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About Women's Waists

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In tbe matter of waists ladies have always gone to some trouble to improve on nature. Yet thcir efforts have uever been rewarded with success. JSature is a jealous as well as exceedingly clever dame, who resents suggestions and lays on penalties when she is uieddled with. Tight laciug took its riso back of us four or five ceuturies at least. The beginning of tlns evil is so remote that there ia 110 traciug ït to its BOurce. In the flfteeuth century they wrote about a pair of bodies, which probably accounts for tbe word "bodice." In the teenth century saia bodios took tho shape represented by the aceompanying picture of Catheiine de Mediéis. If some of us had been on haud would we not havo said: "ïake any shape but thnt;" Then, as novv, male witlings e x p o n d e d their humor upon these " whalebone prisons." In the light of tbc present it was very eluinsy humor, but it suited the times, no doubt Pictures of court dames made in the Fifteenth century have waists so small that only corsets of the most unyielding type could have produced them. And oue artist was kiud enough to leave us the picture oL a ■woman in the act of lacing a garment similar to the corset. It is no worse, not so bad as what can be seen in real lite to tliis da y at an English woman tailor's. Fashionable English women cannot fasten gowns without the aid of a long handled button hook. After they are fastened there is no such thiug as breathing "below the belt." It may be a surprise to somo of "tho young, the gay, the fair, in pleasure's reckless train," to kuow that sometlring like the Jersey of today was in use by the upper class in the Eleventh, 'JVelfth and Thirteenth centuries, and is of eastern origfn. It was called the 'biiaus." nas long and tiglit fitting anü was of elastic material lt covered the wuist and extended over the abdomen, and was iigured in a boneycomb pattern. It revealed the figure perfect! y, and no coi-set was wom bencath it eitber. From the word "bliaus," our word "blouse" evideutly origiuated. A book compiled in 13T1 reveáis the fact that woraen then painted their f aces, bleaehed their hair with wine, pulled out hairsto make their foreheads high and went intothevaiu and frivolous in costuming to great lengths. One wonian has "honorable meiition" in the book because she had eighty gowns. In those days great ladies bowed to tailors. One is spoken of as having said that she was better pleased to bow to a tailor than to a lord. The Normans introdueed the corset iuto England. It can be traced back to the Twelf th century. A caricatur ist represenled the Devil as a fashionable lady, making the corset spiouous by putting it on the outside of his clothes. Slender waists prevailed in the medieval ages, as we might expect, sinco intellect was then in a decline, lledieoval romances drip v ith allusions to the smaH waists of lat'.ies, who, accordiug to the ideal of the day, must have "gentyll bodies and middles small.'" A knight, too, if he filled the requirements of society, must be slender aboui his body. Aldermen w i t h swelling abdomens would have cut no figure in those Gays. Girdles were conspieuous adjuncts of tbe toilets in the Middle Ages, and were often made of the costliest materials. Gold and precious stones ornamented tliem when they belonged to persons of high rank. Girdles are "in" now. Tea gowns havo ribbon ones, and they are strung on cvery possible gown. Bernhardt's Roman costumes in "Theodora" have given them popularity. Girdles were worn low in the Twelftk ccntury. The fonn of the girdle indicated the subjugation of woman. If it encircled the waist and had a piece depending therefrom, it signifled that the wearer was bound to a man who had the right to lead her about at will. In the earlier Middle Ages they never pinched their waists. During the Eighth and Kinth centunes they wore loosely htting robes wbich eoncealed the figure. In the lower Roman empire the classic costume prevaüed. Classic v.aists were never small. And today, ainong souio of the more intcllectual women, there is a tendency to return to the "big classic ivaist" and abjure the corset altogether. Poets are to blame for keeping np the interest in slim waists. They are ü- ways rhyming about them. Even Tennyson in "The Miller's Daughter" says: And I would be the girdle Round her dainty, dainty waist.


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Ann Arbor Register