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13 corrections, most recently by anonymous - Show corrections




Now that arbiters of fashion are predicting a return of the " wasp " waist, details of the system of " figure training " in vogue at a fashionable Highgate boarding-school in the early sixties may, writes a contributer to an English exchange, prove of interest to lady readers. I may explain that, in company with other books, in a job lot purchased at a sale not long ago, I became the possessor of a MS. diary of a school-girl, which gives full and interesting particulars of her boarding school life and experiences. From this source I cull the following particulars of the practice in question; --

January 17th, 1864.-- Returned to school to-day. Miss T-- is pleased that mother is satisfied with my figure. Norah M-- has served me a very shabby trick in the holidays; her waist cannot be a bit larger than 16 1/2 in., and she promised we'd reduce together. I shall get Jane to pull mine in before I get into bed to-night, though I'm as tight as can be now.

January 29th.-- This morning Madame L-- came and fitted all the girls in our class with new corsets. I have been horribly uncomfortable in mine all day. Katie A-- cried all last night at having to sleep in her stays. Fancy a girl of sixteen not having been made to do so long ago ; and she says her father is very rich, and that they keep a lot of company. I shouldn't care to let my- self out, to have all the trouble of being pulled in again in the morning. Miss T-- showed me mother's letter, saying that she had seen Lady de W--'s daughter at a

house ball, who danced beautifully, and  

created a great amount of admiration with her 14 n. waist.

be able to eat and move about I can't think;

but Madge G--, who left last term, and who was that size, said you feel awfully smart, and, in fact, rather a pleasant sensa-

tion when you get used to the pulling in.

February 2nd.-- The new Fraulein has come. She has a splendid figure; I wish mine were only as good. She told Agnes V-- that she hardly had any need to lace at all

now; she was tightened when only twelve. Miss T-- said after prayers that Fraulein had a new system of figure training which   we girls would haye tried on us as an experi-

ment.                 February3rd.-- Fraulein's system seems rather different to Miss T--'s. When she  

came into our room this morning, she care- fully examined all our figures, and says that we are in the future not to lace our busts or our hips so tightly. To-morrow or the next day we girls are all to have our "tapes," as Fraulein calls them, and she has been busy all day with Jane making them.  

February4th-- We were all given our   "tapes" this morning; Fraulein seeing that    

they were put on properly, and explaining the of stout webbing about 2În. wide, at one end


less than a year, I shall have, she says, to   follow her directions implicitly if I intend to gratify mother with, the sized waist she wishes me to have upon coming out. The nJBw'eorset I am now wearing fita me: beau ti-. fully, and although I oannotstoopmuoh in it, or .ait very .oorrifortablyi: on .aoopunt,1of ¡;thë; extraVetiff ,\vbalebones,' my figure ia imjaeesely.

improye'd,;M;i£«Ír--r-,tells me., Wbon j.ane. had pulled.the^ pqrset,close j to.witb^a.dittt« morennan.'an înph",,.the belt, waç^faatened; iMu'rely.^'ï,:wîtri tbè~resfcJ.flf thé^gîrhv vW^ ma'ae:tó>ntf¿9Í»lfi'^^ tbé'ndddle pf'they^* noon1 to-day;!tolt't'^tóíeüíVáe'tbai thé'.'tàça' had notperoéptiblyjs^tched.1'íí^vT ¡": '''..-i"',

j Feb^ary^ßth.-^We^

oifier^boréeta at night, thought they.were drawn' iñ^to' the saine eize'aa the'day ones., Ij think that'I Bhiuldfe'aîyd^funny withóuV t^m'now, although they weraJ so untomforU ' able at first. . .:.;..<-. j

j TËia' syatem: appears to havo bean oirrietd outiñthé ossa of *'all/Üis'-girls, and although, there "are ;Veveralr incidental1 references to

thisu or3 that. fellow-pupil: 'Deirig únweU¿ an ! ontry^in the diary;under"'the; date of June llth (evidently referring to > some remarks

made; by an ¡unnamed parson)-says :." Not- j withstanding, what-.abel told nie; I don't for' »ninstautt, believe.; that to bate a very,small: Wuiafc burts one. I'm euro nona:of ^us aro woree ¡in health than other girla. ! The Willi liarna'j for instaaoe, who;for > all their big,; clumBy waist?, are allaya having ¡headaches,"

ef°>-'\¡' ,'?[??.' :. -.,- -!-ii;-" -î:--îi ii^ííi.----. í¡:--:"

I Another entry, made, about, a weak, before ithe' fair'diariat left éoh'óol in.what we' should BOW oMI'the Easter term,puts on record that "tbo desired 14in. is nearly reaobed : " I hare nW-tifeen iáble' to: getpàj hev^ste^s^qtót« olo'se,

and 'Fraulein ' advises me' to wait a week or: twö'b'eföreagain attempting tb'do so.'-.'This'' morning. Fraulein-atid two of the girls laóed me in-'fairly easily to 14}¡H. . The''former is Very:proud of my figuro, whioh I mast admit is very faabioDable,,and' the'envy of Norah, of .whiohIamonotisorry., i- . :. After an hour or two, I:got qnite/peed to the sensation;

»hioh, aa Frau|ein;told me it would bo, is not j Very .unpleasant, the pain whioh I hparoely^ knew how to bear for an hour or so haying quite gone. My hips and. waist .feel ; rather ¿urah, but that,- Fraulein 'telle me, wiil paai

off. ' At all events, I shall have, the .'two 1 dreasës mother 'promised me at Chriatraaa if I came back with a really small'w'àis't and a' gcfod figure."- ; :1 ' "?' ' ?-'

\ The diary, oontains an entry about six weeks later, recording.:.. "'My, new.oórséts. are no,w laced quite blosefrom top to bottom, making, my waist lüñi1 ifotber promises me two pairs of sa'in|'wbat'I bave been mubh wish- ing for, as Franlein paya theyare better than any others, and fit the figure so'beáutifally if'

well out."

This interesting record of a subject always leading to renewed controversy is continued for some nine months after the fair owner had left school. It contained an entry relating to 'a visit from her friend, Norah--, who "same to see me this afternoon, and told me that her waist is now only 13in., which I don't believe; but if it is, she must have pulled into that just to come and see me with." Incidentally there occurs in the other pages a reference to the girls at this school being laced in so awfully tight tbat "moat of na,do not bleep,well, because .the stays'hurt greatly when lyijjg^dpwn.":; .It : would appear that tbe writer of the diary had ¡A waist of 23». when first sêiït to the aobool,

'".wbioh was at once reduoed ?- to 19in."-the governess seeing that the girl's stays were "drawn in as tightly as they ought to be." Another entry records " after about half an hour each morning I suffered no pain at all" --proving, if any proof save common sense were needed, the truth of the French maxim, "One must suffer to be pretty," namely, to   have a good figure.      

This diary records that (after comparing   "feelings with the other girls in my room")   few of these tight lacing young ladies "suffer anything, except the pain caused by   the excessive tightness of our stays." I am able to gather that the girls themselves were, some of them at least, far from being dis- inclined for the systematic "training" of

their unfortunate waists. And at least two

instances are mentioned of girls who laced,   or were laced, to 13in.

These may seem incredible sizes, and the   present writer, indeed, felt almost so inclined to regard them, though of the genuine nature of the diary there could be no question.   A letter of inquiry to a long-estab- lished, well known firm of fashionable corsetières has, however, elicited a confir- matory reply. "I think it very probable,"   writes the manageress, "that tighter lacing   will be fashionable. As to your other queries, I may say that we often make corsets of 17in.,   and those of 18in. are by no means so rare as might be supposed. We have made at least two pairs of no more than 16in. during last year. Referring back to our order-books of the period you mentioned, I find that we made many pairs of 17in. and 16in., several also of 15in., and 14 1/2 in, but none smaller. I myself remember perfectly my predecessor stating that extremely tight lacing was enforced, or at least greatly enocuraged, at several schools for which the firm made twenty-five or twenty-six years ago."