achieve and maintain small waists without adverse health
Image is of the beautiful Annalai
Venus shape over the trained figure, but some question what the effects are on health
in mind that extreme forms of corseting are not common today, nor were
they in the past.
corseting harmful to health? The short answer is: "No, it is
Yes, you can still breath, eat, and have children, keep your all of your ribs
and nothing bad is going happening to you!
is called for: The recent re-popularization of corseting and
tightlacing warrants a
interaction with the body. Anything can be made harmful, but from what
we know today, corseting or tightlacing have
not been demonstrated to be inherently harmful. The
diseases traditionally associated with very tight corseting during the
19th century, have now been either attributed to other causes, such
as poor diet and hygiene, infectious diseases or environmental issues.
For example, the infamous
liver" or "Riedel's lobe" turned out to be a natural occurrence and
demonstrated in male and female individuals who never tightlaced. It
frequent in tall and slender individuals. The famous "wandering
kidney", appeared in both men and women, but
especially in women with repeated pregnancies. During the late 19th
century the "treatment" was a straight front corset, that was laced
very tight over the abdomen, creating an upward force, stabilizing the
kidney.Corsets also did not
cause hysteria or
scoliosis, or liver disease. Ironically, 19th c. tuberculosis
occurred more frequently in men than women, in part because TB usually
would find root in the lower portions of the lungs, a risk that is
reduced by the fashionable tightlacing of the lower chest. One
to minimize lower chest motion by tight bandaging of the lower chest
for men and in the case of women, by tightlacing!
Regardless of personal opinion, by
following the guidelines of an
2-4" reduction followed by a slow progression towards greater
are no health risks associated with the practice. Valerie Steele, a
researched this topic in "The
Corset: A Cultural History",
but also in other titles from her. She shows that although tight
corsets can be very restrictive, they do not damage
or create long term issues. With the help of physicians, confirmed and
concluded that the infamous
"corset evils" were based on myth and limited
of the past. The so-called corset diseases occurred equally frequent in
women and men who did and did not wear tight corsets, rather these
appeared to be the
of poor hygiene and poor nutrition.
The only health effects that have
confirmed and that are seen in today's tightlacers, are reduced
stomach capacity (note stomach bypass surgery is 90%!) and the a
maximum breathing capacity
anywhere from 10% to 25%. Neither
these are or create health
risks, and the reduction in stomach capacity is certainly a welcome aid
for anyone watching their weight and overall health! During the 1950's
was not uncommon to verify a corset's
proper fit with x-ray scans before and after the application of
the corset, to confirm repositioning and support for
abdominal organs. Valerie Steele's study was complemented by the CT
scans of modern tightlacer Cathie Jung
with a 15" waist and it showed
even with her decades of extreme tight lacing, the
effect on the position of the internal organs was not quite as
dramatic as expected, certainly not
beyond that what is seen
during a pregnancy. Also, when
the corset was removed the organs returned to their conventional
without there being any observable change in their function.
19th century physicians (e.g. Cambridge study) admitted to their frustration that in spite of life long tightlacing, their habitually corseted female patients outlived their husbands on average by many years, often decades.
day physician Dr. Richard Zinkan commented how "although there comes a limit as
to how far a corset can
ultimately be tightened, the inner organs
adversely affected by it, and corsets have been part of various
treatment plans for many years". It is now
recognized that figure training with gradual long term tightlacing does
health. This leaves us the option open to accept
again as an effective and safe practice, provided the guidelines are
being followed: Go slow and
relax the laces
when it becomes painful, and watch your diet! No fatty or oily slow
digesting foods . In addition,
provide garments that are anatomically correct and reduce effectively
The corset, and particularly tight-lacing was blamed for almost any ailment known to man. But even the physicans so ready to assign serious consequences to tightlacing had to accept several true facts:
Bright's disease: or kidney necrosis was reported far more frequent in males, yet the tightlacing was often pointed to as a primary cause. In reality the kidneys are very well protected by the ribs and spine and are in front shielded by an aircushion provided by the intestines.
Pulmonary infection: Long term habitual tightlacers with rigidly confined lower chests use upper thoracic breathing, which tends to discourage various pulmonary infections to take hold. Scoliosis: is prevented from taking hold in early tightlacers.
Rib-removal: this was never practiced, as it was never necessary, especially with long term tighlacing. The floating ribs present very limited resistance.
Another medical use of corsets is for post pregnancy or post-partum use, to help healing of the abdominal wall, which may have torn or over stretched during the later months. The condition where the muscle wall actually separates vertically is called "Abdominus rectus", and it is usually advised to wear a postpartum belt or girdle to aid the healing process. The effects of going without any support is a sagging lower abdomen, which appears resistant to situps and other training. Over time it can even lead to ptosis or a dislocation of the viscera. The original cure during the corseting era was the early application of the corset, but with an extended lower apron, or coverage for the lower abdomen.
Nowadays, postpartum mothers form a growing group that has returned to the corset and tightlacing to restore and maintain their figures. Usually a corset can be worn within a few weeks and if desired a tightlacing program can be started. An underbust style allows for unhindered nursing, while providing the necessary support. A corset in combination with daily abdominal excercise, including the Kegel excercise is a very good combination to restore the figure.
The idea of post partum corseting or tightlacing is not
new. The Indonesian women have used the Benku (very tight
wrapping) for centuries, which is applied directly after birth, and it
performs the same function as post partum corseting.
|A parallel with traditional corseting is found
treatment for scoliosis (lateral
curvature of the spine). Here the compression is at the same level as
tight traditional corseting. It
requires about the same period to get used to, similar to figure
training with 4"
to 6" waist reductions. The usual treatment period is during the
and concludes in early adulthood. The effectiveness of these braces is
a direct function of the duration worn and the degree of tightness that
can be tolerated by the wearer.
As with figure training these are periodically made tighter, as the tolerance of the wearer increases and gets used to the constriction. Effects on eating and breathing are the same as well.
An interesting development is that an increasing number of former brace wearers switch to wearing fashionable corsets as adults and find them infinitely more comfortable than their brace. While these continue to maintain critical support, they also provide shaping and like the brace are worn under clothing. The treatment period is during the developing years and the flexible skeleton yields easily to the bracing and leaves their owners with narrow waists and narrow lower ribcages. In turn, just as during the historic figure training, it enables them to tightlace during adolescence and adulthood very easily. In this case, custom fittings are a must, due to the potential for some asymmetry.
style corrective scoliosis braces are worn as tight as is tolerated and
the same gradual step by step training pattern as what is used for
figure training with 24/7 wear.
The narrowed ribcage and 4" to 6" waist reduction are unintenional effects. It takes months to arrive at the targeted level of correction and associated constriction, no different than with figure training, and aside from the assymetry, the mechanisms are the same.
detailed study by B.E.
Brodhurst, 1852, on the relation of scoliosis and tightlacing,
his colleges had to conclude that, in spite of their general
tightlacing, early tightlacing in young women (age
curvature, arrested the curvature and it would remain limited, thus
presenting an effective cure for the problem. Scoliosis usually sets in
between ages 12-18, while corset wearing would have started around the
same age, although actual tightlacing would usually begin later at age
15 to 17,
at which time scoliosis if present would already have been in
progress. Again it demonstrates
that the prejudice against tightlacing was as unfounded then, as it is
Example case: Dr. William Adams (1882) reported on a family with several girls, all with a degree of scoliosis, one had significantly less curvature and at a later age exhibited only a limited curvature. The difference between "his patient with the small waist" and her sisters was that she had practiced tightlacing from an early age, preventing the scoliosis to develop curves. As her bone structure matured, the corset had provided critical support, thus preventing the problem to take hold.
the 19th century, fashionably styled corsets were sometimes used to
treat scoliosis (left) in adolescence and mature individuals.
These would be labeled as "Medical Corsets", but would be shaped according to the prevailing fashion with the tapered upper body and narrow waist.
The corrective pads would be placed inside the corset, as to preserve a smooth exterior line.
Modern "under arm" style scoliosis braces can be worn less consipicously under clothing, but nevertheless produce a dinstinct "corseted" shape.
Depending on the degree of training or constriction, there is the much debated skeletal modification, the ribcage in particular. For ease of training, modern corsets generally focus on the soft area between the ribs and pelvis. However, 18th and 19th century hi-fashion styles preferred a narrow tapering of the lower four or five rib pairs, sometimes with enough compression for these ribs nearly touch in front. The ribs below the sternum (the false and floating ribs) are very flexible and especially in women, these can be moved inward with relative ease with corset lacing. For many, this tapered chest is the ultimate goal for figure training and represents the ideal shape. This more constrictive style requires more commitment and a longer acclimatization or training period, because of the increased feeling of restriction that is experienced at the beginning of the training period. But even this more significant form of figure training has not been associated with any long term health effects, other than the intentionally altered shape of the lower ribcage, the reduced maximum breathing volume and reduced stomach capacity. The organs within the lower ribcage will follow the outline of the changed ribcage shape, but without negatively affecting function. These organs are semi liquid and very mobile and flexible. They move when we move, bend stretch, as well as with every breath and with a change of stomach volume when consuming a meal. Just from breathing motion alone the organs below the diaphragm move several inches, demonstrating their fluidity and mobility. It leaves the primary effects to be a reduction in capacity of hollow organs such as the stomach, intestines and the lungs, and an altered position of the ribs. Compared to pregnancy, the displacement experienced during pregnancy is far greater than from any tightlacing.
This stem-waisted shape is achieved by practicing long term tight-lacing.
In order to achieve this level of shaping, the costal arch or triangular space, in front below the sternum and between the
floating ribs, will have been reduced to a minimum dimension
||Ribcages as shown in "Corseting
the human body" at the LISA site, demonstrating the
lacing effect on the flexible false and floating ribs below the sternum.
Also shown is the compensatory expansion of the upper ribcage, which will enhance the bustline.
Speculation and incorrect
information regarding the health risks of
tight-lacing continues to be distributed by those who
do not know, although this is less so now than a few decades ago
('70's, 80's) when
especially tightlacing were viewed with great hostility. The accomplished tight lacers of today
clearly demonstrate how long term training is
both safe and effective. There are skin related issues that require
attention, such as with chaffing
or dry skin, or pressure spots. This can become a significant source of
discomfort, if ignored. Also, light weight lingerie corset-like
wrinkle and because
of structure can cause muscle pinching or cramps. Lastly, if
training guidelines are ignored and the corset is laced
too quickly or painfully
tight, it is likely to cause some problems, such as muscle cramps. If
the painful constriction is maintained, constipation can even occur,
the discomfort was the result of contracting the abdomen too quickly
without acclimatization. Poorly made corsets can
also be a problem,
as they put strain on muscles and skin and cause discomfort. Recent
research studies on the immediate effect of
corsets on breathing and overall fatigue, indicate that there is
fatigue when insufficient training is allowed for. Clinical studies on
restrictive breathing show however, that with conventional gradual
training this is not the case and only the maximum volume is
restricted, meaning for heavy exercise there is a limitation, but for
regular daily activity there is not. In most cases, the added oxygen
requirement is met by a slight increase in breathing frequency.
Tight corsets will make the wearer
less tolerant of poor eating
habits, such as overeating, fatty
foods, alcohol to name a few. Tightlacing in general will significantly
reduce the stomach's capacity, very much like stomach stapling but
without the surgery. Eating too much can produce
because of the pressure on the smaller stomach. With normal food
added corset pressure is not an issue, because this tends to be small
compared to the natural intra abdominal pressure. When the stomach is
too full however, acid reflux can
occur. Corset style also matters in this case, for example a pipe stem or a very
narrow ribcage will put more pressure on the stomach than hourglass or hourglass like
Simply avoid foods that irritate your stomach and eat only small
portions but more often. By itself this is a healthy thing to do. Also,
lots of water, eat fruits and vegetables to maintain proper balance.
Fruits and vegetables and fiber content in general is
important for the colon, to avoid constipation. If this is not watched
carefully, tightlacing can sometimes cause constipation. And... lastly
: do not
over tighten. If
these guidelines are followed, corseting
will promote a healthier
lifestyle and because of that can result in an overall
of the corseting, but because of improved eating habits and
by paying more attention to the body.
The effect on the hollow organs of
digestion, such as the stomach and the intestines, is primarily
that of a
reduction of their capacity. From what we
know today, is that no harmful
compression actually takes place, certainly
with a 3-5" reduction. In a body with normal muscle tone, there
is considerable intra abdominal pressure already, regardless if any
tight garments are worn. This is a natural balance that will establish
itself between the internal organs and the muscle layers that surround
them. For those who have entered middle age, the combined effect of
gravity and lost muscle tone will cause this existing internal
to create the unsightly abdominal sagging. The corset will augment
or fully replace
this muscle tone. The
exception is pregnancy where the internal pressure overcomes the muscle
tone and with the growing uterine volume (especially past the 5th or
6th month) so will the abdominal volume. The degree of internal
distortion of the organs during pregnancy tends to be far greater than
what is experienced from any form of tightlacing, which explains why
tightlacing is accepted by the body in a natural manner without
adversely affecting it.
These illustrations are from a classic german medical publication "Neue Heil" and compare the trained and untrained skeleton on the left, as well as the altered organ position, shown on the right.
Note that the organs have moved, but only to a modest degree compared to pregnancy, or... just when we move around!
organ displacement and compression far beyond
Tightlacing tends to inhibit vigorous activity or exercise. Then,
does makes sense to loosen
the corset or to remove it, also to avoid soiling it with
perspiration. Someone who is usually very active
physically may want to chose a suitable corset style, like a ribbon
that will still preserve the small waist, but with less
lower chest constriction. However, if your goal is to significantly
narrow the lower ribcage, as produced by
a wasp waist corset, it is better to trade
off particular activities. The
for the adopting upper thoracic breathing, is the pressure against the
midriff from the abdominal content below. Tightlacing corsets usually
extend longer below the waist to prevent undesirable abdominal
bulging. This is turn
against the diaphragm and thus further inhibits abdominal
breathing, but by allowing time to adjust, the overall effect is very
tolerable especially for women. Compared to men, women are naturally
predisposed to breath less with the abdomen, with or
without a corset on,
and aside from that, it is
graceful to watch a rising and falling stomach with every breath. This
effect also exists during pregnancy
where the growing fetus displaces the abdominal organs and
significantly increases the intra abdominal pressure leading to
shortness of breath and heartburn. Again there are parallels with
pregnancy, where abdominal breathing becomes inhibited as well, and
with improper diet, constipation and hearth burn can occur. One
important aspect of
is that over time, the internal pressures from corseting diminish
century research (Dickinson) on this aspect showed a rapid drop
after only 30
minutes, indicative of internal adaptation. This is where the guideline
originates to relace every 20..30
minutes and step wise increased tightening in order to achieve the
largest possible reduction. Also, it is important to acknowledge that
the natural background pressure in the abdomen is not experienced in
the same way as externally applied pressure. Also, over time with long
term wear, this pressure is no longer perceived in the same way as
what is felt directly after lacing in.
Much has been written about starting corseting at a young age,
was primarily intended to reduce the overall training effort and to
ensure development of a straight spine. By
before or at the onset of puberty, much less effort is needed to form
the ribs and upper body. By corseting from an early age (10..12yr) , a
slender adult lower ribcage and small waist would result. It also
for an easier long term training process. For the modern wearer, who
starts at a
later age, the very small
waist dimensions can still be achieved, but it will take a lot more
and time. However, the very narrow ribcage shape will be more
difficult to attain, but still some late starters have been
successful. - see accomplished modern tightlacers.
An example of early age corseting is found in several cultures, one example being the young women of Circassia, who from a very early age were permanently sewn into a tight corset. As the body develops it adapts very gradually and creates the hyper feminine figure they are known for. It also resulted in a selection process for hourglass shaped women, something of which traces are still found in their off-spring today. The custom was maintained into the early 20th century and supposedly some traditionalists have returned to it, primarily as a form of preservation of their culture.
But, more than anything, observe the rule: "when the corset hurts,
loosen the laces, because it
is too tight." There is nothing
else to it, but before it becomes
painful, it will very likely have been very uncomfortable
long before it began to hurt. The
lingerie styles that are labeled as corsets are not proper corsets,
some don't even have busks or front and rear stays. If
their use would not promote corseting and they should not be worn,
other than for decorative purposes.
Lastly, let history itself be your judge: There are many famous 19th
and 20th century tight lacers, such as Polaire,
Camille Clifford , Lillie Langtry , Ethel,
Royalty, who all achieved very small waists and narrow midriffs,
yet they lived long lives and delivered healthy
that there is no impact on childbearing ability. If
was unhealthy, it would have reduced the life span of these women or
at least made them very ill, which was not the case.
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