the battle hymn of the tight-lacer

an example of an ineffective corset, split down the front and made of wool, of all things.

As Empress, my first political duty was to breed, and I performed well. Girl, girl, heir, all before my 21st birthday. I don’t need to tell you girls what that does to a figure, yes?

At 172 cm and 50 kilos my whole adult life (other than the wretched pregnancies), many called my dieting regime excessive. Fine. Call it what you will, but I feel quite wounded when I endure criticism of my lacing practice–which kept my waist no bigger around than a young boy’s thigh. You see, tight-lacing sustained me. Made me feel secure, of one piece. Dainty and solid all at once.

Alas, fashion worked against me and my quest for continued perfection. By the time I hit the ripe old age of 29, corsets began to grow soft.

You call this a corset? Why, it couldn't hold in a fart!

Whalebone stays replaced by cording, split busks laced up the middle with inferior strips of leather, cotton or twine. And I resisted them all: the tearose silk flossed with putty ribbon, peach batiste embellished with frills. Nay, my corsets were made from the hide of a mature stag. And I insisted upon being laced “into” them, from behind, and it took an hour. Yes, an hour.

My corsets were also discarded after a fortnight, once they gave up their “new corset” smell. The smell of strength. Of industry. Once a corset cracked on the eyelet, even a smidge, off it went to the poor. (Though admittedly, the poor had little use for an 18 inch corset, most likely it was used to flog soil from rugs.)

Despite my tight-lacing ways, once secured into my undergarment, I felt safe, and therefore happy. With my waist reduced to its proper dimension, I could do anything. Truly. Bound up stairs, sail through the air on my personal trapeze, even carry all three of my children on my back like a donkey.

So keep your 18-hour control top pantyhose, all you Westerners of the 21st century, as for me, I’ll remain forever virtuous and slender, laced into a corset that could hold back a swollen river in spring.

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