View all Lifestyle in Issue E

ETHEL GRANGER

Rewind to 1920 when loving couple Ethel and William Granger were leading an uneventful and ordinary life.  Ethel, as was usual back then wore shapeless dresses, had short styled hair and was ignorant about corsetry, high heels or earrings. Unbeknown to Ethel, William had a hankering and obsession for all of these things on a woman and was keen for his wife to start wearing them so much so that he became persistent about his requests.  He told her that it would be wonderful if he could put his arms around her waist when she was wearing a corset as well as elegantly adorning her ears with beautiful extravagant earrings.

Eventually, William’s persistence paid off – one day he put his arms around Ethel’s waist and noticed that she was wearing a corset.  Not only this, Ethel’s interest in earrings also grew which culminated with her asking William to pierce her ears – she had heard that it could be a painful procedure but William had perfected the technique as well as designing her first pair of earrings.  Combine this with Ethel growing her hair long and the couple buying her first pair of high-heeled shoes – Ethel’s metamorphosis had begun.  By the time the pair married she was wearing very high-heeled shoes, beautiful earrings and a short kneel-length skirt.  Above all else, Ethel was wearing a corset!

William subscribed to a magazine called ‘London Life’ which contained articles and letters about corsets, information on tight lacing as well as the types and variety available – pipe-stem, hourglass and even metal corsets.  It also published photographs of extremely high-heeled shoes – heels of six or seven inches were not exceptional.

Ethel was now wearing a corset every day and her waist became much smaller – 19 inches to be exact but William felt that the reduction was hampered and was keen for her ‘waist training’ to make it even smaller.  William suggested that Ethel should wear her corset both day and night but Ethel wasn’t keen and felt that her waist was small enough.  However, William’s persistence paid off and Ethel relented and wore her corset twenty-four hours a day.  The main benefit of this was that it eliminated the amount of time it took to lace up and undo!

Ethel now had a perfect figure with her ‘reshaped’ waist and body and this retained its form whenever she took a bath.

During this time, Ethel had a daughter and her breasts became larger which William loved but knew that this would not be permanent thing – he’d read in ‘London Life’ that a woman’s breasts could be made larger by piercing the nipples with gold rings.  Ethel, however, was adamant that this wasn’t going to happen!

The process continued with William ordering a new corset with an 18-inch waist, which Ethel wore day and night – they had a spare one in case it wore out or needed repairing!

The fascination with high-heeled shoes also persisted and the pair visited the Mr Stern shoe store on Regent Street.  They bought a pair of black leather shoes with four and a half inch heels and after each visit they invested in new shoes each time with higher and higher heels up to fifteen centimetres. Ethel had no problem walking in shoes where her feet were practically straight up and down – William was delighted!

Ethel now had a perfect figure with her ‘reshaped’ waist and body and this retained its form whenever she took a bath.

Ethel’s neighbours became used to seeing her with her tiny waist, which she accentuated with a leather belt that William had made for her, which she wore with a short close fitting jacket.  Ethel also ‘lived’ in her extremely high shoes.

Other dramatic changes that they made were increasing the size of the piercing holes in Ethel’s ears up to 8mm – these were so that she could wear the unusually large earrings that William made for her.  This was followed by William piercing Ethel’s septum and both nostrils although when they had healed, she would only wear nose rings in private for William’s pleasure.

 

 

There was an element of domination in their relationship and William made a metal belt that fastened on top of the corset around Ethel’s waist – this was to prevent Ethel from unfastening the corset and she often came close to fainting.

Regardless of this – they were both delighted by the attention that Ethel received when out in public- her tiny waist, oversized earrings and extreme heels.

William’s and Ethel’s obsession with corsetry, a smaller waist and extreme appearance continued and they explored a variety of corsets, suppliers and fabrics eventually finding the perfect corset maker – Mme Lorette in London.

Combined with Mme Lorette’s perfect corset making and ‘pain free’ design they managed to achieve a 16inch waist that William could comfortable fit both of his hands around!

For the next few decades (which took them through the war) William and Ethel continued to experiment with ‘waist-training’, piercing, shoe fetishism and some tattooing.  Occasionally William used emotional blackmail to encourage Ethel to continue transforming but she always relented and took the aforementioned to the next level including nipple piercing – something she initially refused to do.

Their obsession took them on a journey discovering the latest corsetry and shoe designers and suppliers.  Consequently they obtained a degree of notoriety and celebrity.

Regardless of this there is no doubt that they loved and adored each other and had discovered and embraced a mutual passion of body fetishism and transformation.

Until William’s and then Ethel’s death in 1982 age 77, she and William continued ‘perfecting’ the smallest ‘waist’ in the world and to this day she holds the record of 13 inches and according to the Guinness Book of World Record still does!

WORDS / Kevin Langridge
ILLUSTRATION / Lo Parkin