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Memoirs of a corset (1880)

by Jacques Redesperger, L'Art de la Mode 1880, p. 33, abridged

I am no ordinary corset. I am made of white satin bordered with Valenciennes lace, my clasps and my eyelets are of silver, my silk lace, at least three centimetres wide (sic), is what one might call an absolutely remarkable lace, and my (breast) gussets in the most supple of rubber can without exaggeration boast of having contained more treasures than most gussets on this earth. I was born after a long interview, and six persons worked for two days to bring me into the world - and I was perfect! Imagine my disappointment when I learned that I had been cancelled because of a pregnancy. The next day when I saw the future little mother arrive, my busk clenched with anguish: heavens, how pretty she was! And built to perfection! So I reflected angrily that another than myself was about to enlace that delicious form.

I was placed in the window, on a wax-model, and soon bought by an equally pretty woman. I watched her undress, my gusset beating with impatience. When she put me on, my gusset swelled with pride. Listening to her breasts, I was able to empathise with all her emotions. I was so sad when she took me off at night and became so jealous of her husband, that I kept my eyelets wide-open all night. Then suddenly the whole house was thrown into disorder. The great ceremony was in my honour. Ah, I was going to see something! Monsieur, my lady's maid, the nurse, and the footman were all called in. And all four began to pull on my lace with all their force, to pull as on a boat returning to harbour, while my lady clung with both her hands at the chimney-piece.

''Come on,'' she said, ''you are not pulling!'' You are not pulling! And she said it seriously! Was I unhappy! With all the will in the world, I couldn't hold out any longer; my eyelets began to gape and my lace grew visibly thinner. But my fury reached its height when the husband placed his knee against his wife's back in order to give the final heave. I was within a hair of giving way on all seams. That's when it hurt us, her and me! Her even more than me! The poor sweet creature was violet; she breathed some salts, tried in vain to recover her breath, and smiled wanly as one must have done in the olden days during torture.

And thereupon we left for the ball! That's when I expected it, in the middle of the 45 degree heat! Well; she didn't flinch, and as her face remained impassive, I heard her poor little heart going toc toc toc, fit to burst. I was positively sorry for her. But it was much worse when she began to waltz; as each partner arrived nonchalantly and clasped her waist, in vain did I buttress her with my boning in order to preserve her, they seemed to be vying with each other in audacity. I was indignant! And the husband who saw nothing! Ah; if only I could have slipped him a few words about all I was witnessing! But no, he was playing whist, this husband, while I was bracing myself in order to preserve his wife; it was really too kind of me.

You will see just how far I pushed my magnanimity; towards three o'clock in the morning, a partner slipped a billet-doux into her hand, which she transferred immediately to her breast. I was in a position to recognise it as a stupid declaration of love, and determined to frustrate it. My mistress' heart began to beat wildly, I took my courage in both hands, and with a supreme effort I crushed her so powerfully on all sides that she lost consciousness, having just managed to swallow the note beforehand.

On returning home, she prayed ardently, calmed down, and since then I have been host to no more billets-doux. Her character, from that time, is charming; she is always gay, and do you know why? Because she no longer tight-laces furiously, which leads me to coin the phrase: A woman who laces has a bad character (La femme qui se serre / A mauvais caractère)!


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