An old reader’s views on modern girls

Published on Author Lacing Mentor

Dear Sir. May an old reader reply to “Mrs S.” who suggests that in certain Continental schools for young ladies figure-training is still carried out? I can confirm “Mrs. S’s” suggestion, as although at an age when a long journey including a sea crossing is a terrifying business, my very old friend persuaded me to accompany her to Brussels to see her niece, who is being finished at a fashionable (?) school in that city. Arrived there, we were at once taken to the private room of the principal of the academy, who was finely-built and handsome woman of forty-five.
She was highly jewelled, and her face was made up as only a French-woman can make up. In perfect English she gave orders to a maid to bring to us my friend’s niece, a girl of sixteen. Soon the door opened to admit a very pretty girl, who advanced with madame’s permission, to greet us.
She certainly looked as thought she had just left one of the old Victorian academies where the exquisite exactness of figure-training and deportment played so important a part in the education of young ladies.
My friend, who is a firm advocate of tight-lacing, has no patience with the modern young lady, and she was obviously delighted with her niece’s appearance. Dorothy slowly and very gracefully posed for her aunt’s inspection. Her hair (bobbing and shingling being banned) was drawn tightly to the crown of her shapely head, and the piled in coil after coil to quite eight or ten inches high, thus adding to her height and giving her a very stately air.
She, like the principal, was gloved to her shoulders in white kid of exceeding tightness, and wore a black satin dress, which was sheath-like and reached nearly to her ankles. The collar to her dress was so high that her head was held (very apparently) in an uncomfortable position. her pretty face had been enamelled and made up by an expert, and her only jewels were long ear-rings.
She had been specially prepared for our visit and madame assured us that Miss Dorothy’s figure was one of the best in the school, and nearly an hour had been spent in lacing her to thirteen inches, one inch smaller than her usual size. Dorothy gracefully acknowledged our compliments, and daintily tripped about on her siz-inch heels and needle pointed toes.
We learnt that all the girls in the school were tight-laced, and gloved for sleeping, and also wore gloves at meal-times.
Madame told us that her charges numbered thirty, and in each case she had received parental instructions to reduce waists to the smallest size possible.
In the evening my friend and I witnessed the graceful, if old-fashioned, dances performed by the pupils. All the girls and mistresses were tight-aced and high-heeled, and made a pretty picture as they moved about.
I hope you will pardon an old woman’s prattle, dear sir.
Yours faithfully,
HESTER WIDDON