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Title: The Corset and the Crinoline - A Book of Modes and Costumes from Remote Periods to the Present Time
Author: Lord, William Barry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Corset and the Crinoline - A Book of Modes and Costumes from Remote Periods to the Present Time" ***

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                    THE CORSET AND THE CRINOLINE.

                              THE CORSET


                            THE CRINOLINE.

                              A BOOK OF

                          MODES AND COSTUMES


                             BY W. B. L.


                  "O wha will shoe my fair foot,
                    And wha will glove my han'?
                  And wha will lace my middle jimp
                    Wi' a new-made London ban'?"

                               _Fair Annie of Lochroyan._

                        WARD, LOCK, AND TYLER.


                        PRINTED BY JAS. WADE,



The subject which we have here treated is a sort of figurative
battle-field, where fierce contests have for ages been from time
to time waged; and, notwithstanding the determined assaults of the
attacking hosts, the contention and its cause remain pretty much as
they were at the commencement of the war. We in the matter remain
strictly neutral, merely performing the part of the public's "own
correspondent," making it our duty to gather together such extracts
from despatches, both ancient and modern, as may prove interesting or
important, to take note of the vicissitudes of war, mark its various
phases, and, in fine, to do our best to lay clearly before our readers
the historical facts--experiences and arguments--relating to the
much-discussed "_Corset question_."

As most of our readers are aware, the leading journals especially
intended for the perusal of ladies have been for many years the media
for the exchange of a vast number of letters and papers touching the
use of the Corset. The questions relating to the history of this
apparently indispensable article of ladies' attire, its construction,
application, and influence on the figure have become so numerous of
late that we have thought, by embodying all that we can glean and
garner relating to Corsets, their wearers, and the various costumes
worn by ladies at different periods, arranging the subject-matter in
its due order as to dates, and at the same time availing ourselves of
careful illustration when needed, that an interesting volume would

No one, we apprehend, would be likely to deny that, to enable the
fairer portion of the civilised human race to follow the time-honoured
custom of presenting to the eye the waist in its most slender
proportions, the Corset in some form must be had recourse to. Our
information will show how ancient and almost universal its use has
been, and there is no reason to anticipate that its aid will ever
be dispensed with so long as an elegant and attractive figure is an
object worth achieving.

Such being the case, it becomes a matter of considerable importance
to discover by what means the desirable end can be acquired without
injury to the health of those whose forms are being restrained and
moulded into proportions generally accepted as graceful, by the
use and influence of the Corset. It will be our duty to lay before
the reader the strictures of authors, ancient and modern, on this
article of dress, and it will be seen that the animadversions of
former writers greatly exceed modern censures, both in number and
fierceness of condemnation. This difference probably arises from
the fact of Corsets of the most unyielding and stubborn character
being universally made use of at the time the severest attacks were
made upon them; and there can be no reasonable doubt that much which
was written in their condemnation had some truth in it, although
accompanied by a vast deal of fanciful exaggeration. It would also
be not stating the whole of the case if we omitted here to note that
modern authors, who launch sweeping anathemas on the very stays by
the aid of which their wives and daughters are made presentable in
society, almost invariably quote largely from scribes of ancient date,
and say little or nothing, of their own knowledge. On the other hand,
it will be seen that those writing in praise of the moderate use of
Corsets take their facts, experiences, and grounds of argument from
the everyday life and general custom of the present period.

The Crinoline is too closely associated with the Corset and with the
mutable modes affected by ladies, from season to season, to be omitted
from any volume which treats of Fashion. The same facts, indeed, may
be stated of both the Crinoline and the Corset. Both appear to be
equally indispensable to the woman of the present period. To make
them serve the purposes of increased cleanliness, comfort, and grace,
not only without injury to the health, but with positive and admitted
advantage to the _physique_--these are the problems to be solved by
those whose business it is to minister to the ever-changing taste and
fashion of the day.



                              CHAPTER I.

    THE CORSET:--Origin. Use amongst Savage Tribes and Ancient
    People. Slenderness of Waist esteemed in the East, Ceylon,
    Circassia, Crim Tartary, Hindustan, Persia, China, Egypt, Palestine
                                                          Pages 9 to 29

                             CHAPTER II.

    The Corset according to Homer, Terentius. The Strophium of Rome,
   and the Mitra of Greece. The Peplus. A Roman Toilet, Bath, and
   Promenade. General Luxury. Cleopatra's Jewels. Tight-lacing on the
   Tiber                                                 Pages 30 to 38

                             CHAPTER III.

    Frankish Fashions. The Monks and the Corset. Corsets worn by
    Gentlemen as well as Ladies in the Thirteenth Century. The Kirtle.
    Small Waists in Scotland. Chaucer on Small Bodies. The Surcoat.
    Long Trains. Skirts. Snake-toed Shoes. High-heeled Slippers
                                                         Pages 41 to 59

                             CHAPTER IV.

    Bonnets. Headdresses. Costumes in the time of Francis I. Pins in
    France and England. Masks in France. Puffed Sleeves. Bernaise
    Dress. Marie Stuart. Long Slender Waists. Henry III. of France
    "tight-laces." Austrian Joseph prohibits Stays. Catherine de Medici
    and Elizabeth of England. Severe form of Corset. Lawn Ruffs.
    Starching. Stuffed Hose. Venice Fashions. Elizabeth's False Hair.
    Stubs on the Ladies. James I. affects Fashion. Garters and
    Shoe-roses. Dagger and Rapier                        Pages 60 to 91

                              CHAPTER V.

    Louise de Lorraine. Marie de Medici. Distended Skirts. Hair Powder.
    Hair _à l'enfant_. Low Dresses. Louis XIV. High Heels. Slender
    Waists. Siamese Dress. Charles I. Patches. Elaborate Costumes.
    Puritan Modes. Tight-lacing and Strait-lacing under Cromwell.
    Augsburg Ladies                                     Pages 92 to 104

                             CHAPTER VI.

    Louis XV. À la Watteau. Barbers. Fashions under Queen Anne.
    Diminutive Waists and Enormous Hoop. The Farthingale. The
    _Guardian_. Fashions in 1713. Low Dresses. Tight Stays. Short
    Skirts. A Lady's Maid's Accomplishments. Gay and Ben Jonson on the
    Bodice and Stays                                   Pages 109 to 123

                             CHAPTER VII.

    Stays or Corset. Louis XVI. Dress in 1776. Severe Lacing. Hogarth.
    French Revolution. Short Waists. Long Trains. Buchan. Jumpers and
    Garibaldis. Figure-training. Backboards and Stocks. Doctors on
    Stays. George III. Gentlemen's Stays. The Changes of Fashion. The
    term CRINOLINE not new. South Sea Islanders. Madame la
    Sante on Crinoline. Starving and Lacing. Anecdote. Wearing the
    Corset during sleep. American Belles. Illusion Waists. Medicus
    favours moderate tight-lacing. Ladies' Letters on tight-lacing
                                                       Pages 124 to 164

                            CHAPTER VIII.

    The Austrian Empress. Viennese Waists. London small-sized Corsets.
    Correspondence of _The Queen_ and the _Englishwoman's
    Domestic Magazine_. Lady Morton. Figure-training. Corsets for
    Young Girls. Early use of well-constructed Corsets. The
    Boarding-School and the Corset. Letters in praise of tight-lacing.
    Defence of the Crinoline and the Corset. The Venus de Medici.
    Fashionably-dressed Statue. Clumsy Figures. Letter from a
    Tight-lacer. A Young Baronet. A Family Man         Pages 165 to 186

                             CHAPTER IX.

    No elegance without the Corset. Fashion of 1865. Short Waist and
    Train of 1867. Tight Corset and Short Waist. A form of French
    Corset. Proportions of Figure and Waist. The Point of the Waist.
    Older Writers on Stays. Denunciations against Small Waists and High
    Heels. Alarming Diseases through High Heels. Female Mortality.
    Corset Statistics. Modern and Ancient Corset       Pages 189 to 201

                              CHAPTER X.

    Front-fastening Stays. Thomson's Corset. Stability of
    front-fastening Corset. De La Garde's Corset. Self-measurement.
    Viennese _Redresseur_ Corset. Flimsy Corsets. Proper
    Materials. "Minet Back" Corset. Elastic Corsets. Narrow Bands
    Injurious. The Corset properly applied produces a graceful figure.
    The Farthingale Reviewed. Thomson's Zephyrina Crinoline. Costume
    of the Present Season. The claims of Nature. Similitude between the
    Tahitian Girl and Venetian Lady                    Pages 202 to 224

                        LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


    1. THE DAWN OF THE CORSET                                       11

    2. CIRCASSIAN LADY                                              15

    3. EGYPTIAN LADY IN FULL SKIRT                                  18

    4. PERSIAN DANCING GIRL                                         21

    5. EGYPTIAN LADY IN NARROW SKIRT                                24

    6. LADY OF ANCIENT GREECE                                       32

    7. ROMAN LADY OF RANK (REIGN OF HELIOGABALUS)                   39



    10. LADY OF RANK OF THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY                      51


    12. FULL COURT DRESS AS WORN IN FRANCE, 1515                    58

    13. LADIES OF FASHION IN THE COSTUME OF 1380                    61

    14. NORMAN HEADDRESS OF THE PRESENT DAY                         64

    15. LADY OF THE COURT OF CHARLES VIII., 1500                    67

        FRANCE                                                      70

        MEDICI                                                      71

        ELIZABETH (OPEN)                                            72

        STUART                                                      74

        ELIZABETH (CLOSED)                                          76

        LORRAINE                                                    77

    22. LADY OF THE COURT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH                        80

    23. A VENETIAN LADY OF FASHION, 1560                            83

    24. QUEEN ELIZABETH                                             86


    26. MARIE DE MEDICI                                             96

    27. FANCY COSTUMES OF THE TIME OF LOUIS XIV.                    99


    29. YOUNG ENGLISH LADY OF FASHION, 1653                        105

    30. FANCY DRESS WORN IN THE REIGN OF LOUIS XV.                 108

    31. COSTUMES AFTER WATTEAU                                     111

    32. CRINOLINE IN 1713                                          114

    33. LOW BODIES AND CURTAILED CRINOLINE                         117

    34. COURT DRESS OF THE REIGN OF LOUIS XVI.                     125


    36. LADY OF FASHION, 1806                                      131

    37. FASHIONABLE DRESS IN 1824                                  139

    38. LADY OF FASHION, 1827                                      142

    39. LADY OF FASHION, 1830                                      145

    40. LADY OF FASHION, 1837                                      148

    41. THE CRINOLINE OF A SOUTH SEA ISLANDER                      151

    42. THE FASHION OF 1865                                        188

    43. THE FASHION OF 1867                                        191



    46. COMMON CHEAP STAY, FASTENED                                202

    47. COMMON CHEAP STAY, OPEN                                    203

    48. THE GLOVE-FITTING CORSET (THOMSON AND CO.)                 204

    49. CORSET OF MESSRS. DE LA GARDE, PARIS (FRONT)               205

    50. CORSET OF MESSRS. DE LA GARDE, PARIS (BACK)                208

    51. THE REDRESSEUR CORSET OF VIENNA (WEISS)                    211

    52. THE FASHION OF 1868                                        222

    53. THE ZEPHYRINA JUPON (THOMSON AND CO.)                      223

    54. TAHITIAN DANCING GIRL AND VENETIAN LADY                    224

                    THE CORSET AND THE CRINOLINE.

                              CHAPTER I.

   The origin of the Corset--The Indian hunting-belt--Reduction of
   the figure by the ancient inhabitants of Polenqui--Use of the
   Corset by the natives of the Eastern Archipelago--Improvements
   in construction brought about by the advance of
   civilisation--Slenderness of waist esteemed a great beauty in
   the East--Earth-eating in Java--Figure-training in Ceylon--The
   beauties of Circassia, their slender waists and Corsets--Elegant
   princesses of Crim Tartary--Hindoo belles--Hindoo ideas
   of beauty--Elegance of figure highly esteemed by the
   Persians--Letter from a Chinese gentleman (Woo-tan-zhin)
   on slender waists--Researches amongst the antiquities of
   Egypt--Fashions of the Egyptian ladies--The Corset in use among
   the Israelitish ladies--The elegance of their costume, bridal
   dress, &c.--Scriptural references.

For the origin of the corset we must travel back into far antiquity.
How far it would be difficult to determine. The unreclaimed savage
who, bow in hand, threads the mazes of the primeval forests in
pursuit of the game he subsists on, fashions for himself, from the
skin of some animal which good fortune may have cast in his way,
a belt or girdle from which to suspend his rude knife, quiver, or
other hunting gear; and experience teaches him that, to answer the
purpose efficiently, it should be moderately broad and sufficiently
stiff to prevent creasing when secured round the waist. A sharpened
bone, or fire-hardened stick, serves to make a row of small holes at
each end; a strip of tendon, or a thong of hide, forms a lace with
which the extremities are drawn together, thereby giving support to
the figure during the fatigues of the chase. The porcupine's quill,
the sea-shell, the wild beast's tooth, and the cunningly-dyed root,
all help to decorate and ornament the hunting-belt. The well-formed
youths and graceful belles of the tribe were not slow in discovering
that, when arrayed in all the panoply of forest finery, a belt well
drawn in, as shown in the annexed illustration, served to display
the figure to much greater advantage than one carelessly or loosely
adjusted. Here, then, we find the first indication of the use of the
corset as an article of becoming attire. At the very first dawn of
civilisation there are distinct evidences of the use of contrivances
for the reduction and formation of the female figure. Researches among
the ruins of Polenqui, one of the mysterious forest cities of South
America, whose history is lost in remote antiquity, have brought to
light most singular evidences of the existence of a now forgotten
race. Amongst the works of art discovered there is a bas-relief
representing a female figure, which, in addition to a profusion of
massive ornaments, wears a complicated and elaborate waist-bandage,
which, by a system of circular and transverse folding and looping,
confines the waist from just below the ribs to the hips as firmly and
compactly as the most unyielding corset of the present day.

At the period of the discovery of some of the islands of the Eastern
Archipelago, it was found customary for all young females to wear a
peculiar kind of corset, formed of spirally-arranged rattan cane, and
this, when once put on, was not removed until the celebration of the
marriage ceremony. Such races as were slowly advancing in the march
of civilisation, after discovery by the early navigators, became more
and more accustomed to the use of clothing, to adjust and retain
which, waistbands would become essentially requisite. These, when made
sufficiently broad to fit without undue friction, and stiff enough to
prevent folding together in the act of stooping, sitting, or moving
about, at once became in effect corsets, and suggested to the minds of
the ingenious a system of cutting and fitting so as more perfectly to
adapt them to the figure of the wearer. The modes of fastening, as we
shall see, have been various, from the simple sewing together with the
lace to the costly buckle and jewelled loop and stud.

  [Illustration: THE DAWN OF THE CORSET.]

Investigation proves to us that the taste for slender waists prevailed
even more in the Eastern nations than in those of Europe, and we find
that other means besides that of compression have been extensively
taken advantage of. Humboldt, in his personal narrative, describes the
women of Java, and informs us that the reddish clay called "_ampo_" is
eaten by them in order that they may become slim, want of plumpness
being a kind of beauty in that country. Though the use of this earth
is fatal to health, those desirous of profiting by its reducing
qualities persevere in its consumption. Loss of appetite and inability
to partake of more than most minute portions of food are not slow in
bringing the wished-for consummation about. The inhabitants of Ceylon
make a perfect study of the training of the figure to the most slender
proportions. Books on the subject are common in that country, and
no young lady is considered the perfection of fashionable elegance
unless a great number of qualities and graces are possessed; not the
least of these is a waist which can be quite or nearly clasped with
the two hands; and, as we proceed with our work, it will be seen that
this standard for the perfection of waist-measurement has been almost
world-wide. From the coral-fringed and palm-decked islands of the
Pacific and Indian Ocean we have but to travel to the grass-clad Yaila
of Crim Tartary and the rock-crowned fastnesses of Circassia, to see
the same tastes prevailing, and even more potent means in force for
the obtainment of a taper form. Any remarks from us as to the beauty
of the ladies of Circassia would be needless, their claim to that
enviable endowment being too well established to call for confirmation
at our hands, and that no pains are spared in the formation of their
figures will be best seen by a quotation from a recent traveller who
writes on the subject:--

"What would" (he says) "our ladies think of this fashion on the part
of the far-famed beauties of Circassia? The women wear a corset made
of 'morocco,' and furnished with two plates of wood placed on the
chest, which, by their strong pressure, prevent the expansion of the
chest; this corset also confines the bust from the collar-bones to the
waist by means of a cord which passes through leather rings. They even
wear it during the night, and only take it off when worn out, to put
on another quite as small." He then speaks of the daughters of Osman
Oglow, and says, "Their figures were tightened in an extraordinary
degree, and their _anteries_ were clasped from the throat downwards by
silver plates."

These plates are not only ornamental, but being firmly sewn to the
two busks in front of the corset, and being longest at the top and
narrowest at the waist, when clasped, as shown in the accompanying
illustration, any change in fit or adjustment is rendered impossible.
It will be seen on examination that at each side of the bottom of the
corsage is a large round plate or boss of ornamental silver. These
serve as clasps for the handsomely-mounted silver waist-belt, and by
their size and position serve to contrast with the waist, and make
it appear extremely small. That the elegancies of female attire have
been deeply studied even among the Tartars of the Crimea will be seen
by the following account, written by Madame de Hell, of her visit to
Princess Adel Beg, a celebrated Tartar beauty:--

"Admitted into a fairy apartment looking out on a terraced garden, a
curtain was suddenly raised at the end of the room, and a woman of
striking beauty entered, dressed in rich costume. She advanced to me
with an air of remarkable dignity, took both my hands, kissed me on
the two cheeks, and sat down beside me, making many demonstrations
of friendship. She wore a great deal of rouge; her eyelids were
painted black, and met over the nose, giving her countenance a certain
sternness, which, nevertheless, did not destroy its pleasing effect.
A furred velvet vest fitted tight to her still elegant figure, and
altogether her appearance surpassed what I had conceived of her
beauty. After some time, when I offered to go, she checked me with
a very graceful gesture, and said eagerly, 'Pastoi, pastoi,' which
is Russian for 'Stay, stay,' and clapped her hands several times. A
young girl entered at the signal, and by her mistress's orders threw
open a folding-door, and immediately I was struck dumb with surprise
and admiration by a most brilliant apparition. Imagine, reader, the
most exquisite sultanas of whom poetry and painting have ever tried to
convey an idea, and still your conception will fall far short of the
enchanting models I had then before me. There were three of them, all
equally graceful and beautiful. They were clad in tunics of crimson
brocade, adorned in front with broad gold lace. The tunics were open,
and disclosed beneath them cashmere robes with very tight sleeves,
terminating in gold fringes. The youngest wore a tunic of azure-blue
brocade, with silver ornaments; this was the only difference between
her dress and that of her sisters. All three had magnificent black
hair escaping in countless tresses from a fez of silver filigree, set
like a diadem over their ivory foreheads. They wore gold-embroidered
slippers and wide trousers drawn close at the ankle. I had never
beheld skins so dazzlingly fair, eyelashes so long, or so delicate a
bloom of youth."

  [Illustration: CIRCASSIAN LADY.]


The Hindoos subject the figures of their dancing-girls and future
belles to a system of very careful training; in all their statues,
from those of remote antiquity, to be seen in the great cave temples
of Carlee Elanra, and Elephanta, to those of comparatively modern
date, the long and slender waist is invariably associated with other
attributes of their standard of beauty. "Thurida," the daughter of
Brahama, is thus described by a Hindoo writer:--

"This girl" (he informs us) "was of a yellow colour, and had a nose
like the flower of resamum; her legs were taper, like the plantain
tree; her eyes large, like the principal leaf of the lotus; her
eyebrows extended to her ears; her lips were red, and like the young
leaves of the mango tree; her face was like the full moon; her voice
like the sound of the cuckoo; her arms reached to her knees; her
throat was like that of a pigeon; her loins narrow, like those of a
lion; her hair hung in curls down to her feet; her teeth were like
the seeds of the pomegranate; and walk like that of a drunken elephant
or a goose."

The Persians entertain much the same notions with regard to the
necessity for slenderness of form in the belles of their nation, but
differ in other matters from the Hindoos. The following illustration
represents a dancing-girl of Persia, and it will be seen that her
figure bears no indication of neglect of cultivation. It is somewhat
curious that the Chinese, with all their extraordinary ingenuity,
have confined their restrictive efforts to the feet of the ladies,
leaving their waists unconfined. That their doing so is more the
result of long-established custom than absence of admiration for
elegantly-proportioned figures will be clearly proved by the following
extract from a letter published in _Chambers' Journal_, written by a
genuine inhabitant of the Celestial Empire, named Woo-tan-zhin, who
paid a visit to England in 1844-45. Thus he describes the ladies of

"Their eyes, having the blue tint of the waters of autumn, are
charming beyond description, and their waists are laced as tight and
thin as a willow branch. What, perhaps, caught my fancy most was the
sight of elegantly-dressed young ladies, with pearl-like necks and
tight-laced waists; nothing can possibly be so enchanting as to see
ladies that compress themselves into taper forms of the most exquisite
shape, the like of which I have never seen before."

By many writers it has been urged that the admiration so generally
felt for slenderly-proportioned and taper waists results from an
artificial taste set up by long custom; but in Woo-tan-zhin's case it
was clearly not so, as the small-waisted young ladies of the "outer
barbarians" were to him much as some new and undescribed flowers or
birds would be to the wondering naturalist who first beheld them.

Although researches among the antiquities of Egypt and Thebes fail
to bring to our notice an article of dress corresponding with the
waist-bandage of Polenqui or the strophium of later times, we find
elaborately-ornamented waist-belts in general use, and by their
arrangement it will be seen that they were so worn as to show the
waist off to the best advantage. The accompanying illustrations
represent Egyptian ladies of distinction. The dress in the first, it
will be observed, is worn long. A sort of transparent mantle covers
and gives an appearance of width to the shoulders, whilst a coloured
sash, after binding the waist, is knotted in front, and the ends
allowed to fall freely over the front of the dress, much as we have
seen it worn in our own time; and it is most remarkable that, although
there is no evidence to show the use of crinoline by the ladies of
old Egypt, the lower border of the skirt, in some instances, appears
distended as in the prior illustration; whilst in others, as shown in
the second engraving, the dress is made to fit the lower portion of
the figure closely, barely affording scope for the movement of the
legs in walking. How often these arrangements of dress have been in
turn adopted and discarded will be seen as our work proceeds.

  [Illustration: PERSIAN DANCING GIRL.]


The following extract from Fullam will show that Fashion within
the shadow of the Pyramids, in the days of the Pharaohs, reigned
with power as potent and supreme as that which she exercises in the
imperial palaces of Paris and Vienna at the present day:--

"The women of Egypt early paid considerable attention to their toilet.
Their dress, according to Herodotus, consisted usually of but one
garment, though a second was often added. Among the upper orders the
favourite attire was a petticoat tied round the waist with a gay sash,
and worn under a robe of fine linen or a sort of chintz variously
coloured, and made large and loose, with wide sleeves, the band being
fastened in front just under the bust. Their feet were incased in
sandals, the rudiment of the present Eastern slipper, which they
resembled also in their embroidery and design. Their persons and
apparel, in conformity with Oriental taste in all ages, were profusely
decked with ornaments, 'jewels of silver and jewels of gold,' with
precious gems of extraordinary size, of which imitations, hardly
distinguishable from the real stones, were within the reach of the
humblest classes, whose passion for finery could not be surpassed
by their superiors. The richly carved and embroidered sandals, tied
over the instep with tassels of gold, were surmounted by gold anklets
or bangles, which, as well as the bracelets encircling the wrist,
sparkled with rare gems; and necklaces of gold or of beautiful beads,
with a pendant of amethysts or pearls, hung from the neck. Almost
every finger was jewelled, and the ring finger in particular was
usually allotted several rings, while massive earrings shaped like
hoops, or sometimes taking the form of a jewelled asp or of a dragon,
adorned the ears. Gloves were used at a very early date, and among the
other imperishable relics of that olden time the tombs of Egypt have
rendered up to us a pair of striped linen mittens, which once covered
the hands of a Theban lady.

"Women of quality inclosed their hair with a band of gold, from which
a flower drooped over the forehead, while the hair fell in long plaits
to the bosom, and behind streamed down the back to the waist. The side
hair was secured by combs made of polished wood or by a gold pin, and
perhaps was sometimes adorned, like the brow, with a favourite flower.
The toilet was furnished with a brazen mirror, polished to such a
degree as to reflect every lineament of the face, and the belles
of Egypt, as ladies of the present day may imagine, spent no small
portion of their time with this faithful counsellor. The boudoirs were
not devoid of an air of luxury and refinement particularly congenial
to a modern imagination. A stand near the unglazed window supported
vases of flowers, which filled the room with delicious odours; a soft
carpet overspread the floor; two or three richly-carved chairs and an
embroidered fauteuil afforded easy and inviting seats; and the lotus
and papyrus were frescoed on the walls. Besides the brazen mirror,
other accessories of the toilet were arranged on the ebony table, and
boxes and caskets grotesquely carved, some containing jewels, others
furnished with oils and ointments, took their place with quaintly-cut
smelling bottles, wooden combs, silver or bronze bodkins, and lastly,
pins and needles.

"Seated at this shrine, the Egyptian beauty, with her dark glance
fixed on the brazen mirror, sought to heighten those charms which are
always most potent in their native simplicity. A touch of collyrium
gave illusive magnitude to her voluptuous eyes; another cosmetic
stained their lids; a delicate brush pencilled her brows--sometimes,
alas! imparted a deceitful bloom to her cheeks; and her taper fingers
were coloured with the juice of henna. Precious ointments were poured
on her hair, and enveloped her in an atmosphere of perfume, while the
jeweller's and milliner's arts combined to decorate her person."

In Sir Gardner Wilkinson's admirable work on ancient Egypt, to
which I am indebted for some valuable information, there is a plate
representing a lady in a bath with her attendants, drawn from a
sculpture in a tomb at Thebes, whence we may derive some faint idea of
the elaborate character of an Egyptian toilet.

The lady is seated in a sort of pan, with her long hair streaming over
her shoulders, and is supported by the arm of an attendant, who, with
her other hand, holds a flower to her nose, while another damsel pours
water over her head, and a third washes and rubs down her delicate
arms. A fourth maiden receives her jewels, and deposits them on a
stand, where she awaits the moment when they will be again required.

There appears little doubt that the ancient Israelitish ladies,
amongst their almost endless and most complex articles of adornment,
numbered the corset in a tolerably efficient form, and of attractive
and rich material, for we read in the twenty-fourth verse of the third
chapter of Isaiah, referring to Divine displeasure manifested against
the people of Jerusalem and Judah, and the taking away of matters of
personal adornment from the women, that "instead of a girdle there
should be a rent, and instead of well-set hair baldness, and instead
of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth, and burning instead of beauty."
Here we have the coarse, repulsive, unattractive sackcloth held up in
marked contrast to the stomacher, which was without question a garment
on which much attention was bestowed; and the following extract from
Fullam's _History of Woman_ shows how costly and magnificent was the
costume of the period:--

"The bridal dress of a princess or Jewish lady of rank, whose parents
possessed sufficient means, was of the most sumptuous description,
as may be seen from the account given of that worn by the bride of
Solomon in the Canticles, and the various articles enumerated show
the additions which feminine taste had already made to the toilet.
The body was now clothed in a bodice ascending to the network which
inclosed, rather than concealed, the swelling bust; and jewelled
clasps and earrings, with strings of pearls and chains of gold, gave
a dazzling effect to Oriental beauty. In Solomon's reign silk is said
to have been added to the resources of the toilet, and the sex owe
to a sister, Pamphyla, the daughter of Patous, the discovery of this
exquisite material, in which woman wrested from Nature a dress worthy
of her charms.

"The ordinary attire of Jewish women was made of linen, usually white,
without any intermixture of colours, though, in accordance with the
injunction in Numbers xv. 38, they made 'fringes in the borders of
their garments,' and 'put upon the fringe of the borders a riband
of blue.' Judith, when she sought to captivate Holofernes, 'put on
her garments of gladness, wherewith she was clad during the life of
Manasses her husband; and she took sandals upon her feet, and put
about her bracelets, and her chains, and her rings, and her earrings,
and all her ornaments, and decked herself bravely to allure the eyes
of all men that should see her.' Gemmed bangles encircled her ankles,
attracting the glance to her delicate white feet; and Holofernes, by
an Oriental figure of speech, is said to have been 'ravished by the
beauty of her sandals.' Like the belles of Egypt she did not disdain,
in setting off her charms, to have recourse to perfumes and cosmetics,
and previously to setting out she 'anointed herself with precious
ointment.' In another place Jezebel is said to 'paint her eyelids;'
and Solomon, in the Proverbs, in describing the deceitful woman,
adjures his son not to be 'taken with her eyelids,' evidently alluding
to the use of collyrium. The Jewish beauty owed no slight obligation
to her luxuriant tresses, which were decorated with waving plumes and
strings of pearls; and in allusion to this custom, followed among the
tribes from time immemorial, St. Paul affirms that 'a woman's ornament
is her hair.' Judith 'braided the hair of her head and put a tire upon
it;' and the headdress of Pharaoh's daughter, in the Canticles, is
compared by Solomon to Carmel. No mention is made of Judith's mirror,
but it was undoubtedly made of brass, like those described in Exodus
xxxviii. 8 as 'the looking-glasses of the women which assembled at the
door of the tabernacle of the congregation.'"


                             CHAPTER II.

   Homer the first ethnic writer who speaks of an article of dress
   allied to the Corset--The cestus or girdle of Venus--Terentius,
   the Roman dramatist, and his remarks on the practice of
   tight-lacing--The use of the strophium by the ladies of Rome,
   and the mitra of the Grecian belles--The peplus as worn
   by the ancients--Toilet of a Roman lady of fashion--Roman
   baths--Fashionable promenades of Ancient Rome--Boundless luxury
   and extravagance--Cleopatra and her jewels--The taper waists and
   tight-lacing of the ancient Roman ladies--Conquest of the Roman

Amongst the ethnic writers, Homer appears to be the first who
describes an article of female dress closely allied to the corset.
He tells us of the cestus or girdle of Venus, mother of the Loves
and Graces, and of the haughty Juno, who was fabled to have borrowed
it with a view to the heightening and increasing her personal
attractions, in order that Jupiter might become a more tractable and
orderly husband. The poet attributes most potent magical virtues to
the cestus, but these are doubtlessly used in a figurative sense,
and Juno, in borrowing the cestus, merely obtained from a lady of
acknowledged elegance of figure a corset with which to set her own
attractions off to the best possible advantage, so that her husband
might be charmed with her improved appearance; and Juno appears to
have been a very far-seeing and sensible woman. From periods of very
remote antiquity, and with the gradual increase of civilisation, much
attention appears to have been paid to the formation and cultivation
of the female figure, and much the same means were had recourse to for
the achievement of the same end prior to 560 B.C. as in the
year 1868. Terentius, the Roman dramatist, who was born in the year
560, causes one of his characters, in speaking of the object of his
affections, to exclaim--

"This pretty creature isn't at all like our town ladies, whose
mothers saddle their backs and straitlace their waists to make them
well-shaped. If any chance to grow a little plumper than the rest,
they presently cry, 'She's an hostess,' and then her allowance must
be shortened, and though she be naturally fat and lusty, yet by her
dieting she is made as slender as a broomstick. By this means one
woodcock or another is caught in their springe."

  [Illustration: LADY OF ANCIENT GREECE.]

Strutt informs us that the Roman women, married as well as unmarried,
used girdles, and besides them they sometimes wore a broad swath or
bandage round their breasts, called strophium, which seems to have
answered the purpose of the bodice or stays, and had a buckle or
bandage on the left shoulder, and that the mitra or girdle of the
Greeks probably resembled the strophium of the Romans. The annexed
illustration represents a lady of Ancient Greece. He also speaks of
the Muses as being described by Hesiod as being girt with golden
"_mitres_," and goes on to inform us that Theocritus in one of his
pastorals introduces a damsel complaining to a shepherd of his
rudeness, saying he had loosened her mitra or girdle, and tells her
he means to dedicate the same to Venus. So it will be seen that the
waist and its adornment were considered at that early period of the
world's history matters of no ordinary importance, and whether the
term strophium, zone, mitra, custula, stays, bodice, or corset is made
use of, the end sought to be obtained by their aid was the same.

Constant mention is made by early writers of the _peplus_ as being
a very elegant garment, and there are notices of it as back as the
Trojan war, and the ladies of Troy appear to have generally worn it.
On the authority of Strutt, it may be stated to have been "a thin
light mantle worn by Grecian ladies above the tunic;" and we read
that Antinous presented to Penelope a beautiful large and variegated
peplus, having twelve buckles of gold, with tongues neatly curved. The
peplus, however, was a very splendid part of the lady's dress, and it
is rarely mentioned by Homer without some epithet to distinguish it
as such. He calls it the _variegated_ peplus and the painted peplus,
alluding to ornamental decorations either interwoven or worked with
the needle upon it, which consisted not only in diversity of colours,
but of flowers, foliage, and other kinds of imagery, and sometimes
he styles it the _soft purple peplus_, which was then valuable on
account of the excellence of the colour. We learn from a variety
of sources that the early Roman and Grecian ladies indulged in
almost unprecedented luxury in matters of personal adornment, as the
following extract from Fullam will show:--

"The toilet of a Roman lady involved an elaborate and very costly
process. It commenced at night, when the face, supposed to have been
tarnished by exposure, was overlaid with a poultice, composed of
boiled or moistened flour spread on with the fingers. Poppæan unguents
sealed the lips, and the body was profusely rubbed with Cerona
ointment. In the morning the poultice and unguents were washed off;
a bath of asses' milk imparted a delicate whiteness to the skin, and
the pale face was freshened and revived with enamel. The full eyelids,
which the Roman lady still knows so well how to use--now suddenly
raising them, to reveal a glance of surprise or of melting tenderness,
now letting them drop like a veil over the lustrous eyes--the full,
rounded eyelids were coloured within, and a needle dipped in jetty dye
gave length and sphericity to the eyebrows. The forehead was encircled
by a wreath or fillet fastened in the luxuriant hair which rose in
front in a pyramidal pile formed of successive ranges of curls, and
giving the appearance of more than ordinary height.

    "'So high she builds her head, she seems to be,
    View her in front, a tall Andromache;
    But walk all round her, and you'll quickly find
    She's not so great a personage behind.'

"Roman ladies frequented the public baths, and it was not unusual
for dames of the highest rank to resort to these lavatories in the
dead hour of the night. Seated in a palanquin or sedan borne by
sturdy chairmen, and preceded by slaves bearing flambeaux, they made
their way through the deserted streets, delighted to arouse and alarm
their neighbours. A close chair conveyed the patrician matron to the
spectacles and shows, to which she always repaired in great state,
surrounded by her servants and slaves, the dependants of her husband,
and the clients of her house, all wearing the badge of the particular
faction she espoused. The factions of the circus were four in number,
and were distinguished by their respective colours of blue, green,
white, and red, to which Domitian, who was a zealous patron of the
Circensian games, added the less popular hues of gold and purple. But
the spectators generally attached themselves either to the blue or the
green, and the latter was the chief favourite, numbering among its
adherents emperors and empresses, senators, knights, and noble dames,
as well as the great mass of the people, who, when their champions
were defeated, carried their partisanship to such an extreme that the
streets were repeatedly deluged with the blood of the blues, and more
than once the safety of the state was imperilled by these disgraceful

"The public walks and gardens were a fashionable resort of the Roman
ladies. There they presented themselves in rich costume, which bore
testimony alike to the wealth of their husbands and their own taste.
A yellow tire or hood partly covered, but did not conceal, their
piled hair; their vest of muslin or sarcenet, clasped with gems, was
draped with a murry-coloured robe descending to their high-heeled
Greek boots; necklaces of emerald hung from their swan-like necks,
and jewelled earrings from their ears; diamonds glittered on their
fingers, and their dazzling complexions were shielded from the sun by
a parasol."

The researches of Strutt show us that the shoes of the ladies, and
especially among the Romans, proved a very expensive part of the
dress. In general they were white, but persons of opulence did not
confine themselves to any colour. We find them black, scarlet, purple,
yellow, and green. They were often not only richly adorned with
fringes and embroideries of gold, but set with pearls and precious
stones of the most costly kind, and these extravagances were not
confined to persons of rank. They were imitated by those of lower
station, and became so prevalent at the commencement of the third
century, that even the luxurious Emperor Heliogabalus thought it
necessary to publish an edict prohibiting the use of such expensive
shoes excepting to women of quality. The women wore the close shoe or
_calceus_. Gloves, too, as we have seen before, were known and used in
very early ages, and it appears probable that they were first devised
by those whose labours called them to the thick-tangled thorn coverts,
but that they were worn by those who did not labour is clearly proved
by Homer, who describes the father of Ulysses when living in a state
of rest as wearing gloves; but he gives us no information as to the
material from which they were manufactured. The Romans appear to have
been much more addicted to the practice of wearing gloves than the
Greeks, and we are informed that "under the emperors they were made
with fringes," though others were without them, and were fashioned
much after the manner of the mittens of the present day. Further on
we learn that "as riches and luxury increased, the lady's toilet was
proportionately filled with ornaments for the person, so that it was
called '_the woman's world_.'" They not only anointed the hair and
used rich perfumes, but sometimes they _painted it_. They also made
it appear of a bright yellow colour by the assistance of washes and
compositions made for that purpose; but they never used powder, which
is a much later invention. They frizzled and curled the hair with
hot irons, and sometimes they raised it to a great height by rows of
curls one above another in the form of a helmet, and such as had not
sufficient hair of their own used false hair to complete the lofty
pile, and these curls appear to have been fashioned with hairpins. The
Grecian virgins used to braid their hair in a multiplicity of knots,
but that custom, as well as painting the under part of the eyelids
with black paint, was discommended by an ancient poet. Persons of
rank had slaves to perform for them the offices of the toilet. They
held the mirror in their hand themselves and gave directions, and
Martial tells us that, if the slaves unfortunately placed a hairpin
wrong, or omitted to twist the curls exactly as they were ordered, the
mirror was thrown at the offender's head, or, according to Juvenal,
the whip was applied with much severity. The hair was adorned with
ornaments of gold, with pearls and precious stones, and sometimes with
garlands or chaplets of flowers. It was also bound with fillets and
ribbons of various colours and kinds. The net or hair-caul for the
purpose of inclosing the hinder part of the hair was in general use
with the Grecian and Roman ladies. These ornaments were frequently
enriched with embroidery, and sometimes made so thin that Martial
sarcastically called them "_bladders_."

Again, in the matter of _earrings_, we quote from the same valuable
and trustworthy authority. No adornment of the head claims priority to
earrings. They have been fashionable, as Montfaucon justly observes,
in all ages and almost all nations. It is evident from Homer that the
Grecian women bored their ears for the admission of these ornaments.
The poet gives earrings to the goddess Juno, and the words he uses
on the occasion are literally these:--"In her well-perforated ears
she put the earrings of elaborate workmanship, having three eyes in
each"--that is, three pendants or jewels, either made in the form
of eyes, or so called from their brightness. The extravagance of
the Grecian and Roman ladies in the purchase of these articles of
adornment almost exceeds belief. Pliny says, "They seek for pearls
at the bottom of the Red Sea, and search the bowels of the earth
for emeralds to ornament their ears;" and Seneca tells us that "a
single pair of earrings was worth the revenue of a large estate, and
that some women would wear at their ears the price of two or three
patrimonies." We read that the earrings worn by Cleopatra were valued
at £161,458, and that Servilia, the mother of Brutus, was presented
with a pair by Julius Cæsar, the value of which was £48,457.

Bracelets are also ornaments of high antiquity, as are rings and
brooches of various forms for fastening the dress.

Rich gold chains and jewelled fastenings were in common use during
this period. The annexed illustration represents a Roman lady of rank
about the reign of Heliogabalus. Little alteration appears to have
taken place in the general style of costume for some very considerable
period of time, and the patrician ladies concealed beneath their
flowing draperies a kind of corset, which they tightened very
considerably, for a slight and tapering waist was looked upon as a
great beauty in women, and great attention was paid to the formation
of the figure, in spite of all that has been written about the purely
natural and statuesque forms of the Roman matrons. On the conquest
of the Roman Empire by the wild and savage Hunnish tribes, fashion,
art, taste, literature, and civilisation were swept ruthlessly away,
and a long, weird night of mental darkness may be said to have
reigned throughout the land from the tenth to the middle of the
fifteenth century, and we see little or nothing of Roman elegance or
magnificence of dress to distinguish it above other nations from that



                             CHAPTER III.

   The ladies of Old France--Their fashions during the reign of
   King Pepin--Revival of the taste for small waists--Introduction
   of "_cottes hardies_"--Monkish satire on the Corset in England
   in the year 1043, curious MS. relating to--The small waists
   of the thirteenth century--The ancient poem of _Launfal_--The
   Lady Triamore, daughter of the King of the Fairies--Curious
   entry in the household register of Eleanor, Countess of
   Leicester, date 1265--Corsets worn by gentlemen at that
   period--The kirtle as worn in England--The penance of Jane
   Shore--Dress of Blanche, daughter of Edward III--Dunbar's
   _Thistle and Rose_--Admiration for small waists in Scotland in
   the olden time--Chaucer's writings--Small waists admired in
   his day--The use of the surcoat in England--Reckless hardihood
   of a determined tailor--The surcoat worn by Marie d'Anjou of
   France--Italian supremacy in matters of dress--The Medici, Este,
   and Visconti--Costume of an Italian duchess described--Freaks
   of fashion in France and Germany--Long trains--Laws to restrain
   the length of skirts--Snake-toed shoes give place to high-heeled

Research fails to show us that the ladies of France in their simple
Hersvingian and Carlovingian dresses paid any attention to the
formation of the waist or its display. But during the ninth century
we find the dresses worn extremely tight, and so made as to define
the waist and render it as slim as possible; and although the art of
making the description of corsets worn by the ladies of Rome was no
doubt at that time lost, the revived taste for slender figures led to
the peculiar form of corsage known as _cottes hardies_, which were
much stiffened and worn extremely tight. These took the place of the
quaint, oddly-formed robes we see draping the figures of Childeric's
and Pepin's queens. The "_cottes hardies_" were, moreover, clasped at
the waist by a broad belt, and seem pretty well to have merited their
martial name. Very soon after this period it is probable that a much
more complete description of corset was invented, although we do not
find any marked representation of its form until 1043. A manuscript of
that date at present in the British Museum bears on it the strange
and anomalous figure represented in the annexed illustration. Opinions
vary somewhat as to whether its origin might not have been Italian,
but we see no reason for adopting this view, and consider it as of
decidedly home production. It will be seen that the shoulder, upper
part of the arm, and figure are those of a well-formed female, who
wears an unmistakable corset, tightly laced, and stiffened by two
busks in front, from one of which the lace, with a tag at the end,
depends. The head, wings, tail, feet, and claws are all those of a
demon or fiend. The drapery is worn so long as to render large knots
in it requisite to prevent dragging on the ground. The ring held in
the left claw is of gold, and probably intended to represent a massive
and costly bracelet. Produced, as this MS. appears to have been,
during the reign of Edward the Confessor, there is little doubt that
it was a severe monkish satire on the prevailing fashion, and a most
ungallant warning to the male sex that alabaster shoulders and slender
waists were too often associated with attributes of a rather brimstone
character, and that an inordinate love of long, trailing garments and
ornaments of precious metals were snares and enticements of a sinister
nature. Many of the figures to be found on ancient MSS. after this
period show by their contour that the corset was worn beneath the
drapery, and Strutt, whose work was published in 1796, thus writes
of the customs relating to dress in the period following shortly
after:--"In the thirteenth century, and probably much prior to that
period, a long and slender waist was considered by our ancestors as a
criterion of elegance in the female form. We ought not, therefore, to
wonder if it be proved that the tight lacing and compressing of the
body was practised by the ladies even in early times, and especially
by such of them as were inclined to be corpulent." He then, in order
to show at what an early date of the history of this country a
confirmed taste for small waists existed, quotes from a very ancient
poem, entitled _Launfal_, in which the Lady Triamore, daughter of the
King of the Fairies, and attendant ladies are described. Of two of
the latter it is said--

    "Their kirtles were of rede cendel,[1]
    I laced smalle, jollyf, and well,
    There might none gayer go."

  [1] A rich description of silk.


In the French version of the same poem it is, we read, more fully
expressed. It says, "They were richly habited and very tightly laced."
The Lady Triamore is thus described:--

    "The lady was in a purple pall,
    With gentill bodye and middle small."

Wharton quotes from an ancient poem, which he believes to date as
far back as 1200, in which a lover, speaking of the object of his
admiration, thus throws down the gauntlet of challenge, and exclaims--

    "Middle her she hath mensk small."

The word _mensk_ or _maint_ being used instead of very or much. Some
differences of opinion have existed among writers as to the origin
of the word _corset_. Some are of opinion that the French words
_corps_, the body, and _serrer_ (to tightly inclose or incase), led
to the adoption of the term. Madame La Sante gives it as her opinion,
however, that it is more probably a corruption of the single word
_corps_, which was formerly written _cors_, and may be taken as a
diminutive form of it. Another view of the matter has been that
the name of a rich material called _corse_, which was at one time
extensively used in the manufacture of corsets, may have been thus
corrupted. This is scarcely probable, as the word corset was in use
at too early a period to admit of that origin. Perhaps as early an
instance of the use of the term corset as any in existence may be
found as a portion of an entry in the household register of Eleanor,
Countess of Leicester, which bears the date May 24, 1265:--

"Item: Pro ix ulnis radii. Pariensis pro robas æstivas corsetto et
clochia pro eodem."[2]

[2] Item: For nine ells, Paris measure, for summer robes, corsets, and
cloaks for the same.

The persons for whom these garments were made were Richard, King
of the Normans, and Edward, his son, whose death occurred in the
year 1308. So that corsets were, even in those early days, used by
gentlemen as well as ladies.

The term kirtle, so often referred to, may not clearly convey to the
mind of the modern reader the nature of the garment indicated by it,
and therefore it may not be amiss to give Strutt's description of it.
He says, "The kirtle, or, as it was anciently written '_kertel_,' is
a part of the dress used by the men and the women, but especially by
the latter. It was sometimes a habit of state, and worn by persons of
high rank." The garment sometimes called a "_surcol_" Chaucer renders
_kirtle_, and we have no reason to dispute his authority. Kirtles are
very frequently mentioned in old romances. They are said to have been
of different textures and of different colours, but especially of
green; and sometimes they were laced closely to the body, and probably
answered the purpose of the bodice or stays--_vide Launfal_, before
referred to:--

    "Their kirtles were of rede cendel,
    I laced smalle, jollyf, and well."

To appear in a kirtle only seems to have been a mark of servitude.
Thus the lady of Sir Ladore, when he feasted the king, by way of
courtesy waited at the table--

    "The lady was gentyll and small,
    In kirtle alone she served in hall."

We are further informed that at the close of the fifteenth century
it was used as a habit of penance, and we read that Jane Shore, when
performing penance, walked barefoot, a lighted taper in her hand,
and having only her kirtle upon her back. John Gower, however, who
wrote at about the same period as Chaucer, thus describes a company
of ladies. They were, says he, "clothed all alike, in kirtles with
rich capes or mantles, parti-coloured, white, and blue, embroidered
all over with various devices." Their bodies are described as being
long and small, and they had crowns of gold upon their heads, as
though each of them had been a queen. We find that the tight-laced
young ladies of the court of the Lady Triamore "had mantles of
green-coloured velvet, handsomely bordered with gold, and lined with
rich furs. Their heads were neatly attired in kerchiefs, and were
ornamented with cut work and richly-striped wires of gold, and upon
their kerchiefs they had each of them a pretty coronal, embellished
with sixty gems or more;" and of their pretty mistress it is said in
the same poem, that her cheeks were as red as the rose when it first
blossoms. Her hair shone upon her head like golden wire, falling
beneath a crown of gold richly ornamented with precious stones. Her
vesture was purple, and her mantle, lined with white ermine, was also
elegantly furred with the same. The Princess Blanche, the daughter
of Edward III., the subject of the annexed illustration, appears to
have copied closely the dress above described, and, like the maids of
honour of the Lady Triamore herself, she is not only richly habited
but thoroughly well-laced as well. Thus we see, in the year 1361, the
full influence of the corset on the costume of that period. There is
another poem, said to be more ancient than even _Launfal_, which, no
doubt, served to give a tone and direction to the fashions of times
following after. Here we find a beautiful lady described as wearing a
splendid girdle of beaten gold, embellished with rubies and emeralds,
about her _middle small_.


Gower, too, when describing a lover who is in the act of admiring his
mistress, thus writes:--

    "He seeth hir shape forthwith, all
    Hir bodye round, hir middle small."

That the taste for slender figures was not confined to England will
be shown by the following quotation from Dunbar's _Thistle and Rose_.
When the belles of Scotland grouped together are described he tells us

    "Their middles were as small as wands."

A great number of ancient writings descriptive of female beauty go
clearly to prove that both slenderness and length of waist were
held in the highest esteem and considered indispensable elements of
elegance, and there can be no question that such being the case no
pains were spared to acquire the coveted grace a very small, long,
and round waist conferred on its possessor. The lower classes were
not slow in imitating their superiors, and the practice of tight
lacing prevailed throughout every grade of society. This was the case
even as far back as Chaucer's day, about 1340. He, in describing the
carpenter's wife, speaks of her as a handsome, well-made young female,
and informs us that "her body was genteel" (or elegant) and "small as
a weasel," and immediately afterwards that she was

    "Long as a maste, and upright as a bolt."

Notwithstanding the strict way in which the waist was laced during the
thirteenth century, the talents of the ingenious were directed to the
construction of some article of dress which should reduce the figure
to still more slender proportions, and the following remarks by Strutt
show that tight lacing was much on the increase from the thirteenth to
the fourteenth centuries. He says--

"A small waist was decidedly, as we have seen before, one criterion of
a beautiful form, and, generally speaking, its length was currently
regulated by a just idea of elegance, and especially in the thirteenth
century. In the fourteenth the women seem to have contracted a
vitiated taste, and not being content with their form as God hath
made it, introduced the corset or bodice--a stiff and unnatural
disguisement even in its origin."


How far this newly-introduced form of the corset became a
"disguisement" will be best judged of by a glance at the foregoing
illustration, which represents a lady in the dress worn just at
the close of the thirteenth century. The term _surcoat_ was given
to this new introduction. This in many instances was worn over the
dress somewhat after the manner of the body of a riding-habit, being
attached to the skirt, which spreads into a long trailing train. An
old author, speaking of these articles of dress, thus writes:--

"There came to me two women wearing _surcoats_, longer than they were
tall by about a yard, so that they were obliged to carry their trains
upon their arms to prevent their trailing upon the ground, and they
had sleeves to these surcoats reaching to the elbows."

The trains of these dresses at length reached such formidable
dimensions that Charles V. of France became so enraged as to cause an
edict to be issued hurling threats of excommunication at the heads of
all those who dared to wear a dress which terminated "like the tail of
a serpent."

Notwithstanding this tremendously alarming threat, a tailor was found
fully equal to the occasion, who, in spite of the terrors inspired
by candle, bell, and book, set to work (lion-hearted man that he
was) and made a magnificent surcoat for Madame du Gatinais, which
not only trailed far behind on the ground, but actually "took _five
yards of Brussels net for sleeves, which also trailed_." History, or
even tradition, fails to inform us what dreadful fate overtook this
desperate tailor after the performance of a feat so recklessly daring;
but we can scarcely fancy that his end could have been of the kind
common to tailors of less audacious depravity.

The bodies of these surcoats were very much stiffened, and so made
as to admit of being laced with extreme tightness. They were often
very richly ornamented with furs and costly needlework. As fashion
changed, dresses were made with open fronts, so as to be worn over
the surcoat without altogether concealing it. A portrait of Marie
d'Anjou, Queen of France, shows this arrangement of costume. The
waist appears very tightly laced, and the body of the surcoat much
resembles the modern bodice, but is made by stiffening and cut to
perform the part of a very strong and efficient corset. Until the
termination of the fourteenth century very little change appears to
have been made either in costume or the treatment of the figure,
but at the commencement of the fifteenth century, when such noble
families as the Medici, Este, and Visconti established fashions and
styles of costume for themselves, each house vied with the other in
the splendour of their apparel. The great masters of the period, by
painting ideal compositions, also gave a marked tone to the increasing
taste for dress. The costume of an Italian duchess, whose portrait
is to be seen in the Academy at Pisa, has been thus described:--"The
headdress is a gold coronet, the chemisette is finely interwoven with
gold, the under-dress is black, the square bodice being bordered with
white beads, the over-dress is gold brocade, the sides are open, and
fastened together again with gold _agrafes_; the loose sleeves, like
the chemisette, are of golden tissue, fastened to the shoulders with
_agrafes_. The under-sleeves, which are of peculiar construction,
and are visible, are crimson velvet, and reach to the centre of the
hand. They are cut out at the wrists, and white puffings of the same
material as the chemisette protrude through the openings." In both
France and Germany a great many strange freaks of fashion appear to
have been practised about this time. The tight, harlequin-like dress
was adopted by the gentlemen, whilst the long trains again stirred
the ire of royalty. We find Albert of Saxony issuing the following
laws:--"No wives or daughters of knights are to wear dresses exceeding
one yard and a-half in length, no spangles in their caps, nor high
frills round their throats." During the reign of the Dauphin in France
many changes in dress were effected. The length of the sleeves was
much curtailed, and the preposterously long toes of the shoes reduced
to a convenient standard. The ladies appear to have for some time
resisted the innovation, but one Poulaine, an ingenious Parisian
shoemaker, happening to devise a very attractive shoe with a heel
fitted to it, the ladies hailed joyfully the new favourite, and the
old snake-toed shoe passed away. Still, it was no uncommon thing to
see some fop of the period with one shoe white and the other black, or
one boot and one shoe.


  [Illustration: FULL COURT DRESS AS WORN IN FRANCE, 1515.]


                             CHAPTER IV.

   The _bonnet à canon_ and sugarloaf headdress--Headdress of the
   women of Normandy at the present day--Odd dress of King Louis
   XI.--Return of Charles VIII. from Naples--A golden time for
   tailors and milliners--General change of fashion--Costumes
   of the time of Francis I. of France and Maximilian of
   Germany--General use of pins in France and England--Masks worn
   in France--Establishment of the empire of Fashion in France--The
   puffed or _bouffant_ sleeves of the reign of Henry II.--The
   Bernaise dress--Costume of the unfortunate Marie Stuart--Rich
   dresses and long slender waists of the period--The tight-lacing
   of Henry III. of France--The Emperor Joseph of Austria,
   his edict forbidding the use of stays, and how the ladies
   regarded it--Queen Catherine de Medici and Queen Elizabeth of
   England--The severe form of Corsets worn in both France and
   England--The _corps_--Steel Corset covers of the period--Royal
   standard of fashionable slenderness--The lawn ruffs of Queen
   Bess--The art of starching--Voluminous nether-garments worn
   by the gentlemen of the period--Fashions of the ladies of
   Venice--Philip Stubs on the ruff--Queen Elizabeth's collection
   of false hair--Stubs furious at the fashions of ladies--King
   James and his fondness for dress and fashion--Restrictions and
   sumptuary laws regarding dress--Side-arms of the period.

From about 1380 to some time afterwards headdresses of most singular
form of construction were in general wear in fashionable circles. One
of these, the _bonnet à canon_, was introduced by Isabel of Bavaria.
The "_sugarloaf_" headdress was also in high esteem, and considered
especially becoming and attractive. The accompanying illustration
faithfully represents both of these. The latter in a modified form
is still worn by the women of Normandy. Throughout the reign of
Louis XI. dress continued to be most sumptuous in its character.
Velvet was profusely worn, with costly precious stones encircling the
trimmings. Sumptuary laws were issued right and left, with a view to
the correction of so much extravagance, whilst the king himself wore a
battered, shabby old felt cap, with a bordering of leaden figures of
the Virgin Mary round it. The rest of his attire was plain and simple
to a degree.



Next we see his successor, Charles VIII., returning as a conqueror
from Naples, dressed in the first style of Italian fashion. Then came
a period of intense activity on the part of milliners and tailors, and
a short time sufficed to completely metamorphose the reigning belles
of the nation. Smaller, much more becoming and coquettish headdresses
were introduced, and a general change of style brought about. Germany
participated in the same sudden change of fashion, which lasted until
the reign of Francis I. Accompanying illustrations represent a lady
of the court of Maximilian I. of Germany, and a lady of the court of
Francis I. of France. During his reign pins came into general use
both in France and England, although their use had been known to the
most ancient races, numerous specimens having been discovered in the
excavations of Thebes and other Old World cities. Ladies' masks or
visors were also introduced in France at this period, but they did not
become general in England until the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was
about this time that France commenced the establishment of her own
fashions and invented for herself, and that the ladies of that nation
became celebrated for the taste and elegance of their raiment.

On Henry II. succeeding Charles this taste was steadily on the
increase. The _bouffant_, or puffed form of sleeve, was introduced,
and a very pretty and becoming style of headdress known as the
_Bernaise_. The illustration shows a lady wearing this, the feather
being a mark of distinction. The dress is made of rich brocade, and
the waist exceedingly long (period, 1547.) The right-hand figure
represents the unfortunate Marie Stuart arrayed in a court dress of
the period, 1559. On the head is a gold coronet; her under-dress is
gold brocade, with gold arabesque work over it; the over-dress is
velvet, trimmed with ermine; the girdle consisted of costly strings of
pearls; the sleeves are of gold-coloured silk, and the puffings are
separated from each other by an arrangement of precious stones; the
front of the dress is also profusely ornamented in the same manner;
the frill or ruff was made from costly lace from Venice or Genoa, and
was invented by this very charming but unfortunate lady; the form
of the waist is, as will be seen on reference to this illustration,
long, and shows by its contour the full influence of the tightly-laced
corset beneath the dress, which fits the figure with extraordinary

At this time Fashion held such despotic sway throughout the continent
of Europe, that the Emperor Joseph of Austria, following out his
extraordinary penchant for the passing of edicts, and becoming
alarmed at the formidable lures laid out for the capture of mankind
by the fair sex, passed a law rigorously forbidding the use of the
corset in all nunneries and places where young females were educated;
and no less a threat than that of excommunication, and the loss of
all the indulgences the Church was capable of affording, hung over
the heads of all those evil-disposed damsels who persisted in a
treasonable manner in the practice of confining their waists with
such evil instruments as stays. Royal command, like an electric
shock, startled the College of Physicians into activity and zeal, and
learned dissertations on the crying sin of tight lacing were scattered
broadcast amongst the ranks of the benighted and tight-laced ladies of
the time, much as the advertisements of cheap furnishing ironmongers
are hurled into the West-End omnibuses of our own day.

It is proverbial that gratuitous advice is rarely followed by the
recipient. Open defiance was in a very short time bid to the edicts of
the emperor and the erudite dissertations of the doctors. The corsets
were, if possible, laced tighter than ever, and without anything very
particular happening to the world at large in consequence.

  [Illustration: LADY OF THE COURT OF CHARLES VIII., 1560.]





On Queen Catherine de Medici, who, it will be seen, was a contemporary
of Queen Elizabeth of England, assuming the position of power which
she so long maintained at the court of France, costume and fashion
became her study, and at no period of the world's history were its
laws more tremendously exacting, and the ladies of her court, as
well as those in distinguished circles, were compelled to obey them.
With her a thick waist was an abomination, and extraordinary tenuity
was insisted on, thirteen inches waist measure being the standard of
fashionable elegance, and in order that this extreme slenderness might
be arrived at she herself invented or introduced an extremely severe
and powerful form of the corset, known as the _corps_. It is thus
described by a talented French writer:--"This formidable corset was
hardened and stiffened in every imaginable way; it descended in a long
hard point, and rose stiff and tight to the throat, making the wearers
look as if they were imprisoned in a closely-fitting fortress." And
in this rigid contrivance the form of the fair wearer was incased,
when a system of gradual and determined constriction was followed
out until the waist arrived at the required degree of slenderness,
as shown in the annexed illustration. Several writers have mentioned
the "_steel corsets_" of this period, and assumed that they were used
for the purpose of forcibly reducing the size of the waist. In this
opinion they were incorrect, as the steel framework in question was
simply used to wear over the corset after the waist had been reduced
by lacing to the required standard, in order that the dress over it
might fit with inflexible and unerring exactness, and that not even
a fold might be seen in the faultless stomacher then worn. These
corsets (or, more correctly, corset-covers) were constructed of very
thin steel plate, which was cut out and wrought into a species of
open-work pattern, with a view to giving lightness to them. Numbers
of holes were drilled through the flat surfaces between the hollows
of the pattern, through which the needle and thread were passed in
covering them accurately with velvet, silk, or other rich materials.
During the reign of Queen Catherine de Medici, to whom is attributed
the invention of these contrivances, they became great favourites, and
were much worn, not only at her court, but throughout the greater part
of the continent.

They were made in two pieces, opened longitudinally by hinges, and
were secured when closed by a sort of _hasp and pin_, much like an
ordinary box fastening. At both the front and back of the corsage a
long rod or bar of steel projected in a curved direction downwards,
and on these bars mainly depended the adjustment of the long peaked
body of the dress, and the set of the skirt behind. The illustration
at page 71 gives a view of one of those ancient dress-improvers.




The votaries of fashion of Queen Elizabeth's court were not slow in
imitating in a rough manner the new continental invention, and the
illustrations at pages 72 and 76, taken from photographs, will show
that, although not precisely alike, the steel corset-covers of England
were much in principle like those of France, and the accompanying
illustration represents a court lady in one of them. We have no
evidence, however, that their use ever became very general in this
country, and we find a most powerful and unyielding form of the corset
constructed of very stout materials and closely ribbed with whalebone
superseding them. This was the _corps_ before mentioned, and its use
was by no means confined to the ladies of the time, for we find the
gentlemen laced in garments of this kind to no ordinary degree of
tightness. That this custom prevailed for some very considerable time
will be shown by the accompanying illustration, which represents Queen
Catherine's son, Henry III. (who was much addicted to the practice of
tight lacing), and the Princess Margaret of Lorraine, who was just
the style of figure to please his taste, which was ladylike in the
extreme. Eardrops in his ears, delicate kid gloves on his hands; hair
dyed to the fashionable tint, brushed back under a coquettish little
velvet cap, in which waved a white ostrich's feather; hips bolstered
and padded out, waist laced in the very tightest and most unyielding
of corsets, and feet incased in embroidered satin shoes, Henry was
a true son of his fashionable mother, only lacking her strong will
and powerful understanding. England under Elizabeth's reign followed
close on the heels of France in the prevailing style of dress. From
about the middle of her reign the upper classes of both sexes carried
out the custom of tight lacing to an extreme which knew scarcely any
bounds. The corsets were so thickly quilted with whalebone, so long
and rigid when laced to the figure, that the long pointed stomachers
then worn fitted faultlessly well, without a wrinkle, just as did the
dresses of the French court over the steel framework before described.
The following lines by an old author will give some idea of their
unbending character:--

    "These privie coats, by art made strong,
    With bones, with paste, with such-like ware,
    Whereby their back and sides grow long,
    And now they harnest gallants are;
    Were they for use against the foe
    Our dames for Amazons might go."

On examining the accompanying illustration representing a lady of the
court of Queen Elizabeth, it will be observed that the farthingale,
or verdingale, as it is sometimes written, and from which the modern
crinoline petticoat is borrowed, serves to give the hips extraordinary
width, which, coupled with the frill round the bottom of the
stomacher, gave the waist the appearance of remarkable slenderness as
well as length. The great size of the frills or ruffs also lent their
aid in producing the same effect.

It was in the reign of Elizabeth that the wearing of lawn and cambric
commenced in this country; previously even royal personages had been
contented with fine holland as a material for their ruffs. When
Queen Bess had her first lawn ruffs there was no one in England who
could starch them, and she procured some Dutch women to perform the
operation. It is said that her first starcher was the wife of her
coachman, Guillan. Some years later one Mistress Dinghen Vauden
Plasse, the wife of a Flemish knight, established herself in London
as a professed starcher. She also gave lessons in the art, and many
ladies sent their daughters and kinswomen to learn of her. Her terms
were five pounds for the starching and twenty shillings additional for
learning to "seeth" the starch. Saffron was used with it to impart
to it a yellow colour which was much admired. The gentlemen of the
period indulged in nether garments so puffed out and voluminous that
the legislature was compelled to take the matter in hand. We read
of "a man who, having been brought before the judges for infringing
the law made against these extensive articles of clothing, pleaded
the convenience of his pockets as an excuse for his misdemeanour.
They appeared, indeed, to have answered to him the purposes both of
wardrobe and linen cupboard, for from their ample recesses he drew
forth the following articles--viz., a pair of sheets, two tablecloths,
ten napkins, four shirts, a brush, a glass, a comb, besides nightcaps
and other useful things; his defence being--'Your worship may
understand that because I have no safer storehouse these pockets do
serve me for a roome to lay up my goodes in; and though it be a strait
prison, yet it is big enough for them.'" His discharge was granted,
and his clever defence well laughed at.

  [Illustration: A VENETIAN LADY OF FASHION, 1560.]

  [Illustration: QUEEN ELIZABETH.]

The Venetian ladies appear to have been fully aware of the reducing
effect of frills and ruffs on the apparent size of waist of the
wearer, and they were, as the annexed illustration will show, worn of
extraordinary dimensions; but the front of the figure was, of course,
only displayed, and on this all the decoration and ornamentation that
extravagant taste could lavish was bestowed. The Elizabethan ruff,
large as it was, bore no comparison with this, and was worn as shown
in the accompanying portrait of the "Virgin Queen," who indulged in
numerous artifices for heightening her personal attractions. The ruffs
and frills of the period so excited the ire of Philip Stubs, a citizen
of London, that in his work, dated 1585, he thus launches out against
them in the quaint language of the time:--

"The women there vse great ruffes and neckerchers of holland, laune,
cameruke, and such clothe as the greatest threed shall not be so big
as the least haire that is, and lest they should fall downe they are
smeared and starched in the devil's liquor, I mean starche; after
that dried with great diligence, streaked, patted, and rubbed very
nicely, and so applied to their goodly necks, and withal vnderpropped
with supportasses (as I told you before), the stately arches of
pride; beyond all this they have a further fetche, nothing inferiour
to the rest, as namely--three or four degrees of minor ruffes placed
_gradation_, one beneath another, and al under the mayster deuilruffe.
The skirtes, then, of these great ruffes are long and wide, every way
pleated and crested full curiously, God wot! Then, last of all, they
are either clogged with gold, silver, or silk lace of stately price,
wrought all over with needleworke, speckeled and sparkeled here and
there with the sunne, the mone, the starres, and many other antiques
strange to beholde. Some are wrought with open worke downe to the
midst of the ruffe, and further, some with close worke, some wyth
purled lace so cloied, and other gewgaws so pestered, as the ruffe is
the least parte of itselfe. Sometimes they are pinned upp to their
eares, sometimes they are suffered to hange over theyr shoulders, like
windemill sailes fluttering in the winde; and thus every one pleaseth
her selfe in her foolish devises."

In the matter of false hair her majesty Queen Elizabeth was a perfect
connoisseur, having, so it is said, eighty changes of various kinds
always on hand. The fashionable ladies, too, turned their attention
to artificial adornment of that kind with no ordinary energy, and
poor old Stubs appears almost beside himself with indignation on the
subject, and thus writes about it:--"The hair must of force be curled,
frisled, and crisped, laid out in wreaths and borders from one ear to
another. And, lest it should fall down, it is underpropped with forks,
wires, and I cannot tell what, rather like grim, stern monsters than
chaste Christian matrons. At their hair thus wreathed and crested are
hanged bugles, ouches, rings, gold and silver glasses, and such like
childish gewgaws." The fashion of painting the face also calls down
his furious condemnation, and the dresses come in for a fair share of
his vituperation, and their length is evidently a source of excessive
exasperation. We give his opinions in his own odd, scolding words:--

"Their gownes be no less famous than the rest, for some are of silke,
some velvet, some of grograine, some of taffatie, some of scarlet,
and some of fine cloth of x., xx., or xl. shillings a yarde. But if
the whole gowne be not silke or velvet, then the same shall be layd
with lace two or three fingers broade all over the gowne, or els the
most parte, or if not so (as lace is not fine enough sometimes), then
it must bee garded with great gardes of velvet, every yard fower or
sixe fingers broad at the least, and edged with costly lace, and as
these gownes be of divers and sundry colours, so are they of divers
fashions--chaunging with the moone--for some be of new fashion, some
of the olde, some of thys fashion, and some of that; some with sleeves
hanging downe to their skirtes, trailing on the ground, and cast over
their shoulders like cows' tailes; some have sleeves muche shorter,
cut vp the arme and poincted with silke ribbons, very gallantly tied
with true love's knottes (for so they call them); some have capes
reachyng downe to the midest of their backes, faced with velvet, or
els with some wrought silke taffatie at the least, and fringed about
very bravely (and to shut vp all in a worde), some are peerled and
rinsled downe the backe wonderfully, with more knackes than I can
declare. Then have they petticoates of the beste clothe that can
be bought, and of the fayrest dye that can be made. And sometimes
they are not of clothe neither, for that is thought too base, but
of scarlet grograine, taffatie, silke, and such like, fringed about
the skirtes with silke fringe of chaungeable colour, but whiche is
more vayne, of whatsoever their petticoates be yet must they have
kirtles (for so they call them), either of silke, velvett, grogaraine,
taffatie, satten, or scarlet, bordered with gardes, lace, fringe, and
I cannot tell what besides."

History fails to enlighten us as to whether the irascible Stubs
was blessed with a stylish wife and a large family of fashionable
daughters, but we rather incline to the belief that he must have been
a confirmed old bachelor, as we cannot find that he was ever placed
in a lunatic asylum, a fate which would inevitably have befallen him
if the fashions of the time had been brought within the sphere of
his own dwelling. It is somewhat singular that, writing, as he did,
in the most violent manner against almost every article of personal
adornment, and every artifice of fashionable life, the then universal
and extreme use of the corset should have escaped censure at his hands.

King James, who succeeded Elizabeth, manifested an inordinate fondness
for dress. We read that--"Not only his courtiers, but all the youthful
portion of his subjects, were infected in a like manner, and the
attire of a fashionable gentleman in those days could scarcely have
been exceeded in fantastic device and profuse decoration. The hair was
long and flowing, falling upon the shoulders; the hat, made of silk,
velvet, or beaver (the latter being most esteemed), was high-crowned,
narrow-brimmed, and steeple-shaped. It was occasionally covered with
gold and silver embroidery, a lofty plume of feathers, and a hatband
sparkling with gems being frequently worn with it. It was customary
to dye the beard of various colours, according to the fancy of the
wearer, and its shape also differed with his profession. The most
effeminate fashion at this time was that of wearing jewelled rings in
the ears, which was common among the upper and middle ranks. Gems were
also suspended to ribbons round the neck, while the long 'lovelock' of
hair so carefully cherished under the left ear was adorned with roses
of ribbons, and even real flowers. The ruff had already been reduced
by order of Queen Elizabeth, who enacted that when reaching beyond 'a
nayle of a yeard in depth' it should be clipped. In the early part
of her reign the doublet and hose had attained a preposterous size,
especially the nether garments, which were stuffed and bolstered with
wool and hair to such an extent that Strutt tells us, on the authority
of one of the Harleian manuscripts, that a scaffold was erected
round the interior of the Parliament House for the accommodation of
such members as wore them! This was taken down in the eighth year of
Elizabeth's reign, when this ridiculous fashion was laid aside. The
doublet was afterwards reduced in size, but still so hard-quilted that
the wearer could not stoop to the ground, and was incased as in a coat
of mail. In shape it was like a waistcoat, with a large cape, and
either close or very wide sleeves. These latter were termed _Danish_.
A cloak of the richest materials, embroidered in gold or silver, and
faced with foxskin, lambskin, or sable, was buttoned over the left
shoulder. None, however, under the rank of an earl were permitted to
indulge in sable facings. The hose were either of woven silk, velvet,
or damask; the garters were worn externally below the knee, made of
gold, silver, or velvet, and trimmed with a deep gold fringe. Red
silk stockings, parti-coloured gaiters, and even 'cross gartering'
to represent the Scotch tartan, were frequently seen. The shoes of
this period were cork-soled, and elevated their wearers at least two
or three inches from the ground. They were composed of velvet of
various colours, worked in the precious metals, and if fastened with
strings, immense roses of ribbon were attached to them, variously
ornamented, and frequently of great value, as may be seen in Howe's
continuation of Stowe's Chronicle, where he tells us 'men of rank
wear garters and shoe-roses of more than five pounds price.' The dress
of a gentleman was not considered perfect without a dagger and rapier.
The former was worn at the back, and was highly ornamented. The latter
having superseded, about the middle of Elizabeth's reign, the heavy
two-handed sword, previously used in England, was, indeed, chiefly
worn as an ornament, the hilt and scabbard being always profusely


                              CHAPTER V.

   Strange freaks of Louise de Lorraine--One of her adventures--Her
   dress at a royal _fête_--Marie de Medici--The distended dresses
   of her time--Hair-powder--Costume _à la enfant_--Escapade
   of the young Louis--Low dresses of the period--The court of
   Louis XIV. of France--High heels, slender waists, and fancy
   costumes--The Siamese dress--Charles I. of England--Patches
   introduced--Elaborate costumes of the period--Puritanism, its
   effect on the fashions--Fashions in Cromwell's time, and the
   general prevalence of the practice of tight-lacing--The ladies
   of Augsburg described by Hoechstetterus.

Little change appears to have taken place in the prevailing fashions
of England for some considerable time after this period. In France two
opposing influences sprang up. Henry III., as we have seen, was the
slave of fashion, and mainly occupied his time in devising some new
and extravagant article of raiment. His wife, Louise de Lorraine, on
the other hand, although exceedingly handsome, was of a gloomy, stern,
and ascetic disposition, dressing more like a nun than the wife of so
gay a husband. She caused numerous sumptuary laws to be framed, in
order to, if possible, reduce the style of ladies' dress to a standard
nearer her own; and the following anecdote will serve to show the
petty spirit in which her powers were sought to be exercised.


  [Illustration: MARIE DE MEDICI.]

A writer on her life says, "She was accustomed to go out on foot with
but a single attendant, both habited plainly in some woollen fabric,
and one day, on entering a mercer's shop in the Rue St. Denis, she
encountered the wife of a president tricked out superbly in the latest
fashions of the day. The subject did not recognise the sovereign,
who inquired her name, and received for answer that she was called
'La Présidente de M.,' the information being given curtly, and with
the additional remark, 'to satisfy your curiosity.' To this the
queen replied, 'But, Madame la Présidente, you are very smart for a
person of your condition.' Still the interrogator was not recognised,
and Madame la Présidente, with that pertness so characteristic of
ordinary womankind, replied, 'At any rate, you did not pay for my
smartness.' Scarcely was this retort completed when it dawned upon
the speaker that it was the queen who had been putting these posing
questions, and then a scene followed of contrite apology on the one
hand, and remonstrance on the frivolity of smart attire on the other,
both very easy to imagine." With all this pretended simplicity and
humility, Queen Louise, on certain occasions, indulged in the most
lavish display of her personal attractions. It is related of her that
on the marriage of her sister Margaret, she attended a magnificent
_fête_ given at the Hôtel de Bourbon, and made her appearance in the
saloon or grand ball-room as the leader of twelve beautiful young
ladies, arrayed as Naiads. The queen wore a dress of silver cloth,
with a tunic of flesh-coloured and silver _crêpes_ over it; on her
head she wore a splendid ornament, composed of triangles of diamonds,
rubies, and various other gems and precious stones. Still the king was
the acknowledged leader of fashion, which the queen did all in her
power to suppress, except when it suited her royal caprice to astonish
the world with her own elegance.

Henry IV. appears to have had no especial inclination for matters
relating to fashion, and the world wagged much as it pleased so far as
he was concerned. On his marrying, however, his second wife, Marie de
Medici, another ardent supporter of all that was splendid, sumptuous,
and magnificent was found. His first wife, indeed, Marguerite de
Valois, had strong fashionable proclivities, but she was utterly
eclipsed by the new star, whose portrait is the subject of the
accompanying illustration, in which it will be seen that the wide
hips and distended form of dress accompany the long and narrow waist.
This style of costume remained popular, as did hair-powder, which was
introduced in consequence of the grey locks of Henry IV., until the
boy-king Louis XIII., who was placed under the control and regency of
his mother, caused by his juvenile appearance a marked change in the
fashions of the time. The men shaved off their whiskers and beards,
and the ladies brushed back their hair _à l'enfant_, and as about this
time Marie showed strong indications of a tendency towards portliness,
the hoops were discarded; and short waists, laced to an extreme
degree of tightness, long trailing skirts, and very high-heeled shoes
were introduced. The dresses of this period of sudden change were
worn excessively low, and it is said of young Louis that he was so
alarmed, enraged, and astonished at the sight of the white shoulders
of a lady of high position that he threw a glass of wine over them,
and precipitately quitted the scene of his discomfiture. The annexed
illustration shows the style of dress after the changes above referred

The next noteworthy changes we shall see taking place during the
reign of Charles I. in England and Louis XIV. of France. The court of
the _Grand Monarque_ was one of extraordinary pomp and magnificence;
flowing ringlets, shoes with heels of extraordinary height, and
waists of extreme slenderness were the rage. Fancy costumes were
also much affected. The accompanying illustration represents a lady
and gentleman of the period equipped for the _chase_, but of what
it would be difficult to say, unless butterflies were considered in
the category of game. The so-called Siamese dress, which became so
generally popular, was worn first during the reign of Louis XIV. Many
of these dresses were extremely rich and elegant; one is described
as having the tunic or upper-skirt composed of scarlet silk with
brocaded gold flowers. The under-skirt was of green and gold, with
frills of exquisite work from the elbow to the wrist. The accompanying
illustration represents a court lady dressed in this style, and that
which follows it a fancy dress of the same period. It was in this
reign that the coloured and ornamented clocks to ladies' stockings
first made their appearance. Patches for the face were first worn in
England during the reign of Charles, although they continued in use
for a great number of years, and the following satirical lines were
written by an old author regarding them and one of their wearers:--

    "Your homely face, Flippanta, you disguise
    With patches numerous as Argus' eyes;
    I own that patching's requisite for you,
    For more we're pleased the less your face we view;
    Yet I advise, since my advice you ask,
    Wear but one patch, and be that patch a mask."



The fashions set by the court of Louis were eagerly seized on by
the whole of Europe. The flowing curls, lace cuffs, and profuse
embroidery in use at the court of Charles of England were all borrowed
from France, but the general licence and laxity of the period for
some short time showed itself in the dress of the ladies, whilst
fickleness and love of change, accompanied by thoughtless luxury and
profusion, prevailed. The following complaint of a lady's serving-man,
dated 1631, will show that the Puritans were not without reason in
condemning the extravagances of the time:--

"Here is a catalogue as tedious as a taylor's bill of all the devices
which I am commanded to provide (_videlicet_):--

    "Chains, coronets, pendants, bracelets, and earrings,
    Pins, girdles, spangles, embroidaries, and rings,
    Shadomes, rebatacs, ribbands, ruffs, cuffs, falls,
    Scarfs, feathers, fans, maskes, muffes, laces, cauls,
    Thin tiffanies, cobweb lawn, and fardingales,
    Sweet sals, vyles, wimples, glasses, crumping pins,
    Pots of ointment, combs, with poking-sticks, and bodkins,
    Coyfes, gorgets, fringes, rowels, fillets, and hair laces,
    Silks, damasks, velvets, tinsels, cloth of gold,
    Of tissues with colours a hundredfold,
    But in her tyres so new-fangled is she
    That which doth with her humour now agree,
    To-morrow she dislikes; now doth she swear
    That a losse body is the neatest weare,
    But ere an hour be gone she will protest
    A strait gown graces her proportion best.

    "Now calls she for a boisterous fardingale,
    Then to her hips she'll have her garments fall.
    Now doth she praise a sleeve that's long and wide,
    Yet by and by that fashion doth deride;
    Sometimes she applauds a pavement-sweeping train,
    And presently dispraiseth it again;
    Now she commands a shallow band so small
    That it may seem scarce any band at all;
    But now a new fancy doth she reele,
    And calls for one as big as a coach-wheele;
    She'll weare a flowry coronet to-day,
    The symbol of her beauty's sad decay;
    To-morrow she a waving plume will try,
    The emblem of all female levitie;
    Now in her hat, then in her hair is drest,
    Now of all fashions she thinks change the best."

On Puritanism becoming general the style of dress adopted by
the so-called "Roundheads," as a contrast to that of the hated
"Cavaliers," was stiff, prim, and formal to a degree; and during
Cromwell's sway as Protector, small waists, stiff corsets, and very
tight lacing again became the fashion; and Bulwer, who writes in
1653, in speaking of the young ladies of his day, says, "They strive
all they possibly can by streight lacing themselves to attain unto a
wand-like smallness of waist, never thinking themselves fine enough
until they can span their waists." The annexed illustration, adapted
by us from his work, _The Artificial Changeling_, represents a young
lady who has achieved the desired tenuity. He also quotes from
Hoechstetterus, who in his description of "_Auspurge_, the metropolis
of _Swevia_," 1653 (meaning Augsburg, the capital of _Suabia_), "They
are," saith he, describing the virgins of Auspurge, "slender, streight
laced, with '_demisse_' (sloping) shoulders, lest being grosse and
well made they should be thought to have too athletique bodies." So
throughout the length and breadth of Europe the use of tightly-laced
corsets remained general.

   [Illustration: YOUNG ENGLISH LADY OF FASHION, 1653.]


                             CHAPTER VI.

   Fashion during the reign of Louis XV.--Costumes _à la_
   Watteau--An army of barbers--The fashions of England during the
   reign of Queen Anne--The diminutive waist and enormous hoop of
   her day--The farthingale: letters in the _Guardian_ protesting
   against its use--Fashion in 1713--Low dresses, tight stays, and
   short skirts: letters relating to--Correspondence touching the
   fashions of that period from the _Guardian_--Accomplishments of
   a lady's-maid--Writings of Gay and Ben Jonson--Their remarks on
   the "_bodice_" and "_stays_."

At the death of Louis XIV. and the accession of his successor, Louis
XV., in 1715, fashions ran into wonderful extremes and caprices. Hoops
became the rage, as did patches, paint, and marvellously high-heeled
shoes. The artistic skill of Watteau in depicting costume and devising
the attributes of the favourite fancy dresses of the time, led to
their adoption among the votaries of fashion. Shepherds who owned no
sheep were tricked out in satins, laces, and ribbons, and tripped it
daintily hand in hand with the exquisitely-dressed, slender-waisted
shepherdesses we see reproduced in Dresden china and the accompanying
illustration. Guitars tinkled beneath the trees of many a grove in the
pleasure-grounds of the fine old châteaux of France; fruit strewed on
the ground, costly wines in massive flagons, groups of gay gallants
and charming belles, such as the accompanying illustration represents,
engaged in love-making, music and flirtation, make up the scene on
which Watteau loved most to dwell, and which King Louis' gay subjects
were not slow in performing to the life, and the happy age of the poet
appeared all but realised:--

    "There was once a golden time
    When the world was in its prime--
    When every day was holiday,
    And every shepherd learned to love."

To carry out the everyday life of this dream world, no small amount
of sacrifice and labour was needed, and we are informed that over
twelve hundred hairdressers were in full occupation in Paris alone,
frizzing, curling, and arranging in a thousand and one fantastical
ways, hours being needed to perfect the head-gear of a lady of _ton_.
For the prevailing fashions of England we must step back a few years,
and glance at the latter portion of the reign of Queen Anne, at which
time we find the diminutive size of the waist in marked contrast to
the enormous dimensions of the hoop or farthingale, which reached such
a formidable size that numerous remonstrances appeared in the journals
of the day relative to it. The following letter complaining of the
grievance appeared in the _Guardian_ of July 22, 1713:--

   "MR. GUARDIAN,--Your predecessor, the _Spectator_,
   endeavoured, but in vain, to improve the charms of the
   fair sex by exposing their dress whenever it launched into
   extremities. Amongst the rest the great petticoat came under his
   consideration, but in contradiction to whatever he has said,
   they still resolutely persist in this fashion. The form of their
   bottom is not, I confess, altogether the same, for whereas
   before it was one of an orbicular make, they now look as if
   they were pressed so that they seem to deny access to any part
   but the middle. Many are the inconveniences that accrue to her
   majesty's loving subjects from the said petticoats, as hurting
   men's shins, sweeping down the ware of industrious females in
   the street, &c. I saw a young lady fall down the other day,
   and, believe me, sir, she very much resembled an overturned
   bell without a clapper. Many other disasters I could tell you
   of that befall themselves as well as others by means of this
   unwieldy garment. I wish, Mr. Guardian, you would join with me
   in showing your dislike of such a monstrous fashion, and I hope,
   when the ladies see this, the opinion of two of the wisest men
   in England, they will be convinced of their folly.

    "I am, sir, your daily reader and admirer,

    "TOM PAIN."


  [Illustration: CRINOLINE IN 1713.]

The accompanying illustration will show that these remonstrances were
not without cause.

The fashion of wearing extremely low dresses, with particularly short
skirts, also led to much correspondence and many strong remarks, which
are duly commented on by the editor of the _Guardian_, assisted by his
"_good old lady_," as he calls her, "the Lady Lizard." Thus he writes
on the subject under discussion:--

    "_Editorial letter._

    "GUARDIAN, _July 16, 1713_.

   "I am very well pleased with this approbation of my good
   sisters. I must confess I have always looked on the 'tucker'
   to be the _decus et tutamen_, the ornament and defence of the
   female neck. My good old lady, the Lady Lizard, condemned this
   fashion from the beginning, and has observed to me, with some
   concern, that her sex at the same time they are letting down
   their stays are tucking up their petticoats, which grow shorter
   and shorter every day. The leg discovers itself in proportion
   with the neck, but I may possibly take another occasion of
   handling this extremity, it being my design to keep a watchful
   eye over every part of the female sex, and to regulate them
   from head to foot. In the meantime I shall fill up my paper
   with a letter which comes to me from another of my obliged

That these very low dresses were not alone worn in the house and
at assemblies, but were also occasionally seen on the promenades,
is shown by the following satirical appeal to the editor of the
journal from which we have just been quoting, and the accompanying
illustration represents the too-fascinating style of costume which
caused its writer so much concern:--

    "_Wednesday, August 12, 1713._

   "Notwithstanding your grave advice to the fair sex not to lay
   the beauties of their necks so open, I find they mind you
   so little that we young men are as much in danger as ever.
   Yesterday, about seven in the evening, I took a walk with a
   gentleman, just come to town, in a public walk. We had not
   walked above two rounds when the spark on a sudden pretended
   weariness, and as I importuned him to stay longer he turned
   short, and, pointing out a celebrated beauty, 'What,' said he,
   'do you think I am made of, that I could bear the sight of such
   snowy beauties? She is intolerably handsome.' Upon this we
   parted, and I resolved to take a little more air in the garden,
   yet avoid the danger, by casting my eyes downwards; but, to my
   unspeakable surprise, discovered in the same fair creature the
   finest ankle and prettiest foot that ever fancy imagined. If the
   petticoats as well as the stays thus diminish, what shall we
   do, dear Mentor? It is neither safe to look at the head nor the
   feet of the charmer. Whither shall we direct our eyes? I need
   not trouble you with my description of her, but I beg you would
   consider that your wards are frail and mortal.

    "Your most obedient servant,



There is no source, perhaps, from which a clearer view of the fashions
of this period, and mode of thought then entertained concerning them,
could be obtained than the antiquated journal we have just quoted
from. The opinions therein expressed, and the system of reasoning
adopted by some of the contributors to its columns, are so singularly
quaint that we cannot resist giving the reader the benefit of them.
The happy vein of philosophy possessed by the writer of the following
letter must have made the world a mere pleasure-garden, through which
he wandered at his own sweet will, "king of the universe:"--

    "GUARDIAN, _Friday, May 8th, 1713_.

   "When I walk the streets I use the foregoing natural maxim
   (viz., that he is the true possessor of a thing who enjoys it,
   and not he that owns it without the enjoyment of it) to convince
   myself that I have a property in the gay part of all the gilt
   chariots that I meet, which I regard as amusements designed to
   delight the eye and the imagination of those kind people who sit
   in them gaily attired only to please me. I have a real and they
   only an imaginary pleasure from their exterior embellishments.
   Upon the same principle I have discovered that I am the natural
   proprietor of all the diamond necklaces, the crosses and stars,
   brocades and embroidered cloths which I see at a play or
   birthnight, as giving more natural delight to the spectator than
   to those who wear them; and I look on the beaux and ladies as
   so many paroquets in an aviary, or tulips in a garden, designed
   purely for my diversion. A gallery of pictures, a cabinet, or
   library that I have free access to, I think my own. In a word,
   all that I desire is the use of things, let who will have the
   keeping of them. By which maxim I am growing one of the richest
   men in Great Britain, with this difference, that I am not a prey
   to my own cares or the envy of others."

The reply to the foregoing letter by a lady of fashion, written with a
strong dash of satire, is equally curious in its way, as it shows the
great importance attached to a pleasing and attractive exterior:--

    "_To the Editor of the_ GUARDIAN.

    "_Tuesday, May 19th, 1713._

   "SIR,--I am a lady of birth and fortune, but never knew
   till last Thursday that the splendour of my equipage was so
   beneficial to my country. I will not deny that I have dressed
   for some years out of the pride of my heart, but am very glad
   that you have so far settled my conscience in that particular
   that now I can look upon my vanities as so many virtues, since
   I am satisfied that my person and garb give pleasure to my
   fellow-creatures. I shall not think the three hours' business I
   usually devote to my toilette below the dignity of a rational
   soul. I am content to suffer great torment from my stays that
   my shape may appear graceful to the eyes of others, and often
   mortify myself with fasting rather than my fatness should give
   distaste to any man in England. I am making up a rich brocade
   for the benefit of mankind, and design in a little time to treat
   the town with a thousand pounds' worth of jewellery. I have
   ordered my chariot to be newly painted for your use and the
   world's, and have prevailed upon my husband to present you with
   a pair of Flanders mares, by driving them every evening round
   the ring. Gay pendants for my ears, a costly cross for my neck,
   a diamond of the best water for my finger shall be purchased,
   at any rate, to enrich you, and I am resolved to be a patriot
   in every limb. My husband will not scruple to oblige me in
   these trifles, since I have persuaded him, from your scheme,
   that pin-money is only so much money set for charitable uses.
   You see, sir, how expensive you are to me, and I hope you will
   esteem me accordingly, especially when I assure you that I am,
   as far as you can see me,

    "Entirely yours,


The tight lacing and tremendously stiff corsets of the time were also
the subjects of satirical remark in some quarters, and were upheld in
others, as the two following letters, copied from the _Guardian_ of
1713, will show:--

    "_Thursday, June 18th, 1713._

   "SIR,--don't know at what nice point you fix the
   bloom of a young lady, but I am one who can just look back on
   fifteen. My father dying three years ago left me under the
   care and direction of my mother, with a fortune not profusely
   great, yet such as might demand a very handsome settlement
   if ever proposals of marriage should be offered. My mother,
   after the usual time of retired mourning was over, was so
   affectionately indulgent to me as to take me along with her in
   all her visits, but still, not thinking she gratified my youth
   enough, permitted me further to go with my relatives to all
   the publick cheerful but innocent entertainments, where she
   was too reserved to appear herself. The two first years of my
   teens were easy, gay, and delightful; every one caressed me,
   the old ladies told me how finely I grew, and the young ones
   were proud of my company; but when the third year had a little
   advanced, my relations used to tell my mother that pretty Miss
   Clarey was shot up into a woman. The gentlemen began now not
   to let their eyes glance over me, and in most places I found
   myself distinguished, but observed the more I grew into the
   esteem of their sex, the more I lost the favour of my own;
   some of those whom I had been familiar with grew cold and
   indifferent; others mistook by design my meaning, made me speak
   what I never thought, and so, by degrees, took occasion to
   break off acquaintance. There were several little insignificant
   reflections cast upon me, as being a lady of a great many
   acquaintances, and such like, which I seemed not to take notice
   of. But my mother coming home about a week ago, told me there
   was a scandal spread about town by my enemies that would at once
   ruin me for ever for a beauty. I earnestly intreated her to know
   it; she refused me, but yesterday it discovered itself. Being in
   an assembly of gentlemen and ladies, one of the gentlemen, who
   had been very facetious to several of the ladies, at last turned
   to me. 'And as for you, madam. Prior has already given us your

    "'That air and harmony of shape express,
    Fine by degrees and beautifully less.'

   "I perceived immediately a malignant smile display itself in the
   countenance of some of the ladies, which they seconded with a
   scornful flutter of the fan, till one of them, unable any longer
   to contain herself, asked the gentleman if he did not remember
   what Congreve said about Aurelia, for she thought it mighty
   pretty. He made no answer, but instantly repeated the verses--

    "'The Mulcibers who in the Minories sweat,
    And massive bars on stubborn anvils beat,
    Deformed themselves, yet forge those stays of steel,
    Which arm Aurelia with a shape to kill.'

   "This was no sooner over but it was easily discernable what an
   ill-natured satisfaction most of the company took, and the more
   pleasure they showed by dwelling upon the two last lines, the
   more they increased my trouble and confusion. And now, sir,
   after this tedious account, what would you advise me to? Is
   there no way to be cleared of these malicious calumnies? What
   is beauty worth that makes the possessed thus unhappy? Why was
   Nature so lavish of her gifts to me as to make her kindness
   prove a cruelty? They tell me my shape is delicate, my eyes
   sparkling, my lips I know not what, my cheeks, forsooth, adorned
   with a just mixture of the rose and lillie; but I wish this face
   was barely not disagreeable, this voice harsh and unharmonious,
   these limbs only not deformed, and then perhaps I might live
   easie and unmolested, and neither raise love and admiration in
   the men, nor scandal and hatred in the women.

    "Your very humble servant,


    "_Editor's Reply to Letter of Thursday, June 18th, 1713._

   "The best answer I can make my fair correspondent is, that she
   ought to comfort herself with this consideration, that those
   who talk thus of her know it is false, but wish to make others
   believe it is true. 'Tis not they think you deformed, but are
   vexed that they themselves were not so nicely framed. If you
   will take an old man's advice, laugh and not be concerned at
   them; they have attained what they endeavoured if they make you
   uneasie, for it is envy that has made them. I would not have you
   with your shape one fiftieth part of an inch disproportioned,
   nor desire your face might be impoverished with the ruin of
   half a feature, though numbers of remaining beauties might make
   the loss insensible; but take courage, go into the brightest
   assemblies, and the world will quickly confess it to be scandal.
   Thus Plato, hearing it was asserted by some persons that he was
   a very bad man--'I shall take care,' said he, 'to live so that
   nobody will believe them.'"

The milliners and lady's-maids of the time were expected to fully
understand all matters relating to the training of the figure.

A writer of this period, in speaking of the requisite accomplishments
of a mantua-maker, says--"She must know how to hide all the defects in
the proportions of the body, and must be able to mould the shape by
the stays so as to preserve the intestines, that while she corrects
the body she may not interfere with the pleasures of the palate."

Some difference of opinion has existed as to the period at which the
word "stays" was first used to indicate an article of dress of the
nature of the corset or bodice. It is evident that the term must have
been perfectly familiar long anterior to 1713, as constant use is made
of it in the letters we have just given. Gay, who wrote about 1720,
also avails himself of it in _The Toilette_--

    "I own her taper form is made to please,
    Yet if you saw her unconfined by _stays_!"

The word "boddice," or "bodice," was not unfrequently spelt _bodies_
by old authors, amongst whom may be mentioned Ben Jonson, who wrote
about 1600, and mentions

    "The whalebone man
    That quilts the _bodies_ I have leave to span."


                             CHAPTER VII.

   General use of the word "stays" after 1600 in England--Costume
   of the court of Louis XVI.--Dress in 1776--The formidable
   stays and severe constriction then had recourse to--The stays
   drawn by Hogarth--Dress during the French revolutionary
   period--Short waists and long trains--Writings of
   Buchan--_Jumpers_ and "_Garibaldis_"--Return to the old
   practice of tight-lacing--Training of figures: backboards
   and stocks--Medical evidence in favour of stays--Fashion
   in the reign of George III.--Stays worn habitually by
   gentlemen--General use of Corsets for boys on the Continent--The
   officers of Gustavus Adolphus--The use of the Corset for
   youths: a letter from a gentleman on the subject of--Evidence
   regarding the wearing of Corsets by gentlemen of the present
   day--Remarks on the changes of fashion--The term "Crinoline"
   not new--Crinoline among the South Sea Islanders--Remarks of
   Madame La Sante on Crinoline and slender waists--Abstinence
   from food as an assistance to the Corset--Anecdote from the
   _Traditions of Edinburgh_--The custom of wearing Corsets during
   sleep, its growing prevalence in schools and private families:
   letters relating to--The belles of the United States and their
   "_illusion waists_"--Medical evidence in favour of moderately
   tight lacing--Letters from ladies who have been subjected to

For some considerable period of time we find stays much more
frequently spoken of than corsets in the writings of English
authors, but their use continued to be as general and their form of
construction just as unyielding as ever, both at home and abroad.
The costume worn at the court of Louis XVI., of which the following
illustration will give an idea, depended mainly for its completeness
on the form of the stays, over which the elaborately-finished body
of the dress was made to fit without fold or crease, forming a sort
of bodice, which in many instances was sewn on to the figure of the
wearer after the stays had been laced to their extreme limit. The
towering headdress and immensely wide and distended skirt gave to
the figure an additional appearance of tenuity, as we have seen when
describing similar contrivances in former times. Most costly laces
were used for the sleeves, and the dress itself was often sumptuously
brocaded and ornamented with worked wreaths and flowers. High-heeled
shoes were not wanting to complete the rather astounding toilet
of 1776. For many years before this time, and, in fact, from the
commencement of the eighteenth century, it had been the custom for
staymakers, in the absence of any other material strong and unyielding
enough to stand the wear and tension brought to bear on their wares,
to employ a species of leather known as "_bend_," which was not unlike
that used for shoe-soles, and measured very nearly a quarter of an
inch in thickness. The stays made from this were very long-waisted,
forming a narrow conical case, in the most circumscribed portion of
which the waist was closely laced, so that the figure was made upright
to a degree. Many of Hogarth's figures, who wear the stays of his time
(1730), are erect and remarkably slender-waisted. Such stays as he has
drawn are perfectly straight in cut, and are filled with stiffening
and bone.



In 1760 we find a strong disposition manifested to adopt the so-called
classic style of costume. During the French revolutionary movement
and in the reign of the First Napoleon, the ladies endeavoured
to copy the costume of Ancient Greece, and in 1797 were about as
successful in their endeavours as young ladies at fancy dress balls
usually are in personating mermaids or fairy queens. The annexed
illustration represents the classic style of that period. For several
years the ladies of England adopted much the same style of costume,
and resorted to loose bodies--if bodies they might be called--long
trains, and waists so short that they began and ended immediately
under the armpits. The following illustration represents a lady of
1806. Buchan, in writing during this short-waisted, long-trained
period, congratulates himself and society at large on the fact of "the
old strait waistcoats of whalebone," as he styles them, falling into
disuse. Not long after this the laws of fashion became unsettled, as
they periodically have done for ages, and the lines written by an
author who wrote not long after might have been justly applied to the
changeable tastes of this transition period:--

    "Now a shape in neat stays,
    Now a slattern in jumps,"

these "jumps" being merely loose short jackets, very much like those
worn under the name of "_jumpers_" at the present day by shipwrights
and some other artificers. The form of the modern "Garibaldi" appears
to have been borrowed from this. The reign of relaxation seems to have
been of a comparatively short duration indeed, as we see by the remark
made by Buchan's son, who edited a new edition of his father's work,
_Advice to Mothers_, and an appendix to it:--"Small" (says he) "is the
confidence to be placed in the permanent effects of fashion. Had the
author lived till the present year (1810), he would have witnessed the
fashion of tight lacing revived with a degree of fury and prevailing
to an extent which he could form no conception of, and which posterity
will not credit. Stays are now composed, not of whalebone, indeed, or
hardened leather, but of bars of iron and steel from three to four
inches broad, and many of them not less than eighteen in length."
The same author informs us that it was by no means uncommon to see
"A mother lay her daughter down upon the carpet, and, placing her
foot on her back, break half-a-dozen laces in tightening her stays."
Those who advocate the use of the corset as being indispensable to the
female toilet have much reason on their side when they insist that
these temporary freaks of fancy for loose and careless attire only
call for infinitely more rigid and severe constriction after they (as
they invariably have done) pass away, than if the regular training of
the figure had been systematically carried out by the aid of corsets
of ordinary power. In a period certainly not much over thirty years,
the old-established standard of elegance, "the span," was again
established for waist measurement. Strutt, whose work was published
in 1796, informs us that in his own time he remembers it to have been
said of young women, in proof of the excellence of their shape, that
you might _span their waists_, and he also speaks of having seen a
singing girl at the Italian Opera whose waist was laced to such an
excessive degree of smallness that it was painful to look at her.

  [Illustration: LADY OF FASHION, 1806.]

Pope, in the _Challenge_, in speaking of the improved charms of a
beauty of the court of George II., clearly shows in what high esteem a
slender figure was held. As a bit of acceptable news, he says--

    "Tell Pickenbourg how _slim_ she's grown."

There is abundant evidence to show that no ordinary amount of
management and training was had recourse to then, as now, for reducing
the waists of those whose figures had been neglected to the required
standard of fashionable perfection, and that those who understood
the art were somewhat chary in conferring the benefit of it. In a
poem entitled the _Bassit Table_, attributed to Lady M. W. Montagu,
Similinda, in exposing the ingratitude of a rival beauty, exclaims--

    "She owes to me the very charms she wears--
    An awkward thing when first she came to town,
    _Her shape unfashioned_ and her face unknown;
    I introduced her to the park and plays,
    And by my interest _Cozens made her stays_."

A favour in those days no doubt well worthy of gratitude and due

About this time it was the custom of some fashionable staymakers
to sew a narrow, stiff, curved bar of steel along the upper edge
of the stays, which, extending back to the shoulders on each side,
effectually kept them back, and rendered the use of shoulder-straps
superfluous. The slightest tendency to stoop was at once corrected
by the use of the backboard, which was strapped flat against the
back of the waist and shoulders, extending up the back of the neck,
where a steel ring covered with leather projected to the front
and encircled the throat. The young lady of fashion undergoing the
then system of boarding-school training enjoyed no bed of roses,
especially if unblessed on the score of slenderness. A hard time
indeed must an awkward, careless girl have had of it, incased in
stiff, tightly-laced stays, backboard on back, and feet in stocks.
She simply had to improve or suffer, and probably did both. It is
singular and noteworthy that although so many of the older authors
give stays the credit of constantly producing spinal curvature,
an able writer on the subject of the present day should make this
unqualified assertion:--"To some, stays may have been injurious; fewer
evils, so far as my experience goes, have arisen from them than from
other causes." It is well known that ladies of the eighteenth century
did not suffer from spinal disease in the proportion of those of
the nineteenth, which might arise in some degree from the system of
education; but some highly-educated women of that period were elegant
and graceful figures, and it is well known they generally wore stiff
stays, though their make, it must be admitted, was less calculated to
injure the figure than many of those of the present day.

The author we have just quoted goes on to say--"Mr. Walker, in
ridiculing the practice of wearing stays, has chosen a very homely
and not very correct illustration of the human figure. 'The uppermost
pair of ribs,' says he, 'which lie just at the bottom of the neck, are
very short. The next pair are rather longer, the third longer still,
and thus they go on increasing in length to the seventh pair, or last
true ribs, after which the length diminishes, but without materially
contracting the size of the cavity, because the false ribs only go
round a part of the body. Hence the chest has a sort of conical shape,
or it may be compared to a common beehive, the narrow pointed end
being next the neck, and the broad end undermost; the natural form of
the chest, in short, is just the reverse of the fashionable shape of
the waist; the latter is narrow below and wide above, the former is
narrow above and wide below.' Surely, when the idea struck him, he
must have been gazing on a living skeleton, uncovered with muscle.
After reading his observations, I took the measure of a well-formed
little girl, seven years of age, who had never worn stays, and found
the circumference of the bust just below the shoulders one inch and
a-half larger than at the lower part of the waist." The views of the
author just quoted seem to be borne out by the researches of a French
physician of high standing who has paid much attention to the subject.
He positively asserts that "_Corsets cannot be charged with causing
deviation of the vertebral column_."

After the period referred to by Buchan's son, when tight-lacing was so
rigorously revived, we see no diminution of it, and towards the end of
George III.'s reign, gentlemen, as well as ladies, availed themselves
of the assistance of the corset-maker. Advertising tailors of the time
freely advertised their "Codrington corsets" and "Petersham stiffners"
for gentlemen of fashion, much as the "Alexandra corset," or "the
Empress's own stay," is brought to the notice of the public at the
present day. Soemmering informs us that as long ago as 1760, "It was
the fashion in Berlin, and also in Holland a few years before, to
apply corsets to children, and many families might be named in which
parental fondness selected the handsomest of several boys to put in
corsets." In France, Russia, Austria, and Germany, this practice has
been decidedly on the increase since that time, and lads intended for
the army are treated much after the manner of young ladies, and are
almost as tightly laced. It is related of Prince de Ligne and Prince
Kaunitz that they were invariably incased in most expensively-made
satin corsets, the former wearing black and the latter white. Dr.
Doran, in writing of the officers of the far-famed "Lion of the
North," Gustavus Adolphus, says, "They were the tightest-laced
exquisites of suffering humanity." The worthy doctor, like many others
who have written on the subject, inseparably associates the habitual
wearing of corsets with extreme suffering; but the gentlemen who, like
the ladies, have been subjected to the full discipline of the corset,
not only emphatically deny that it has caused them any injury, and,
beyond the inconvenience experienced on adopting any new article of
attire, little uneasiness, but, on the contrary, maintain that the
sensations associated with the confirmed practice of tight-lacing are
so agreeable that those who are once addicted to it rarely abandon the
practice. The following letter to the _Englishwoman's Magazine_ of
November, 1867, from a gentleman who was educated in Vienna, will show

   "MADAM,--May I be permitted for once to ask admission
   to your 'Conversazione,' and to plead as excuse for my
   intrusion that I am really anxious to indorse your fair
   correspondent's (Belle's) assertion that it is those who know
   nothing practically of the corset who are most vociferous in
   condemning it? Strong-minded women who have never worn a pair
   of stays, and gentlemen blinded by hastily-formed prejudice,
   alike anathematise an article of dress of the good qualities of
   which they are utterly ignorant, and which consequently they
   cannot appreciate. On a subject of so much importance as regards
   comfort (to say nothing of the question of elegance, scarcely
   less important on a point of feminine costume), no amount of
   theory will ever weigh very heavily when opposed to practical

   "The proof of the pudding is a proverb too true not to be acted
   on in such a case. To put the matter to actual test, can any of
   the opponents of the corset honestly state that they have given
   up stays after having fairly tried them, except in compliance
   with the persuasions or commands of friends or medical advisers,
   who seek in the much-abused corset a convenient first cause for
   an ailment that baffles their skill? 'The Young Lady Herself'
   (a former correspondent) does not complain of either illness
   or pain, even after the first few months; while, on the other
   hand, Staylace, Nora, and Belle bring ample testimony, both
   of themselves and their schoolfellows, as to the comfort and
   pleasure of tight-lacing. To carry out my first statement as to
   the truth of Belle's remark, those of the opposite sex who,
   either from choice or necessity, have adopted this article
   of attire, are unanimous in its praise; while even among an
   assemblage of opponents a young lady's elegant figure is
   universally admired while the cause is denounced. From personal
   experience, I beg to express a decided and unqualified approval
   of corsets. I was early sent to school in Austria, where lacing
   is not considered ridiculous in a gentleman as in England, and
   I objected in a thoroughly English way when the doctor's wife
   required me to be laced. I was not allowed any choice, however.
   A sturdy _mädchen_ was stoically deaf to my remonstrances, and
   speedily laced me up tightly in a fashionable Viennese corset.
   I presume my impressions were not very different from those of
   your lady correspondents. I felt ill at ease and awkward, and
   the daily lacing tighter and tighter produced inconvenience
   and absolute pain. In a few months, however, I was as anxious
   as any of my ten or twelve companions to have my corsets laced
   as tightly as a pair of strong arms could draw them. It is
   from no feeling of vanity that I have ever since continued
   to wear them, for, not caring to incur ridicule, I take good
   care that my dress shall not betray me, but I am practically
   convinced of the comfort and pleasantness of tight-lacing, and
   thoroughly agree with Staylace that the sensation of being
   tightly laced in an elegant, well-made, tightly-fitting pair
   of corsets is superb. There is no other word for it. I have
   dared this avowal because I am thoroughly ashamed of the idle
   nonsense that is being constantly uttered on this subject in
   England. The terrors of hysteria, neuralgia, and, above all,
   consumption, are fearlessly promised to our fair sisters if
   they dare to disregard preconceived opinions, while, on the
   other hand, some medical men are beginning slowly to admit that
   they cannot conscientiously support the extravagant assertions
   of former days. '_Stay torture_,' '_whalebone vices_,' and
   'corset screws' are very terrible and horrifying things upon
   paper, but when translated into _coutil_ or satin they wear a
   different appearance in the eyes of those most competent to
   give an opinion. That much perfectly unnecessary discomfort
   and inconvenience is incurred by the purchasers of ready-made
   corsets is doubtless true. The waist measure being right, the
   chest, where undue constriction will naturally produce evil
   effects, is very generally left to chance. If, then, the wearer
   suffers, who is to blame but herself?

   "The remark echoed by nearly all your correspondents, that
   ladies have the remedy in their own hands by having their
   stays made to measure, is too self-evident for me to wish to
   enlarge upon it; but I do wish to assert and insist that, if
   a corset allows sufficient room in the chest, the waist may
   be laced as tightly as the wearer desires without fear of
   evil consequences; and, further, that the ladies themselves
   who have given tight-lacing a fair trial, and myself and
   schoolfellows converted against our will, are the only jury
   entitled to pronounce authoritatively on the subject, and that
   the comfortable support and enjoyment afforded by a well-laced
   corset quite overbalances the theoretical evils that are so
   confidently prophesied by outsiders.


Since it has become a custom to send lads from England to the
Continent for education, many of them adhere to the use of the corset
on their return, and of the use of this article of attire among the
rising generation of the gentlemen of this country there can be no
doubt; we are informed by one of the leading corset-makers in London
that it is by no means unusual to receive the orders of gentlemen, not
for the manufacture of the belts so commonly used in horse-exercise,
but veritable corsets, strongly boned, steeled, and made to lace
behind in the usual way--not, as the corset-maker assured us, from any
feeling of vanity on the part of the wearers, who so arranged their
dresses that no one would even suspect that they wore corsets beneath
them, but simply because they had become accustomed to tight-lacing,
and were fond of it. So it will be seen that the fair sex are not the
only corset-wearers.

  [Illustration: FASHIONABLE DRESS IN 1824.]

  [Illustration: LADY OF FASHION, 1827.]

During 1824, it will be seen by the accompanying illustration that
fashion demanded the contour of the figure should be fully defined,
and the absence of any approach to fullness about the skirt below
the waist led to the use of very tight stays, in order that there
might be some contrast in the outline of the figure. This style of
dress, with slight modifications, remained in fashion for several
years. In 1827, the dress, as will be seen on reference to the annexed
illustration, had changed but little; but three years, or thereabouts,
worked a considerable change, and we see, in 1830, sleeves of the
most formidable size, hats to match, short skirts, and long slender
waists the rage again. A few years later the skirts had assumed a
much wider spread; the sleeves of puffed-out pattern were discarded.
The waist took its natural position, and was displayed to the best
advantage by the expansion of drapery below it, as will be seen on
reference to the annexed cut. The term "crinoline" is by no means a
new one, and long before the hooped petticoats with which the fashions
of the last few years have made us so familiar, the horsehair cloth,
so much used for distending the skirts of dresses, was commonly known
by that name. It is not our intention here to enter on a description
of the almost endless forms which from time to time this adjunct
to ladies' dress has assumed. Whether the idea of its construction
was first borrowed from certain savage tribes it is difficult to
determine. That a very marked and unmistakable form of it existed
amongst the natives of certain of the South Sea Islands at their
discovery by the early navigators, the curious cut, representing a
native belle, will show, and there is no doubt that, although the
dress of the savage is somewhat different in its arrangement from
that of the European lady of fashion, the object sought by the use
of a wide-spread base to the form is the same. Madame La Sante,
in writing on the subject, says--"Every one must allow that the
expanding skirts of a dress, springing out immediately below the
waist, materially assist by contrast in making the waist look small
and slender. It is, therefore, to be hoped that now that crinoline
no longer assumes absurd dimensions, it will long continue to hold
its ground." The same author, in speaking of the prevailing taste
for slender waists, thus writes:--"We have seen that for many hundred
years a slender figure has been considered a most attractive female
charm, and there is nothing to lead us to suppose that a taste which
appears to be implanted in man's very nature will ever cease to render
the acquisition of a small waist an object of anxious solicitude
with those who have the care of the young." For several years this
solicitude has been decidedly on the increase, and many expedients
which were had recourse to in ancient days for reducing the waist
to exceeding slenderness, are, we shall see as we proceed, in full

A very sparing diet has, as we have already seen, from the days of
Terentius, been one great aid to the operation of the corset.

There is a very quaint account to be found in the _Traditions of
Edinburgh_ bearing on this dieting system. An elderly lady of fashion,
who appears to have lived in Scotland during the early part of the
last century, was engaged on the formation of the figures of her
daughters, stinted meals and tight corsets worn day and night being
some of the means made use of; but it is related that a certain
cunning and evil-minded cook, whose coarse mind only ran on the
pleasure of the appetite, used to creep stealthily in the dead of
night to the chamber in which the young ladies slept, unlace their
stays, and let them feed heartily on the strictly-prohibited dainties
of the pantry; grown rash by impunity, she one night ventured
to attempt running the blockade with hot roast goose, but three
fatal circumstances combined against the success of the dangerous
undertaking. In the first place, the savoury perfume arising from hot
roast goose was penetrating to an alarming degree; in the second, the
old lady, as ill-luck would have it, happened to be awake, and, worse
than all, had no snuff, so smelt goose. The scene which followed the
capture of the illicit cargo and the detection of the culprit cook can
be much more easily imagined than described.

  [Illustration: LADY OF FASHION, 1830.]

  [Illustration: LADY OF FASHION, 1837.]

The custom of wearing the corset by night as well as by day, above
referred to, although partially discontinued for some time, is
becoming general again. About the commencement of the last century the
custom was much advocated and followed in France, and it is said to
reduce and form the figure much more rapidly than any system of lacing
by day only could bring about.

A French author of the period referred to says--"Many mothers who have
an eye to the main chance, through an excess of zeal, or rather from
a strange fear, condemn their daughters to wear corsets night and
day, lest the interruption of their use should hinder their project
of procuring for them fine waists." That ladies are fully aware of
the potent influences of the practice, the following letter to the
_Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine_ will show:--

   "As several of your correspondents have remarked, the
   personal experience of those who have for a number of years
   worn tight-fitting corsets can alone enable a clear and fair
   judgment to be pronounced upon their use. Happening to have had
   what I believe you will admit to be an unusual experience of
   tight-lacing, I trust you will allow me to tell the story of
   my younger days. Owing to the absence of my parents in India,
   I was allowed to attain the age of fourteen before any care
   was bestowed upon my figure; but their return home fortunately
   saved me from growing into a clumsy, inelegant girl; for
   my mamma was so shocked at my appearance that she took the
   unusual plan of making me sleep in my corset. For the first
   few weeks I occasionally felt considerable discomfort, owing,
   in a great measure, to not having worn stays before, and also
   to their extreme tightness and stiffness. Yet, though I was
   never allowed to slacken them before retiring to rest, they did
   not in the least interfere with my sleep, nor produce any ill
   effects whatever. I may mention that my mamma, fearing that,
   at so late an age, I should have great difficulty in securing
   a presentable figure, considered ordinary means insufficient,
   and consequently had my corsets filled with whalebone and
   furnished with shoulder-straps, to cure the habit of stooping
   which I had contracted. The busk, which was nearly inflexible,
   was not front-fastening, and the lace being secured in a hard
   knot behind and at the top, effectually prevented any attempt
   on my part to unloose my stays. Though I have read lately of
   this plan having been tried with advantage, I believe it is
   as yet an unusual one, and as the testimony of one who has
   undergone it without the least injury to health cannot fail to
   be of value in proving that the much less severe system usually
   adopted must be even less likely to do harm, I am sure you will
   do me and your numerous readers the favour of inserting this
   letter in your most entertaining and valuable magazine. I am
   delighted to see the friends of the corset muster so strong
   at the 'Englishwoman's Conversazione.' What is most required,
   however, are the personal experiences of the ladies themselves,
   and not mere treatises on tight-lacing by those who, like your
   correspondent Brisbane, have never tried it.


Another correspondent to the same journal (signing herself
"Débutante") writes in the number for November, 1867, as follows:--

"Mignonette's case is not an '_unusual_' one. She has just finished
her education at a 'West-End school' where the system was strictly
enforced. As she entered as a pupil at the age of thirteen and was
very slender, she was fitted on her arrival with a corset, which
could be drawn close without the extreme tightness found necessary
in Mignonette's case. They did not open in front, and were fastened
by the under-governess in such a manner that any attempt to unlace
them during the night would be immediately detected at the morning's
inspection. After the first week or two she felt no discomfort or
pain of any kind, though, as she was still growing, her stays became
proportionately tighter, but owing to her figure never being allowed
to enlarge during the nine or ten hours of sleep, as is usually the
case, this was almost imperceptible."


Madame La Sante also refers to the custom as being much more general
than is commonly supposed. She says--"Several instances of this system
in private families have lately come to my own knowledge, and I am
acquainted with more than one fashionable school in the neighbourhood
of London where the practice is made a rule of the establishment. Such
a method is doubtlessly resorted to from a sense of duty, and those
girls who have been subjected to this discipline, and with whom I have
had an opportunity of conversing, say that for the first few months
the uneasiness by the continued compression was very considerable,
but that after a time they became so accustomed to it that they felt
reluctant to discontinue the practice." In the United States of
America the ladies often possess figures of remarkable slenderness and
elegance, and the term "_illusion_" is not unfrequently applied to a
waist of more than ordinary taperness. In a great number of instances
the custom above referred to would be found to have mainly contributed
to its original formation. The way in which doctors disagree on
matters relating to the corset question is most remarkable.

The older writers, as we have seen, launched out in the most sweeping
and condemnatory manner against almost every article of becoming or
attractive attire. Corsets were most furiously denounced, and had the
qualities which were gravely attributed to them been one-thousandth
part as deadly as they were represented, the civilised world would
long ere this have been utterly depopulated. When we find such
diseases and ailments as the following attributed by authors of
supposed talent to the use of the corset, we are no longer surprised
at remarks and strictures emanating from similar sources meeting with
ridicule and derision: "hooping-cough, obliquity of vision, polypus,
apoplexy, stoppage of the nose, pains in the eyes, and earache" are
all laid at the door of the stays. We are rather surprised that large
ears and wooden legs were not added to the category, as they might
have been with an equal show of reason. Medical writers of the present
day are beginning to take a totally different view of the matter, as
the following letter from a surgeon of much experience will show:--

   "My attention has just been directed to an interesting and
   important discussion in your magazine on the subject of corsets,
   and I have been urged as a medical man to give my opinion
   regarding them. Under these circumstances I trust you will
   allow me to attend the 'Englishwoman's Conversazione' for once,
   as medical men are supposed to be the great opponents of the
   corset. It is no doubt true that those medical men who studied
   for their profession some thirty or forty years ago are still
   prejudiced against this elegant article of female dress, for
   stays were very different things even then to what they are
   now. The medical works, too, which they studied were written
   years before, and spoke against the buckram and iron stays of
   the last century. The name 'stays,' however, being still used
   at the present time, the same odium still attaches to them
   in the minds of physicians of the old school. But the rising
   generation of doctors are free from these prejudices, and
   fairly judge the light and elegant corsets of the present day
   on their own merits. In short, it is now generally admitted,
   and I, for one, freely allow, that moderate compression of
   the waist by well-made corsets is far from being injurious.
   It is really absurdly illogical for the opponents of the
   corset to bring forward quotations from medical writers of
   the last century, for the animadversions of Soemmering are
   still quoted. Let us, however, merely look at facts as they at
   present stand; statistics prove that there are several thousand
   more women than men in the United Kingdom. A statement in the
   Registrar-General's Report of a few years since has been brought
   forward to prove that corsets produce an enormous mortality from
   consumption, but these would-be benefactors of the fair sex
   omit to state how many males die from that disease. If there be
   any preponderance of deaths among women from consumption, the
   cause may easily be found in the low dress, the thin shoes, and
   the sedentary occupations in close rooms, without attributing
   the blame to the corset. Dr. Walshe, in his well-known work
   on diseases of the lungs, distinctly asserts that corsets
   cannot be accused of causing consumption. With regard to spinal
   curvature, a disease which has been connected by some writers
   with the use of stays, an eminent French physician, speaking of
   corsets, says--'They cannot be charged with causing deviations
   of the vertebral column.' Let us, then, hear no more nonsense
   about the terrible consequences of wearing corsets, at all
   events till the ladies return to the buckram and iron of our
   great-grandmothers. Your fair readers may rest assured that what
   is said against stays at the present day is merely the lingering
   echo of prejudice, and is quite inapplicable now-a-days to the
   light and elegant production of the scientific _corsetière_. As
   a medical man (and not one of the old school) I feel perfectly
   justified in saying that ladies who are content with a moderate
   application of the corset may secure that most elegant female
   charm, a slender waist", without fear of injury to health.


A great number of ladies who, by the systematic use of the corset,
have had their waists reduced to the fashionable standard, are to
be constantly met in society. The great majority declare that they
have in no way suffered in health from the treatment they had been
subjected to. _Vide_ the following letter from the _Queen_ of July 18,

   "MADAM,--As I have for a long time been a constant
   reader of the _Lady's Journal_, I venture to ask you if you,
   or any of your valuable correspondents, will kindly tell me
   if it is true that small waists are again coming into fashion
   generally? I am aware that they cannot be said to have gone
   out of fashion altogether, for one often sees very slender
   figures; but I think during the last few years they have been
   less thought of than formerly. I have heard, however, from
   several sources, and by the public prints, that they are again
   to be _La Mode_. Now I fortunately possess a figure which will,
   I hope, satisfy the demand of fashion in this respect. What
   is the smallest-sized waist that one can have? Mine is sixteen
   and a-half inches, and, I have heard, is considered small. I
   do not believe what is said against the corset, though I admit
   that if a girl is an invalid, or has a very tender constitution,
   too sudden a reduction of the waist may be injurious. With a
   waist which is, I believe, considered small, I can truly say
   I have good health. If all that was said against the corset
   were true, how is it so many ladies live to an advanced age? A
   friend of mine has lately died at the age of eighty-six, who has
   frequently told me anecdotes of how in her young days she was
   laced cruelly tight, and at the age of seventeen had a waist
   fifteen inches. Yet she was eighty-six when she died. I know
   that it has been so long the habit of public journals to take
   their example from medical men (who, I contend, are not the best
   judges in the matter) in running down the corset, and the very
   legitimate, and, if properly employed, harmless mode of giving
   a graceful slenderness to the figure, that I can hardly expect
   that at present you will have courage to take the part of the
   ladies. But I beg you to be so kind as to tell me what you know
   of the state of the fashion as regards the length and size of
   the waist, and whether my waist would be considered small. Also
   what is the smallest-sized waist known among ladies of fashion.
   By doing this in an early number you will very much oblige,

    "Yours, &c.,


The foregoing letter was followed on the 25th of the same month by one
from another correspondent to the same paper, fully bearing out the
truth of the view therein contained, and at the same time showing the
system adopted in many of the French finishing schools:--

   "MADAM,--As a constant reader of your
   highly-interesting and valuable paper, I have ventured to reply
   to a letter under the above heading from your correspondent
   Constance, contained in your last week's impression. In reply
   to her first question, there is little doubt, I think, that
   slender and long waists will ere long be _la mode_. Ladies
   of fashion here who are fortunate enough to possess such
   enviable and graceful attractions, take most especial care by
   the arrangement of their toilets to show them off to the very
   best advantage. A waist of sixteen and a-half-inches would, I
   am of opinion, be considered, for a lady of fair average size
   and stature, small enough to satisfy even the most exacting
   of Fashion's votaries. The question as to how small one's
   waist can be is rather hard to answer, and I am not aware
   that any standard has yet been laid down on the subject,
   but an application to any of our fashionable corset-makers
   for the waist measurement of the smallest sizes made would
   go far to clear the point up. Many of the corsets worn at
   our late brilliant assemblies were about the size of your
   correspondent's, and some few, I have been informed, even less.
   I beg to testify most fully to the truth of the remarks made by
   Constance as to the absurdly-exaggerated statements (evidently
   made by persons utterly ignorant of the whole matter) touching
   the dreadfully injurious effects of the corset on the female
   constitution. My own, and a wide range of other experiences,
   leads me to a totally different conclusion, and I fully believe
   that, except in cases of confirmed disease or bad constitution,
   a well-made and nicely-fitting corset inflicts no more injury
   than a tight pair of gloves. Up to the age of fifteen I was
   educated at a small provincial school, was suffered to run as
   nearly wild as could well be, and grew stout, indifferent and
   careless as to personal appearance, dress, manners, or any of
   their belongings. Family circumstances and change of fortune at
   this time led my relatives to the conclusion that my education
   required a continental finish. Advantage was therefore taken of
   the protection offered by some friends about to travel, and I
   was, with well-filled trunks and a great deal of good advice,
   packed off to a highly-genteel and fashionable establishment
   for young ladies, situated in the suburbs of Paris. The morning
   after my arrival I was aroused by the clang of the 'morning
   bell.' I was in the act of commencing a hurried and by no means
   an elaborate toilet, when the under-governess, accompanied by a
   brisk, trim little woman, the bearer of a long cardboard case,
   made their appearance; corsets of various patterns, as well as
   silk laces of most portentous length, were at once produced, and
   a very short time was allowed to elapse before my experiences
   in the art and mystery of tight-lacing may be fairly said to
   have commenced. My dresses were all removed, in order that the
   waists should be taken in and the make altered; a frock was
   borrowed for me for the day, and from that hour I was subjected
   to the strict and rigid system of lacing in force through the
   whole establishment, no relaxation of its discipline being
   allowed during the day on any pretence whatever. For the period
   (nearly three years) I remained as a pupil, I may say that my
   health was excellent, as was that of the great majority of my
   young companions in 'bondage,' and on taking my departure I
   had grown from a clumsy girl to a very smart young lady, and
   my waist was exactly seven inches less than on the day of my
   arrival. From Paris I proceeded at once to join my relatives in
   the island of Mauritius, and on my arrival in the isle sacred
   to the memories of Paul and Virginia, I found the reign of
   'Queen Corset' most arbitrary and absolute, but without in any
   way that I could discover interfering with either the health
   or vivacity of her exceedingly attractive and pretty subjects.
   Before concluding, and whilst on the subject, a few words on
   the 'front-fastening corset,' now so generally worn, may not
   come amiss. After a thorough trial I have finally abandoned its
   use, as being imperfect and faulty in every way, excepting the
   very doubtful advantage of being a little more quickly put on
   and off. Split up and open at the front as they are, and only
   fastening here and there, the whole of the compactness and
   stability so highly important in this part, of all others, of a
   corset is all but lost, whilst the ordinary steel busk secures
   these conditions, to the wearing out of the material of which
   the corset is composed. The long double-looped round lace used
   is, I consider, by no means either as neat, secure, or durable
   as a flat plaited silk lace of good quality. Trusting these
   remarks and replies may prove such as required by Constance, I
   beg to subscribe myself,


Another lady writing to the _Queen_ on the same subject in the month
of August has a waist under sixteen inches in circumference, as will
be seen by the annexed letter, and yet she declares her health to be

   "DEAR MADAM,--I have read with interest the letters of
   Constance and Fanny on the subject of slender waists. It is so
   much the fashion among medical men to cry down tight-lacing that
   advocates are very daring who venture to uphold the practice.
   It has ever been in vogue among our sex, and will, I maintain,
   always continue so long as elegant figures are admired, for the
   wearing of corsets produces a grace and slenderness which nature
   never gives, and if the corset is discontinued or relaxed, the
   figure at once becomes stout and loose. The dress fits better
   over a close-laced corset, and the fullness of the skirts, and
   ease of its folds, are greatly enhanced by the slenderness of
   the waist. My own waist is under sixteen inches. I have always
   enjoyed good health. Why, then, if the practice of tight-lacing
   is not prejudicial to the constitution of all its votaries,
   should we be debarred from the means of improving our appearance
   and attaining an elegant and graceful figure? I quite agree
   with Fanny respecting the front-fastening corset. I consider
   it objectionable. The figure can never be so neat or slender
   as in an ordinary well-laced corset. May I inquire what has
   become of your correspondent Mary Blackbraid? Her partialities
   for gloves and wigs brought upon her severe remarks from your
   numerous correspondents. I agree with her in the glove question,
   and always wear them as much as possible in the house. I find
   they keep the hands cooler, and in my opinion there is no
   such finish to the appearance as a well-gloved hand. Where I
   am now staying the ladies invariably wear them, and I have
   heard gentlemen express their admiration of the practice. I
   have worn them to sleep in for some years, and never found any
   inconvenience. Pardon me trespassing so much on your space, but
   your interesting paper is the only one open to our defence from
   the strictures of the over-particular.


The following letter from the columns of the _Queen_ contains much
matter bearing immediately on the subject, and will no doubt be of
interest to the reader:--

   "MADAM,--I am sure your numerous readers will thank
   you for your kindness in publishing so impartially the
   correspondence you have received on the subject of the corset,
   and as the question is one of great importance, and moreover one
   on which much difference of opinion seems to exist, I trust you
   will continue to give us the benefit of your correspondents'

   "When I read the very _àpropos_ letter of Constance, and the
   excellent letter of Fanny in reply, I was quite prepared to see
   in your last number some strong expressions of opinion against
   this most becoming fashion; but I think that they, as well as
   Eliza, need not be discouraged by the formidable opposition
   they have met with, and I beg you will afford me space for a
   few lines, in order to refute the arguments of the anti-corset
   party, in your valuable journal.

   "Much as I, in common with all your readers, delight in reading
   Mr. Frank Buckland's articles, I really cannot agree with him
   in his view of the subject. In the first place, I really must
   question his authority in the matter, for I am convinced that
   it is only those who have experienced the comfortable support
   afforded by a well-made corset who are entitled to pronounce
   their opinion. What can Mr. Buckland, or any one not of the
   corset-wearing sex, know of the practical operation of this
   indispensable article of female attire? I will not attempt so
   arduous a task as that of disproving all that Mr. Combe and
   his professional brethren have written against tight-lacing;
   I am even willing to admit that there may be persons so
   constituted that the attainment of a graceful slenderness would
   be injurious; but these are the exceptions, not the rule. The
   remarks of the faculty are founded principally on theory, backed
   up by an occasional case which might very often be referred
   to some other cause with equal justice. But who does not know
   that practice often belies theory, or that theory is frequently
   at fault? Slender waists have been in fashion for several
   hundred years, and for the purposes of my argument I will refer
   to a period thirty or forty years ago. No one then thought
   of questioning the absolute necessity of attaining a slender
   figure by the instrumentality of the corset. If, let me ask Mr.
   Buckland and your other correspondents, theory be true that
   torture and death are the result, how does it happen not only
   that there are millions of healthy middle-aged ladies among us
   now, but that the female population actually exceeds the male?
   By what wonderful means have they continued to exist and enjoy
   such perfect health, while such a terrible engine of destruction
   as the corset was at work upon their frames? If all that theory
   said against the corset were true, not a thousand women would
   now be left alive.

   "I cannot avoid troubling you a little further while I descend
   more into details. Spinal curvature, it is said, is caused by
   wearing stays. But what kind of stays were they which produced
   this result, and were no other causes discernible? I think that
   in every instance it would be found that the stays have been
   badly made, that they have not been properly laced, or that the
   busk and materials have not been sufficiently firm.

   "In addition to this, girls are too often compelled to maintain
   an erect position on a form or a music-stool for too long a time
   during school hours. If the corset is properly made, a young
   lady may be allowed to lean back in her chair without danger
   of acquiring lounging habits or injuring her figure. It is to
   this over-tiring of the muscles that all spinal curvature is
   attributable, and not to the stays, which, if properly employed,
   would act as a sure preventative. Again, let me ask any one of
   the opposite sex who, at any rate at the present day, do not
   wear stays, whether they have never experienced 'palpitation
   or flushings,' headaches, and red noses? What right has any
   one to make these special attendants on small-waisted ladies?
   There is no more danger of incurring these evils than by a
   gentleman wearing a hat. Well may the old lady have 'forgotten'
   these little items in her anecdotes. The comparison between
   the human frame and a watch is correct in some respects, but
   it is particularly unhappy in relation to the present subject.
   The works of a watch are hard and unyielding, and not being
   possessed of life and power of growing, cannot adapt themselves
   to their outer case. If you squeeze in the case the works will
   be broken and put out of order; far different is it with the
   supple and growing frame of a young girl. If the various organs
   are prevented from taking a certain form or direction, they
   will accommodate themselves to any other with perfect ease.
   Nothing is broken or interfered with in its action. I will,
   of course, allow that if a fully-grown woman were to attempt
   to reduce her waist suddenly, respiration and digestion would
   be stopped; but it is rarely, if ever, that a lady arrives at
   maturity before she has imbibed sufficient notions of elegance
   and propriety to induce her to conform to this becoming fashion
   to some extent. Happy indeed those who are blessed with mothers
   who are wise enough to educate their daughters' figures with an
   eye to their future comfort. The constant discomfort felt by
   those whose clumsy waists and exuberant forms are a perpetual
   bugbear to their happiness and advancement should warn mothers
   of the necessity of looking to the future, and by directing
   their figures successfully while young, avoid the unsuccessful
   attempts to force them at an advanced age. One word more on
   the question. Is a small waist admired by the gentlemen? Mr.
   Buckland, it seems, has become so imbued with Mr. Combe's ideas
   against tight-lacing, that he looks upon a slender waist with
   feelings evidently far from admiration. But is this any reason
   or authority for concluding that every gentleman of taste is
   of a like opinion? On the contrary, I think it goes far to
   prove that it is other than the younger class of gentlemen (for
   whom, of course, the ladies lay their attractions) who run
   down the corset. Many times in fashionable assemblies have I
   heard gentlemen criticising the young ladies in such terms as
   these;--'What a clumsy figure Miss---- is! it completely spoils
   her.' 'What a pity Miss---- has not a neater figure!' and so on,
   and I believe there is not one young man in a thousand who does
   not admire a graceful slenderness of the waist. What young man
   cares to dance with girls who resemble casks in form? I have
   invariably noticed that the girls with the smallest waists are
   the queens of the ball-room. I have not space to enter into the
   discussion as to whether the artificial waist is more beautiful
   than that of the Venus de Medici; on such matters every one
   forms their own opinions. The waist of the Venus is beautiful
   for the Venus, but would cease to be so if clothed. I maintain
   that the comparison is not a good one, as the circumstances are
   not equal. In other respects, let the ladies, then, not be led
   to make themselves ungraceful and unattractive by listening to
   theories which are contradicted by practice, promulgated by
   persons ignorant, as far as their personal experience goes, of
   the operation and effect of corsets, and taken up by ladies
   and gentlemen, not of the youngest, who, like your Country
   Subscriber, are past the age when the pleasantest excitements
   of life form topics of interest. Is it not natural that a young
   lady should be anxious to present a sylph-like form instead of
   appearing matronly? There are some to whom the words 'tight
   lacing' suggest immediately what they are pleased to term
   'torture,' 'misery,' &c., but who have never taken the trouble
   to inquire into the subject, preferring the far easier way of
   taking for granted that all that has been said against it is
   true. When such would-be benefactors to the fair sex hear of
   a sudden death, or see a lady faint at a ball or a theatre,
   they immediately raise the cry of 'Tight-lacing!' An instance
   occurred not long ago in which, in a public journal, the sudden
   death of a young lady was ascribed to this cause, but in a few
   days afterwards was expressly contradicted in a paragraph of the
   same paper. Do we never hear of men dying suddenly, or fainting
   away from overheat? That small waists are the fashion admits
   of no doubt, for I have myself applied to several fashionable
   corset-makers in London and the principal fashionable resorts
   to ascertain whether it be the case. I gather from their
   information that small waists are most unmistakably the fashion;
   that there are more corsets made to order under eighteen inches
   than over that measurement; that the smallest size is usually
   fifteen inches, though few possess so elegantly small a waist,
   the majority being about seventeen or eighteen inches; that the
   ladies are now beginning to see that the front-fastening busk is
   not so good as the old-fashioned kind, and have their daughters'
   corsets well boned. Many also prefer shoulder-straps for the
   stays of growing girls, which keep the chest expanded, and
   prevent their leaning too much on the busk. If these are not too
   tight they are very advantageous to the figure, and the upper
   part of the corset should just fit, but not be tight. A corset
   made on these principles will cause no injury to health, unless
   the girl is naturally of a consumptive constitution, in which
   case no one would think of lacing at all tightly.

   "I must apologise for this long letter, but I felt bound to take
   advantage of the opportunity you afford to discuss this really
   important question.

    "I remain, madam, yours,


                            CHAPTER VIII.

   The elegant figure of the Empress of Austria--Slender waists the
   fashion in Vienna--The small size of Corsets frequently made in
   London--Letter from the _Queen_ on small waists--Remarks on the
   portrait of the Empress of Austria in the Exhibition--Diminutive
   waist of Lady Morton--General remarks on the figure--Remarks
   on figure-training by the use of stays--Mode of constructing
   Corsets for growing girls--Tight-lacing abolished by the
   early use of well-constructed Corsets--Boarding-school
   discipline and extreme tight-lacing--Letter in praise of tight
   Corsets--Letter in praise of Crinoline and Corsets--Another
   letter on boarding-school discipline and figure-training--The
   waist of fashion contrasted with that of the Venus de Medici--A
   fashionably-dressed statue--Clumsy figures a serious drawback
   to young ladies--Letter from a lady, who habitually laces with
   extreme tightness, in praise of the Corset--Opinions of a young
   baronet on slender waists; letter from a family man on the same

As most of our readers will be aware, the much-admired Empress of
Austria has been long celebrated for possessing a waist of sixteen
inches in circumference, and a friend of ours, who has recently had
unusual opportunities afforded for judging of the fashionable world
of Vienna, assures us that waists of equal slenderness are by no
means uncommon. We are also informed by one of the first West-End
corset-makers that sixteen inches is a size not unfrequently made in
London. Much valuable and interesting information can be gathered from
the following letter from a talented correspondent of the _Queen_ a
few months ago:--


   "I am a constant reader of the _Queen_, and look forward with
   anxiety for more of the very interesting letters on the corset
   question which you are so obliging as to insert in your paper. I
   know many who take as much pleasure in reading them as myself,
   for the subject is one on which both health and beauty greatly
   depend. All who visited the picture-gallery in the Exhibition
   of 1862 must have seen an exquisitely-painted portrait of the
   beautiful Empress of Austria, and though it did not show the
   waist in the most favourable position, some idea may be formed
   of its elegant slenderness and easy grace. Many were the remarks
   made upon it by all classes of critics while I seated myself
   opposite the picture for a few minutes. I should like any one
   who maintains that small waists are not generally admired to
   have taken up the position which I did for half-an-hour, and I
   am sure she would soon find her opinion unsupported by facts;
   your correspondents, however, are at fault in supposing that
   sixteen inches is the smallest waist that the world has almost
   ever known. Lady Babbage, in her _Collection of Curiosities_,
   tells us that in a portrait of Lady Morton, in the possession
   of Lord Dillon, the waist cannot exceed ten or twelve inches
   in circumference, and at the largest part immediately beneath
   the armpits not more than twenty-four, and the immense length
   of the figure seems to give it the appearance of even greater
   slenderness. Catherine de Medici considered the standard of
   perfection to be thirteen inches. It is scarcely to be supposed
   that any lady of the present day possesses such an absurdly
   small waist as thirteen inches, but I am certain that not a few
   could be found whose waistband does not exceed fifteen inches
   and three-quarters or sixteen inches. Much depends on the height
   and width of the shoulders; narrow shoulders generally admit
   of a small waist, and many tall women are naturally so slender
   as to be able to show a small waist with very little lacing.
   It is needless to remark how much depends on the corset. Your
   correspondent, A. H. Turnour, says that the long corsets, if
   well pulled in at the waist, compress one cruelly all the way
   up, and cause the shoulders to deport themselves awkwardly and
   stiffly. Now, no corset will be able to do this if constructed
   as it should be. I believe the great fault to be that when the
   corset is laced on it is very generally open an inch or so from
   top to bottom. The consequence of this is, that when the wearer
   is sitting down, and the pressure on the waist the greatest,
   the tendency is to pull the less tightly drawn lace at the top
   of the corset tighter; on changing the posture this does not
   right itself, and consequently an unnecessary and injurious
   compression round the chest is experienced. Now, if the corset,
   when fitted, were so made that it should meet all the way, or
   at any rate _above_ and _below_ the waist, when laced on, this
   evil would be entirely avoided, and absence of compression round
   the upper part of the chest would give an increased appearance
   of slenderness to the waist and allow the lungs as much play as
   the waistbands. There seems to be an idea that when the corset
   is made to meet it gives a stiffness to the figure. In the days
   of buckram this might be the case, but no such effect need be
   feared from the light and flexible stays of the present day,
   and the fault which frequently leads to the fear of wearing
   corsets which do not meet is, that the formation of the waist
   is not begun early enough. The consequence of this is, that the
   waist has to be _compressed_ into a slender shape after it has
   been allowed to swell, and the stays are therefore made so as
   to allow of being laced tighter and tighter. Now I am persuaded
   that much inconvenience is caused by this practice, which might
   be entirely avoided by the following simple plan, which I have
   myself tried with my own daughters, and have found to answer
   admirably. At the age of seven I had them fitted with stays
   without much bone and a flexible busk, and these were made to
   meet from top to bottom when laced, and so as not to exercise
   the least pressure round the chest and beneath the waist, and
   only a very _slight_ pressure at the waist, just enough to
   show off the figure and give it a roundness. To prevent the
   stays from slipping, easy shoulder-straps were added. In front,
   extending from the top more than half way to the waist, were
   two sets of lace-holes, by which the stays could be enlarged
   round the upper part. As my daughters grew, these permitted of
   my always preventing any undue pressure, but I always laced the
   stays so as to meet behind. When new ones were required they
   were made exactly the same size at the waist, but as large
   round the upper part as the gradual enlargement had made the
   former pair. They were also of course made a little longer, and
   the position of the shoulder-straps slightly altered; by these
   means their figures were directed instead of forced into a
   slender shape; no inconvenience was felt, and my daughters, I am
   happy to say, are straight, and enjoy perfect health, while the
   waist of the eldest is eighteen inches, and that of the youngest
   seventeen. I am convinced that my plan is the most reasonable
   one that can be adopted. By this means '_tight-lacing_' will be
   abolished, for no tight-lacing or compression is required, and
   the child, being accustomed to the stays from an early age, does
   not experience any of the inconveniences which are sometimes
   felt by those who do not adopt them till twelve or fourteen.


The advisability of training instead of forcing the figure into
slenderness is now becoming almost universally admitted by those
who have paid any attention to the subject; yet it appears from the
following letters, which appeared in the _Englishwoman's Domestic
Magazine_ of January and February, 1868, that the corset, even when
employed at a comparatively late period of life, is capable of
reducing the size of the waist in an extraordinary manner, without
causing the serious consequences which it has so long been the custom
to associate with the practice of tight-lacing.

A Tight-Lacer expresses herself to the following effect:--"Most of
your correspondents advocate the early use of the corset as the best
means to secure a slender waist. No doubt this is the best and most
easy mode, but still I think there are many young ladies who have
never worn tight stays who might have small waists even now if they
would only give themselves the trouble. I did not commence to lace
tightly until I was married, nor should I have done so then had not
my husband been so particularly fond of a small waist; but I was
determined not to lose one atom of his affection for the sake of a
little trouble. I could not bear to think of him liking any one else's
figure better than mine, consequently, although my waist measured
twenty-three inches, I went and ordered a pair of stays, made very
strong and filled with stiff bone, measuring only fourteen inches
round the waist. These, with the assistance of my maid, I put on,
and managed the first day to lace my waist in to eighteen inches. At
night I slept in my corset without loosing the lace in the least. The
next day my maid got my waist to seventeen inches, and so on, an inch
smaller every day, until she got them to meet. I wore them regularly
without ever taking them off, having them tightened afresh every day,
as the laces might stretch a little. They did not open in front, so
that I could not undo them if I had wanted. For the first few days the
pain was very great, but as soon as the stays were laced close, and I
had worn them so for a few days, I began to care nothing about it, and
in a month or so I would not have taken them off on any account, for I
quite enjoyed the sensation, and when I let my husband see me with a
dress to fit I was amply repaid for my trouble; and although I am now
grown older, and the fresh bloom of youth is gone from my cheek, still
my figure remains the same, which is a charm age will not rob me of. I
have never had cause to regret the step I took."

Another lady says--"A correspondent in the October number of your
magazine states that her waist is only thirteen inches round, but
she does not state her height. My waist is only twelve inches round;
but then, although I am eighteen years old, I am only four feet five
inches in height, so that my waist is never noticed as small; while my
elder sister (whose height is five feet eight inches) is considered
to have a very nice figure, though her waist is twenty-three inches
round. I am glad to have an opportunity of expressing my opinions on
the subject of tight-lacing. I quite agree with those who think it
perfectly necessary with the present style of dress (which style I
hope is likely to continue). I believe every one admires the effect
of tight-lacing, though they may not approve in theory. My father
always used to declaim loudly against stays of any kind, so my sister
and I were suffered to grow up without any attention being paid to our
figures, and with all our clothes made perfectly loose, till my sister
was eighteen and I fifteen years old, when papa, after accompanying us
to some party, made some remarks on the clumsiness of our figures, and
the ill-fitting make of our dresses. Fortunately, it was not too late.
Mamma immediately had well-fitting corsets made for us, and as we were
both anxious to have small waists we tightened each other's laces four
and five times a day for more than a year; now we only tighten them
(after the morning) when we are going to a party."

As it has been most justly remarked, no description of evidence can
be so conclusive as that of those whose daily and hourly experience
brings them in contact with the matter under discussion, and we append
here a letter from a correspondent to the _Englishwoman's Domestic
Magazine_ of May, 1867, giving her boarding-school experience in the
matter of extreme tight-lacing:--

Nora says--"I venture to trouble you with a few particulars on the
subject of 'tight-lacing,' having seen a letter in your March number
inviting correspondence on the matter. I was placed at the age of
fifteen at a fashionable school in London, and there it was the custom
for the waists of the pupils to be reduced one inch per month until
they were what the lady principal considered small enough. When I
left school at seventeen, my waist measured only thirteen inches,
it having been formerly twenty-three inches in circumference. Every
morning one of the maids used to come to assist us to dress, and a
governess superintended to see that our corsets were drawn as tight as
possible. After the first few minutes every morning I felt no pain,
and the only ill effects apparently were occasional headaches and loss
of appetite. I should be glad if you will inform me if it is possible
for girls to have a waist of fashionable size and yet preserve their
health. Very few of my fellow-pupils appeared to suffer, except the
pain caused by the extreme tightness of the stays. In one case where
the girl was stout and largely built, two strong maids were obliged
to use their utmost force to make her waist the size ordered by
the lady principal--viz., seventeen inches--and though she fainted
twice while the stays were being made to meet, she wore them without
seeming injury to her health, and before she left school she had a
waist measuring only fourteen inches, yet she never suffered a day's
illness. Generally all the blame is laid by parents on the principal
of the school, but it is often a subject of the greatest rivalry among
the girls to see which can get the smallest waist, and often while the
servant was drawing in the waist of my friend to the utmost of her
strength, the young lady, though being tightened till she had hardly
breath to speak, would urge the maid to pull the stays yet closer,
and tell her not to let the lace slip in the least. I think this is
a subject which is not sufficiently understood. Though I have always
heard tight-lacing condemned, I have never suffered any ill effects
myself, and, as a rule, our school was singularly free from illness.
By publishing this side of the question in the _Englishwoman's
Domestic Magazine_ you will greatly oblige."

Cases like the foregoing are most important and remarkable, as they
show most indisputably that loss of health is not so inseparably
associated with even the most unflinching application of the corset
as the world has been led to suppose. It rather appears that
although a very considerable amount of inconvenience and uneasiness
is experienced by those who are unaccustomed to the reducing and
restraining influences of the corset, when adopted at rather a late
period of growth, they not only in a short time cease to suffer,
but of their own free will continue the practice and become partial
to it. Thus writes an Edinburgh lady, who incloses her card, to the
_Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine_ of March, 1867:--

   "I have been abroad for the last four years, during which I
   left my daughter at a large and fashionable boarding-school
   near London. I sent for her home directly I arrived, and,
   having had no bad accounts of her health during my absence, I
   expected to see a fresh rosy girl of seventeen come bounding
   to welcome me. What, then, was my surprise to see a tall, pale
   young lady glide slowly in with measured gait and languidly
   embrace me; when she had removed her mantle I understood at once
   what had been mainly instrumental in metamorphosing my merry
   romping girl to a pale fashionable belle. Her waist had, during
   the four years she had been at school, been reduced to such
   absurdly small dimensions that I could easily have clasped it
   with my two hands. 'How could you be so foolish,' I exclaimed,
   'as to sacrifice your health for the sake of a fashionable
   figure?' 'Please don't blame me, mamma,' she replied, 'I assure
   you I would not have voluntarily submitted to the torture I
   have suffered for all the admiration in the world.' She then
   told me how the most merciless system of tight-lacing was the
   rule of the establishment, and how she and her forty or fifty
   fellow-pupils had been daily imprisoned in vices of whalebone
   drawn tight by the muscular arms of sturdy waiting-maids, till
   the fashionable standard of tenuity was attained. The torture at
   first was, she declared, often intolerable; but all entreaties
   were vain, as no relaxation of the cruel laces was allowed
   during the day under any pretext except decided illness. 'But
   why did you not complain to me at first?' I inquired. 'As soon
   as I found to what a system of torture I was condemned,' she
   replied, 'I wrote a long letter to you describing my sufferings,
   and praying you to take me away. But the lady principal made
   it a rule to revise all letters sent by, or received by, the
   pupils, and when she saw mine she not only refused to let
   it pass, but punished me severely for rebelling against the
   discipline of the school.' 'At least you will now obtain relief
   from your sufferings,' I exclaimed, 'for you shall not go back
   to that school any more.' On attempting to discontinue the
   tight-lacing, however, my daughter found that she had been so
   weakened by the severe pressure of the last four years that her
   muscles were powerless to support her, and she has therefore
   been compelled to lace as tight as ever, or nearly so. She says,
   however, that she does not suffer much inconvenience now, or,
   indeed, after the first two years--so wonderful is the power of
   Nature to accommodate herself to circumstances. The mischief is
   done; her muscles have been, so to speak, murdered, and she must
   submit for life to be incased in a stiff panoply of whalebone
   and steel, and all this torture and misery for what?--merely to
   attract admiration for her small waist. I called on the lady
   principal of the establishment the next day, and was told that
   very few ladies objected to their daughters having their figures
   improved, that small waists were just now as fashionable as
   ever, and that no young lady could go into good society with a
   coarse, clumsy waist like a rustic, that she had always given
   great satisfaction by her system, which she assured me required
   unremitting perseverance and strictness, owing to the obstinacy
   of young girls, and the difficulty of making them understand the
   importance of a good figure. Finding that I could not touch the
   heart of this female inquisitor, who was so blinded by fashion,
   I determined to write to you and inform your readers of the
   system adopted in fashionable boarding-schools, so that if they
   do not wish their daughters tortured into wasp-waisted invalids
   they may avoid sending them to schools where the corset-screw is
   an institution of the establishment."

And on the appearance of her letter it was replied to by another lady,
who writes as follows:--

   "In reply to the invitation from the lady from Edinburgh to a
   discussion on the popular system amongst our sex of compression
   of the waist, when requisite to attain elegance of figure, I
   beg to say that I am inclined, from the tone of her letter,
   to consider her an advocate of the system she at first sight
   appears to condemn. This conviction of mine may arise from my
   own partiality to the practice of tight-lacing, but the manner
   in which she puts the question almost inclines me to believe
   that she is, as a corset-maker, financially interested in
   the general adoption of the corset-screw. Her account of the
   whole affair seems so artificial, so made up for a purpose, so
   to speak, that I, for one, am inclined to totally discredit
   it. A waist 'easily clasped with two hands.' Ye powers! what
   perfection! how delightful! I declare that ever since I read
   that I have worn a pair of stays that I had rejected for being
   too small for me, as they did not quite meet behind (and I can't
   bear a pair that I cannot closely lace), and have submitted to
   an extra amount of muscular exertion from my maid in order to
   approach, if ever so distantly, the delightful dimensions of two
   handsful. Then, again, how charmingly she insinuates that if we
   will only persevere, only submit to a short probationary period
   of torture, the hated compression (but desired attenuation)
   will have become a second nature to us, that not only will it
   not inconvenience us, but possibly we shall be obliged, for
   comfort's sake itself, to continue the practice. Now, madam,
   as a part of the present whole of modern dress, every one must
   admit that a slender waist is a great acquisition, and from my
   own experience and the experience of several young lady friends
   similarly addicted to guide me, I beg to pronounce the so-called
   evils of tight-lacing to be a mere bugbear and so much cant.
   Every woman has the remedy in her own hands. If she feels the
   practice to be an injury to her, she can but discontinue it at
   any time. To me the sensation of being tightly laced in a pair
   of elegant, well-made, tightly-fitting corsets is superb, and I
   have never felt any evil to arise therefrom. I rejoice in quite
   a collection of these much-abused objects--in silk, satin, and
   coutil of every style and colour--and never feel prouder or
   happier, so far as matters of the toilette are concerned, than
   when I survey in myself the fascinating undulations of outline.


Then follows a letter rather calculated to cast doubt on the subject
of the sufferings of the young lady whose case has been described,
from a lady who, although possessing a small waist, knows nothing of
them. Thus she writes:--

   "Please let me join in the all-absorbing discussion you have
   introduced at the Englishwoman's monthly Conversazione, and
   let me first thank Staylace for her capital letter. I quite
   agree with her in suspecting the story of the young lady at
   the boarding-school to be overdrawn a little. Would the young
   lady herself oblige us with a description of her 'tortures,'
   as I and several of my friends who follow the present fashion
   of small waists are curious to know something of them, having
   never experienced these terrible sufferings, though my
   waistband measures only eighteen inches? The truth is, there
   are always a number of fussy middle-aged people who (with the
   best intentions, no doubt) are always abusing some article of
   female dress. The best of it is, these benevolent individuals
   are usually of that sex whose costume precludes them from
   making a personal trial of the articles they condemn. Now it
   is the crinoline which draws forth their indignant outcries,
   now the corset, and now the chignon. They know not from their
   own experience how the crinoline relieves us from the weight
   of many under-skirts, and prevents them from clinging to us
   while walking, and they have never felt the comfortable support
   of a well-made corset. Yet they decry the use of the first as
   unaccountable, and of the second as suicidal. Let me tell them,
   however, that the ladies themselves judge from practice and not
   from theory, and if the opponents of the corset require proof
   of this, let me remind them that compression of the waist has
   been more or less universal throughout the civilised world for
   three or four centuries, in spite of reams of paper and gallons
   of printing-ink. I may add that, for my own part, I have always
   laced tightly, and have always enjoyed good health. Allow me
   to recommend ladies to have their corsets made to measure,
   and if they do not feel they suffer any inconvenience, they
   may certainly take the example of your clever correspondent
   Staylace, and look upon the outcry as a 'bugbear and so much


   Thus called on, the young lady herself writes and confirms, as
   it will be seen, the statements of others, that the late use of
   the corset is the main source of pain on its first adoption; and
   the statement she makes that her waist is so much admired that
   she sometimes forgets the pain passed through in attaining it,
   coupled with the confession that she is not in ill-health, gives
   her letter strong significance. Here it is in its integrity:--

   "In last month's number of your valuable magazine you were kind
   enough to publish a letter from my mamma on the subject of
   tight-lacing, and as your correspondent Staylace says she is
   inclined to think the whole story made up for a purpose, mamma
   has requested me to write and confirm what she stated in her
   letter. It seems wonderful to me how your correspondent can
   lace so tightly and never feel any inconvenience. It may be,
   very likely, owing to her having begun very young. In my case
   I can only say I suffered sometimes perfect torture from my
   stays, especially after dinner, not that I ate heartily, for
   that I found impossible, even if we had been allowed to do so
   by our schoolmistress, who considered it unladylike. The great
   difference between your correspondent Staylace and myself seems
   to be that she was incased in corsets at an early age, and thus
   became gradually accustomed to tight-lacing, while I did not
   wear them till I went to school at fourteen, and I did not wear
   them voluntarily. Of course it is impossible to say whether I
   underwent greater pressure than she has. I think I must have
   done so, for my waist had grown large before it was subjected
   to the lacing, and had to be reduced to its present tenuity,
   whereas, if she began stays earlier, that would have prevented
   her figure from growing so large. Perhaps Staylace will be so
   kind as to say whether she began stays early, or at any rate
   before fourteen, and what is the size of her waist and her
   height? One reason why she does not feel any inconvenience from
   tight corsets may be that, when she feels disposed, she may
   loosen them, and thus prevent any pain from coming on. But when
   I was at school I was not allowed to loosen them in the least,
   however much they distressed me, so that what was in the morning
   merely a feeling of irksome pressure, became towards the end of
   the day a regular torture. I quite admit that slender waists
   are beautiful--in fact, my own waist is so much admired that I
   sometimes forget the pain I underwent in attaining it. I am also
   quite ready to confess I am not in ill-health, though I often
   feel languid and disinclined for walking out. Nor do I think
   a girl whose constitution is sound would suffer any injury to
   her health from moderate lacing, but I must beg that you will
   allow me to declare that when stays are not worn till fourteen
   years of age, very tight lacing causes absolute torture for
   the first few months, and it was principally to deter ladies
   from subjecting their daughters to this pain in similar cases
   that mamma wrote to you. I am sure any young lady who has (like
   myself) begun tight-lacing rather late will corroborate what I
   have said, and I hope some will come forward and do so, now you
   so kindly give the opportunity."

Much ill-deserved blame has been from time to time cast on the lady
principals of fashionable schools for insisting on the strict use of
the corset by the young ladies in their charge. The following letter
from a schoolmistress of great experience, and another from a young
lady who has finished her education at a fashionable boarding-school,
will at once serve to show that the measures adopted by the heads of
these establishments for the obtainment of elegant figures are in
the end fully appreciated by those who have been fortunate enough to
profit by them.

A Schoolmistress Correspondent says--"As a regular subscriber to your
valuable magazine, I see you have invited your numerous readers to
discuss the subject brought forward by a correspondent in Edinburgh,
and as the principal of a large ladies' school in that city, I feel
sure you will kindly allow me space to say a few words in reply
to her letter. In the first place it must be apparent that your
correspondent committed a great mistake in placing her daughter at a
fashionable school if she did not wish her to become a fashionable
belle, or she should at least have given instructions that her
daughter should not have her figure trained in what every one knows is
the fashionable style. For my own part I have always paid particular
attention to the figures of the young ladies intrusted to my care, and
being fully convinced that if the general health is properly attended
to, corsets are far from being the dreadfully hurtful things some
people imagine. I have never hesitated to employ this most important
and elegant article of dress, except in one case where the pupil was
of a consumptive tendency, and I was specially requested not to allow
her to dress at all tightly. All my pupils enjoy good health, my
great secret being regular exercise, a point which is almost always
disregarded. It appears from your correspondent's letter that the
young lady did not experience any inconvenience after the first two
years she was at the school, nor does her mother say her health was
affected. She only complains that she is no longer a 'romping girl.'
Now, no young lady of eighteen who expects to move in fashionable
society would wish to be thought a romping schoolgirl. With regard
to the slight pain in the muscles which the young lady described as
'torture,' this was no doubt caused by her not having been accustomed
by degrees to a close-fitting dress before she went to the school. I
find that girls who have commenced the use of stays at an early age,
and become gradually used to them, do not experience any uneasiness
when they are worn tighter at fourteen or fifteen. There can be no
doubt that a slender figure is as much admired as ever, and always
will be so. The present fashion of short waists is admitted on all
hands to be very ugly, and will soon go out. Those girls, then, who
have not had their figures properly attended to while growing will
be unable to reduce their waists when the fashion changes, whereas,
by proper care now, they will be able to adopt the fashion of
longer waists without any inconvenience. I trust you will allow us
schoolmistresses fair play in this important matter, and insert this,
or part of it, in your magazine."

Mignon says--"DEAR MRS. ENGLISHWOMAN,--I beg--I pray--that
you will not close your delightful Conversazione to the tight-lacing
question: it is an absorbing one; hundreds, thousands of your young
lady readers are deeply interested in this matter, and the subscribers
to your excellent magazine are increasing daily, to my own knowledge,
by reason of this interesting controversy; pray wait a little, and
you will see how the tight-lacers and their gentlemen admirers will
rally round the banner that has been unfurled. There is an attempt
being made to introduce the hideous fashion of the 'Empire,' as it
is called. Why should we, who have been disciplined at home and
at school, and laced tighter and tighter month after month, until
our waists have become 'small by degrees and beautifully less,' be
expected to hide our figures (which we know are admired) under such
atrocious drapery? My stay and dress maker both tell me that it is
only the ill-formed and waistless ones that have taken to the fashion;
such, of course, are well pleased, and will have no objection to have
their waistbands as high as their armpits. Angular and rigid figures
have always pretended to sneer at tight-lacers, but any one of them
would give half, nay, their whole fortune to attain to such small
dimensions as some of your correspondents describe. I shall keep my
waist where nature has placed it, and where art has improved it, for
my own comfort, and because a certain friend has said that he never
could survive if it were any larger or shorter. My waist remains
just as it was a year and a-half ago, when I left school, where in
the course of three years it was by imperceptible degrees laced from
twenty to fifteen inches, not only without injury to health but with
great satisfaction and comfort to myself."

It has been much the fashion amongst those who have written in
condemnation of the use of the corset to contrast the figure of
the Venus de Medici with that of a fashionably-dressed lady of the
present day; but the comparison is anything but a happy one, as it
would be quite as reasonable to insist that because the sandalled and
stockingless foot of the lady of Ancient Greece was statuesque in
contour when forming a portion of a statue, it should be substituted
for the fashionable boot or slipper and silk stocking of the present
day. That perfection itself in the sculptor's art when draped in
fashionable attire would become supremely grotesque and ridiculous was
not long since fully proved by actual experiment. A former contributor
to the columns of the _Queen_, who at one time followed the medical
profession, felt so convinced of the claims to admiration possessed
by the classic order of form, that he obtained a copy of the Greek
Slave, and had it draped by a first-rate milliner, who made use of all
the modern appliances of the toilet, corset and crinoline included.
The result was that dress made a perfect fright of her, and the
disappointed experimentalist candidly confessed that he did not like
her half as well as he had done. The waist was disproportionately
thick, and the whole _tout ensemble_ dowdy in the extreme. No fallacy
can be greater than to apply the rules of ancient art to modern
costume. Thus writes an artist in the _Englishwoman's Domestic
Magazine_ of September, 1867:--

   "I do not for a moment deny the truth of your artist
   correspondent's assertions, for I consider, as every one must,
   that the proportions of the human body are the most beautiful
   in creation (where all is beautiful and correct), but the great
   mistake which so many make is this. In civilised countries
   the body is always clothed; and that clothing, especially of
   the ladies of European nations, completely hides the contour
   of the body. The effect of this is to give great clumsiness
   to the waist when that part of the person is of its natural
   size. Let any one make a fair and unprejudiced trial, such as
   this: let him get a statuette of some celebrated antique, the
   Venus de Medici or the Greek Slave, and have it dressed in an
   ordinary dress of the present day, and see what the effect
   really is. Until fashion, in its ever-changing round, returns to
   the costume of Ancient Greece or Rome, we can never expect to
   persuade ladies not to compress their waists merely on the score
   of beauty; and as several of your correspondents have shown that
   a moderate compression is not so injurious as some supposed,
   there is no chance of the corset becoming an obsolete article
   of female dress. It has been in use for seven or eight hundred
   years, and now that its form and construction are so much
   modified and improved, there need be no longer an outcry against
   it; indeed, outcry has for centuries failed to affect it, though
   other articles of dress have become in their turn obsolete, a
   clear proof that there is something more than mere arbitrary
   fashion in its hold upon the fair sex."

Another gentleman, not an artist, but whose sisters now suffer from
all the annoyances consequent on clumsy, ill-trained figures, thus
writes to the _Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine_ of September, 1867:--

   "Though the subject on which I propose to address to you a few
   observations hardly concerns a man, I hope you will allow me a
   little space in your excellent journal to express my views upon
   it. I have been much interested by reading the correspondence on
   the subject of slender waists, and the means used for attaining
   them. Now, there can be no doubt that gentlemen admire those
   figures the most which have attained the greatest slenderness.
   I think there is no more deplorable sight than a large and
   clumsy waist; and as nature, without assistance from art,
   seldom produces a really small waist, I think those mothers
   and schoolmistresses who insist upon their daughters or pupils
   between the ages of ten and seventeen wearing well-made corsets,
   and having them tightly laced, confer upon the young ladies a
   great benefit, which, though they may not appreciate at the
   time, they will when they go out into society. Certainly some
   of your correspondents seem to have fallen into the hands of
   schoolmistresses thoroughly aware of the advantages of a good
   figure--a waist that two hands can easily clasp is certainly a
   marvel. I never had the good fortune to see such a one, yet one
   of your correspondents assures us that her daughter's was no
   larger than that. Nora, too, says that her waist only measured
   thirteen inches when she left school; this seems to me to be
   miraculously small. Most gentlemen do not think much about the
   means used for attaining a fashionable figure, and I should not
   have done so either if I had not heard it a good deal discussed
   in my family, where my sisters were never allowed to lace at all
   tightly, the consequence of which is, that now that they are
   grown up they have very clumsy figures, much to their regret;
   but it is too late to alter them now. As doctors seem to think
   that the dangers of tight-lacing have been much exaggerated, and
   as I know many ladies with very slender waists enjoying quite
   as good health as their more strongly built sisters, I would
   urge upon all who wish to have good figures not to be deterred
   by alarmists from endeavouring gradually to attain an elegant

It is most remarkable that, notwithstanding the number of letters
which have been published casting condemnation and ridicule on those
who wear corsets, not one can we discover containing the personal
experiences of those who have been anything but temporary sufferers
from even their extreme use, whilst such letters as the following,
which appeared in the _Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine_ of August,
1867, are of a nature to lead to the conclusion that unless the
germs of disease of some kind are rooted in the system, a well-made
and perfectly-fitting corset may be worn with impunity, even when
habitually laced with considerable tightness. The lady thus gives her
own experiences and those of her daughters:--

   "From the absence of any correspondence on the all-important
   topic of tight-lacing in your August number, I very much
   fear that the subject has come to an end. If so, many other
   subscribers besides myself will be very sorry for it. I cannot
   tell you what pleasure it gave me to see the sentiments that
   were expressed by so many who, like myself, are addicted to
   the practice of tight-lacing, and as for many years I have been
   in the habit of lacing extremely tight, I trust that you will
   allow me, by inserting this or part of it, to make known that
   I have never suffered any pain or illness from it. In the days
   when I was a schoolgirl, stays were worn much stiffer and higher
   than the flimsy things now used, and were, besides, provided
   with shoulder-straps, so that to be very tightly incased in
   them was a much more serious affair than at the present day.[3]
   But, nevertheless, I remember our governess would insist on the
   greatest possible amount of constriction being used, and always
   twice a day our stays were tightened still more. A great amount
   of exercise was inculcated, which perhaps did away with any
   ill effects this extreme tight-lacing might have occasioned,
   but while at school I imbibed a liking for the practice, and
   have ever since insisted on my maid lacing me as tightly as
   she possibly can. I quite agree with Staylace in saying that
   to be tightly laced in a pair of tight-fitting stays is a most
   superb sensation. My two daughters, aged respectively sixteen
   and eighteen, are brought up in the same way, and would not
   consider themselves properly dressed unless their stays were
   drawn together. They can bear me out in my favourable opinion
   of tight-lacing, and their good health speaks volumes in its
   praise. I hope, madam, you will kindly insert this letter in
   your valuable and largely-circulated magazine."

[3] Fairholt remarks, in speaking of the discipline observed in
schools during the reign of George III.--"It was the fashion to
educate girls in stiffness of manner at all public schools, and
particularly to cultivate a fall of the shoulders and an upright set
of the bust. The top of the steel stay busk had a long stocking-needle
attached to it to prevent girls from spoiling their shape by stooping
too much over their needlework. This I have heard from a lady since
dead who had often felt these gentle hints and lamented their disuse."

Many opponents to the use of the corset have strongly urged the
somewhat weak argument, that ladies with slender waists are not
generally admired by the gentlemen. That question has been ably dealt
with in one or two of the preceding letters from ladies, and it is
but fair to them that the opinions of both the young and old of the
male sex (candidly communicated to the columns of the _Englishwoman's
Domestic Magazine_) should be added to the weight of evidence in
favour of almost universal admiration for a slender and well-rounded
waist. Thus writes a young baronet in the number for October, 1867:--

"As you have given your readers the benefit of Another Correspondent's
excellent letter will you kindly allow another member of the sterner
sex to give his opinion on the subject of small waists? Those who have
endeavoured to abolish this most becoming fashion have not hesitated
to declare that gentlemen do not care for a slender figure, but that,
on the contrary, their only feeling on beholding a waist of eighteen
inches is one of pity and contempt. Now so far from this being the
case, there is not one gentleman in a thousand who is not charmed
with the sight. Elderly gentlemen, no doubt, may be found who look
upon such things as 'vanity and vexation of spirit;' but is it for
these that young ladies usually cultivate their charms? There is one
suggestion I should be glad to make if you will permit me, and that
is that all those ladies who possess that most elegant attraction, a
slender waist, should not hide it so completely by shawls or loose
paletots when on the promenade or in the street. When by good-luck I
chance to meet a lady who has the good taste, I may say the kindness,
to show her tapering waist by wearing a close-fitting paletot, I not
unfrequently turn to admire, and so far from thinking of the means
used to obtain the result, I am held spellbound by the beauty of the

That elderly gentlemen are by no means as indifferent to the
attractions of elegant slenderness as our young correspondent
supposes, will be best shown by a letter from a family man on the
subject, communicated to the above journal, November, 1867. He says--

"I have read with much interest the correspondence on the above
subject in the Englishwoman's Conversazione for several months past,
having accidentally met with one of the numbers of your magazine in
a friend's house, and have since regularly taken it, although not
previously a subscriber. As an ardent admirer of small waists in
ladies, I wish to record for the satisfaction of those who possess
them the fact, which is sometimes disputed, that the pains bestowed in
attaining a slender figure are _not_ in vain so far as we gentlemen
are concerned, and some of us are positively absurd in our excessive
admiration of this particular female beauty. Poets and novelists are
perpetually introducing heroines with tiny waists and impossible feet,
and if they are to portray female loveliness in all its attributes,
they could not well omit two _such essential_ points, and I take it
their ideal is not an unfair criterion of the taste of the public at
large. I am delighted to learn from very clear evidence put forward by
your many correspondents that 'small waists' are attainable by most
ladies at little or no inconvenience, and that those of the clumsier
build are willing to suffer a certain amount of pain if necessary in
reducing their bulky figures to graceful proportions, and, above all,
that this can be done without injury to health, for after all it would
be a dearly-purchased charm if health were sacrificed. Some fifteen
or twenty years ago, I recollect the word '_stays_' was uttered as
though a certain amount of disgrace attached to the wearer, and
'_tight-lacing_' was looked on as a crime; but I am glad to see that
a reaction is setting in, and that ladies are not afraid to state
openly that 'they lace _very_ tightly,' and many of them declare
the sensation of being laced as tightly as possible as positively a
_pleasurable one_. I may say that personally I feel that every lady
of my acquaintance, or with whom I may come in contact, who does so
places me under a direct obligation. I will go further than your
correspondent, A Young Baronet, and say that whenever I meet a young
lady who possesses the charm of a small waist, and has the good taste
to wear the tight-fitting dress now fashionable for the promenade,
I make it a point to see her pretty figure more than once, and have
often gone considerably out of my way to do so. Although married
years and years ago, I am still a slave to a '_little waist_,' and I
am proud to say my wife humours my whim, and her waist is decidedly
a small one. I will, therefore, add my experience to that of others
(more competent to give an opinion, having experienced tight-lacing
in their own proper persons), and state that she never enjoyed better
health than when her waist was the smallest, and I shall be much
disappointed if her daughters, when they '_come out_' do not emulate
their mother's slender figure. By keeping your Conversazione open to
the advocates of tight-lacing, and thoroughly ventilating the subject,
you will, in my opinion, confer a benefit on the rising generation of
young ladies, whose mammas, in too many instances, are so _prejudiced_
against the use of the corset that they permit their daughters to grow
up into clumsy, awkward young women, to their own disgust and great
detriment in the matrimonial market.

    "I am, madam, your obedient servant,



  [Illustration: THE FASHION OF 1865.]

                             CHAPTER IX.

   The elegance of dress mainly dependent on the Corset--Fashion
   and dress of 1865--The short-waisted dresses and trains of
   1867--Tight Corsets needed for short waists--Letter on the
   figure--Description of a peculiar form of Corset worn by some
   ladies of fashion in France--Proportions of the figure and size
   of the waist considered--The point at which the waist should
   be formed--Remarks of the older writers on stays--Corsets and
   high-heeled shoes denounced--Alarming diseases said to be
   produced by wearing high-heeled shoes--Mortality amongst the
   female sex not on the increase--Extraordinary statistics of the
   Corset trade--The Corset of the present day contrasted with that
   of the olden time.

We could very easily add letters enough to occupy the remaining
portion of this work, all incontestably proving that slender waists
_are_, notwithstanding that which some few writers have urged to the
contrary, held in high esteem by the great majority of the sterner sex.

Without the aid of the corset, it has been very fairly argued, no
dress of the present day could be worn, unless its fair possessor was
willing to submit to the withering contempt of merciless society. The
annexed illustration represents a lady dressed in the fashion of the
close of 1865, and there are few who would be unwilling to admit its
elegance and good taste. One glance at the contour of the figure is
sufficient to show the full influence of the modern form of corset on
the adjustment of this style of costume, and it would be a waste of
both time and space to represent the figure in its uncultivated form
similarly arrayed. In 1867, we find a strong tendency towards the
short waists, low dresses, and long trailing trains of old times, and
we are forcibly reminded, when contemplating the passing caprice, of
the lines from a parody on the "Banks of Banna"--

    "Shepherds, I have lost my waist.
    Have you seen my body?"

Still the waist is by no means suffered to remain _perdu_, but, as in
1827, has to be laced with very considerable tightness to compensate
the eye for its loss of taperness and length. The annexed illustration
represents a lady of fashion of 1867, and it would be a perfect work
of supererogation to ask our readers how a lady so dressed would
look "unlaced and unconfined." The ladies themselves are by far
the best judges of the matter, and the following letter from the
_Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine_ will show that the corset has to
play an important part in the now-existing style of dress. Thus writes
a lady who signs herself Edina:--

"Allow me to occupy a small portion of your valuable space with the
subject of stays. I quite agree with A Young Baronet that all those
ladies who possess that most elegant attraction, a slender waist,
should not hide it so completely by shawls whenever they promenade.
Excuse my offering a few remarks to facilitate that desirable object,
a handsome figure. Ladies, when dressing for the afternoon walk or
ride, or the evening display, when putting on their stays at first,
should not lace them quite tight; in about a quarter of an hour they
might again tighten them, and in the course of half-an-hour or so lace
them to the requisite tightness. They may fancy in this way there is
no sudden compression of the waist, and the figure gets more easily
accustomed to tight-lacing. Occasionally, in France, ladies who are
very particular about their figures have their corsets made in three
pieces, laced down the sides as well as behind, and cut away over the
hips; the holes for the laces are very numerous and close together.
This form of corset offers great facilities for the most perfect
adjustment to the figure, as well as power of tight-lacing when
required, and perfect ease in walking or dancing. I may add that, in
order to insure a good fit and to keep it properly in its place, the
busk in front, and the whalebones behind, are made somewhat longer
than the present fashion. Perhaps the lady in your September number,
who signs herself An Inveterate Tight-Lacer, might find a trial of
a corset made in this form a great boon as well as a comfort in

Practical hints such as these will not fail to be of interest to
the reader. Numerous inquiries, as will be seen on reference to the
foregoing correspondence, have been made as to what circumference the
waist should be to meet the requirements of elegance.

  [Illustration: THE FASHION OF 1867]

It must be borne in mind, when dealing with this question, that height
and breadth of shoulder have much to do with proportionate slenderness
of waist. A lady who is tall and wide-shouldered would appear very
neatly shaped with a waist laced to twenty or twenty-one inches,
whilst with a slight, narrow form of figure that size would carry
the appearance of much clumsiness with it. Madame La Sante says--"A
waist may vary in circumference from seventeen to twenty-three
inches, according to the general proportions of the figure, and yet
appear in all cases slender and elegant." We have abundant evidence
before us, however, that seventeen inches is by no means the lowest
standard of waist-measure to be met with in the fashionable circles
of either London, New York, Paris, or Vienna. Numbers of corsets
sixteen inches at the waist, and even less, are made in each of these
cities every day. In the large provincial towns, both at home and
abroad, corset-makers follow out the rules laid down by fashion. We
are disposed to think, therefore, dealing with the evidence before us,
that a lady of medium stature and average breadth of shoulder would
be subscribing to the laws of fashionable taste if the circumference
of her waist was not more than from seventeen to nineteen inches,
measuring outside the dress.

Fashion has indulged in some strange freaks regarding the length and
position of the waist, as a reference to many of the illustrations
will show, but its true position can be laid down so clearly that no
doubt need remain on the matter. A line drawn midway between the hip
and the lowest rib gives the exact point from which the tapering
form of the waist should spring, and by keeping this rule in view
it appears the statement made by so many ladies (that provided
ample space is allowed for the chest the waist may be laced to an
extreme of smallness without injury) has much truth to support it.
The contributors to works of popular instruction even in our own day
are very lavish in their denunciations of the practice of wearing
corsets, and, following in the track of the ancient writers on the
same subject, muster such a deadly and tremendously formidable array
of ailments, failings, and diseases as inseparably associated with
the wearing of that particular article of attire, that the very
persons for whom these terrors are invoked, seeing from their own
daily experience how overdrawn they are and how little knowledge
their authors show about the subject, laugh the whole matter to scorn
and follow the fashion. We have now before us a very talented and
well-conducted journal, in which there are some sweeping blows at
the use of both corsets and high-heeled boots or shoes, and, as an
instance of the frightfully severe way in which the ladies of the time
(1842) laced themselves, the writer assures us that he had actually
seen a young lady's waist-belt which measured exactly "_twenty-two_
inches," "showing that the _chest_ to which it was applied had been
reduced to a diameter (allowing for clothes) of little more than seven
inches." The chest is thus shown as being about one inch less than the
waist. Now, in 1842 it must have been a very eccentric lady indeed
who formed her waist round her _chest_, and as to the twenty-two-inch
waistband, we cannot help thinking that the majority of our readers
would seek one of considerably smaller size as an indication of
the practice of tight-lacing in the owner. And now on the score of
high-heeled boots and slippers, we are, like the immortal boy in
_Pickwick_, "going to make your flesh creep." In writing of these
terrible engines of destruction our mentor says--"From the uneasiness
and constraint experienced in the feet sympathetic affections of a
dangerous kind often assail the stomach and chest, as hæmorrhage,
apoplexy, and consumption. Low-heeled shoes, with sufficient room for
the toes, would completely prevent all such consequences."

How the shareholders of life assurance companies must quake in their
shoes as the smart and becoming footgear of the period meets their
distracted vision at every turn! and what between the fatal high heels
and waists of deadly taperness, it is a wonder that female existence
can continue, and that all the policies do not fall due in less than
a week, all the undertakers sink into hopeless idiocy in a day from
an overwhelming press of business, and all the gentlemen engage in
sanguinary encounter for the possession of the "_last woman_," who has
survived the common fate by reason of her barefooted habits and of her
early abandonment of stays.

We do not find, as a matter of fact, that the Registrar-General has
his duties materially increased, or that the bills of female mortality
are by any means alarming, although on a moderate calculation there
are considerably over twelve million corsets in the United Kingdom
alone, laced with as many laces round as many waists every day in the
week, with, in many instances, a little extra tension for Sundays.

We learn from the columns of _Once a Week_ that the total value of
stays made for British consumption annually, cannot be less than
£1,000,000 sterling, to produce which about 36,000,000 yards of
material are required. The stay trade of London employs more than
10,000 in town and country, whilst the provincial firms employ about
25,000 more; of these, about 8,000 reside in London, and there is
about one male to every twenty-five women. Returns show that we
receive every year from France and Germany about 2,000,000 corsets.
One corset-manufacturer in the neighbourhood of Stuttgard has, we are
informed, over 1,300 persons in constant employment, and turns out
annually about 300,000 finished corsets. Messrs. Thomson and Co.,
the manufacturers of the glove-fitting corset, turn out incredible
numbers from their immense manufactories in England, America, and
on the continent. It will be readily conceived that the colonial
demand and consumption is proportionately great. The quantity of steel
annually made use of for the manufacture of stay-busks and crinolines
is perfectly enormous. Of the importance of the whale fishery, and the
great value of whalebone, it will be needless to speak here, further
than to inform our readers that more than half the whalebone which
finds its way into the market is consumed by the corset-makers. Silk,
cotton, and wool, in very large quantities, are either spun up into
laces or used in the sewing or manufacture of the corset itself. No
inconsiderable quantity of timber is made use of for working up into
busks. Oxhorn, ebonite, gutta-percha, and hardened brass are all
occasionally used for the same purpose, whilst the brass eyelet-holes,
of which we shall have to say more by-and-by, are turned out in such
vast and incalculable quantities, that any attempt at computing their
number would be useless. It will be seen by these statistics and
remarks that, unlike certain other articles of raiment which have
reigned in popular esteem for a time, and then passed away, the corset
has not only become an established institution throughout the whole
civilised world, but is of immense commercial importance, and in
rapidly-increasing demand and esteem.

We shall now have to remark on some of the most noteworthy forms of
the corset worn at the present day, contrasting them with those of
the olden time. The steel corset-_covers_ we have already figured and
described. On these contrivances being found heavy and too unbending
in their construction, a form of corset was, as we have before said,
contrived, which needed no cover to preserve its perfect smoothness of
surface and rigidity of form; the front was therefore enriched with
gold and silver tissue, and ornamented with embroidery, performing
the part of both corset and stomacher, whilst the back was made of a
heavier material, because the dress of the period often concealed it.



The annexed illustrations are carefully sketched from a very
excellent specimen of this form of corset or bodice, kindly lent
us for the purpose by Messrs. Simmons, the well-known costumiers of
Tavistock-street, Covent Garden, by whom it has been preserved as
a great curiosity. The materials used in its construction are very
strong, whilst every part the least liable to be put out of form is
literally plated with whalebone, making its weight considerable. The
lace-holes are worked with blue silk, and are very numerous and close


                              CHAPTER X.

   Remarks on front-fastening stays--Thomson's glove-fitting
   Corsets--Plan for adding stability to the front-fastening
   Corset--De la Garde's French Corset--System of
   self-measurement--The Redresseur Corset of Vienna and its
   influence on the figures of young persons--Remarks on the flimsy
   materials used in the manufacture of Corsets--Hints as to proper
   materials--The "Minet Back" Corset described--Elastic Corsets
   condemned--The narrow bands used as substitutes for Corsets
   injurious to the figure--Remarks on the proper application
   of the Corset with the view to the production of a graceful
   figure--Thomson's Zephyrina Crinoline--Costume of the present
   season--The claims of Nature and Art considered--The belle of
   Damara Land.


  [Illustration: COMMON CHEAP STAY, OPEN.]


It would be difficult to find a much more marked contrast to the style
of bodice referred to in our last chapter than is to be found in the
ordinary cheap front-fastening corset commonly sold by drapers. The
accompanying illustrations accurately represent it, and those who have
written on the subject have much reason on their side when they insist
that it neither aids in the formation of a good figure nor helps to
maintain the proportions of one when formed. Corsets such as these
have neither beauty of contour nor compactness of construction. The
two narrow busks through which the holes are drilled for the reception
of the _studs_ or _catches_ are too often formed of steel so low in
quality that fracture at these weak points is a common occurrence,
when some danger of injury from the broken ends is to be apprehended.
It will also be found that when these bars or plates are deficient
in width and insufficient in stiffness the corset will no longer
support the figure, or form a foundation for the dress to be neatly
adjusted over. On the introduction of the front-fastening system it
was at once seen that much saving of time and trouble was gained by
the great facility with which corsets constructed according to it
could be put on and off but the objections before referred to were
soon manifest, and the ingenuity of inventors was called into action
to remedy and overcome them, and it was during this _transition_ stage
in the history of the corset that the front-fastening principle met
with much condemnation at the hands of those who made the formation
of the figure a study. From Thomson and Co., of New York, we have
received a pattern of their "_glove-fitting corset_," the subject
of the accompanying illustration, in the formation of which the old
evils have been most successfully dealt with. The steels are of the
highest class of quality and of the requisite degree of substance to
insure both safety and sustaining power. Accidental unfastening of the
front, so common, and, to say the least of it, inconvenient, in the
old form of attachment, is rendered impossible by the introduction
of a very ingenious but simple spring _latch_, which is opened or
closed in an instant at the pleasure of the wearer. This corset is
decidedly the best form on the front-fastening plan we have seen. Its
mode of construction is excellent; it is so cut as to admit of its
adapting itself to every undulation of the figure with extraordinary
facility. We have suggested to the firm the advisability of furnishing
to the public corsets combining their excellent method of cutting,
great strength of material, and admirable finish, with the single
steel busk and hind-lacing arrangement of the ordinary stay. The
requirements of all would be then met, for although numbers of
ladies prefer the front-fastening corset, it will be observed that
a great number of those who have written on the subject, and make
the formation and maintenance of the figure a study, positively
declare from experience that the waist never looks so small or neatly
proportioned as when evenly and well laced in the hind-lacing and
close-fronted form of corset. It has of late become the custom to
remedy the want of firmness and stability found to exist in many of
the common front-fastening corsets by sewing a kind of sheath or case
on the inside of the front immediately behind the two steels on which
the studs and slots are fixed; into this a rather wide steel busk is
passed, so that the division or opening has the centre line of the
_extra_ busk immediately behind it. That this plan answers in some
measure the desired end there is no doubt, but in such a corset as
that of Thomson and Co. no such expedient is needed.



The accompanying illustrations are from sketches made expressly for
this work from a corset made by De La Garde and Co., of Paris, and
our readers will form their own opinion as to the contour of the
figure from which these drawings were made, which is that of a lady
who has for many years worn corsets made by the above-mentioned
firm. The waist-measure is eighteen inches. The remarks as to the
advisability of having corsets made to measure are scarcely borne
out by her experiences. She informs us that it has always been
her custom to forward to Messrs. De La Garde and Co.'s agent the
measure taken round the chest below the arms, from beneath the arm
to the hip, the circumference of the hips, and the waist-measure,
when the fit is a matter of certainty. By adopting this system
ladies residing in the country can, she assures us, always provide
themselves with corsets made by the first manufacturers in Europe
without the trouble and inconvenience of being attended for the
purpose of measurement. In ordering the "_glove-fitting corset_," the
waist measure only need be given. From M. Weiss, of Vienna, we have
received a pattern and photographs from which our other illustrations
are taken. Here we have represented the so-called "_redresseur_"
corset, devised mainly with a view to the formation of the figure in
young persons, or where careless and awkward habits of posture have
been contracted. It will be seen on examination that the front of
the chest is left entirely free for expansion, the waist only being
confined at the point where restraint is most called for. The back
is supported and kept upright by the system of boning adopted with
that view, and the shoulder-straps, after passing completely round
the point of the shoulder, are hooked together behind, thus bringing
the shoulders in their proper position and keeping them there. As
a corrective and improver to the figure there can be no doubt that
the _redresseur_ corset is a safe and most efficient contrivance. We
have had an opportunity of seeing it worn, and can testify to the
marked and obvious improvement which was at once brought about by its


We have heard many complaints lately of the flimsy manner in which
corsets of comparatively high price are turned out by their makers,
the stitching being so weak that re-sewing is not unfrequently needed
after a few days' wear. The edges of the whalebones, too, instead
of being rounded off and rendered smooth, are often, we find, left
as sharp as a knife, causing the coutil or other material to be cut
through in a very few days. The eyelet-holes are also made so small
and narrow at the flanges that no hold on the material is afforded,
and even the most moderate kind of lacing causes them to break from
their hold, fall out, and leave a hole in the material of which the
corset is made, which if not immediately repaired by working round
in the old-fashioned way rapidly enlarges, frays out, and runs into
an unsightly hole. Corset-makers should see that the circle of metal
beyond the orifice through which the lace passes is sufficiently wide
to close down perfectly on the fabric, and retain a firm hold of
it; if they do not do so, the old worked eyelet-hole is preferable
to the stud, notwithstanding the neat appearance of the stud and the
apparent advantage it has over the old plan. A form of corset made
without lacing-holes, known as the "_Minet Back_," with which many
of our readers will no doubt be familiar, and which was extensively
worn in France some few years ago, is still to be obtained of some
few makers in England. This has a row of short strong loops sewn just
beyond each back whalebone. Through these pass from top to bottom, on
each side of the back, a long round bar of strong whalebone, which
is secured in its place by a string passing through a hole made in
its top to the upper loop of each row. The lace (a flat silk one) was
passed through the spaces between the loops, and was tightened over
the smooth round whalebone, thus enabling the wearer not only to lace
with extreme tightness without danger to the corset, but admitting of
its almost instant removal by slightly slackening the lace and then
drawing out one of the bars, which immediately sets the interlacing
free from end to end. We are rather surprised that more of these
corsets are not worn, as there are numerous advantages attendant on
them. Our space will not admit of our more than glancing _en passant_
at the various inventions which have from time to time been brought to
the notice of the public. By some inventors the use of elastic webbing
or woven indiarubber cloth was taken advantage of, and great stress
was laid on the resilient qualities of the corsets to which it was
applied. But it must never be lost sight of that all materials of an
elastic nature, when fitted tightly to the figure, not only have the
power of expanding on the application of force, but are unceasingly
exercising their own extensive powers of contraction. Thus, no amount
of custom could ever adapt the waist to the space allotted to it,
as with the elastic corset it is changing every second, and always
exercising constriction even when loosely laced. The narrow bands
hollowed out over the hips may be, as some writers on the subject have
stated, adapted for the possessors of very slight figures who ride
much on horseback; but many ladies of great experience in the matter
strongly condemn them as being inefficient and calculated to lead
to much detriment to the figure. Thus writes a correspondent to the
_Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine_:--

   "As one of your correspondents recommends the waistbands in lieu
   of corsets, I have during the last three weeks made a trial
   of them, and shall be glad if you will allow me to express my
   opinion that they are not only disadvantageous but positively
   dangerous to the figure. Your correspondent says that ordinary
   corsets, if drawn in well at the waist, hurt a woman cruelly
   all the way up. I can only say that if she finds such to be the
   case the remedy is in her own hands. If ladies would only take
   the trouble to have their stays made to measure for them, and
   have plenty of room allowed round the chest, not only would the
   waist look smaller, but no discomfort would be felt such as H.
   W. describes. Young girls should always be accurately fitted,
   but it is, I have found, a mistake to have their corsets too
   flimsy or elastic. I quite agree that they should be commenced
   early--indeed, they usually are so, and thus extreme compression
   being unnecessary, the instances brought forward by the lady who
   commenced the discussion and by Nora must, I think, be looked
   upon as exceptional cases.


Another lady writing in the same journal says--"No one will grudge
'The Young Lady Herself' any sympathy she may claim for the torture
she has submitted to, but so far from her case being condemnatory of
stays it is the reverse, for she candidly admits that she does not
suffer ill-health. Now such a case as hers is an exception, and the
stout young lady spoken of by Nora is also an exception, for it is
seldom that girls are allowed to attain the age of fourteen or fifteen
before commencing stays. The great secret is to begin their use as
early as possible, and no such severe compression will be requisite.
It seems absurd to allow the waist to grow large and clumsy, and then
to reduce it again to more elegant proportions by means which must at
first be more or less productive of inconvenience. There is no article
of civilised dress which, when first begun to be worn, does not feel
uncomfortable for a time to those who have never worn it before. The
barefooted Highland lassie carries her shoes to the town, puts them on
on her arrival, and discards them again directly she leaves the centre
of civilisation. A hat or a coat would be at first insupportable to
the men of many nations, and we all know how soon the African belle
threw aside the crinoline she had been induced to purchase. But surely
no one would argue against these necessary articles of dress merely on
the ground of inconvenience to the wearer, for, however uncomfortable
they may be at first, it is astonishing how soon that feeling goes off
and how indispensable they become. My opinion is that stays should
always be made to order, and not be of too flimsy a construction. I
think H. W.'s suggestions regarding the waistbands only applicable
to middle-aged ladies or invalids, as they do not give sufficient
support to growing girls, and are likely to make the figure look too
much like a sack tied round the middle instead of gradually tapering
to the waist. Brisbane's letter shows how those who have never
tried tight-lacing are prejudiced against it, and that merely from
being shown a print in an old medical work, while Nora's letter is
infinitely more valuable, as showing how even the most extreme lacing
can be employed without injury to health.

    "L. THOMPSON."

Such a work as this would be incomplete without some remarks touching
the best means to be applied for the achievement of the desired end,
and hence a letter from a lady of great experience, who has paid
much attention to the subject, contributed to the _Englishwoman's
Domestic Magazine_, enables us to give the very best possible kind of
information--viz., that gathered by personal observation. Thus she

   "In the numerous communications on the subject of tight-lacing
   which have appeared in the _Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine_,
   but little has been said on the best mode of applying the
   corset in order to produce elegance of figure. It seems to
   me that nearly all those who suffer from tight-lacing do so
   from an _injudicious_ use of the corset, and in such cases the
   unfortunate corset generally gets all the blame, and not the
   wearer who makes an improper use of it. I can easily understand
   that a girl who is full grown, or nearly so, and who has been
   unaccustomed to wear tight stays, should find it difficult and
   painful to lace in her waist to a fashionable size; but if
   the corset be worn at an early age and the figure gradually
   moulded by it, I know of no terrible consequences that need
   be apprehended. I would therefore recommend the early use of
   a corset that fits the figure nicely and no more. Now, simply
   wearing stays that only _fit_, will, when a girl is growing,
   in a great measure prevent the waist from becoming clumsy.
   If, however, on her reaching the age of fourteen or fifteen,
   her waist be still considered too large, a smaller corset may
   be worn with advantage, which should be _gradually_ tightened
   till the requisite slimness is achieved. I know of so many
   instances in which, under this system, girls have, when full
   grown, possessed both a good figure and good health, that I
   can recommend it with confidence to those parents who wish
   their children to grow up into elegant and healthy women. As to
   whether compression of the waist by symmetrical corsets injures
   the health in any way, opinion seems to be divided. The personal
   experiences of tight-lacers, as your correspondent Belle has
   observed, will do more to solve this knotty question than any
   amount of theory. But whatever conclusion we may come to on
   this point, there is no denying the fact that very many of the
   strongest and healthiest women one sees in society habitually
   practise tight-lacing, and apparently do so with impunity.


As we have before stated, the remarks and observations contained
in the above letter are the result of careful study and a thorough
acquaintance with the subject, and not of hasty conclusion,
prejudice, or theory. A letter in the earlier portion of this work,
from an old Edinburgh correspondent to the _Queen_, than whom few are
more competent to direct and advise on this important subject, will be
found precisely to the same end, and we feel sure, in laying before
the reader such united experiences, that much will be done towards
the establishment of such a system of management as will lead to the
almost certain achievement of grace and elegance of figure without
the sacrifice of health. That these are most important and desirable
objects for attainment few would be puritanical and headstrong enough
to deny, and there can be no question that, however superb or simple
a lady's costume may be, it is mainly dependent for its elegance of
adjustment and distinctiveness of style to the corset and crinoline
beneath it.

We have seen how Mrs. Selby's invention influenced the world of
fashion in her day, and a glance at the illustration at page 114 will
be sufficient to prove how inferior, in point of grace and elegance,
the costume of that period was to that of our own time. Some idea may
be formed of the wide-spread and almost universal attention which
Mrs. Selby's wondrous "_crinoline conception_" met at the hands of
the fashionable world by a perusal of the following lines, which were
written at Bath concerning it in the year 1711, and are entitled, _The
Farthingale Reviewed; or, More Work for the Cooper. A paneygerick on
the late but most admirable invention of the hooped petticoat._

    "There's scarce a bard that writ in former time
    Had e'er so great, so bright a theme for rhyme;
    The _Mantua_ swain, if living, would confess
    Ours more surprising than his Tyrian dress,
    And Ovid's mistress, in her loose attire,
    Would cease to charm his eyes or fan Love's fire.
    Were he at _Bath_, and had these coats in view,
    He'd write his _Metamorphosis_ anew,

    "Delia, fresh hooped, would o'er his heart prevail,
    To leave Corinna and her tawdry veil.
    Hear, great Apollo! and my genius guide,
    To sing this glorious miracle of pride,
    Nor yet disdain the subject for its name,
    Since meaner things have oft been sung to Fame;
    Even boots and spurs have graced heroic verse,
    Butler his knight's whole suit did well rehearse;
    King Harry's costume stands upon record,
    And every age will precedents afford.
    Then on, my Muse, and sing in epic strain
    The petticoat--thou shalt not sing in vain,
    The petticoat will sure reward thy pain;
    With all thy skill its secret virtues tell--
    A petticoat should still be handled well.

    "Oh garment heavenly wide! thy spacious round
    Do's my astonished thoughts almost confound;
    My fancy cannot grasp thee at a view,
    None at first sight e'er such a picture drew.
    The daring artist that describes thee true,
    Must change his sides as modern statesmen do,
    Or like the painter, when some church he draws,
    Following his own, and not the builder's laws,
    At once shows but the prospect to the sight,
    For north and south together can't be right.

    "Hence, ye profane! nor think I shall reveal
    The happy wonders which these vests conceal;
    Hence your unhallow'd eyes and ears remove,
    'Tis _Cupid's_ circle, 'tis the orb of Love.
    Let it suffice you see th' unwieldy fair
    Sail through the streets with gales of swelling air;
    Nor think (like fools) the ladies, would they try,
    Arm'd with their furbelows and these, could fly.
    That's all romantick, for these garments show
    Their thoughts are with their petticoats below.

    "Nor must we blame them whilst they stretch their art
    In rich adornment and being wondrous smart;
    For that, perhaps, may stand 'em more in stead
    Than loads of ribbons fluttering on the head.
    And, let philosophers say what they will,
    There's something surer than their eyes do's kill;
    We tell the nymph that we her face adore,
    But plain she sees we glance at something more.

    "In vain the ladies spend their morning hours
    Erecting on their heads stupendous towers;
    A battery from thence might scare the foe,
    But certain victory is gained below.
    Let _Damon_ then the adverse champion be--
    Topknots for him, and petticoats for me;
    Nor must he urge it spoils the ladies' shape,
    Tho' (as the multitude at monsters gape)
    The world appears all lost in wild amaze,
    As on these new, these strange machines they gaze;
    For if the Queen the poets tell us of, from Paphos came,
    Attired as we are told by antique fame,
    Thus would they wonder at the heavenly dame.

    "I own the female world is much estranged
    From what it was, and top and bottom changed.
    The head was once their darling constant care,
    But women's heads can't heavy burdens bear--
    As much, I mean, as they can do elsewhere;
    So wisely they transferred the mode of dress,
    And furnished t'other end with the excess.
    What tho' like spires or pyramids they show,
    Sharp at the top, and vast of bulk below?
    It is a sign they stand the more secure:
    A maypole will not like a church endure,
    And ships at sea, when stormy winds prevail,
    Are safer in their ballast than their sail.

    "Hail, happy coat! for modern damsels fit,
    Product of ladies' and of taylors' wit;
    Child of Invention rather than of Pride,
    What wonders dost thou show, what wonders hide!
    Within the shelter of thy useful shade,
    Thin _Galatea's_ shrivelled limbs appear
    As plump and charming as they did last year;
    Whilst tall _Miranda_ her lank shape improves,
    And, graced by thee, in some proportion moves.
    Ev'n those who are diminutively short
    May please themselves and make their neighbours sport,
    When, to their armpits harnessed up in thee,
    Nothing but head and petticoats we see.
    But, oh! what a figure fat _Sempronia_ makes!
    At her gigantick form the pavement quakes;
    By thy addition she's so much enlarged,
    Where'er she comes, the sextons now are charged
    That all church doors and pews be wider made--
    A vast advantage to a joiner's trade.

    "Ye airy nymphs, that do these garments wear,
    Forgive my want of skill, not want of care;
    Forgive me if I have not well displayed
    A coat for such important uses made.
    If aught I have forgot, it was to prove
    How fit they are, how _apropos_ for love,
    How in their circles cooling zephyrs play,
    Just as a tall ship's sails are filled on some bright summer day.
    But there my Muse must halt--she dares no more
    Than hope the pardon which she ask'd before."

  [Illustration: THE FASHION OF 1868.]

Fashions have altered, times have changed, hooped petticoats have
been in turn honoured and banished, just as the fickle goddess of the
mirror has decreed. Still, as an arrow shot in the air returns in
time to earth, so surely does the hooped jupon return to power after
a temporary estrangement from the world of gaiety. The illustration
on page 223 represents the last new form of crinoline, and there
can be no doubt that its open form of front is a most important
and noteworthy improvement. Preceding this engraving, we have an
illustration representing two ladies in the costume of the present
season arranged over "the glove-fitting corset" and "Zephyrina jupon,"
for patterns of both of which we are indebted to the courtesy of
Messrs. Thomson and Co., the inventors and manufacturers.

  [Illustration: THE ZEPHYRINA JUPON.]

It is the custom with some authors to uphold the claims of _nature_
in matters relating to human elegance, and we admit that nature in
her own way is particularly charming, so long as the accessories and
surroundings are in unison. But in the human heart everywhere dwells
an innate love of adornment, and untaught savages, in their toilet
appliances and tastes, closely resemble the belles of highly-civilised
communities. We have already referred to the crinoline petticoats
worn by the Tahitian girls when they were first seen by the early
navigators. The frilled ruff which so long remained a high court
favourite during the Elizabethan period (and which, if we mistake not,
will again have its day) was as well known to the dusky beauties of
the palm-clad, wave-lashed islands of the Pacific, when Cook first
sailed forth to discover new lands, as it was to the stately and
proud dames of Venice. Beneath, we place side by side types of savage
elegance and refined taste. Where the one begins and the other ends,
who shall say?



    Adventure, an, of Louise de Lorraine, 92, 97.

    Alarming diseases said to be produced by wearing high-heeled
    shoes, 194, 195.

    Ancient inhabitants of Polenqui, reduction of the waist by, 10.

    An Italian duchess, the costume of, 54.

    Antiquities of Egypt, researches among, 25-27.

    Augsburg, the ladies of, by Hoechstetterus, 104.

    Austria, Empress of, elegant figure of, 165.

    Backboards and stocks, 134.

    Bands (narrow), used as substitutes for corsets injurious, 213, 214.

    Barbers, an army of, 110.

    Beauties of Circassia, 13, 14.

    Beauty, Hindoo ideas regarding, 19, 20.

    Belles of India, 19, 20.

    Belt (ornamented) of the Indians, 9.

    Bernaise dress, 65.

    Blanche, daughter of Edward III., dress of, 49.

    Boarding-school discipline, letter on, 170, 171.

    Boddice, bodice, or bodies, 123.

    Bonnet à canon, the, 60.

    Bouffant sleeves of the reign of Henry II., 65.

    Bridal dress of an Israelitish lady, 28.

    Buchan, writings of, 130.

    Ceylon, figure-training in, 13.

    Chaucer's writings, his admiration of small waists, 50.

    Chinese gentleman, letter from a, 20.

    Cleopatra and her jewels, 37.

    Clumsy figures great drawbacks to young ladies, 182.

    Conquest of the Roman Empire, 38.

    Corps, the, 72, 75.

    Corset, a peculiar form of, worn by some ladies of fashion in
    France, 190.

    Corset in use among the Israelitish ladies, 28, 29.

    Corset, general use of the, on the Continent for boys, 136-138.

    Corset, origin of, 9.

    Corset, use of by the inhabitants of the Eastern Archipelago, 10.

    Corset-covers (steel), 75.

    Corsets and high-heeled shoes denounced, 194, 195.

    Corsets, custom of wearing during sleep, 150, 153.

    Corsets for growing girls, remarks on, 167, 168.

    Corsets of the present day contrasted with those of the olden
    time, 196.

    Corsets, remarks on the proper application of, 214-216.

    Corsets, severe form of, worn in the Elizabethan period, 75, 76.

    Corsets, the small size of, made in London, 165.

    Corsets, their use for youths, 138.

    Corsets worn by gentlemen in 1265, 46.

    Corsets worn by gentlemen of the present time, 138.

    Costume à l'enfant, 98.

    Costume à la Watteau, 109.

    Costume of the court of Louis XVI., 124.

    Costumes of the ladies of Israel, 27-29.

    Cottes hardies, 41.

    Crim Tartary, beautiful princesses of, 14, 19.

    Crinoline among the South Sea Islanders, 143.

    Crinoline and slender waists, remarks of Madame La Sante on, 143, 144.

    Crinoline not a new term, 143.

    Cromwell's time, tight-lacing in, 104.

    De La Garde's French corsets, 209, 210.

    Demon of fashion, a monkish satire, 42.

    Determined tailor, a, 55.

    Dress in 1776, 129.

    Dress, its elegance dependent on the corset, 189.

    Dresses (low) of 1713, 115.

    Dunbar's Thistle and Rose, 50.

    Earth-eating in Java, 13.

    Eastern Archipelago, use of the corset in, 10.

    Edict of the Emperor Joseph of Austria forbidding the use of
       stays, 66.

    Edinburgh, Traditions of, anecdote from, 144.

    Egyptian fashions and costumes, 25-27.

    Elastic corsets condemned, 213.

    Eleanor, Countess of Leicester, entry in household register of, 45,

    Elegance of figure highly esteemed by the Persians, 20.

    Elegant costumes of the ancient Jewish ladies, 27-29.

    Empress of Austria, the, portrait of, 166.

    Escapade of young Louis of France, 98.

    Extravagance of the Roman ladies, 36.

    Families, Medici, Este, and Visconti, 54.

    Family man, letter from a, 184, 185.

    Farthingale, the, protest against, 110.

    Fashionable promenades of Ancient Rome, 35.

    Fashion and dress in 1865, 189.

    Fashion in the reign of King Pepin, 41.

    Fashion in 1713, 115.

    Fashions in Ancient Egypt, 27-29.

    Figure, general remarks on the, 182.

    Figure, letter on the, 190-193.

    Figure, reduction of, by the ancient inhabitants of Polenqui, 10.

    Figure-training, 133, 167.

    Food, abstinence from, an assistance to the corset, 144, 149.

    Freaks of fashion in France and Germany, 54.

    French revolutionary period, dress during, 129.

    Front-fastening stays, remarks concerning, 202-204.

    Gay, the writings of, 123.

    Guardian, the, correspondence from, relating to the fashions
    of 1713, 110, 115, 116, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123.

    Guardian, the, letters from, relating to low dresses and tight
    stays, 120-123.

    Gustavus Adolphus, the officers of, 135.

    Hair powder, its introduction, 97.

    Henry III. of France a wearer of corsets, 76, 81.

    Hindoo belles, 19, 20.

    Hindoo standards of beauty, 19, 20.

    Hogarth, stays drawn by, 129.

    Homer speaks of the corset, 30.

    Improvements in corsets brought about by the advance of
    civilisation, 10.

    Indian hunting-belt, 9, 10.

    Israelitish ladies, 27-29.

    Jane Shore, penance of, 46-49.

    Java, earth-eating in, 13.

    Jonson (Ben), his remarks on stays, 123.

    Jumpers and Garibaldis, 130.

    King Charles I. of England, fashions of the court of, 103.

    King George III., fashion in the reign of, 135.

    King James and his fondness for dress, 89, 90.

    King Louis XV. of France, fashion in the reign of, 109.

    Kirtle, the, 46.

    Ladies of Old France, 41.

    Lady Morton, diminutive waist of, 166.

    Lady Triamore, daughter of the King of the Fairies, 45.

    Lady's-maid, accomplishments of a, 123.

    Launfal, poem of, 45.

    Lawn ruffs of Queen Bess, 82, 87.

    Laws, sumptuary, relating to dress, 90.

    Letter from a lady, who habitually laces with extreme tightness,
    in praise of the practice, 182-184.

    Letters from ladies who have been subjected to tight-lacing, 155-164.

    Louis XIV. of France, court of, 98.

    Louis XIV. of France, the court of, high-heeled shoes, slender
    waists, and fancy costumes, fashionable at, 98.

    Louise de Lorraine, fête dress of, 97.

    Louise de Lorraine, strange freaks of, 92, 97.

    Marie d'Anjou, costume of, 54.

    Marie de Medici and the costumes of her time, 97.

    Marie Stuart, costume of, 159.

    Medical evidence in favour of stays, 134, 135.

    Medical man, letter from, in favour of moderately tight
    lacing, 154, 155.

    Minet back corset described, 213.

    Mitra used by the Grecian ladies, 33.

    Mode of adding stability to the front-fastening corset, 209.

    Mortality among the female sex not on the increase, 195.

    Old authors, their remarks on stays, 194.

    Peplus, the, 33.

    Proportions of the figure and size of waist considered, 193.

    Puritanism, its effect on fashion, 104.

    Queen Anne, fashions during the reign of, 110.

    Queen Catherine de Medici and Queen Elizabeth of England, 72, 75.

    Queen Elizabeth's collection of false hair, 87, 88.

    Queen newspaper, letter from, on small waists, 165-168.

    Redresseur corset of Vienna, 210.

    Remarks on the changes of fashion, 143.

    Remarks on the flimsy materials used in making some modern
    corsets, 210.

    Revival of the taste for small waists in Old France, 41.

    Roman baths, 34, 35.

    Royal standard of fashionable slenderness, 72.

    Scotland, small waists admired in, in olden times, 50.

    Scriptural references, 29.

    Selby, Mrs., the invention of, reviewed, 217.

    Self-measurement, remarks concerning, 209.

    Short waists and long trains, 129.

    Siamese dress, the, 98.

    Side-arms of the Elizabethan period, 91.

    Snake-toed shoes, long sleeves, and high-heeled slippers, 59.

    Starching, the art of, 82.

    Statistics, extraordinary, of the corset trade, 195.

    Statue, a fashionably dressed, 180.

    Stays, formidable kind of, in use in 1776, 129.

    Stays, the general use of the word after 1600 in England, 124.

    Stays worn habitually by gentlemen, 135.

    Strophium, the use of, by the ladies of Rome, 33.

    Stubs, Philip, on the ruff, 87-89.

    Stubs, his indignation, 88, 89.

    Taper waists and figure-training in Ancient Rome, 38.

    Terentius, strictures and remarks of, 30.

    Thirteenth century, the small waists of, 42.

    Thomson's glove-fitting corsets, 204, 205.

    Tight corsets, letter in praise of, 182, 183.

    Tight corsets needed for short waists, 190.

    Tight-lacing revived, 130.

    Toilet of a Roman lady of fashion, 34-36.

    United States of America, belles of the, 153.

    Venice, fashions of the ladies of, 82, 87.

    Venus de Medici, waist of, contrasted with the waist of fashion, 180.

    Venus, the cestus of, 30.

    Vienna, slender waists the fashion in, 165.

    Voluminous nether-garments of the gentlemen of the Elizabethan
    period, 82.

    Waist, the point at which it should be formed, 193, 194·

    Young Baronet, letter from, 184.

    Zephyrina jupon of Thomson and Co., 221.

Transcriber's Note:

Original spelling/hyphenation/punctuation has been retained, but
typographical errors have been corrected.

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