I found this little gem of a book on fashion titled "The Freaks of Fashion"©1870, below is the Preface. There are tons of illustrations in the book, along with all kinds of tidbits. Click the title for a link to the book in google books.
The subject which we have here treated is a sort of figurative battle-field, where fierce contests have for ages been from time to time waged; and, notwithstanding the determined assaults of the attacking hosts, the contention and its cause remain pretty much as they were at the commencement of the war. "We in the matter remain strictly neutral, merely performing the part of the public's * own correspondent," making it our duty to gather together such extracts from despatches, both ancient and modern, as may prove interesting or important, to take note of the vicissitudes of war, mark its various phases, and, in fine, to do our best to lay clearly before our readers the historical facts—experiences and arguments—relating to the much-discussed "Corset question?
As most of our readers are aware, the leading journals especially intended for the perusal of ladies have been for many years the media for the exchange of a vast number of letters and papers touching the use of the Corset. The questions relating to the history of this apparently indispensable article of ladies' attire, its construction, application, and influence on the figure have become so numerous of late that we have thought, by embodying all that we can glean and garner relating to Corsets, their wearers, and the various costumes worn by ladies at different periods, arranging the subject-matter in its due order as to dates, and at the same time availing ourselves of careful illustration when needed, that an interesting volume would result.
No one, we apprehend, would be likely to deny that, to enable the fairer portion of the civilised human race to follow the time-honoured custom of presenting to the eye the waist in its most slender proportions, the Corset in some form must be had recourse to. Our information will show how ancient and almost universal its use has been, and there is no reason to anticipate that its aid will ever be dispensed with so long as an elegant and attractive figure is an object worth achieving.
Such being the case, it becomes a matter of considerable importance to discover by what means the desirable end can be acquired without injury to the health of those whose forms are being restrained and moulded into proportions generally accepted as graceful, by the use and influence of the Corset. It will be our duty to lay before the reader the strictures of authors, ancient and modern, on this article of dress, and it will be seen that the animadversions of former writers greatly exceed modern censures, both in number and fierceness of condemnation. This difference probably arises from the fact of Corsets of the most unyielding and stubborn character being universally made use of at the time the severest attacks were made upon them; and there can be no reasonable doubt that much which was written in their condemnation had some truth in it, although accompanied by a vast deal of fanciful exaggeration. It would also be not stating the whole of the case if we omitted here to note that modern authors, who launch sweeping anathemas on the very stays by the aid of which their wives and daughters are made presentable in society, almost invariably quote largely from scribes of ancient date, and say little or nothing, of their own knowledge. On the other hand, it will be seen that those writing in praise of the moderate use of Corsets take their facts, experiences, and grounds of argument from the every-day life and general custom of the present period.
The Crinoline is too closely associated with the Corset and with the mutable modes affected by ladies, from season to season, to be omitted from any volume which treats of Fashion. The same facts, indeed, may be stated of both the Crinoline and the Corset. Both appear to be equally indispensable to the woman of the present period. To make them serve the purposes of increased cleanliness, comfort, and grace, not only without injury to the health, but with positive and admitted advantage to the physique—these are the problems to be solved by those whose business it is to minister to the ever-changing taste and fashion of the day.