When squeezing was fashionable

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Dear Sir. The correspondence columns of “L. L.” recall some incidents to my mind in connection with the fashions of the “90’s,” It was really wonderful, when one looks back, that the girl of that period was able to dance, walk. etc., etc. The girls of those days never ceased striving to obtain the wasp waist and I remember that we used to have to endure hours of discomfort in order to cope with the fashion of the day. Everyone wore the “hour glass” corsets with spoon busks which were steeled very strongly, and if a pair of corsets happened to split at the waist we were more than ever proud of our figures.
I can remember a firm of corset makers who had a large staff of girls employed by them. These girls were often sent out by the firm to assist lady customers to fasten their corsets. Every girl was an expert on all matter relating to corsetters and tight lacing. One girl in particular I can remember, who was known as “Phyllis“ – a big heavy built woman of the muscular type. She openly boasted that after she had laced a girl into her stays, the wearer was unable to bend or stoop or even undo the laces.
This “Phyllis” came to us one day (when I had had a new pair of corsets made for me) for the purpose of fitting me. She first of all took out the laces at the back with the exception of the two top holes and made me stand upright, with my hands over my head, she then put the corsets on and did up the front, then she started lacing up when she had finished I examined myself in the glass and I saw I had a most perfect hour glass figure although their grip was terrible, but my mother, who had watched the persecution simply said “I had to endure them” as it was fashionable to be squeezed in.
The girl “Phyllis,” then laced my mother the same way after which we finished dressing, being fitted with the tight black satin bodices with ruffles at the neck and long tight skirts drawn in at the knees and then flounced so as to expose our 6 in. heels which we were wearing. My mother’s dress was fitted with a steel frame inside at the hips so as to accentuate her wasp waist. I wore those corsets for hours and eventually my figure had been reduced to such a small circumference that I only measured 15 inches outside the dress round the waist.
It was impossible to take part in any games in those days for, for soon as one attempted to play anything at all rigorous those “hour glass” corsets began to make themselves felt in all ways. Dancing, however, was indulged and enjoyed.
Yours very truly.
MRS. “W.”

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