I lived with my mother and grandparents and thus my first five years were very much dominated by my Mother and Granny. Of course they both wore corsets, my Mum’s were busk-front fastening but without lacing while Granny’s were busk-front back-laced and rather longer and much firmer than my Mum’s. Granny was also a much less full-figured lady and I always enjoyed the feeling of putting my arms around her and wondering what it would be like to wear corsets like hers. The only attraction to Mum’s corset was that it was satin and that did look nice and although I did hold one of her corsets against me I knew there was no point in trying to put it on as it was far to big to even consider. However the idea had dawned on me very early in my childhood that if a pair of Granny’s corsets could be obtained they would be at least nearer to my then very slim proportions.
It was not until I was thirteen years old that I was able to obtain a cast-off pair of Granny’s corsets and managed to smuggle them to my bedroom. I can still remember the thrill of putting on those old corsets but also the sadness of finding that even laced tightly closed they were still too large for me. I slept in those corsets nevertheless, under my pyjamas they felt quite good and although they were old, the boning was still quite stiff. The corsets were hidden and each night brought from their hiding place to be worn under my pyjamas. This went on for several weeks until my mother discovered the hiding place. She made me put on the corsets in front of her and then ridiculed me because they did not fit but to my very great surprise she then made me dress again over the corsets and I spent the rest of that day wearing “my” corsets. Although I felt some embarrassment I actually rather enjoyed wearing “my” corsets, although they did not fit me, they did make me sit up straight and I was very aware of them the whole evening. She had made me admit that I had been wearing the corsets at night and at bed time I was told in no uncertain manner that I was to keep them on that night too. This surprised me because I had expected that she would take the old corsets away from me but she seemed very sympathetic and in fact took my measurements, albeit, over the corsets. Before she said "Goodnight," she told me not to bother hiding the corsets in the morning.
When I got home from school the following day my mother was waiting for me, and she said that she had a surprise for me. I was told to follow her to my bedroom and there spread out on my bed were a different pair of corsets, brassiere, pink directoire knickers and stockings. I looked in amazement and realised that these things were for me to wear, the corsets and brassiere were matching pink or tea-rose as it was always called in those days. I was instructed to undress and put on my corsets which were already unlaced for me. I wrapped them around me and fastened the busk and the hooks and eyes below which I had done many times before with Granny’s old corsets. The new plain cotton twill felt stiff, and as I held my hands against my tummy, I felt my mother start to draw in my laces. I had no idea what to expect but I still remember the thrilling sensation of my corsets tightening around me, squeezing me and holding me tight, and then I started to feel the stiffness of the steel bones making me straighten, as their effect became more forceful.
My mother laced me in quite tightly but she pointed out that there was still a two inch gap at the back and that it was her intention to reduce that during the imminent summer holiday. I was shown how to put on my stockings and to make sure that the seems were straight, although she put them on for me. The brassiere was also fastened for me but I was told that I would be expected to master the back-fastening for myself. I was then told to put my knickers on. Oh how difficult that was! I was now really wearing corsets for the first time and they were so stiff and tight. With some helpful tips from Mum I managed to get into my knickers and she then told me to put on my shirt and trousers. Of course my trouser waist was now three or four inches too large but with the belt pulled in they stayed up alright. For some time I wished I could be released, I could hardly breathe and I was so hot but I got no sympathy. Of course, a few years later I realised that those first corsets were not that tight and not very stiff either, although to me they seemed so. Needless to say I had to have a second set of corsetry and several pairs of knickers and stockings.
Although I cannot be 100% certain I think the first corsets were probably Twillfit. I remember complaining that the flat twill material was not very nice and certainly not as nice as the broche from which some of Granny’s old corsets were made. My mother told me that she had not bought me corsets to look pretty, but nevertheless, the second pair, that were purchased a few days later, were in tea-rose broche and I did like them more, although the brassiere did not match.
Over the next few weeks I became accustomed to my corsets and actually liked wearing them, so much so that by the end of the holidays I was enjoying the lovely hugging sensation and at every move I was held tight by the lovely stiff bones and I did not want to stop wearing them. My mother was very cross, she later admitted that I was expected to beg not to have to wear them or at the very least be pleased that the time of enforced corseting was over. However all the ladies’ things were taken away and it was to be over eight years before I was again able to indulge my yearnings. However I had had six weeks during which I had progressed from hating to loving being corseted and my world would never be the same again until I was able to wear corsets when and how I liked.
Despite my protestations my Mother did not allow me further use of my corsets. She later admitted that her plan had been to break my interest by making me so uncomfortable that I would never risk having to wear corsets again. The fact that I not only liked being corseted but positively wanted to continue to wear them made her angry and frustrated. Her only course was to disallow me access to the clothes I had come to love.
Once I had finished my apprenticeship I changed jobs and took a flat close to my employment. At last I was able to start indulging my interest and my first purchase was a Marks & Spencer long-line zip girdle. I had used my hip size to decide on size and to my delight the girdle fitted me quite nicely. At the first wearing it was obvious that I needed stocking to hold the girdle down and a long-line bra to prevent a bulge appearing over the top and also to stop the top of the girdle rolling over. I found that an overlap of at least three inches was necessary to be sure that the two parts of my foundation did not part, later on I found out that fastenings were available to join the two items together. I also bought myself some directoire knickers so that my entire underwear was feminine. In order to wear my corsetry every day I need several girdles and bras and numerous pairs of stockings and knickers. In a comparatively short time I had enough to have clean underwear every day and was on a weekly cycle if necessary. This also gave me the opportunity to experiment with different designs of girdle from firms such as Gossard, Triumph, Berlei and one or two others.
Although I was pleased with my foundations they were obviously a poor substitute for the lovely rigid corsets I had been laced into when I was thirteen. It was not long before I was looking for better corsets and my next purchase was a mail order rubber corset from Alstons. This was a busk fastening wrap round corset of the heaviest type and I ordered a matching brassiere to go with it. I enjoyed wearing it during the winter time but did not buy another as I was always aware of the aroma of warm rubber, and was afraid that those around me might notice too. On a trip to London I ventured into D. H. Evans in Oxford Street and to my delight purchased a long hook-side fastening corset which had a very nicely boned under-belt. The corset was moderately boned and was a little more restrictive than my girdles. Once again I did not repeat this purchase because I felt it did not give value for the extra money it cost.
I was becoming convinced that I really had to have a proper pair of back-laced corsets, but I was worried about my ability to lace myself in. Although I was earning quite a good wage, money was not so plentiful that I could buy corsets I would be unable to wear. I was well aware of a Corset Shop that I passed every day on my way to and from work. I had looked in the windows many times and to my great pleasure I one day saw in the window just what I wanted to own. It was in pink satin, long and with busk-fastening and back-lacing. It was impossible to see whether there was another customer in the shop and I hesitated for some time before finally going in. The shop was empty but for the grey-haired lady behind the counter who greeted me with “I thought you were never going to screw up your courage to come in. How can I help you?” I must have blushed because I could feel the heat in my face but I replied “I would like to buy a corset please”. “Like the one in the window dear?” I confirmed that was what I wanted and she smiled and asked if I knew what size I needed. I told her my hip size was 39” but she said she needed to know my waist size and she then said she would measure me and invited me into the fitting room. As she motioned the way to the fitting room she said “I will turn the sign on the door to closed and bolt the door. We don’t want any embarrassment with another customer coming in, do we?” She asked me to take off my jacket and put the tape measure around my waist and as she pulled it tight she said “Now tell me what you are wearing. A girdle is it?” I confirmed that it was and she then said “Well I think it would be best if you stripped off dear. You will need to for me to fit you in corsets, so if I could measure just over your knickers it would be much easier for me.” I nodded and she left the room as I started to undress. I was just unzipping my girdle when she came back in carrying a pair of the pink satin corsets I had seen in the window and to my surprise a matching pink brassiere. I stepped out of my girdle and pulled up my knickers. She had put down the things she had brought into the room and had her tape measure around me before I had hardly straightened up. “Yes I thought so,” she said “a 28 will suit you nicely. Now you know that you ought to wear a liner under your corsets, it will save washing them so often and they will last longer that way. She turned and picked up what I can only describe as a silk vest which she handed me to put on. It was quite long and came down over my buttocks. She suggested I push my knickers down around my thighs and she then put the corsets around me and fastened the busk. She seemed to lace me in quite slowly but almost at once that thrilling sensation of corsets tightening around me brought memories flooding back of that wonderful summer, now nine years ago. She tied the laces and told me that she would tighten me up before I left, but to let the corsets settle and warm to my body before applying any more pressure. She fastened my suspenders and fitted my brassiere adjusting the shoulder straps and the hook at the bottom that hooked on to a busk stud, as she said “To stop your brassiere riding up.” Before I pulled my knickers back up she looked in the mirror with me and ran her hand up and down my sides from just under my arms to the bottom edge of my corsets and back up again. She smiled and enthused “That gives you a lovely shape and I will nip your waist another half inch before you go home.” She guide my hands up and down over me and the sensation of the satin on my hands and the feeling through my beautiful new corsets thrilled me beyond anything I had yet experienced. She suggested I dress again and she then asked if I would like a cup of tea, to my surprise I was taken up stairs to her flat above the shop. I sat an upright chair and remembered how important it was not to slouch, in truth it was impossible anyway but I enjoyed the feeling of my corsets holding me so wonderfully firmly with that gorgeous all round feeling of wonderful security.
She explained to me how to lace myself in with the aid of the bedpost or a door handle and told me to always wear my corsets for at least half an hour before final tightening for the day. She also suggested that I should wear a petticoat over my brassiere, as she put it to help disguise your nicely shapely bust line. She then surprised me by saying that she had watched me for sometime looking longingly in her shop windows and that she was so pleased that I had finally come in to be fitted. She said that she had always been pleased to have a few Gentleman customers because they were always so grateful for her help. Of course I was too and that first visit was the first of many, in fact it became a weekly visit even if there was nothing I needed and then almost every day because we had become very close friends.
When I left the shop after that long first visit, I realised as I walked to my car which was parked only a short distance away just how tightly I was laced and how wonderfully restricting my corsets were. I was even more surprised as I got into my car! I thought for a few moments I would have to go back to the shop to be slackened off a bit but after wriggling around I managed to get comfortable enough to drive. The pressure on the tops of my thighs pressed the busk upwards and tried to lift my rib cage and I found the only way to accommodate that pressure was to lean back into my seat as much as possible. The short drive to my flat was accomplished well enough but I was glad to get out. The owner of the Corset shop I will call Mary (not her real name) later altered the bottom edge of my corsets to prevent the problem, it only needed half an inch off the bottom edge over my legs but it made all the difference. What I was soon to find out was that she had a fully equipped work room at the back of the building and that she was a very competent corsetiere. It was obvious from my first visit that we would get on really well.
It was clear from that first meeting that she wore traditional corsets and I can still see that picture of her in my mind as I saw her for the very first time. She was wearing a white blouse that fitted to her waist to show off her tiny waist. She had a dark grey straight skirt and a belt around her waist that seemed wide but in reality was about two or two and a half inches wide and shiny black, patent leather. Her hair, though grey, was well coiffured and as I later found out she went to the hair dressers twice a week. Although she was wearing a little makeup this was subtle and very tasteful. I could just make out the shape of her brassiere straps through her blouse and the trace of a lace petticoat covering the edges of her brassiere cups which were full and quite pointed in the style of ten years earlier. She had a lovely soft gentle voice and made one begin to feel relaxed which in my case was not easy to do. I imagine that her female clients would have instantly felt at ease with her.
I will always be thankful to Mary. She was very kind and gentle and responded to my fascination with corsets in a very positive and encouraging way. She had been brought up to wear corsets from an early age, her mother having been a corsetiere and having her own business. She had started wearing a light corset from the age of nine, and as she grew up, her corsets became progressively firmer and tighter so that when she left school to start learning the trade she had a small waist that was then fashionable. She said that she had always enjoyed being corseted and felt that anyone who had similar feelings should be actively encouraged. Quite why she took to me so affectionately I shall never know, but I shall always be glad that she did. Off course she sold all sorts of ladies' underwear and she encouraged me to take my choice of what was available, although apart from her presents at birthday and Christmas time, I always paid the cost of anything and everything I selected. Talk about a child in a candy shop! The first time things started to get amorous I was surprised to find that she was wearing French knickers, (needless to say I was encouraged to try them!) which I later found out was her normal choice in all but the coldest weather. Her corsets were of course beautiful; she loved to wear pink satin and her brassieres always matched. Her petticoats and knickers were the finest quality and again in matching colours that coordinated with her foundations. Her lingerie was made by Charles Ingram and the trade name was Ingrasil. Her favourites were made from satin de-leyse which had a very silky feel and slithered delightfully over ones foundation. The slips and knickers were trimmed with a wide lace which looked lovely and the garment were superbly made and finished. Compared to the equivalent Kayser products they were more expensive, but she and I always thought they were worth the extra money. When I knew her, she had a fifteen inch hip spring but she said that her waist had been smaller when she was young and she had allowed it to slip because she felt she looked too slender. It looked marvellous to me anyway! Had she lived longer I would have been trained to have an even better hip spring than I had, although I was more than happy with what we had achieved, and twelve inches meant that my waist was only twenty seven inches.
My friendship with Mary, became very personal and might have resulted in my living with her had she not become seriously ill and died. I had not realised how old she was until shortly before her death, when she told me that she was almost eighty-five, I had assumed she was about twenty years less than that, and even at forty years my senior it was a big age gap! Nevertheless she had been a wonderful friend, who had taught me so much about life and wearing lovely corsets.
After Mary’s death there was a huge void in my life which, needless to say took some time to come to terms with. However, she had provided me with a large collection of corsets and it was two or three years before I had to start looking for a new source of supply. One of my first attempts was to contact the nearest Spirella agent whose telephone number I found in the local directory. I could tell as soon as the lady answered the phone that she was not sympathetic and my request for her to supply me with corsets was instantly dismissed with her saying that “The company would not approve.” I felt it was much more down to her but there was nothing more to be said. I did manage to find a firm called “Corsets Copere” and although I did order two pairs of corsets from them, I felt that the service was impersonal and the product rather ordinary. I found two people in London both of whom I visited and purchased from, but I had been spoilt by Mary and nothing could compare with the corsets she had made for me and I became thoroughly disillusioned. I continued to wear what I had until they were worn out (around about 1986 or 87), and then I reverted to girdles that at first were rather large in the waist until my figure deteriorated to fit more accurately.
I was now working in drawing office and there were several female tracers, one of whom was very obviously a wearer of corsets, I assumed like my own. Since it was obvious to me that she wore a very firm corset I somehow guessed that she would notice that I too was very well corseted. If she did notice she certainly said nothing for some considerable time. With the aid of my friend, the corset shop owner, my waist had been reduced and I then had a twelve inch hip spring and I always wore a waist coat so that at work my very rounded hips were not too obvious. I felt very proud of my figure but it did have some draw backs, not the least of which was that girl friends were impossible if I was not to be found out.
The Corset wearing girl, who I will call Elsie, was in her mid-thirties and I will relate an incident that happened in 1965 or 66. I was sitting at my desk doing some calculations when I became aware of a conversation between the six girls. The first I heard to take notice of was "Anyway Elsie, why do you wear those dreadful old corsets of yours?" "They are not dreadful and they are certainly not old! I wear them because I like wearing them, I was brought up to wear them and all my older sisters did and still do wear theirs. You should try them yourselves, you won't get that back-ache that several of you are always complaining about!" One of the others enquired where Elsie got her corsets, and to my surprise Mary's shop was mentioned.
I noticed at the time that one of the other girls, Jill, had not been joining in the general criticism of corsets, and I was surprised to catch a glimpse of her coming out of the corset shop as I passed on my way home from work that evening. She was carrying an unmistakable package that was a corset box. I had been delayed discussing some problems with a design, and had left work probably forty-five minutes after the female staff. Needless to say I was interested to see how she was dressed the following morning,and sure enough she too was wearing quite a stiff corset and her figure looked very nice and trim. I tried to listen to conversations but without success, until lunchtime when only Jill and Elsie were in the office. Jill said to Elsie, “ I have taken your advice and bought a pair of corsets like you described. I had to get my husband to lace me in before he went to work, which he seemed to enjoy! Anyway I have been really comfortable this morning and I want to thank you.” Elsie replied “Oh good, I noticed you were wearing corsets this morning, the others are stupid the way they decry things that they know nothing about.” I heard no more, but a couple of weeks later I realised that there was another convert. Cynthia was the loudest and most vociferous of the anti-corset lobby just two or three weeks before, but now her rather lumpy figure was totally transformed. Elsie had always worn fully-fashioned stockings and I noticed that her two converted companions were following that lead too. I don’t know how long it lasted, because within the year I was moved on promotion to a different area of work, but they were all three still in corsets when I left the office.
I often wondered if Elsie had noticed that I was corseted and it was about ten years later when I met her at a social event. We were both pleased to meet each other and I knew straight away that she was still true to her corsets. It was not long before she whispered to me, “I see you are still a devotee of the corset, I always wanted to ask you when we worked together but it did not seem the thing to do.” “Yes,” I replied, “I always wondered if you had noticed.” “Yes I knew from the first day as I expect you knew about me?” I nodded and she continued, “It seems so strange that men are not expected to wear corsets when you must derive just as much pleasure and comfort as any woman does.” I agreed with her and said “Convention does not necessarily understand what the individual finds comfortable.”
I am aware that some ladies are worried by their husband’s desire to wear their underwear or items such as corsets and bras. From my own point of view, I would say that it is a harmless desire and is more likely to reflect a gentle and feminine side than anything unpleasant or violent. Yes; it may be a tendency to cross dress, but where is the harm in that in private? It may be better to embrace the problem and keep it to shared bedroom fun, which could be mutually beneficial, rather than drive it underground or turn it into a hole and corner fetish which will be discovered in the end. It is well known that some women abhor the idea of wearing anything remotely like a corset, more is the pity! When I see some of the sights on display today, I often think to myself how much better she would look in a nice girdle or better still a firm corset. In just the way that some girls want nothing restrictive, some men long for support, and why is it that women seem to have a monopoly of nice fabrics, and men are expected to wear nasty itchy underpants, that are so tight around the critical area that one cannot breathe? I may have a biased point of view but my liking for feminine undies has done me no harm in my sixty plus years. My advice to any lady faced with this problem would be to go and buy what ever your man wants to try and make it a present. Then encourage him all you can to wear the item, don’t tease, be sympathetic. That way you will not drive a wedge between yourselves, and you may find that life gets a whole lot more exciting.
I am also quite sure that most men of my generation would far prefer to see their loved one in a nice satin foundation than in a thong and a skimpy bra. I know that it is fashionable to leave little or nothing to the imagination, but when one used to hold a girl close and felt her foundations, you knew you had a real woman in your arms. Often you never knew what was inside the parcel, but your imagination sure ran riot at the thought, although you knew full well that she would not allow you to go very far, at least until you had been going out for sometime. Then as time went by you began to discover some of her secrets and the thrill of seeing stocking tops and knickers that you had only felt, was so exciting.
Whilst mentioning the subject of knickers I wonder which was the most popular style worn by the corset wearing fraternity? I prefer the 'directoire' style, but is this representative? As I have said elsewhere, my friend Mary preferred French knickers and I know of another lady who shared her preference.
I have also been considering the differences between ready-made and made to measure corsetry, in particular the boning or staying as some prefer to call it. Most ready to wear corsets use spiral steel stays which were the invention of an American gentleman who went on to found the Spirella Company. Same manufacturers made it a sales point to state that spiral steels were used throughout. In my opinion it is impossible to create the same support with a spiral as it is with a flat steel. In particular over the tummy panel, fat steels are far more effective. When it comes to busk fastening corsets, the busk is a flat steel with the studs riveted to one piece and the clasps fixed to the other. Busks were, and I assume still are, made in different lengths to suit different lengths of corsets. Busks vary in width but are generally about ¾” wide, there are also spoon busks available where the lower end of the busk is widened and shaped like a spoon. The spoon busk is designed to increase the strength and firmness, particularly where the bottom edge of the corsets are scalloped over the thighs. In tight lacing corsets, the busk is supported by an under-busk which is fitted into the corset's construction and stitched on the stud side of the corset. The under-busk should be the same length as the busk, and as wide as the two halves of the busk when joined together. The under busk should be strong enough to prevent any bending of the busk and is intended to make the front of the corsets totally rigid, giving a straight smooth line to the corseted figure. It is usual in figure-forming corsets for there to be a number of flat steels either side of the busk which will support the tummy and spread the compressive force equally over the abdomen. The more heavy duty the corset, the wider this section will become. In most ready to wear busk front-fastening corsets, the under-busk is omitted and the number of steels over the tummy reduced and spread out. One huge disadvantage is that the small gap between the halves of the busks acts as a squeeze zone through which the wear’s flesh is inclined to be pushed, the tighter the corsets are pulled the worse it gets, causing great discomfort! At the back of the corsets there should be a flat steel either side of the eyelets and in corsets designed for tight lacing the eyelets will be of a reinforced type, usually with washers either side of the cloth to spread the load over a larger area of fabric and so prevent tearing. The back will then have one or more extra bones on the corset side to help to spread the strain evenly through the cloth.. In some cheaper garments the flat steel on the inside is omitted making a much weaker garment and one in which the eyelets will pull out if overloaded. Some made to measure garments can be provided with a flap to go under the lacing, preventing chafing when lacing in, but if a liner is worn this is an necessary complication. To generate a small waist the corsets will be flared over the hips and this can make it difficult to use flat steels throughout the corset. Spiral stays can be used here, but careful design is needed to avoid permanent distortion of the stay where quite sharp changes of direction are required at the waist line. Finally, on a good pair of corsets the waist will be taped, that is to say, a tape will be stitched in to the garment to help hold the waist line to the intended dimension because it is at the waist where the greatest load will be applied.
Most corset wearers will be aware of the patterns created by bones and seams on their skin when they undress. Any one who wears a foundation will have experienced this and the little irritations that accompany it. I am reminded that a similar thing happens with perforated rubber corsets where you get the pattern of the holes as little white lumps on an otherwise rather pink skin. This is the same effect, on a very much smaller scale, as when wearing an unsupported busk, but not so uncomfortable.
I tried many brands of corset, and the names of some of these are simply not known today. The first is Kopps. I had two front-laced corsets that I purchased from a shop in Whitechapel Road. One was pink and the other black, and of particular interest was the staying in the back. There were eight or even ten flat steels very closely packed which gave the corsets a very firm feel. They were long, coming down under one’s seat, and there was a very strong elastic insert at the bottom which controlled one’s bottom and made them feel lovely when walking. The part I found very disagreeable however, was the front-lacing which tended to pinch my tummy and got very uncomfortable after three or four hours wear. The shop in Whitechapel traded under the name of 'Yanovsky' and was very old-fashioned. I believe that when Whitechapel Road was redeveloped they moved to the Edgware Road area, but I never went there.
I also came across Excelsior, Avro and Bayeur. All produced fairly traditional corsets but, so far as I was concerned, nothing very suitable.
I mentioned Gardeners previously, they were in Bransbury Square, Islington. When I went there, the only person I met was Mrs. Norris, who was very nice and very sympathetic. I later met her again when she was working under her own name from her home. She had purchased some of the machinery from Gardeners when they sold up, she in fact died only a couple of years ago. Although she made some nice looking corsets, she never managed to make them fit in quite the same way that Mary had done.
Although the Alstons rubber corset was nice to wear in the cool weather, it was the smell that worried me as I have said previously. However I did much later buy another rubber corset from 'My Lady' which was a busk-front, wrap-round and that I very much enjoyed over quite a long time. At the same time I also purchased a matching brassiere which had an under-arm fastening. I always found this an inconvenient arrangement. The rubber smell seemed less pungent with these garments and it was sweeter and I felt less obvious. Once again, nice to wear in the winter but not so good on warmer days.
I have been considering over recent weeks why wearing corsets is for me so much a continuing pleasure. It will be 60 years ago this summer that I obtained that old pair of Grandma’s corsets that have had such a continuing influence on my life. Corsets have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and I still have that same fascination. As I said before, I used to like to put my arms around my Granny and loved the feeling, from the outside, of her corseted body, with all the steel bones; what you so aptly describe as the ‘Oil Drum’ effect. (I am not sure that I even knew there were steel stays although I think I did understand that corset shaped ones body.) Even then I longed to know how it would feel to wear corsets and as I said in my story, it was not until I was 12 years old that I managed to secure an old pair of her corsets. Thinking back to being laced into my new corsets for the first time by my Mother, I was surprised at the rigidity and to some extent the tightness of my corsets, although I knew that Granny’s old corsets were too big for me they were still quite stiff. That summer holiday was a wonderful time for me and my disappointment when my corsets were taken away was something that my Mother could not understand.
In the various writings within the “Other Side of Corsetry” I don’t think that anyone has truly understood or explained why men like me want to wear corsets in the same way that women used to do. My understanding is that women wear corsets habitually and become dependent on the support and comfort that corsets give. I have the impression that it is not understood that some men feel the same although I understand that and feel the same. I know that there are many men who feel that wearing corsets is a part of their daily existence they feel ‘undressed’ without them, the comfort of being corseted is paramount and it has nothing whatever to do with perverted sexual desires. In the days when most women wore corsets, girls were routinely expected to start wearing their corsets form early teens. Not all young women enjoyed being corseted, My Mother hated her corsets although she continued to wear them, albeit without lacing and then migrating to the lighter girdles as soon as she was able to do so. The interesting point with her was, that she was never dependent on her corsets or girdles and she was unable to understand why her son was so besotted with corsets that were even then Old Fashioned to say the least.
‘Frangard’ is clearly another man who loves to be corseted and ‘Harry’ is another, although the circumstances of their starting are each so very different to mine. I am also aware of several other men who share this desire and every one of us started wearing corsets for totally different reasons. I know that Iris Norris made corsets for a significant number of males although she would never discuss other clients with me, she did say there were lots of us. I have recently been in touch with corsetieres in the USA and they tell me that there are many men within their client bases. I have no doubt that most male corset wearers do not wish to admit that they wear corsets and I dare say that current female corset wearers do not openly admit the fact either! I also accept that there may be some men who wear corsets for sexual reasons but I guess that these males do not wear their corsets on an all day every day basis. In my mind, a man who wears his corsets all day every day, does so because he loves and needs to do so, and, probably, can no longer go without in exactly the same way that women who have worn corsets for many years could not go without the support that their corsets provide.
I have considered what I believe are the main reasons for corset wearing, they are, improved posture, improved figure and an inducement to eat less. For those who have bad backs, the corset is certainly an aid. I know from my own experience that wearing corsets prevents serious problems with my back and when I had a slipped disc my corsets gave significant relief from pain. All of these points are equally valid for either sex. Are there any negative points that should be addressed? Perhaps a loss of freedom of movement, particularly bending, but keeping a straight back and bending the knees is good practice for both sexes. I am not qualified to discuss tight lacing or figure training because I do not know enough about it. Yes I did reduce my waist in my 30s and early 40s but not to an extreme amount. Mary certainly thought that I should reduce my waist size and had she lived longer, I know that would have happened. I do have a friend on the Internet who has tight laced over many years and he has a hip spring approaching 18 inches. I have seen photos of him and his waist looks tiny.
None of this answers my initial question ‘Why?’ I know that I cannot go without, at least, a firm girdle, and I know that I am more comfortable in a properly stayed pair of corsets. As I get older, I am no less inclined to wear my corsets and I still remember the thrill of my first corsets being tightened around me. I wanted to wear corsets before puberty and certainly before I even realized that it was not generally expected that a boy would be expected not to do so. For me, wearing corsets was something that I expected to do and when I realized that it was not the case I still desperately wished that it would happen. The first time I tried to wear the corsets that I had obtained I was so disappointed that they were too big for me. What I found so pleasurable was that even though those old corsets were not tight they were, none-the-less, stiff enough to restrict my movements. The busk was firm and the bones were still all in place. When Mother found Granny’s old corsets she assumed that making me wear properly fitting corsets would be such an awful experience that I would never want to see such things again. She later told me, that she was horrified by my reaction to wearing my corsets every day. Granny had encouraged Mum to punish me in the way she chose but she later confided that Granny half expected that I would, at least, be comfortable in corsets and was secretly delighted at my very positive reaction. If Granny had got her way, I would not have been stopped from wearing corsets, in fact Granny wanted me to be taken to her corsetiere and have me permanently trained in the way her brother had been at about the same age. Of course I did not know at the time and it was not until granny noticed that I was corseted when I went to see her after I had met Mary that she said how pleased she was to see me in corsets again and she told me what she would have done. Of course she wanted to know more and I had to tell her that as soon as I had left home I just had to get back into corsets again. The old lady smiled a knowing smile that only elderly people seem to be able to do.
Questions to Simon
"Is your fascination for corsetry based on tightness or material; particularly satin?"
"Ignoring the original fascination that I think is a separate issue, I think the derivation of pleasure comes from the rigidity of the corsets, and that firm reassurance that at every move one makes, the stiffness never goes away. Yes, satin is sensual and lovely to look at, but once you have your top clothes on it makes very little difference and I don’t think about it, similarly the tightness, providing you have not laced in too tightly, though ever present, becomes natural and you just don’t think about it. My experience of wearing girdles is that you totally forget you have it on because your body adjusts to its presence. I have never been able to ignore, nor wanted to, the lovely stiffness of a very firmly stayed pair of corsets, they talk to you at every step, and it is an ever present sensation, to me totally enjoyable and exciting. I suppose that wearing corsets is a total package of many parts, all of which contribute to one’s enjoyment and satisfaction. As I have said, it is the control of the boning that is the most important single attribute to me."
Simon's Response to Observation by Frangard
I have read Frangard's essay with great interest. I wish that I had kept a diary and even made a few notes at the time. So much of what he has written has brought back memories of my visits to Gardners and Mrs. Norris. It is quite strange that he remembers following Mrs. Norris and being enthralled by her figure and her lovely legs, I was too! He remembers the fitting room rather more clearly than I do although his description seems to be spot on and has reminded me of long forgotten details. I also remember being laced in by Mrs. Norris which was breathtakingly quick and oh so effective! Having arrived in corsets and had her make adjustments I also left wonderfully tightly laced although my journey took me home by public transport which was always most enjoyable.
Frangard makes reference to driving whist tightly laced. I also commented on this would add that it was more difficult to get comfortable in the days when car seats had less adjustment. Nowadays, with back angles being variable it seems reasonably straight forward to find a thoroughly comfortable position. When I left Mary after my first visit to her, my car was a pre-war Riley and apart from fore & aft movement the seat was what the maker gave you! I was mightily glad that my journey that first time was less than a mile. After Mary had made some minor alteration it was possible to be comfortable but as has been said, turning to reverse was a challenge. Getting in and out of a car that has its door hinged on the rear edge also has its problems. Many a lady wearing a skirt has given an impromptu display of legs and knickers! Wearing trousers eliminates the direct view but the door gives no obstruction to the view of one's struggle to get vertical. Being laced into long rigid corsets limits ones ability to move and it takes lots of practice to achieve with dignity.
I guess that my original corseting by my mother has influenced my attitude and acceptance of the other under clothes that one wears with corsets. I could not wait to be rid on men's underpants once I left home and have habitually worn knickers ever since. I still feel that directoire knickers are the perfect accompaniment to corsets although I have worn just about every other style except the modern minimalist creations. Mary loved her French knickers and, as I have said, she encouraged me to wear them as well. I also found that a full brief is a comfortable alternative as are tailored panties. However, the elastics of directoires moving over stocking clad legs is still one of the most enchanting feelings and one that I feel sure will live with me so long as I draw breath.
Simon's Response to Front or Back-lacing
In some recent comments in your diary you referred to the difficulty of lacing oneself into a back lacing pair of corsets and, I think, you suggested that a front lacing corset was a better solution in any case. I hope I have paraphrased what you intended accurately.
I from personal experience can assure you that mastering ones own back lacing is really not that difficult. I was very concerned about my ability to lace myself in properly to start with and it was Mary who assured me that in a short time I would find it easy. Yes it is nice to have someone else to do it for you but that means that the tightness is in their control, not yours! I suppose it was two or three weeks before I was anywhere near proficient in getting my corsets as tight as I wanted them and more to the point, as evenly laced. If you are wearing high backed corsets then reaching effectively to the top is not easy but you get better with practice. I would say that it is no more difficult than hooking up your long line brassiere, which I am sure you will agree is simplicity itself except when you first started doing it behind your back. I found that using an anchor point to keep just a little tension on the loops made lacing in quite simple, It still takes time but then that is part of the enjoyment of putting on my corsets each morning. However that rather slow learning curve to start with has become a habit and one that is part of everyday life.
I also believe that back laced corsets are better from the point of effectiveness and comfort. If you are asking your corsets to do much for you, then in pulling a front lacer tight you generate a roll of flesh which as the gap closes is inevitably pinched by the closing edges of the corset. Conversely when you draw in the laces of your back laced corsets, the busk and staying in the front compress the soft tissue while there is very little spare flesh at the back to get in the way of the closing edges. I believe that it is impossible to lace as tightly with a front lace garment, and I know from one brief encounter, that it is far more comfortable to have the lacing at the back. Mary once told me when I questioned her about it, that a front lacer is fine for the person who does not want to lace even moderately tightly but that in her opinion the back laced design was superior from all points of view. As we all know, for corsets to be truly comfortable they need to fit accurately and need to be supported so that the material cannot crease or ruckle. The positioning of the stays or steels is part of the Corsetiere’s art and it was almost lost.