Posted by: mimihuckins | December 15, 2020

Children in Corsets?

While researching for my final paper on advertising, I came across some pretty weird and disturbing advertisements. Take a look:

Apparently, from six to sixteen is the most important decade in a girl’s life and therefore she should wear a corset to be supported and strengthened. They also fit all ages infants to adults, and it doesn’t matter what gender your infant is, as soon as they pop out, slap a corset on ’em. According to a corset blog, corsets for children were very adjustable and were not aimed at creating a small waist, but rather “supporting” the body.

An advice column from an 1893 Australian newspaper reads, “hundreds of letters which have reached me from the young asking advice how to achieve a narrow waist, and from older ones giving their experience and describing their sufferings, all proved, what I had not previously imagined, that the tight-lacing habit had become a sin and a scandal. A corset is a perfectly innocent and useful feminine requirement when not applied with that tension which strangulates… The following extracts from a number of letters which I have received will (adds the writer) give some idea of the sacrifices endured in order to attain a foolish and undesirable end: “I want to ask your advice about the  easiest way to reduce the size of my waist.I live with a relative who insists that I must reduce my waist to 17 inches, as she says,’ No man will marry a girl unless she looks smart.’ What would be the best set of corsets, or would it be a good thing to wear a leather belt strapped on underneath them;or would it be best to sleep in a corset, and tighten it gradually day by day ?””Will you be so kind as to tell me, when you  have the space in your interesting paper, if you have ever heard of anyone beginning tight-lacing as early as this? A friend of mine has a wonderfully slender figure, which she says is the result of her mother putting a flannel band round her, when she was only a year old, to mould her soft bones. At six she wore a corded corset with whalebones,and at thirteen her mother had her tightly laced, making her waist only fifteen inches.”

Here, a mother describes her practices in the English periodical, The Queen:

“There seems to be an idea that when the corset is made to meet it gives a stiffness to the figure. In the days of buckram this might be the case, but no such effect need be feared from the light and flexible stays of the present day, and the fault which frequently leads to the fear of wearing corsets which do not meet is, that the formation of the waist is not begun early enough. The consequence of this is, that the waist has to be compressed into a slender shape after it has been allowed to swell, and the stays are therefore made so as to allow of being laced tighter and tighter. Now I am persuaded that much inconvenience is caused by this practice, which might be entirely avoided by the following simple plan, which I have myself tried with my own daughters, and have found to answer admirably. At the age of seven I had them fitted with stays without much bone and a flexible busk, and these were made to meet from top to bottom when laced, and so as not to exercise the least pressure round the chest and beneath the waist, and only a very slight pressure at the waist, just enough to show off the figure and give it a roundness. To prevent the stays from slipping, easy shoulder-straps were added. In front, extending from the top more than half way to the waist, were two sets of lace-holes, by which the stays could be enlarged round the upper part.”

It seems that often mothers would put their children in more flexible corsets at young ages and gradually add structure. I am not certain of how widespread this practice was for young children, but the role corsets for children had in 19th century advertising is surprising to me. Until the research for the final, I never was aware that the practice of wearing corsets ever extended to children or was ever a consideration in parenting. I would love to hear if anyone else knows more about this subject, the information doesn’t seem to easy to find.

The Corset and the Crinoline – A Book of Modes and Costumes from Remote Periods to the Present Time.

“17 Jan 1893 – ‘THE SIN AND SCANDAL OF TIGHT-LACING.”.” Trove,



  1. Wow that’s awful!

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