Tightlacing

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A woman wearing a tight-laced corset, 1890 Wasp waist.png
A woman wearing a tight-laced corset, 1890

Tightlacing (also called corset training) is the practice of wearing a tightly-laced corset. It is done to achieve cosmetic modifications to the figure and posture or to experience the sensation of bodily restriction.

Contents

History

Corsets were first worn by members of all genders of Minoans of Crete, but did not become popular again until the sixteenth century. They remained a feature of fashionable dress until the French Revolution, [1] when corsets for women were designed mainly to turn the torso into a fashionable cylindrical shape, although they narrowed the waist as well. They had shoulder straps, ended at the waist, flattened the bust, and, in so doing, pushed the breasts up. The emphasis of the corset became less on the smallness of the waist than on the contrast between the rigid flatness of the bodice front and the curving tops of the breasts peeking over the top of the corset.[ citation needed ]

Effect of Corset in human body. Image by Valencian Museum of Ethnology. Efectes del corse en el cos femeni (26790003605).jpg
Effect of Corset in human body. Image by Valencian Museum of Ethnology.

At the end of the eighteenth century, the corset fell into decline. Fashion for women embraced the Empire silhouette: a Graeco-Roman style, with the high-waisted dress that was unique to this style gathered under the breasts. The waist was no longer emphasised, and dresses were sewn from thin muslins rather than the heavy brocades and satins of the aristocratic high fashion style preceding it.

"A cutting wind, or the fatal effects of tight-lacing", a satirical cartoon from around 1820 Fatal effects of tight-lacing cropped.jpg
"A cutting wind, or the fatal effects of tight-lacing", a satirical cartoon from around 1820
Two sketches from 1884 depicting what, at the time, was believed the way the inside of the body looked when wearing a corset ANatural - BTight lacing.png
Two sketches from 1884 depicting what, at the time, was believed the way the inside of the body looked when wearing a corset

The reign of the Empire waist was short. In the 1830s, shoulders widened (with puffy gigot sleeves or flounces), skirts widened (layers of stiffened petticoats), and the waistline narrowed and migrated toward a natural position. By the 1850s, exaggerated shoulders were out of fashion and waistlines were cinched at the natural waist above a wide skirt. Fashion had achieved what is now known as the Victorian silhouette.

In the 1830s, the artificially inflated shoulders and skirts made the intervening waist look narrow, even with the corset laced only moderately. When the exaggerated shoulders disappeared, the style dictated that the waist had to be cinched tightly in order to achieve the same effect. It is in the 1840s and 1850s that the term "tightlacing" is first recorded. It was ordinary fashion taken to an extreme.

Young and fashionable women were most likely to tightlace, especially for balls, fashionable gatherings, and other occasions for display. Older, poorer, and primmer women would have laced moderately – just enough "to be decent".

The Victorian and Edwardian corset differed from earlier corsets in numerous ways. The corset no longer ended at the waist, but flared out and ended several inches below the waist. The corset was exaggeratedly curvaceous rather than cylindrical. It became much sturdier in construction, thanks to improvements in technology. Spiral steel stays curved with the figure rather than dictating a cylindrical silhouette. While many corsets were still sewn by hand to the wearer's measurements, there was also a thriving market in cheaper mass-produced corsets.

In the late years of the Victorian era, medical reports and rumors claimed that tightlacing was fatally detrimental to health (see Victorian dress reform).[ citation needed ] Women who suffered to achieve small waists were also condemned for their vanity and excoriated from the pulpit as slaves to fashion. It was frequently claimed that too small a waist was ugly rather than beautiful.[ citation needed ] Dress reformers exhorted women to abandon the tyranny of stays and free their waists for work and healthy exercise.

Chest developed before corset worn in a scientific sketch from 1910 Toleration of the corset1028fig7 .png
Chest developed before corset worn in a scientific sketch from 1910
Epigastrium of singer: dotted line shows full expansion in a scientific sketch from 1910 Toleration of the corset1037fig19.png
Epigastrium of singer: dotted line shows full expansion in a scientific sketch from 1910

Despite the efforts of dress reformers to eliminate the corset, and despite medical and clerical warnings, women persisted in tightlacing. In the early 1900s, the small corseted waist began to fall out of fashion. The feminist and dress reform movements had made practical clothing acceptable for work or exercise. The rise of the Artistic Dress movement made loose clothing and the natural waist fashionable even for evening wear. Couturiers such as Fortuny and Poiret designed exotic, alluring costumes in pleated or draped silks, calculated to reveal slim, youthful bodies. If one didn't have such a body, new undergarments, the brassiere and the girdle, promised to give the illusion of one.

Corsets were no longer fashionable, but they entered the underworld of the fetish, along with items such as bondage gear and vinyl catsuits. From the 1960s to the 1990s, fetish wear became a fashion trend and corsets made something of a resurgence. They are often worn as top garments rather than underwear. Most corset wearers own a few bustiers or fashionable authentic corsets for evening wear, but they do not tightlace. Historical reenactors often wear corsets, but few tightlace.

Effects

A typical training routine begins with the use of a well-fitted corset and very gradual decreases in the waist circumference. Lacing too tightly too quickly may cause extreme discomfort and short-term problems such as shortness of breath and faintness, indigestion, and chafing of the skin if a liner is not worn. It may also cause irreversible damage to the corset, and so corsets should be seasoned appropriately. [2]

The primary effect of tightlacing is the decreased size of the waist. The smallest waist recorded is that of Ethel Granger, who tightlaced for most of her life and achieved a waist of 13 inches (33 cm): a reduction of more than ten inches. [3] Such extreme reductions take a very long time to achieve. At first, corsets with waist measurements four inches smaller than the tightlacer's natural waist size were recommended by well-known corsetières such as the late Iris Norris. The length of time it would take a tightlacer to get used to this reduction would vary on his or her physiology; a large amount of fat on the torso and strong abdominal muscles caused it to take longer for the tightlacer to wear a corset laced closed at the back. Thereafter, reducing another couple of inches would not be much more difficult, but each inch after a six-inch reduction may take a year to achieve.

The diminished waist and tight corset reduce the volume of the torso. This is sometimes reduced even further by styles of corset that force the torso to taper toward the waist, which pushes the lower ribs inward. As a consequence, internal organs are moved closer together and out of their original positions.

Tightlacing was believed to have been a contributing factor in the death of female impersonator Joseph Hennella in 1912. [4]

Notable adherents

See also

Tightlacing-related

Related Research Articles

Corset Garment, reinforced with stays, that supports the waistline, hips and bust.

A corset is a garment worn to hold and train the torso into a desired shape, traditionally a smaller waist or larger bottom, for aesthetic or medical purposes, or support the breasts. Both men and women are known to wear corsets, though this item was for many years an integral part of women's wardrobes.

Victorian fashion Fashions and trends in British culture during the Victorian era

Victorian fashion comprises the various fashions and trends in British culture that emerged and developed in the United Kingdom and the British Empire throughout the Victorian era, roughly from the 1830s through the 1890s. The period saw many changes in fashion, including changes in styles, fashion technology and the methods of distribution. Various movement in architecture, literature, and the decorative and visual arts as well as a changing perception of the traditional gender roles also influenced fashion.

Wasp waist womens fashion silhouette

Wasp waist is a women's fashion silhouette, produced by a style of corset and girdle, that has experienced various periods of popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries. Its primary feature is the abrupt transition from a natural-width rib cage to an exceedingly small waist, with the hips curving out below. It takes its name from its similarity to a wasp's segmented body. The sharply cinched waistline also exaggerates the hips and bust.

A training corset is generally a corset used in body modification. A training corset may be used for orthopedic reasons or for cosmetic reasons

History of corsets

The corset has been an important article of clothing for several centuries in Europe, evolving as fashion trends have changed. Women, as well as some men, have used it to change the appearance of their bodies.

1890s in Western fashion costume and fashion of the 1890s

Fashion in the 1890s in European and European-influenced countries is characterized by long elegant lines, tall collars, and the rise of sportswear. It was an era of great dress reforms led by the invention of the drop-frame safety bicycle, which allowed women the opportunity to ride bicycles more comfortably, and therefore, created the need for appropriate clothing.

1830s in Western fashion costume and fashion of the 1830s

1830s fashion in Western and Western-influenced fashion is characterized by an emphasis on breadth, initially at the shoulder and later in the hips, in contrast to the narrower silhouettes that had predominated between 1800-1820.

Victorian dress reform womens clothing designed as a practical and healthful alternative to the high fashion of the nineteenth century

Victorian dress reform was an objective of the Victorian dress reform movement of the middle and late Victorian era, comprising various reformers who proposed, designed, and wore clothing considered more practical and comfortable than the fashions of the time.

1840s in Western fashion costume and fashion of the 1840s

1840s fashion in European and European-influenced clothing is characterized by a narrow, natural shoulder line following the exaggerated puffed sleeves of the later 1820s and 1830s. The narrower shoulder was accompanied by a lower waistline for both men and women.

1850s in Western fashion costume and fashion of the 1850s

1850s fashion in Western and Western-influenced clothing is characterized by an increase in the width of women's skirts supported by crinolines or hoops, and the beginnings of dress reform. Masculine styles began to originate more in London, while female fashions originated almost exclusively in Paris.

1820s in Western fashion costume and fashion of the 1820s

During the 1820s in European and European-influenced countries, fashionable women's clothing styles transitioned away from the classically influenced "Empire"/"Regency" styles of c. 1795–1820 and re-adopted elements that had been characteristic of most of the 18th century, such as full skirts and clearly visible corseting of the natural waist.

1880s in Western fashion costume and fashion of the 1880s

Fashion in the 1880s in Western and Western-influenced countries is characterized by the return of the bustle. The long, lean line of the late 1870s was replaced by a full, curvy silhouette with gradually widening shoulders. Fashionable waists were low and tiny below a full, low bust supported by a corset. The Rational Dress Society was founded in 1881 in reaction to the extremes of fashionable corsetry.

Hourglass corset corset that produces a silhouette resembling an hourglass shape characterized by wide hips, narrow waist, and wide bust

An hourglass corset is a garment that produces a silhouette resembling an hourglass shape characterized by wide hips, narrow waist, and wide bust.

1795–1820 in Western fashion costume and fashion 1795-1820

Fashion in the period 1795–1820 in European and European-influenced countries saw the final triumph of undress or informal styles over the brocades, lace, periwigs and powder of the earlier 18th century. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, no one wanted to appear to be a member of the French aristocracy, and people began using clothing more as a form of individual expression of the true self than as a pure indication of social status. As a result, the shifts that occurred in fashion at the turn of the 19th century granted the opportunity to present new public identities that also provided insights into their private selves. Katherine Aaslestad indicates how "fashion, embodying new social values, emerged as a key site of confrontation between tradition and change."

1900s in Western fashion costume and fashion in the decade 1900-1910

Fashion in the period 1900–1909 in the Western world continued the severe, long and elegant lines of the late 1890s. Tall, stiff collars characterize the period, as do women's broad hats and full "Gibson Girl" hairstyles. A new, columnar silhouette introduced by the couturiers of Paris late in the decade signaled the approaching abandonment of the corset as an indispensable garment.

Basque (clothing) item of womens apparel

A basque is an item of women's clothing. The term, of French origin, originally referred to types of bodice or jacket with long tails, and in later usage a long corset, characterized by a close, contoured fit and extending past the waistline over the hips. It is so called because the original French fashion for long women's jackets was adopted from Basque traditional dress. In contemporary usage it refers only to a long item of lingerie, in effect a brassiere that continues down, stopping around the waist or the top of the hips, the lower part essentially decorative rather than providing support or indeed warmth.

Metal corset

Metal corsets are a type of historical corset or bodice made entirely out of metal, usually iron or steel. The metal corset was popularly claimed to have been introduced to France by Catherine de' Medici in the 16th century, although this is now considered a myth. The idea that such garments were worn for fashionable purposes is debatable, with fashion historians now regarding such claims sceptically. Many of the original metal bodices that have survived are now believed to have been intended for medical purposes as orthopaedic support garments and back braces. Such garments were described by the French army surgeon Ambroise Paré in the sixteenth century as a remedy for the "crookednesse of the Bodie."

Corset controversy Controversy

The corset controversy concerns supporters' and detractors' arguments for and against wearing a corset. The controversy was contemporary with the time that corsets were popular in society. Corsets, variously called a pair of bodys or stays, were worn by European women from the late 16th century onward, changing their form as fashions changed. In spite of radical change to fashion geographically and temporally, the corset or some derivative beneath an outer gown would shape the body or provide structure.

Waist cincher short girdle reaching from the ribs to the hips

A waist cincher is a belt worn around the waist to make the wearer's waist physically smaller, or to create the illusion of being smaller.

References

  1. Varrin, Claudia (2003). Erotic Surrender: The Sensual Joys of Female Submission. Citadel Press. pp. 187–188. ISBN   0-8065-2400-6.
  2. "Corset Seasoning Mini-Series – Lucy's Corsetry". lucycorsetry.com.
  3. Vogue cover model shocks with 33cm waist MADONNA magazine from August 31st, 2011
  4. "Tight lacing is believed to have killed an actor". St Louis Post-Dispatch. 4 November 1912. p. 1.

Further reading