, so they are made to take an immense amount of exercise. They get up at seven; at eight they have breakfast of milk, toast, and eggs, but no butter; at one they have a small help- ing of meat, toast, and no vegetables; and a good meal at seven of soup, fish, and meat, but they have small appetites at night. As soon as they get up they are closely laced in beautifully fitting stays that fit them like gloves, and for no consideration are they ever laced more loosely. At about 4.30 the three elder girls of 17, l8, and 19 have to go upstairs to have their corsets tightened for the evening, which means that they come down in about half an hour with the trim- mest and tiniest of waists confined in evening corsets laced with no sparing hand. All three
have quite taken to lacing, and do not object to sleeping in well-laced corsets, about an inch
larger than their day ones. I noticed one, day that the elder girl, in spite of her well shaped, plump shoulders, bust and arms, was so moulded by constant lacing that her figure without stays tapered in to twenty inches. This was an hour after being unlaced."
"Is the following sensation usual amongst very tightly and continuously laced women ? I feel very hungry before meal times, but at meals latterly I hardly care to swallow even the! smallest quantity, as for hours after I have a horrid, bitter taste in my month, and sometimes even feel sick, unless laced in a very long, tight-fitting corset."