When the Grown-up Stay Should First be Worn - Old Time Tortures - Correct Way of Putting
On the Stay - Best Laces to Choose
There has never been any doubt as to the position of importance the corset occupies in dress. If controversial discussion argues distinction, most certainly that garment is entitled to the epithet, for more wordy wars have raged round it than around any other item of dress. The Chinese foot has not raised diatribes more scathing than the hour-glass waist.
At this time women are much more sensible than they were in the seventeenth century, when extreme tight-lacing was used. To-day, instead of aiming at a thirteen - inch waist, women are satisfied with a measurement that is ten inches and more greater, provided it is in keeping with their height and general build. To achieve a supple, neat, and trim figure is their aim, and such a figure can be secured by exercise, discretion in diet, and wearing good corsets, which do not distort the female form divine in any way, but render and keep it comely to extreme old age.
It is the real province and in the power of the properly made stay so to do. When the yea and nay of corset-wearing raises a storm of invective, the symbolism of the stay should reconcile affairs. As the word implies, the garment is meant to be a support, moral as well as physical, and indeed is, for the woman who through life never "lets herself go," and refuses to submit to "the elderly spread," is the one whose appearance and whose wits tally. She is alert, alive in every way, and a thorough blessing to those around her.
From the Music de Cluny. Paris I shall endeavour to explain here what the corset should be, individually, for stout and thin, old and young, the matron and the maid. First of all it should not be an instrument of torture for anyone, though it is in many cases. A corsetiere of world-wide fame says that she has had frequently orders from schoolmistresses for punishment corsets, that is to say, corsets in which to lace recalcitrant girls up to a thirteen-inch waist, and in that state of torture to keep them day and night until their crime, whatever it might be, was expiated. Killing two birds with one stone in this manner is a plan less frequently resorted to in these days than in the past; indeed, such conduct savours of the early nineteenth century, when it was no uncommon practice for a mother to lay her daughter down upon the carpet, and placing her foot on her back, break no fewer than half a dozen laces in tightening her stays.
Tortures such as these no sane person would recommend. They are as foolishly and senselessly pain-giving as the making of the tiny Chinese foot, and a barbarous method of rendering what should be the pleasantest and most beneficial of supports an instrument of cruelty. For ask a hundred doctors whether they recommend the corset to be abandoned altogether, and ninety-nine of them will say " No "; only they will' add the strict proviso that a mistress of her subject, who knows the anatomy of the human frame from beginning to finish, is to supply it and no other.
"No girl should be allowed to wear a 'grown-up' stay until she is fifteen," says a corsetiere who has made a life-long study of the subject. "From her babyhood she will have been given a garment called a stay to keep her warm, but until she is fifteen this corded bodice, for such it is, should be the only semblance of a corset allowed. Abnormal cases, of course, must be dealt with separately."
The girl who develops quickly, as do the daughters of the sunny South, those of Italy, Greece, Spain, and the tropics, may require a change of pattern before fifteen. So may the girl who stoops; but her case is a special one, requiring individual treatment. She should be made to lie
A corset suitable for a girl up to the age of fifteen"; such a corset affords all necessary support without undue pressure
Madame Dowding down flat on her back at school, and if the old system of reclining on a back-board were re-introduced on her behalf, and that of girls with protruding shoulder-blades, there would be a great many more healthy and comely women in the world than there are. The healthy, normal girl is not ready for the corsetiere before she is fifteen, and then, no matter how large and clumsy her waist may be, it can be trained gradually, but surely, into graceful symmetry. The process should be undertaken between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, when the young bones are so supple that they can be moulded into shape without harming the organs they protect in any way. French mothers are most particular as to the training of their daughters' figures, by means of specially modelled and carefully boned belt corsets.
Take the analogy of a tree to illustrate the point. You know how easy it is, by degrees, to train the crooked stem of the young tree straight. If the task be left until the tree has stiffened with age into an obstinately perpetual crook, it were best to abandon any but alleviating means, for under drastic circumstances the stem would break rather than bend.
It is because a very large number of girls neglect their figures entirely-or have been allowed by their mothers to neglect them-only to wake up some day to the fact that they lack the graceful physique other girls possess, arid are noticeably clumsy, that so many cases of tight-lacing with disastrous results occur. Without knowing in the least what they are doing, girls of nineteen and upwards will buy stays far too small for them, and engage to get into them.
The body is very malleable. Young flesh can be squeezed into a marvellously small compass. So the agony of compression is borne, during the night in many cases as well as the day, until it is second nature to the self-torturer scarcely to know how to draw an easy breath, and never a good long one from the very depth of the lungs. Always weary and disinclined for exercise, at last the doctor is called in, and the stay-laces are cut, let us hope in time to save the poor, foolish victim from the anguish of a mortal illness.
People blame the corset when cases of rib pressure upon a vital part terminates in lung trouble and even death, and perhaps they are right, but it is only the surface of the mischief that they see. They do not grasp the fact that every blessing may be distorted into a curse, or realise the truth that commonsense should in this particular, as in all other mundane affairs, be called upon to avert disaster and bring about comfort and beauty.
That is why mothers whose girls show signs of having awkward figures when they are seventeen are advised to consult a corsetiere who knows her business, and is conversant with the anatomy of the feminine form.
She will train the figure, model the waist, round the hips, see that the spine is straight and the gait erect, correct little awkward habits of poking the head forward, and prevent that ugly disposition of girlhood, the protruding shoulder blades, from gaining permanent prominence.
For the corsetiere who is heart and soul in her work is not merely the maker and seller of stays; she is the helper of hygiene, and consequently the bringer of beauty. She will recommend the mother whose young daughter's back shows signs of weakness or spinal curvature, to buy the finest salad oil procurable, and with a ball of wadding dab the oil gently on the spine every morning and evening, and having given her good advice as to the rest such a spine should be afforded, and the advantages of breathing exercise in pure air, will fit her with stays that will be of the greatest help in the furtherance of the treatment.
The practice of wearing corsets all night in order that the lines of the figure may be made to conform to fashion's demand for long, straight lines, is heartily to be condemned. There are indiarubber belts worn for the same purpose that are unhealthy in every way. Under the impression that wearing them whilst in the Turkish bath induces more profuse perspiration than when without them, some devotees of glenderness adopted the habit of winding a
Corsets are worn beneath bathing-dresses by women who do not swim or take their bathing very seriously
Madame Dowding swathery of indiarubber round their waists and hips for the bath. But so disagreeable to other people was the result that the proprietors of a very well known bath in London had to forbid the practice, in accordance with the wishes of the bulk of their clients. Americans are very prone to this form of flesh reduction. At smart bathing centres, such as Trouville or Etretat, and some of the English resorts, corsets, made of special material, are worn beneath the bathing-dress.
If a sleeping-corset must be worn, let it be made of woollen stockingette. It will be quite firm enough to mould the form, and hygienic as well, which the unventilated rubber belt certainly is not.
At the age of eighteen a girl generally begins to take a personal pride in her figure. There is now no need to see that she is corseted suitably; she must be warned against tight-lacing and be made cognisant of the fact that if her waist measurement is unduly curtailed and her stays are worn too tightly pulled in above the waist, her appearance will seriously suffer, as well as her health. And this, because the flesh pushed away above the waist will bulge out beneath it and the foundation of a bulky hip measurement will be laid.
The long-legged girl, with the short-waisted trunk, can correct her fault by wearing a stay that is long-waisted, yet perfectly modelled to her build.
Tragedies are revealed to the corsetiere many and many a time, sometimes without words, in other cases in explanatory language. Women who view with equanimity thinning hair, knowing they can buy more, a fading complexion, well aware that it can be artificially supplied, and missing teeth, because they can be replaced, are horror-struck when their pretty figures begin to deteriorate. Too many let their figures become bulky below the waist, and above it flaccid, without any effort to amend matters. Yet it is just under such circumstances that the corsetiere's art should become so valuable to them.