The training of a corset expert

Published on Author Lacing MentorLeave a comment

Dear Sir, – Many years ago when stays – not corsets – were worn, I was apprenticed to that trade. Perhaps the method of training may be of interest to your readers. My first appearance was in the forwoman’s room where I was measured and next day fitted with the first of many and smaller stays.
My first work was in the finishing room, where I was instructed how to lace a pair of stays properly. After a week or so at this I was placed in charge of six dummy figures which were hollow. On each of these I had to clasp and lace up a pair of stays, after which I turned steam on the inside of the figure with the result that the stays were moulded to the same shape as the dummy.
I spent some weeks at this and became quite an expert at the work. Then, as I was intended for the show room, I was removed from this and under the direct supervision of the departmental head was introduced to another lay figure.
It was natural in shape and was fitted inside with strong springs. Its waist was 24 inches and I was required when proficient to be able to put on and lace up a pair of stays with 18 inches waist measurement. This, too, in fifteen minutes. The tighter the lacing the more resistance from the compressed springs. My initial effort required nearly an hours work, but in time I was able to lace the stay as required.
Finally, I was promoted to the living figure, those being assistants from other departments who had fallen foul of the floorwalkers and who were for their fault sent to be laced in, usually another inch, for the day. Complaints were not uncommon and I got enough practice to make me expert in the art of lacing stays tightly.
My own stays were consistently tightened, we nearly all lived in and all in the stay department work tight stays as a matter of course.
My figure had to be perfect and I had to pass the closest scrutiny from the “Lead” before commencing duty. I and all in the stay department were very tightly laced, recourse being had in nearly all cases to the overhead bar during lacing and it was by no means uncommon for an assistant to faint at her work.
We had our reward in the admiration of our customers, and occasionally took our revenge also when we were dealing with – usually a girl in her late teens – who didn’t wish to be laced. Then our expert knowledge of arise. Suggestions would be greatly lacing made her more amenable to reason. In any case, a wasp waist resulted.
Faithfully yours,
MARGARET L’ISLE.

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