The corset, like the bra today, was an essential part of clothing. Without the garment, a dress would not fit
and your figure would look very dowdy indeed! While most women did not have 18" waists, a nice nipped in waist
creating a nice hourglass shape, was the desired look. Most women did not practice "tight lacing" as it was
heavily frowned upon and was not practical for the amount of physical labour a woman had to endure 100 years ago.
Many women only corsetted about 2"- 5" down from their natural waist measurement but sometimes on special
occasions, a woman would lace a little tighter than usual (like today, when we go on a crash diet to lose
10 pounds for that party next weekend!)
Although extreme tight lacing was not a common occurence, these stereoview photos from the turn of the 20th
century make fun (and give a slightly risque view) of what lengths a woman would go through to get that waist
The stereoview to the right, dates from 1897 and is of the "Reducing the surplus" genre. The girl on the
left helps her sister lace her overbust corset tightly by having one striped stocking foot in the small of
her back. On the origial stereoview, you can see that she has managed to get the corset closed all the way.
This view is from 1899 and is funny in the way that it shows the husband straining with all his might
(his muscles are bulging!) to close the corset, while the wife looks back undisturbed! The wife thanks
poor hubby by saying unaffectedly "Oh, your a peach!".
She wears a very lovely black long waisted overbust corset with the typical curved busk of the Victorian era
This stereoview is originally a "colorized" one. In he original view, the lady getting dressed is wearing
a pink tinted overbust corset. This one too, is of the common "Reducing the surplus" genre with the added
comment by the corsetted girl to her sister, "Now pull hard!".
"Taking in a difficult reef" genre stereoview dated 1900. Shows yet again, another loving husband straining
with all his might with his foot in the small of her back to close his wife's corset. This view shows a good
angle of the corset. You can see from the side how the curved busk of the Victorian era placed the excess flesh.
The curved inward of the busk would help nip in the waist while it accomadated the bust being pushed upward.
The curved bottom of the busk would give somewhere for the excess belly fat to go.
The c. 1900-1901 stereoview to the right is another colorized version of the "Reducing the surplus" genre.
The lady getting her corset laced is wearing a overbust corset that looks like it's cut high over the hips.
It is most likely she is wearing a newly fasionable straight fronted corset. It seems likely, after being
laced, she will be repeating the favour for her assistant!
1901 stereoview of the "Taking in a difficult reef" genre, shows the new fashionable Edwardian short
"waspie" corset. These corsets were mostly worn by young or small busted women who did not need the
support of a full corset but still wanted a small waist and also for sports, like riding. The style was
very popular at the beginning of the 1900's . This remained so until about 1910 when longer tubular corsets
This 1903 view is rather unusual as it shows a man being laced in a corset.
The husband screams out in pain exclaiming "Murderation! Molly, be aisey." as his wife laces him up. It's
very ironic as all the other stereoviews we have seen show the "weaker sex" tolerating all sorts of tugging
on the laces while this big strong man cannot handle it!
I think it says alot about what women have to put up with :)
Last but not least is this charming July 17, 1911 postcard from the English seaside resort of Blackpool
showing a red faced husband trying to close the corset of his very buxom wife.
The laces don't look like they're going to be long enough for her, hence the caption: "We can't make ends
meet at Blackpool! Send us a five pound note"
All photos are from the corset collection of L. Hidic