"But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the
Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as
from the Lord, the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18
"The Dress of the mistress should always be adapted to her circumstances, and be varied with different occasions. Thus, at breakfast she should be attired in the very neat and simple manner, wearing no ornaments. If this dress should decidedly pertain only to the breakfast-hour, and be specially suited for such domestic occupations as usually follow that meal, then it would be well to exchange it before the time for receiving visitors, if the mistress be in the habit of doing so. It is still to be remembered, however, that in changing the dress, jewelery and ornaments are not to be worn until the full dress for dinner is assumed. "
In pursuit of this ideal, corsets were laced so tightly that numbness in the lower body and legs and even fainting were frequent occurrences, reinforcing the popular image of the female as a fragile, helpless creature. In reality, women had to be true stoics, enduring severe discomfort while remaining outwardly serene; it was considered disgraceful to show any distress, especially in front of the maid pulling on the laces, or in company. Even when sleeping, they did not escape, as a night-time model would often be worn, in order to maintain the waist reduction achieved during the day.
For the Victorians, with their repressed sensuality bubbling under the surface, there was more to all this masochism than the mere pursuit of fashion; in 1870, a reader of "The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine" naively wrote that "tight lacing produces delicious sensations, half pleasure, half pain". In an age of heightened prudery, the corset was in fact a socially acceptable method of self titillation!
It was also an acceptable method of torture; many of the trappings of this obsession with waist reduction would not be out of place in a modern dungeon; the unfortunate young girl being "figure trained" hung onto an overhead bar while mother and maid hauled on the laces; an extra long and tight corset was a favorite method of disciplining recalcitrant girls, sometimes with metal screws to tighten more than was possible with laces; a stocking needle might be placed in a schoolgirl's busk to improve posture - any drooping of the head would result in a sharp prick to the chin!