European Practices of Yesteryear

By John Francis Trelawny



In 1964, I read the personal memoirs of an 85-year-old lady, who had been subjected to an outstanding program of
sadistic figure-training as a child.

She was orphaned I 1888 when she was nine, her father had been a British officer and she was taken in by a wealthy
widow of a Scottish merchant who lived in a small city called Stirling. She was immediately fitted with the most
rigorous of heavily boned corsets and laced as tightly as possible twice a day. She wore a rigid metal backboard
under the back lacing, this was held close to her neck by a wide German silver collar, that had a chain permanently
attached. Her corset, was double boned and equipped with shoulderstraps, that kept her gasping in agony for hours
after the morning and late afternoon lacing. Along with this, her arms were bound behind her back with the elbows
touching during the day, and she was put to bed at night with her arms bound behind her back and her ankles locked
in stocks.

Because she cried and complained, a leather mask was made for her, without and mouth opening and her hair was
clipped short, to permit this mask to fit more snugly over her head. The mask was cleverly painted with realistic colours
so that she did not appear to be masked, and it extended further down her neck than some so the bottom was
concealed by her wide metal collar. She wore a wig over the mask and dark glasses, smoked spectacles was the
term used in the manuscript, so that nobody realized the girl could not speak. The mask was removed only at meals
which were served in her room and it was put on her again immediately afterward.

A slide-wire system was set up to confine the girl to her room and she was kept a close prisoner for years, never
permitted out of the room without the mask paced on securely and her arms bound behind her back. Whenever she
was taken out, her ankles were chained together to permit only small steps and her benefactress held the end of her
chain. She had not possible way of getting away.

In 1898 she was nineteen years old and her waist measured only sixteen inches around but she had a new mask, a
new wig and spent her days bound and chained to her wire. She had no schooling beyond third grade and she saw
nobody except her mistress and a servant.

She realized then, that this was no question of training—this was her life. Her mistress, was her owner and she had
no intention of letting her go. The extent of her conversation was asking "Pleased" for each bite of food fed to her by
her mistress.

Her life might very well have run out in this manner except for a bomb from a German Zeppelin in 1916. Her mistress,
was away at the time of the raid which was the first in that area and she was dreadfully frightened when a bomb
exploded close by. The windows broke while part of the far wall came down.

She realized that the far end of her slide wire had been broken or torn from where it was anchored in the wall and she
was able to pull her chain free. The doors were all locked but part of the wall was open and she managed to sit and
half-walk out to the tennis court at the side. It was a moonlit night and she began waling toward town, the end of her
neckchain dragging behind her.

After a few miles, she was found by a policeman, who couldn’t realize at first that she was muted and bound. She was
37 years old, had a 16-inch waist, and her vocabulary was that of a 10-year-old child.

There was a huge spread in the papers and they showed pictures of her in the mask and with her chain dragging.

The "benefactress," lapsed into early senility and was placed in an institution, while her charge was rehabilitated, as
best as possible as a ward of the Crown. Her hair was allowed to grow and her collar and chains were removed. She
was unable to do without her corset, however; the severe constriction of 28 years had virtually destroyed her body


On the 18th of February, 1910, a scandal broke in LE PARISIEN and other papers over the manner in which one Jean
Parat, a 43-year-old apothecary, treated his wife in their home and shop in Rue de Vaugirard,. Paris.

Neighbourhood gossip, was rife as early as 1908 concerning the manner in which Parat treated his young and pretty
wife which involved keeping her in severe personal restraint and chained up all the time. Various people saw her
chained to the wall in their apothecary and forced to wrap purchases while her wrists were locked in handcuffs. On
Sundays when they went to church, Mme. Parat wore a cape that hid her arms which were always behind her
back—and the neighbours said they were chained together behind her. Several attested, that she took only tiny steps
and clanked when she walked because her ankles were chained under her skirts. Rumours spread that M. Parat
chained his wife to the bed, whenever he left the house.

Finally, the Paris police investigated and found the charges true. The wife was not only chained to bed but under her
clothes she had a fantastic amount of chains and bounds. She was tightly laced into unfashionably severe stays
which she was unable to remove because she wore a metal corset over them and this corset was padlocked.

The wife, did not have any complaint but the neighbours did and so did the police. Parat, was indicted for cruel and
inhumane treatment. At his trial he attempted to minimize the offence by pointing out that his wife’s chains were long
enough to let her play the piano.

In LE RIRE of March 5th, 1910, a cartoon by the well known artist Metivet showed Parat dragging his chained wife
after him and beneath it was the caption:

"V’la le moyen d’avoir une pouse bien ficile et qui vous soit solidement attache."


It puzzles many people, how Lady Ardmore and Madames Parat and others permit such extreme personal restraints.
There appear to have been fully as many willing victims as rebels who fight against bondage.

To me, it seems reasonable, that only some of us are rebellious fighters and that there are fully as many with the
innate tendency to submit to authority, even harsh authority. With the upbringing tat girls were subjected to in those
former days, it seems that the submissive tendencies would be encouraged and the rebellious spirits quelled.

Thus a girl who is reared by a dominant mother or possibly, a harsh stepmother, would be completely indoctrinated to
the principal of submission. If, then this girl marries a dominant and possessive man, the authority is simply
transferred from parent to husband. To such a person, rebelling against a husband is unthinkable. In those days,
women were not educated to earn livings except in very rare circumstances. There was no way, they could run away
and support themselves in the great majority of cases. Consequently, the only possible course was to cajole the
husband into easing the restraints but to follow his orders and try to like it.

There must have been many who liked it. Lady Ardmore, clearly enjoys telling of her severe personal restraint. She
dwells lovingly on the details of her chains, single glove, and the fact that she was to be bound twenty-two hours or
more out of each twenty-four. It is reasonable to assume that she enjoyed the bondage, although probably not much
at the time as she did afterward in telling about it.

Many other wives, meekly submissive to the harsh bondage imposed by cruel husbands, actually enjoyed the
restraint. Although, they probably did not verbalize such enjoyment, even to themselves. There is no great difference
in people, throughout the generations. Certainly, it was just as common for people to play games with themselves, in
the early days, as in our modern times.


This statement is to be entirely candid and, anonymous. I shall not identify either my husband or myself by our

I have always been fascinated by corsets and my husband, Duncan, is frightfully keen on restraint. That is to say, he
loves to restrain others, but doesn’t care to be restrained himself.

I began wearing girdles at a very young age and Mum was always after me about it. My granny, however, loved
corsets and was always on my side. Urging me to greater lengths. To her, any female who didn’t go about tightly
laced in rigidly boned stays was but a short hop from moral turpitude. She really had quite a convincing patter about
correlating the incidence of crime with the waist measurements of women.

When the New Look came in just after the war, I charged a corset to Mum’s account and took in the waists of all my
frocks to fit my figure when tightly laced. I wore a rubber panty girdle underneath, which kept it cleaner and told the
girls at school that my Mum made me wear all this to keep me chaste. It was a lie, of course. Mum railed at me and
literally begged me to leave them off, but I was stubborn and liked the feel of them, and besides, I was fearfully set
up with the girls. I mean, being so utterly bohemian that one’s mum had to do one up in such a wealth of undies. Well,
it rather made one seem like a super-sophisticate.

I’m sure you recall that the New Look got old quite soon, and when my corset was virtually falling apart, I simply
couldn’t replace it. Corsets were no longer available.

Well, I’d graduated with a first class pass by then, which rather surprised mum and I talked my Gran out of the fees
for a theatre school. Thought I’d have a go at acting, you see. Right about that time I ran into Duncan on the street. I
had known him for ages and it turned out he was directing a group that was about to put on a play—a small
playhouse actually, but where one could be seen. Duncan was quite taken with my small waist and invited me to
come and read for a part—a lovely Confederate spy in a drama about the American Civil War.

Well, I was American, of course, and here I had such a lovely small waist and all. Aso, Duncan winked and said we
could have a smashing time.

Now I must go back and explain. I had a habit of biting my nails and Mum was just most awfully desperate about
making me stop, so she finally took the stern measures of binding my arms behind my back. This was a few years
before. We had gone up to Gran's big place in Scotland and there my arms were kept bound for virtually all the
time I wasn’t actually required to be doing something with them. I even slept with them bound, although bound so
loosely that I didn’t have to lie on them, but just one cord so that my arms were actually bound down to my sides.

However, I had met Duncan than and learned he was so frightfully keen on people being bound and particularly on
girls being bound. It was very exciting to him. So in spite of the fact that he was in his last year at the university and I
was only a child, he paid loads of attention to me and took me all over the place. He was most particular about
binding my arms and he even kissed me, which thrilled me to death, of course.

(I heard Gran ask Mum is she was worried about us, me being tied like that, and Mum said not with all the rubber
panty girdles I was wearing at the time. I liked to wear two and sometimes three of them because they squeezed me

So when Duncan winked I asked him if the part called for my arms to be bound and he said it didn’t now, but it

I read well at an audition but the trouble was that the wife of the man putting up the money also wanted to play the
part. Even though I was better at it, it seemed that Duncan would have to put her into the role. As a sort of
compromise and an impersonal selection, he finally decided to award the role to the one with the smallest waist. He
warned me about it so I might have a chance to get a pair of stays an lace down.

Mum had no objections to corsets for this—she always wanted to be an actress—And Granna was most enthusiastic
about my wearing tightly laced stays for any reason whatever. She had a kind of thing about corsets, just as Duncan
did about arms being bound. All three of us went to London, but couldn’t find anything suitable, so we went to
Granna’s own staymaker, who took my measurements for custom stays to Granna’s own fairly rigid specifications.

There was a lively discussion about my sleeping in my corset. Mum frowned, both Gran and the staymaker
regarded it as virtually essential if I wanted to develop a small waist. Much of the same sort of discussion followed
about shoulder-straps, with my Mum being outvoted. I was most definitely intrigued by the whole proposition and
voted for full rigor, full boning, shoulder-straps, no front opening, and a 17-inch waist.

Privately, I was somewhat dismayed when I saw the final product. I was appalled when I picked it up—it weighed
four stone and it clanked when I dropped it. It was made of a heavy rubber fabric like a Mackintosh, so I could bathe
without having it off.

Gran and Mum laced me dreadfully tight—more than I liked—but they wouldn’t slacken my lace. They took in the
waists of my frocks and let out the bosoms. I went about most uncomfortable and couldn’t sleep at night for weeks,
but I had no choice about it by then.

The worst was that Mrs. Littlejohn was a most slim thing who had no trouble at all lacing to a smaller size than I
could manage, even with all mum’s efforts. Duncan came over every night—we had no rehearsals—and he began
lacing me; he was frightfully strong and I thought I’d die.

He had put in the business of Dixie belle being bound early in the first act when she is caught by the Yankees and
she is bound for the whole of the play. I would be bound each night for rehearsal and go through the action at least
once. (Each time I read it Mrs. Littlebut copied a bit more of my southern accent until she really became quite good.)

She got the part and I was her understudy. I was there every night I costume and makeup in case she didn’t show
up. Duncan bound me each night and I waited in the green room or the wings. One night, I got to do it and
everybody said I did real well. We ran for 12 weeks and we had spent 5 weeks rehearsing before that. I had been
wearing my corset for at least three weeks before the rehearsals really started. And all the time, I was being laced
tighter and tighter and taking in more waist of my costume (as well as my frocks) more and more. By the time the
play closed, my waist was smaller than Mrs. Littlebut’s—quite a bit smaller.

Duncan said not to take off the corset because he was getting another backer, to put the play on in another house.
He came by every night and laced me and we ran through the play. The backer drifted away. Then there was
another but he died although his nephew thought he might help. Well, what with one thing an another, we were
hanging in mid-air, so to speak but every night Duncan would tie my arms and we’d go through the part. Also, I was
being laced tighter each day and getting ever slimmer. Finally, the man promised to back us if we’d be patient
another three months.

Meanwhile, my mum had met a wool merchant who was a widower and they were ga-ga about each other. I mean,
mum was acting positively like a teen-ager. They decided to get married and go off to Italy for a combined
honeymoon and business trip and I was shipped off top Granna’s place up in Scotland. They would be back before
our play went on.

Well Duncan, always bound my arms as soon as he came and so he did this the day they left, and he left me bound
when he drove me up to Granna’s. Only we detoured to a little-traveled road and he stopped and kissed me...

Suddenly the world was blocked out. I could see only some white flashing lights, changing to very color. I could hear
a rushing sound and nothing else. All I could feel, was the rigid corset about me.
Everything swelled up like a great balloon that burst gloriously, marvelously, wonderfully. I was somehow floating
and soaring like a gull.

And even when I came down slowly, delightfully, I didn’t get all the way down. I never have got all the way down
since that moment. It seems that the tightness of my corset and the binding on my arms keeps me higher than in my
former duller life. My real life began at that time.

We drove on the Granna’s and he told Mary, Granna’s retainer, that I was to be kept bound as much as possible and
laced as tightly as possible. Mary asked if he’d like me to wear a jougs too, which is a kin of iron collar. (He did but
that was later).

Then he left me, bound and in a heavenly daze, I’ve never recovered from.

He came up weekends and fitted an iron collar about my neck. Mary was careful to keep me tethered by my jougs
as well as bound. I lived in a dreamworld.

Actually, the play never was put on for the police arrested the man for something. Duncan had a teaching post to
keep body and soul together and Mum settled in Manchester with her merchant. (She said they hadn’t room for me
just then and she was quite satisfied that Mary was looking after me, she hadn’t the slightest objection to her
daughter being laced, bound, and chained up then.)

Duncan got a wonderful offer at the university of California and he’s now a U.S. citizen.

Our life has been a dream for me—as I say, I’ve never really come down. Possibly because I have a constant
reminder, my corset, my collar, my bound arms, of the sex I have had and of course of the sex I am to have


Wealthy families in this country made every effort to follow the lead of Europe in the matter of elegance an fashion,
including the matter of figure-training.

Tight lacing became prevalent in the wealthy families, along with the attendant restraints—shoulderstraps,
backboards, collars, and bound arms—much as in Europe.

There were girls’ schools in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Conn., and other places where the girls were tightly laced day
and night, bound, collared, braced, tethered, and masked in the European manner. Preventative discipline was much
in vogue in small select circles and many young women were subjected to distressing restraints.

An additional restraint was used in a school in Germantown, which is a suburb of Philadelphia. There the young ladies
would be tightly laced, braced, dressed, and bound each morning with their elbows touching, all before their hair was
combed. Then, a maid would braid their hair in a single long pigtail, in the back and braid a cloth tape in with the hair.
This clothe tape would then be tied tightly to the strap that bound their elbows together behind their backs, thus
pulling their heads back firmly. They were left bound like this during their instruction. With there heads drawn back in
this manner, they were forced to bend forward at the hips in order to see where they were going; thus, their body was
forced into an extreme S-curve that was considered stylish.

The general idea of the training was to force the girls into an exaggerated state of desired attitude so that they would
grow accustomed to it and fall easily and comfortably into the fashionable posture.

Some schools had another feature that is worth mentioning: each girl had to have her own wrist-retraining ribbon on
her shoulder. Each girl, had to have wide grosgrain ribbons with hooks and eyes spaced just right to fasten around
both wrists. Matched eyes were sewed to the shoulders of their uniforms and each girl had to have her ribbon at all
times, either hooked on her shoulder or binding her writs at the back of her waist. If a girl had no ribbon on her
shoulder and was not bound, then her wrists would be bound behind her back with sticking plaster and left bound,
until her lost ribbon was found or until new one could be made. The girls used to steal each other’s ribbons, to get
even for past offenses.


The De Milo corset is virtually for bondage society people. It is called that corset because it encloses the arms, so that the
wearer appears to be armless like a Venus. There aren't many of them. Another kind of Venus corset is underwear and I
have seen only one of these, although I know more that exist; I once attended a dance in Palo Alto (CA) where there were
four women in a Venus corsets of this type. The one I saw was a long boned garment, very heavy, that laced the waist
tightly, molded the hips and bust, and supported the long stockings just like an ordinary corset. The difference was in the
upper body: It covered the shoulders with no armholes. The wearer, a slim pretty blonde, had her arms folded tightly
behind her back, her forearms pressed together up and down over her spine. Her hands, palms outward, were up, so that
her extended fingers almost touched the back of her neck. The backs of her hands were held tightly against the skin of
her back up between her shoulders and her elbows were almost touching behind her back, just a little above her waist.
Her whole body was laced very tightly, so that her arms were crushed against her back: She appeared to have no arms at
all. Her upper body was thicker than normal in profile, but not noticeable so unless you knew the lady and knew how slim
she was ordinarily. Her waist was tiny, seemingly more tiny with the bulk of her arms folded up so. Her hips swelled out
widely, and she had a most delightful figure. I saw her after she was laced tightly in this corset and she was wearing only
that, stockings, high-heeled boots, and a heavy solid-gold collar that had cost her husband five thousand, seven hundred
dollars. The lady was breathing shallowly, because of the tight lacing, but yet not quite tightly enough for her gold lame
evening dress to be fastened. After we chatted for perhaps an hour, she and her husband, my wife and myself, her
husband tightened her laces still more. It was painful to her to be tightened, but she urged him toward greater effort. She
is fully as masochistic as he is sadistic, and he braced his knee against her back as he tugged at the laces. He knotted it
tightly at the top, cut off the ends, and found that the gold lame gown could now be hooked and zipped up the back. I it
covered her corset completely and she seemed to have no arms at all. He then finished dressing while my wife touched
up the lady's lipstick and powder. That was around 7 pm. She stayed laced and dressed during a dinner party; her
husband fed her by hand and a number of men danced with her, holding the end of her neckchain in their left hands. My
wife helped her in the ladies' room once and I believe some other women helped her, another time. A little after 2:a.m.,we
all went to another place to listen to some old-fashioned Dixieland jazz and dance. Later, we went up to a friend's house
on Mulholland Drive to watch the sun come up over the city. She actually fell asleep in the car coming back to her home in
Pacific Palisades. That was after 7 am; her husband carried her in at their place and she was half awake. My wife offered
to help undress her, thinking of her uncomfortable corset, but her husband said, "No", he'd take care of her. We later
found that he had removed only her dress before tumbling her into bed, still in corset and high-heeled boots, and she had
slept until after 1 pm. She admitted that her arms were numb."


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