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Excerpts from a Diary

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November 12 1834

I am overjoyed, today Mr Van Wettering asked me to marry him, and at last I will be free of the oppressive restraint of my Uncle. Tomorrow he is going to ask my Uncle for my hand. I do so hope he says yes, as I don’t think I could bear it to see the hope of release and then it be dashed away from me.

November 13 1834

Oh joy, my Uncle has agreed to our marriage, he came and told me so, but he was not happy, but as he said, if Mr Van Wettering was happy to take such a recalcitrant and troublesome wench off his hands, and put up with her disobedience he would grudgingly allow it. But he had made it plain to my fiancée that I would be trouble and he would need to discipline me in short order. Mr Van Wettering came and soothed me. He said that if I was a good and obedient wife and acted at all times in a manner becoming a well brought up young lady he would have no reason to punish me.

November 16 1834

My Uncle is still not pleased, he is now complaining about the cost of my trousseau, and we have only six weeks to go before the marriage. He has agreed to pay for the wedding dress and has said I must look my best for the day. To that end I have been corsetted day and night in my stiffest corset at 35cm (14″) and all day in my ballet boots. The worst is, that he has declared I am too fat and must lose some weight before the wedding, to that end I am on a bread and water diet and at night I am sleeping in three layers of my leather sleeping bags, each laced to the utmost, under 4 layers of blankets and roaring fire in my bedroom, I wake in the morning dripping in perspiration. Thank goodness I have only six weeks left to go before I am free.

November 30th 1834

Mr Van Wettering has shamed my Uncle into paying for my trousseau; we are to visit the dressmakers tomorrow to discuss my new wardrobe and other necessities. He has made a list of the effects that I should insist on :-

The very latest fashions (as in the East Indies I will not get new ones for a very long time) Hardwearing materials with strong liners and double stitched seams (as they have got to last) Veiled sun bonnets (to protect my skin from sea air on the voyage and the East Indies sun)

These requests seem to be in good judgement, but when I mentioned that I would be glad of the release from my steel corsets and the steeple heels, he looked so dejected. He admitted when pressed that it had been my waspwaist when laced to the utmost as it was today and my neat turned foot, that had so attracted him to me and he would so like me to continue if I could. I could not turn him down and to tell the truth, after two weeks of continuous wear at 35cm (14″) and due to my diet I have lost a stone, I think I could manage. And he also assured me that I would never have to walk far in the Indies as carriage would be available to me at all times.

November 31st 1834

Today we visited Mrs Van Ousten the dressmaker, to order my trousseau, she has declared that with so little time it will be a difficult order to fulfil. Heeding Mr Van Wetterings list, I have insisted on the very latest fashions. The dressmaker then came out with some fashion plates from Paris, they showed that the beret sleeves were now even larger than my current dresses and hats of an even greater width. The collars were shown as higher and tighter and every design was festooned with frills and furbelows.

Mrs Van Ousten tried to dissuade me from such extravagances, suggesting that they were unsuitable for foreign climes, would be difficult to achieve in such a short period and finally that they would be very costly. This last remark spurred me on. I declared that my Uncle had agreed to pay for the wardrobe and he would be very affronted if I did not have the best. After that, things went a deal smoother and the styles were finalised, morning dresses, day dresses, evening dresses all in the very latest fashion, I shall be a credit to my new husband. Later on Mrs Van Ousten later tried to then suggest some pale flimsy fabrics, she insisted were suitable for the tropical climes and heeding Mr Van Wetterings suggestion, I ignored her suggestions and ordered thicker fabrics and then insisted they be lined with her thickest strongest lining material and double stitched seams. When the subject of sun bonnets hats came up, I again insisted that they be capacious with a stiffened coiffe and thick veils to protect my skin. Mrs Van Ousten agreed with all this and finished her long list.

Editor :- In 1834 the size beret sleeves was reducing and as such we assume that the fashion plates shown to Gabrielle were cartoons as above left.

December 2nd 1834

Today we visited the stay makers to order corsets, I tried a little to dissuade him from the rigid steel boned corsets, but he looked so unhappy that I had to desist, so unhappy was he that I even relented when he asked that the stays be made longer top and bottom to give me a more womanly figure and when he enquired of any design that could make my waist look smaller, the corsetiere suggested heavier side boning canlı bahis to reshape my waist into a more oval shape and I said nothing. These little things are as nothing to be free of my Uncle. I have even agreed to an Austrian training belt to help reshape my waist, I am not sure what one of this but I think it cannot be so bad.

December 7th 1834

These last few days have been awful, four days ago I was getting ready to visit the boot makers, and I was obviously to buoyant and happy for my Uncles liking. For the last few days, he has allowed me from the house unbound, but that morning I was singing a happy tune, not loud, as I can still not manage even half a breath in my rigid stays and for some reason he took umbrage, he ordered, Lissa my maid to lace my corset fully closed for its whole length which left me gasping for air, bind my arms up double, attach my false ones, draw my shoulder brace fully back, fill my mouth with a kerchief and cover it with a full mask, then a heavy veil which restricted my vision to nought and then my most tunnel brimmed bonnet, capped above with my largest hat ( which is an unbridled confection that I will be glad to see gone). Along with the ballet heels and a short ankle chain I was totally helpless, mute and nearly blind as Mr Van Wettering escorted me from the house and it took an age for me to reach the carriage with my unbalanced, miniscule steps. We exited the carriage half a street away from the stay makers as he wished to show me the new desk he ordered to be taken back to the East Indies. I tried to indicate that I wished to continue in the carriage, but as I was mute, and could not signal with my bound arms, I had to follow, when he lead me down the street, the walk of only 80 yards took us over half an hour and I must have looked a sight on the busy thoroughfare, but I could not tell as all I could see were vague outlines due to the heavy veil and tunnel brim. At the boot makers, Mr Van Wettering had to conduct the proceedings and although I had agreed the day before that slightly higher heels would improve the look of my new dresses to offset the greater width, on the advice of the boot maker he has ordered ballet heels with a 75mm (3″) platform built into the toe. My dear fiancée seemed unsure of this decision, I tried to signal no, but to no avail and when the boot maker stated that it was the fashion. My fiancée then agreed telling the boot maker that I was adamant that I have the very latest fashions when I left Holland. I cannot blame him he was not too know that I will hardly be able to manage a 75mm (3″) step in such prodigious footwear. He also ordered what the bootmaker said was the very latest thing, bedroom boots, these are ballet boots with no heel at all and long curved toes. At least they are only for use in the bedroom and I wont have to walk on them.

Editor :- There is some evidence of ballet boots being in fashion in the 19th century as can be seen from the 1851 white ballet boots shown and the 1890 gold boots shoes middle and the 1890 boots left. But to say that they were fashionable in the 1830’s seems in doubt. Those mentioned above would seem to be a special case for Gabrielle.

We then left the boot makers and the carriage was still where we had got down from it. Or so I soon found out, because I could discern nothing. So we had to walk all the way back along the street. Mr Van Wettering asked me to hurry as much as I was able, as he said that my Uncle had asked that I be prompt for lunch. He grasped my arm and forced me along and I had to follow as fast the ballet heels and the ankle chain would let me, this was not any speed at all. All this activity made me perspire and my limited breaths came in rasps through my nose. I felt it was not my fiancées fault as he repeated that I should try not be late and incur my Uncles wrath once again. It was to no avail, lunch was already served when we returned. My Uncle was livid and took it out on Mr Van Wettering and barred him from the house.

After lunch my Uncle then directed his wrath at me, he led me to the sitting room and ordered Lissa to undress me to my smalls, leaving only my boots, and my arm binders and mask. He then instructed her to fetch my longest and heaviest corset, I guessed what was to come and moved to one corner of room, my Uncle opened a cupboard and removed the post and screwed it into the floor and then I warily backed up to it. Lissa returned and proceeded to lace me into the corset, with the 3ft high post inside, she laced up down from ankle to neck and back again until I was totally rigid and gasping for air, she was about to tie off when, my Uncle pushed her aside and laced again, hauling on the laces with all his might. I fainted but could not fall, supported as I was by the wooden post. I was revived by smelling salts and found myself fully dressed again in my most sumptuous day dress, and a massive wig had been placed over my mask. With some regret I saw that my Uncles wrath had also extended to my Aunt and she stood in the opposite corner equally trammelled. Her waist was the smallest I had seen bahis siteleri it for a long time, and from the pressure at my waist mine must have smaller than my current 35cm (15″), I would guess at 31 cm (13½”) although I never found out for sure and soon after I fainted again. Later that day I was released, cleansed, fed on bread and water and closed up for bed. This horrible behaviour continued everyday for my Aunt and me for the next three days and I have just been released. The most embarrassing thing was that today Mr Van Wettering gained entry and remonstrated with my Uncle, who took great delight in showing my fiancée, how I was restrained making him watch as each of the items was stripped off in front of him. When my corset was finally unlaced and Lissa started undoing the extended busk, I was glad that Mr Van Wettering could stand no more and left, before he saw me in my undervest. I am not sure when my Uncle will let us meet again, he surely can keep us apart until the wedding.

December 10th 1834

I have been as quiet as church mouse, for the last three days, lest I incur my Uncles wrath, I have been released from the pole and long corset has been put away, he seems in a better mood, but has still ordered that I pass the days with arms bound, shoulders braced to the utmost (I am sure that my shoulder blades are touching) and my highest posture collar. The stays have eased to a pair that reaches only to my thighs, and my mask is gone. I can stand or lie but sitting is out of the question. Meals are taken standing as is writing this diary at the end of the day. For some reason my Aunt has not suffered much relief, she has been released from the pole but continues, gagged and masked with a monstrous red wig perched atop her head.

December 12th 1834

Something has happened, I distantly heard my fiancée’s voice at the front door and raised voices. Some time later my uncle gives orders to Lissa , she then bathed me, and dressed me in what could be termed normal clothes, arms unbound, a shorter corset laced to on 38cm(16″), no brace, no collar and no ballet boots. My hair was combed and arranged in a delightful arrangement and I was taken to the sitting room. My Uncle was waiting with large box of fancies and a mug of sweet chocolate. He muttered something about rumours of starving me and stomped out. I got Lissa to bring me a book and spent a leisurely afternoon eating the sweets and drinking the sweet chocolate, which was refilled three times.

December 13th 1834

My Uncles punishment has wasted almost a week and only two to go before the wedding with so much to do, today I had to go for fittings at the dressmakers, stay makers and the boot makers, such a busy day. The sweets and the chocolates have kept coming and I keep eating them, as I am ravenous after my harsh diet. Mr Van Wettering does not seem welcome in the house any more and he met me at the door to escort me on my calls.

The first call was to the stay makers and a pair of my new stays were fitted, they felt so tight, the new design is to give me a more oval shape and was so solid at the sides, that it could not be bent, and as I had a dress fitting later they tried to lace me down to 35cm (15″) with no time to ‘bed’ the corsets in. After fainting three times, they had to admit defeat at 39cm (16½”), I could not believe they felt so tight and even had the stay maker lay my old current corset over the new to show that they were the same waist size. I could only manage to leave the shop with the aid of smelling salts and the much needed support of Mr Van Wetterings arm, with the stay maker apologising and assuring me that I would be used the new shape in the shortest of time.

At the boot makers, my foot was levered into the tight boots with extraordinary heels and platform toes that I was sure I would not be able to walk in them. I could not bear to remonstrate with Mr Van Wettering at their ludicrous height as I was so grateful to him for the harrying of my Uncle that had gained my release from my Uncles wrath. I could hardly stand on those incredible heels and my toes were mercilessly pinched. I exited the shop and was again glad of Mr Van Wetterings strong arm as I hobbled like an old woman from the door. I am afraid I fainted again as we reached the carriage from the discomfort of the shoes and the unrelenting pressure of the oval shaped corset which was forcibly rearranging my torso and my innards.

The third visit was to Mrs Van Oustens and as we slowly crossed the salon to the fitting room I was gratified to see Marta the vendeuse, showing a costume in the style of my fashion plates, she looked so elegant, a very high collar emphasised her long neck and the beret sleeves were just enormous, making her tiny waist look even smaller above the huge skirts, and from her tiny steps I also judged she is wearing the highest of heels. I noticed the dress she wore had a deep décolleté, but still came up from her shoulders to a high collar with a stiff wide frill, Marta also wore atop her much curled head, one of the new enormous hats, that I had seen bahis şirketleri in the fashion plates, Mrs Van Ousten said that it was the style that they be as wide as the beret sleeves. Mr Van Wettering commented that it was a very comely oufit and that the collar was most tasteful. Mrs Van Ousten had only managed to finish two of the morning outfits, and I was fitted for both of them, she tutted when she saw the new shape of my waist and the 1½” gap at the back, she immediately said that she would have to redo all the bodices and estimate the fit for a 15″ waist. The morning dress was heavy, made as it was from a heavy sateen and many extra petticoats to fill out the massive skirts, I found the bodice, sleeves and collar very stiff, at which Mrs Van Ousten pointed out that I had ordered the strongest lining and double stitched seams. The enormous beret sleeves were even stiffer and had a rigid under structure, Mrs Van Ousten said this was the boning to support the large shape. I had tried to move my to reach upwards and found I had very little movement. I was going to say that they were totally unfeasible, when my fiancée said that I looked wonderful and would be the best dressed women in the Indies. Mrs Van Ousten also said that these sleeves caused problems, but a lady of fashion coped and that several she knew, had purchased knives and forks 1ft long so that they would be able to eat. My fiancée thought this a capital solution and said he would arrange such items.

Seeing that I was in a fait accompli, I thought I would at least get my own way in one direction and noting my fiancée’s approval of Marta costume, instructed Mrs Van Ousten that all the evening dresses were to be provided with high collar and extreme decolette of Marta’s outfit. My fiancée commented that Marta’s collar was indeed very fetching, but Mrs Van Ousten put it that Marta had a long slim neck that suited that style and that I surely would not be able to manage it, My fiancée said that it did not matter if I could not accommodate the fashion, but it was such a pity. I dearly did not wish to let down my saviour and decided then and there that I would have the same collar on all my outfits, if my beloved found it so appealing. So brooking no arguments from Mrs Van Ousten I have ordered all my dresses with exactly the same collar. Now I must lie down as my new stays are gripping me so tight I feel my insides even at 16½”, must be crushed, but I fear I cannot loose them as I have to be laced to 15″ in them when we board the ship for the Indies. I have had to ask Lissa to take my new boots off as my toes were on fire, I fear it will be many weeks before I am any where comfortable with them.

December 15th 1834

Horrors, although Mr Van Wettering has only been able to visit for a short time today, I fear he has angered my Uncle again in some way, as when he had left my ordered Lissa to dress put me in a full mask with the enormous black horsehair wig. And then on examining me he was not satisfied with the fit of the wig atop the mask as it also held my tightly bound hair underneath it. He then ordered Lissa to take of the mask and my beautiful hair was shorn completely off. He has left me bald. He was then angry again once he realised he would have to purchase some more wigs for the wedding and the trip.

December 16th 1834

The wigmaker has visited today and my uncle has ordered several in a variety of violent colours in frivolous styles, there will be no way I will be able to conceal the fact that I am wearing a wig. Mrs Van Ousten called with an evening dress to try on, it was most becoming except for the new collar style, which I had specified, this was loose and very plain, not at all like the style that Marta had showed and my fiancée had so admired. I sent her away chastening her to get the collars as I had asked and to be quick about it as we leave next week. My Uncle seems a little guilty due to my shorn hair and has ordered that all my favourite foods and sweets be made available to me, I have eaten so much that I have had to ask Lissa to loosen my stays another inch. I also am slightly worried about the décolleté of the evening gown that I tried onto today, although bar the collar it was most fetching, it only just covered my breast buttons (nipples — Ed) and displayed a fair amount of bosom. I have been struggling with ballet boots and feel sure I will not be able to manage them.

I have asked that Mr Van Wettering allow me to wear some lower heels, he said that there must be something wrong, as he was sure other ladies coped with ease. This afternoon we visited the boot makers and as we were waiting another customer was being fitted into some boots of the same design as mine, once they were fitted, she stood with ease and at first walked and then even waltzed around the shop on her vertiginous heels with out so much as stumble. I was going to say to the boot maker that they were impossible to wear but after that display could only ask for advice. He has suggested that I wear them much tighter laced so that the support comes from the whole boot and not just the toes and has also packed the toes with lambs wool. Following this advice I have found more comfortable but no easier to stand or walk in, at all times I feel I am about to fall and must constantly alter my stride to cope.

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