Diary of a Young Girl


The Diary
of a Young Lady
September 1883 - January 1884

Compiled and Translated from French by Gary Q.

Below are some extracts From my Great Grandmother's diary. Grandmother was 13 or 14 years old at the beginning of this series of excerpts (we do not have an exact date of birth), although she was French she was living in southern UK.

I have interrupted and somewhat condensed them, as the diary is in French. I had to annotate the text somewhat where her entries are unclear, which is displayed in brackets [ ]. Please forgive any inaccuracy.

As the diary continues over the next months toward holiday season dressing etc, and toward sending her to a 'Finishing School', which will be submitted later.


Sept 14, 1883

Today was a wonderful day as I finally received my corsets. I was surprised that I received three sets, real corsets. Two of which are identical and beautiful, but some longer then I expected, going from just below my armpit to the middle of my hips. The third, which I have not worn yet is much longer and of thick calf skin, along with much stiffer boning. My sisters have cautioned me not to incline mother to lace me into the last set as they are most restrictive, and although I have seen how uncomfortable they appear while wearing theirs I am very curious about how they feel.

Immediately when the corsetiere drew my laces in I could tell I would enjoy then, the feel of their tightness against my skin and the new posture it induced was wonderful. I feel slightly disappointed that my mother would not allow me laced down more then she will, as I long to quickly develop a waist like my sisters, but mother said to be patient..... I am surprised that I must adjust more then expected to my stays. As hard as I try to have the grace of my sisters the stiffness of my spine and the restriction of my shoulder braces cause me to stumble often.

Sept 15, 1883

This morning offered a wonderful event and I felt extremely lady like waiting with my sisters for mother to lace us down. Before we dressed for breakfast my sisters each carefully inspected my narrowed waist and helped me practice properly sitting and walking, the thrill of them accepting me as other then a baby was most marvelous... In some regard I was disappointed when mother declined my requests to be tightened like my sisters before we dressed for supper, but my spine and shoulders are rather sore and I understand her reasoning... My sisters assured me the pain will subside in a few days and I feel it a slight price to pay for all the joy in my life at present.

Sept 22, 1883

This morning was wonderfully exciting as mother laced me down another inch. [it appears she now has a three inch reduction, from 24 inches I think] I was surprised but very pleased after she tightened my lacings she instructed me to stay in my house coat instead of getting dressed, and she returned a few minutes later and again tightened them. I was startled how harshly she had to pull to obtain this and how tautly it binds me, but love the sight of my waist now... We went to breakfast at a neighbor's house and I was honored by the comments of my mother's friends about my lady like appearance and poise...

I do wish mother would release my shoulder straps at least some times, as holding my shoulders back in such a stiff position is causing some pain in my neck and shoulders. I have asked her repeatedly but she insures me it is for my best interest, that I grow straight and tall... At times I long to run and frolic as I used to, but I completely love being treated as a lady and the acceptance of everyone...

Sept 24, 1883

Today has been a rather uncomfortable day. We aggravated mother a lunch and after a harsh scolding she laced each of us into our correction corsets. I had only observed my sisters being disciplined with them until now, but now know I do not wish to repeat the experience soon... As soon as mother began to lace me in I could tell the corsets would be very confining, reaching from very low below my hip bones to pinching my armpits. Just when I thought she was done tightening my laces she instructed me to stretch to my toes and grasp as high as possible on her bedpost then harshly laced me down another 2 inches... We are being on our best behavior hoping mother will not force us to remain in these overnight...

Sept 25, 1883

...These corsets are much more confining then I could have imagined my entire torso is immobilized and I feel fatigued after an almost sleepless night... With any exertion I feel as if my breath has been robbed almost to feeling faint and sitting is very difficult as the busk pinches into my groin and ribs [a very unclear entry, sorry]

Sept 26, 1883

We were all most thankful this morning when mother finally removed our correction corsets, a bath and getting into my regular corsets felt most wonderful. Although I feel most humbled by my time so tightly laced I was thrilled that mother, almost by accident laced me down to 20 inches... As much as I have longed for sleeping stays like my sisters wear I am reconsidering how badly I want then now as retiring laced in the correction corsets was most uncomfortable.

Oct 10,1883

My good friend Francis arrived today, and will be living with us for two months while her parents are traveling.... I have had to chastise myself several times for the jealousy I have felt toward her, she has only had her stays slightly longer then I but has already reduced her waist 5 inches [I think to 19 inches] and now has very mature hips. She is also permitted to wear night stays which she gives credit for her wonderful figure... I hope mother is relenting regarding night stays, on information that Francis sleeps in them she seems to be reflecting...

Oct 11, 1883

I think mother detected my rebuffed feelings last night when she helped Francis dress for bed... she was overly considerate toward me... Francis did express memories indicating sleeping without stays is more relaxing but considers it a small tolerance for the benefits...

Oct 16, 1883

Francis and I errored this morning and angered mother greatly. We had gone for a stroll along the river but quickly became winded as we walked so we loosened each other's laces. Much to our disappointment we did not have the strength to draw each other in properly and mother immediately noticed this upon our return home. Although we tried to explain we meant it innocently mother was much more angered then I could have imagined. She scolded us very frankly both for disrobing outdoors and for tampering with our stays, then caned us most harshly. I felt thoroughly humbled by this correction but mother then laced us most cruelly into our correction corsets, drawing our laces until the corsets met in back. She also fashioned a piece of straw into the knot of our laces [this is very unclear, but seems to be a small stick woven or inserted into the knot] and informed each of us its disturbance would result in the harshest of punishments.

Oct 18, 1883

I was most pleasantly surprised this afternoon when a parcel was delivered containing my sleeping stays... I am very hopeful mother will remove my correction corsets shortly, not only because of the continued discomfort but such that I may begin wearing them... I indeed wish we had not angered mother so much... she thankfully released us this morning but only long enough to bathe and immediately relaced us. I am finding myself becoming light headed less then I had, but even the exertion of climbing the stairs takes my breath.

Oct 23, 1883

Francis and I were most pleased today, when we were about to dress for supper mother released us from our correction corsets... my regular stays feel wonderfully light and almost loose on my waist despite mother lacing me down to 19 inches... although we now indeed know better mother proceeded to weave a piece of straw into our knots and repeated her caution regarding tampering with it.

Oct 24,1883

I find myself fatigued despite how early in the evening it is... although everyone assures me I will soon adjust I find it most difficult to sleep in my night stays they are much more restrictive then I envisioned.... it is of comfortably soft fabric and is absent of shoulder braces but is much longer then either Francis or my sisters... the constriction about my hips and derriere is rather severe [this is a little unclear], such that mother had to help me arise from my bed....

Oct 28, 1883

Francis's grandmother visited today and dispensed most wonderful news... She is a most beautiful lady... with one of the narrowest waists I have seen [translation loose here] her dress flows most magnificently from her waist which she confided to Francis is 14 inches... and moves with poise of nobility. She has not seen Francis in her stays before and although she complimented both of us regarding our ladylike appearance she criticize Francis regarding her posture... Francis is to attend a dance honoring her grandfather's retirement [I think] and I was requested to accompany her... Mother has been commissioned to order appropriate garments for Francis and pledged to immediately.

Oct 29, 1883

Today was a very full but sincerely wonderful day. Immediately after breakfast we visited the corsetiere then the dressmaker and were occupied well into the afternoon... After a surprisingly intense measuring session we both were thrilled when mother ordered each of us evening [party?] corsets and after much pleading mother approved mine be fitted to 16 inches although she clearly stated I will not be so laced yet.. as was Francis's. Francis was shocked that mother ordered shoulder bracing also... The corsetiere recommended our other stays be returned for alterations to adjust for my growth and will have a courier collect the first of them tomorrow... Although fitting at the dressmaker was fatiguingly lengthy we were enthralled by our treatment I felt more ladylike [mature?] then ever before, and mother approved our choices including tailored waists.

Nov 2, 1883

I was somewhat dismayed this morning as mother laced me into my correction corsets although my behavior has been proper... but she explained my only regular stays will be collected for alteration today and must be available... thankfully she only laced me down to my normal waist and replaced them with my newly altered regular stays when we dressed supper.

Nov 5, 1883

I am adjusting to the alterations made to my corsets but I am still feeling some soreness in my ribs, but my sisters assure me this is normal and will soon subside... I am thrilled with my appearance in them...

Nov 7, 1883

Today has been very full but most wonderful I feel much of the elation still... we returned to the corsetiere who most masterfully laced us into our evening corsets... and deposited my correction corset for alteration... we then visited the dressmaker and were dressed into our gowns for a final fitting where I felt so wonderfully adult being attended by three ladies [a little unclear]... I was thrilled that mother authorized my dress be prepared for a 17 inch waist.... Francis and I felt most fortunate too... [it seems her sisters engaged in some argument just as they left the room ] mother scolded most bluntly them and laced them harshly into their correction corsets...

Nov 9,1883

Mother allowed us to wear our evening corsets to supper and until we dressed for bed... this is most wonderful I love the feel of them and the flower of my hips... Mother laces these somewhat tighter then our regular corsets, I wish she would see fit to tighten me further but I accept her wisdom... Francis is somewhat discomforted at present all of her stays have been fitted with shoulder bracing which she finds unpleasant...

Nov 11, 1883

I felt honored greatly today as did Francis mother and my sisters spent a great amount of time... mother laced me down to 18 inches and dressed me in my party dress... I was completely thrilled at how wonderful I looked almost completely a lady [a bit hard to translate, I hope it correct]... I was surprised how heavy the garments were but a slight exchange for the wonderful experience... Francis looks most flattering I must be very careful to repress my jealousy of her mature appearance...

Nov 13, 1883

We had a most exciting day... mother laced me into my evening corsets directly after lunch and when we dressed for supper laced me down to 17 inches and helped me put on my party dress... I was startled how tightly she set my laces to achieve this... despite our pleads mother only allowed us to stay in our dresses most briefly...

Nov 14, 1883

This has been a most strange day... mother laced Francis and I into our evening stays before lunch lacing us down most tautly... after our lessons we were dressed in our petticoats [?] and mother and my sisters instructed us in poise and walking [a bit unclear]... we were embarrassed too father arrived home early to find all of us in the parlor attired only in our stays and petticoats...

Nov 16, 1883

Today has been I am sure the most exciting day of my life I am sure I will not sleep any... Directly after breakfast Francis grandmother's coach collected us...Two wonderfully muscular coachmen hoisted us effortlessly into the coach and we were escorted to the manor in the company of a strict but understanding maid [I'm not sure if this is a governess (mentor) or servant, sorry]... upon our arrival we were assigned a huge chamber, assisted to refresh by three servants including the lady that assists Francis's grandmother... before we presented ourselves to her... Dressing for the evening was exciting but much more involved then expected [several remarks about being bathed and pampered by servants, etc]... our lacings were adjusted three times before deemed acceptable then our dresses altered about our waists while we wore them... I know I will never experience a more wonderful experience then that of this evening how I wish mother was here to witness such... I felt flushed repeatedly by the attentive stares of the other guests [a little hard to relate her feelings] and was saddened when we were sent to bed so early... [this was condensed from a two page entry]

Nov 18, 1883

I have felt most relaxed now appreciating the comforts of my bedroom and the warmth of my family including mothers gentle touch... mother has agreed to allow me to maintain my 17 inch waist during my waking hours but was correct as always regarding her demands to loosen them to 18 inches for sleeping... I wish she would permit my wear of more tailored garments but accept her judgment...

Nov 23, 1883

Mother entertained two of her friends for breakfast today and although it was slightly flustering I was honored by mother's praise of my figure and the ladies reactions... after a careful inspection each of them complimented me highly...

Nov 24, 1883

[somewhat rearranged and condensed for clarity] This evening was exciting but slightly fatiguing... we attended the theater [I think] we were allowed to wear our evening corsets which mother laced very tightly... although I love the feel of these corsets and the ladylike posture it imposes I found to be painful to remain seated for such an extended period, mother sternly chastised my restlessness... I found it necessary to seek the support of father's arm when leaving, but found it most wonderful when a handsome [actually the more correct translation would be beautiful] carriage man grasp my waist and hoisted me into the carriage.

Nov 27, 1883

Today was both uncomfortable and disappointing I am attempting to repress my unkind feelings... Francis and I were in the room when my sisters began bickering but, despite our assuring her we were there innocently mother scolded everyone then laced us into our correction corsets... I angered mother further by my rebuffs which she expressed by lacing me down brutally quickly completely taking my breath away and immobilizing my torso most uncomfortably rigidly ... I am being careful to maintain my best behavior hopeful that mother will remove these before I retire.

Nov 29, 1883

I felt most humiliated this morning mother released everyone but me from their correction corsets, choosing to punish me additionally for my insubordination which I now understand was completely improper... I was allowed to bathe but immediately relaced into it...

Dec 3, 1883

Today was a most splendid day but rather exhausting... directly after breakfast we visited the dressmaker to be measured for three new dresses [apparently two for upcoming holidays, another for a dinner (party?, previously discussed) celebrating Francis' parents return)]... mother was most wonderful in supporting our choices and allowing one with a tailored waist... I was further honored by the dressmakers treatment... when I changed into my evening corset she tightened me with elaborate detail adjusting my laces several times... she suggested I should be tightened to 16 inches but despite my pleads mother only took under advisement...

Dec 4, 1883

This morning Mother and I visited the corsetiere who performed a detailed examination of my figure in and out of my stays... I savored the masterful way the corsetiere laced me back into my stays but was disappointed that my shoulder braces were adjusted [tightened?]... The corsetiere conferred with mother at length out of my presence [a little hard to translate].. While we were waiting for mother we witnessed [apparently another teen, this passage a little unclear] being most harshly laced by two other corsetieres, while she grasp an overhead bar they leveraged her laces almost brutally despite her painful groans... after brief pauses this process was repeated three times until her mother granted approval.. although her waist was wonderfully narrowed she clearly was in pain having to be assisted to a seat... We think [I believe referring to her sisters and herself] mother is reflecting, this afternoon she strangely summoned me into her chambers to disrobe, after which she very closely examined my stays for an extended time...

Dec 7, 1883

I felt sweeping honored this afternoon mother summoned me for a most mature and frank dialogue speaking to me in a very adult manner... [I will attempt to make this as accurate as possible while still understandable] she is willing to experiment with reducing my waist to 16 inches but reserved the right to terminate this if she has any concerns regarding my health, demanding I unquestioningly respect her judgment... Beginning tomorrow she will tighten me toward 16 inches for part of the day..

Dec 8, 1883

I have had to be very careful to conceal the soreness in my neck and back from mother but I am sure this is from the adjustment to my shoulder braces... This afternoon mother tightened my laces more severely then I had expected, requiring me to stretch and grasp her bed post as if being laced into my correction corsets... although I love the appearance of my figure I found this much more confining then I had expected, the closeness of my corsets in back is very immobilizing and I felt some relief when she loosened my laces when we dressed for supper... Francis is rather jealous but gracious wishing mother would allow her further reduction...

Dec 11, 1883

This morning was most wonderful but fatiguing... mother laced us into our evening corsets and tightened me to 16 inches for the first time before breakfast. She allowed us to retain in them until we dressed for supper but loosened my laces before lunch... We returned to the dressmaker for another fitting of our new dresses which are completely beautiful... wearing the one tailored to my waist will be the most magnificent evening of my life... I was distressed slightly at how exhausted I became during the walk but I think hid this from mother... we were honored by the wonderful attention received from the dressmaker attending us made me feel very ladylike...

Dec 14, 1883

I felt most pleased mother allowed me to remain fully laced down for the entire day... I found it to be moderately uncomfortable toward the evening but find this a small price for my success... I felt slight relief when dressed in my sleeping stays...

Dec 17, 1883

Francis parents returned today... they expressed a wonderful degree of praise regarding our poise and appearance. Her mother examined each of us repeatedly expressing a degree of disbelief at our maturity... Francis parents further announced having arranged for Francis to attend a boarding school next year to which Francis was excited but somewhat apprehensive... Father startled us too requesting more information regarding the school...

Dec 18, 1883

[this entry has been rearranged for clarity] Mother hosted a breakfast to honor Francis mother after which Francis returned home... which I found rather sorrowful I will miss her constant companionship... Mother laced us most carefully before breakfast adjusting my stays twice before approval... although I had to rebuff my impatience I found it worthwhile considering the high praise expressed by all the adults attending.

Dec 22, 1883

Yesterday was a most full day and last night the banquet [party? for Francis parents] was more magnificent then I could have dreamed but I still feel fatigued [There was not an entry on Dec 21, very unusual. This lengthy entry has been condensed]... we were curious regarding how mother loosely mother laced us for breakfast but were soon pleased considering our labors [a description of labors preparing the banquet]... we rushed home and mother and Miss G [apparently an old spinster or widow neighbor] laced and dressed us for the evening with the most splendid detail... adjusting our corsets and altering our dresses repeatedly I could almost fantasize being dressed for court [a little hard to translate]... my presentation was equally wonderful I felt almost as mother's peer I could feel many eyes scrutinizing my figure and poise... [Without going into detail her father departed for 3 days, returning on Dec 29th]

Dec 30, 1883

Mother and father startled me today announcing I will be sent to attend boarding school with Francis next year... my sisters are graciously accepting but I can detect their jealousness insisting I journal ever detail... I feel honored by [her parent's] bestowment in my future but do feel in some quandary regarding living away from home...

Dec 31, 1883

Mother and I shopped extensively such that occupied the entire morning [apparently clothes shopping etc]... the corsetiere after peruse of the specifications mother presented [a little unclear seems to be a set of specifications from the school] stated only my sleeping stays would be acceptable after alteration and most carefully measured me for new corsets...

Jan 1, 1884

Mother laced us extremity carefully into our evening corsets for our luncheon [I think, or a midday party at Francis house] then honoring me by praising my appearance highly... but I was embarrassed by my puerile appearance compared to Francis wonderfully mature figure... We are excited about our school adventure but Francis confided her school corsets are confining depriving her breath and movement rather uncharitably...

Jan 3, 1884

I find myself longing for the return of my sleeping stays such that I can more restfully slumber in their soft fabric...

Jan 4, 1884

[a discussion of more shopping] the corsetiere treated me with wonderful detail carefully lacing each of my new corsets, rejecting one for its poor fit... they have a wider busk and are of thicker material and heavier boning but will allow for a further reduction... the corsetiere conferred they would be somewhat unforgiving requiring adjustment to be comfortable, but she assured me I would prize their appearance.. as I was laced into them I instantly felt increased pressure on my ribs. I was disappointed I was not permitted to wear these home but respect the corsetiere's advice to adjust to them during limited activity... just the partial tightening into my new correction corsets [a little unclear] was sufficient to remind me to temper my behavior It is of much thicker calf skin and an extremely stiff banding around its upper and lower edge more stiffly and has almost harsh boning... these are capable of even further waist reduction then the others... We witnessed [another young lady] being fitted to her bridal corsets, I am sure the most wonderful garment I have ever seen as she was laced down the care with which it was fitted provided a perfect contour... the detailed embroidery and lace adornment were majestic beyond words...

Jan 5, 1884

Today has been very discomforting my new stays will require more adjustment then I expected... I was disappointed that mother laced me only to 17 inches before breakfast but soon understood her wisdom as they began pushing unforgivingly on my ribs with any movement and demand a most erect posture to prevent my shoulder braces cutting into me ... mother adjusted my laces responding to my faintness [I'm not sure faintness or light headed]... I love the look of my elongated waist [also unclear] but was pleased when mother laced me into my sleeping stays early...

Jan 8, 1884

I feel somewhat elevated I [a little unclear] remained fully laced all day and able to perform most normal activities with only slight discomfort... mother considered further tightening my laces when we dressed for supper but chose not to. Although I was slightly disappointed I had to concur with her decision and am most thrilled by how ladylike they make me appear... Tomorrow we will revisit the corsetiere and I feel fairly confident I can distance it successfully... [some statements within this entry regarding her sisters wanting the newer style corsets and mother agreeing (relenting?), a reflection of fashion fads of the day?]

Jan 9, 1884

... after the corsetiere measured my sisters she disrobed me and most carefully inspected then adjusted my new corsets with great expertise... reducing my waist slightly more while making the much more comfortable, further instructing mother in properly tightening them [this entry is a little unclear]... she greatly honored me by her praise of my flowering figure and poise treating me most wonderfully adult like...

Jan 14, 1884

Today was full and fatiguing... after breakfast we visited the corsetiere [apparently for her sisters' fitting] and the dressmaker... the corsetiere advised mother to reduce my waist further which honored me but I feel concerns regarding the upcoming discomfort... after which we visited Francis house [a discussion of travel plans etc]... I felt great sympathy regarding Francis discomfort having been confined in her correction corsets by her mother... her description of their harsh confinement I found very disquieting reminding me to maintain proper behavior...

Jan 18, 1884

I hope I will be able to sleep tonight despite my weariness I feel far too excited to rest well... after spending the majority of the day packing [a little unclear] mother laced us into our evening corsets very carefully for dinner [seemingly a small party, I think only for the family]

Jan 19, 1884

Today has been most exhausting but exciting... our travel was most lengthy and taxing upon my shoulders and back, toward the end of the journey my stays relaying each bounce of the carriage to them... The Academy is more enchanting then I had imagined a stately manor gloriously placed in a beautiful wooded knoll.. provided I am up to the challenge of its protocols I find my treatment most lady like and have been honored it... [a little hard to translate, and lengthy so I am summarizing]... after refreshing ourselves mother and I presented ourselves to the Headmistress who instantly impressed me with her decorum and splendid figure which she conveyed is over an inch smaller then the academy's standard... she assured me I would soon obtain this standard... My chambers which I share with three other girls are quiet acceptable... after we unpacked I found them most comforting following mothers departure... I found it curious as I unpacked our proctor [I think] removed my correction corsets from my possession...[there seems to be two staff levels (from further reading) the Headmistress (Principle?) and proctors (teachers or governesses)]

Jan 20, 1884

[this entry rearranged for clarity]...I am relaxing somewhat despite the soreness of my shoulders and spine... after extended sitting during church and music today in my evening corsets all day... which were tightened more harshly then I am accustom my sleeping stay are most welcome.... I must learn to adjust to customs here... This morning we laced each other into our corsets [I'm sure her room mates, she makes reference to older girls tightening her] after which we stretched to grasp our trapeze [I think actually a lacing bar] until a proctor adjusts our laces to her approval...

Jan 21, 1884

I felt honored by the attention I received all day but was cautioned my training will not be without discomfort, a statement I am finding to be accurate... being tightened while stretched to my trapeze imposes a most exacting posture for any level of comfort... but is providing wonderfully rapid reduction of my waist... the proctor assured I can achieve a 15 in waist within the week but I find myself longing for mother's gentle touch...

Jan 23, 1884

Today has been rather bleak, after being reprimanded repeatedly and cautioned regarding my poise and restlessness I am pleased to be in the shelter of my chambers without having received sanctions... Early on I was scolded after objecting to the unreasonable time I had to grasp my trapeze and later the proctor chastised me harshly and issued a caution for fidgeting [I think, or tampering] with my stays ignoring my assurance it was due to soreness and again for squirming in my seat...

Jan 24, 1884

[this entry rearranged for clarity] I errored seriously angering my proctor for which I was humbled with more dreadful experience then I ever would have imagined... after a harsh scolding from the Headmistress I was ushered into her anteroom [I think] where my hands were lashed to a trapeze and I was drawn up such that I could not feel any weight on my feet... after being harshly laced into my correction corsets then left suspended for awhile and for three additional adjustments until my waist was reduced to 14 inches... these corsets are most terrible painfully biting into my chest and armpits even when attempting to take a full breath... I was greatly relieved when released into my sleeping stays...

Jan 26, 1884

This morning was most exciting... after extra efforts and adjustment I was laced down to 15 inches and am completely thrilled with my ladylike appearance and fell only moderate discomfort... directly after breakfast I was summoned by the Headmistress who carefully surveyed my corsets and appearance before grandly congratulating me [this seems to be the school's standard] and read to me a most praising letter to she would post to mother... at lunch she announced my success publicly which drew wonderful applause and praise...

"The Diary of a Young Lady"

By Gary Q. Regarding the diaries' origin, my family found them shortly after the death of my mother last winter as we sorted her estate. My grandmother immigrated to the USA bringing her mother's diaries' with her in the early 20th century, how they were passed through the family is unknown until our recent discovery of them.

The actual diaries are 27 volumes 19 of which were in mostly readable condition. Sadly they were not as well preserved as they could have been so we had them professionally photocopied to archive same, a copy of which I am working from. Perhaps this helps to explain the gaps and loose translations I sometimes offer, firstly French is a very weak second language for me and further acid contained in paper and age has taken its toll on the documents.

I found them of interest mostly as a long time student of history, finding an interest or fascination with Gothic/Victorian times. During this study I have found corsets and the regime of tight lacing most interesting.







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