I ran across an article for authors who write period romance novels (aka bodice rippers). It does an excellent job describing what wearing a corset was like for the average woman, I think. It is on Isobel Carr's website ... a good read.
Notice how she is pulling the lacings from the eyelets at the waist, not top or bottom. This is the best way to pull the waist in tightly.
There are women who vie for the right to say they have the worlds tiniest waist. The current Guinness World Book record is 15" held by ...
There is a lot of discussion of corset training on line. Regular corset wearing will make it easier to achieve a small waist. But, if the waist gets very small, the organs are moved into new positions. Which the women who are tight lacing swear is not a problem. Click on the links in the earlier part of this blog to read their explanations.
At the end of the 19th century, many people were beginning to be concerned about the effects on women's health.
I so love the look of this scrumptious French corset from 1904. Although I doubt the owner of this corset ever wore it with the big rose like bow, it does look perfect with it.