Corsets, instruments of torture

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Dear Mr. Editor,
Part 15 of Everywoman’s Encyclopaedia,” published before the war, has some interesting things to say about Corsets and Tight Lacing, amongst which are the following:-
“The normal girl is not ready for the corsetiere before she is fifteen, and then, no matter how large and clumsy her waist, it can be gradually but surely trained into graceful symmetry. The process should be undertaken between the ages of 16 and 17, when the young bones are so supple that they can be moulded into shape without harming the organs that they protect in any way. French mothers are most particular about the training of their daughter’s figures by means of specially modelled and carefully boned corsets.
“It is because a large number of girls neglect their figures entirely, until they realise their own ungainliness, that so many cases of tight lacing with disastrous results occur. Not realising what they are doing, girls of 25 and over will suddenly attempt to wear stays much too small for them without previous training. The body is very malleable, and the waist can be laced into a marvellously small compass. So the agony of sudden compression is borne, often night and day, until it is second nature to the self-torturer to be scarcely able to breathe, and what should be the pleasantest and most beneficial of supports becomes an instrument of torture.
“The two or three years’ training period has to be put up with cheerfully in order that during the remaining years a well-curved figure may be continued with absolute comfort, but it is a most trying time even for the most patient, and this period is best spent at a finishing school away from home, at about the age mentioned.
“Many schools make a point of figure culture, and care must be exercised in the selection of one with a fully qualified corsetiere in constant attendance. A staymaker of world-wide fame has said that she frequently has orders for punishment corsets for girl’s schools, in which a recalcitrant pupil can be laced up to a 12in. waist; and she affirms that she has reduced many of the scholars and their teachers to this circumference at the orders of an angry headmistress. The laces being then sealed to prevent them being loosened, the unfortunate had to remain so laced day and night, sometimes for two or three days.
“The punishment corset, besides being so tiny in the waist, was boned with steels which made it impossible to bend, reached almost down to the knees, and it embodied a shoulder brace which was buckled tightly back, and made the wearer as stiff as a rod of iron. It was impossible to sit down, so at meal times the punishment pupils were swung by hooks and eyes from the ceiling, at a specially high table.”
In order to avoid experiences of this sort, parents will be well advised to choose the school with care, and with proper treatment they will be amply repaid by the gratitude of their daughter, and their own personal pride in her appearance.
Anti-Corset.

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