Vintage X-rays reveal the hidden effects of corsets

In 1908, a doctor used X-rays to highlight the damaging effects of tight corsets on a woman’s body.

For centuries, boned bodices formed part of a lady’s everyday wardrobe, but it wasn’t until the invention and implementation of the metal eyelet — the holes through which the laces were threaded — in the 1820s and 30s that something called tight lacing came into effect.

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: pulling and tying the laces of a corset tight to give the wearer a desired shape; generally along the lines of an hourglass, with a tightly pulled-in waist.

This caused, of course, the familiar fainting to which fashionable young ladies were prone; they were often laced so tightly that they could barely breathe; to help her recover, those around her would loosen her stays (the laces), allowing air to flood back into her constricted lungs.

This, however, was merely the most obvious of the health problems associated with tight lacing, and the garment was the subject of hot debate between those who believed the corset beneficial (mostly the women who actually wore corsets), and those who believed it injurious to the health of the wearer. Indeed, The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest medical journals, published two articles on the subject — one on June 14, 1890, entitled Death From Tight Lacing and the second on January 16, 1892, called Effects of Tight Lacing.

Neither was particularly approving of the practice. The former stated that its consequences “cannot be but hurtful.” It went on, “the veriest novice in anatomy understands how by this process almost every important organ is subjected to cramping pressure, its functions interfered with, and its relations to other structures so altered as to render it, even if it were itself competent, a positive source of danger to them. ”

Indeed, the medical community fairly roundly condemned tight lacing. Surgeon William Henry Flower included it as a deforming fashion in his book Fashion in Deformity, an 85-page volume that included skull-shaping, foot-binding and tooth-filing among its subjects, along with an illustration of its effect on the rib cage. Tight lacing over a long period of time does cause the size of the wearer’s waist to shrink as the internal structure of the body shifts to accommodate the constriction.

The effect of tight restriction on the lungs was particularly troubling; the lower lobes of the lungs are prevented from expanded fully when taking a breath, resulting in extra strain. This exacerbated lung conditions such as tuberculosis and pneumonia, which effect the lower lungs first, making the condition much more serious — and both illnesses were much more prevalent before the invention of vaccines in the 20th century.

The other serious problem caused by tight lacing over an extended period of time is atrophy of the back muscles and pectoral muscles, as the corset’s boning does the work of keeping the wearer’s back straight — which, in turn, leads to greater reliance on the corset.

Overall, there seems to be little direct evidence that tight lacing had permanent effects on the wearer. Nevertheless, the restriction of the organs — which could cause poor digestion, poor breathing and poor function otherwise while wearing a tightly laced corset — was a cause for concern for some doctors.

One such was Ludovic O’Followell, a French doctor who in 1905 and 1908 published books on the effects of the corset on female health. O’Followell, however, had something that all the previous arguments and illustrations did not: he used a brand new technology to bolster his arguments.

X-ray had been discovered in just 1895 — a breakthrough that netted Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen the very first Nobel Prize in Physics. The unknown radiation, he noticed, passed through human tissue, but not human bone; it was in diagnostic use just a year later in 1896.

It was this that O’Followell used to illustrate the effects of tight lacing on the ribcage, in a series of striking images included in a paper entitled Le Corset. In it, he argued that the corset not only affected a woman’s physical health, but also her behaviour. He cites novelist Arabella Kenealy, who in 1904 penned an article about the ill effects of the corset — including an account of a strange and possibly nonexistent experiment involving putting corsets on monkeys — noting that she blamed the corset for “bad language.”

However, although the corset was to fall out of fashion in the 1920s, when flapper dresses introduced a more androgynous shape in rebellious response to tight lacing, O’Followell’s intention was not to abolish the corset altogether; instead, he hoped merely to encourage the development of a more healthy and comfortable corset.

You can find the full text of O’Followell’s treatise here (translated from the French), and the full collection of illustrations and photographs here (contains some images that are NSFW).

Wedding Slim Body! Sexy Wedding Corset

Recently, many friends have to attend to the wedding, and in this kind of moment, what kind of dress is very important to every woman who loves pretty and fashion. Most of people think that wearing the wedding dress just like the usual time, women dress the long dresses as usual time. But according to the report, before wearing the wedding dress, you must wear a corset. A body control shapewear can make you have a slim body to show your sexy body and slim when you wearing a wedding dress.

Adding a corset back helps you fit into your wedding dress perfectly and saves you valuable money. Perhaps you’ve decided to wear your mother’s dress or buy one off the rack, which you deem perfect for your wedding. The dress fits you well for the most part, but it just wouldn’t zip all the way up the back. Creating a corset back, therefore, is a good, inexpensive solution. A corset back also complements most wedding dress styles and body types.

Generally speaking, corset bodices are popular features in many dresses and especially so for bridal gowns. They emphasize the waist and bust, flatter the bride and give a stunning effect for the gown’s skirt. Wedding dresses with corset bodices come in one or two pieces. A lace-up fastening at the back of the bodice adds beautiful detail and provides an adjustment for size.

A lace intimate control panties can shape your body into a prefect size to wear the wedding. Of course, you are the most beautiful pride bride with this elegant corset. And these two corsets’ color are white and black and white, you will never worry about it is bot match your beautiful white wedding dress. If you want to have a prefect wedding, remember to notice your slim body!

Are Corsets Lingerie?

It was the Oxford Conference of Corsetry just over a week ago, and in its run-up I spent most of my time getting pretty obsessive about corsets. I’ve been neglecting other areas of lingerie to dedicate my time to crafting these exquisite, waist-altering garments. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the significance of the corset. As a lingerie designer, corsets to me have always existed in their own category outside the rest of lingerie. Generally speaking, I consider them to be their own category of clothing, and more of a piece of outerwear than exclusively underwear.

For the majority of their history, corsets have been almost exclusively an undergarment. It was during their heyday in the Victorian and Edwardian eras that they made the transformation from a purely functional pieces of clothing to a beautiful pieces of lingerie. The introduction of luxurious silk fabrics and dainty lace trims meant many corsets became elegant components of trousseaus or decadent boudoir accompaniments, a new incarnation for these previously staid garments. Yet in the latter half of the 20th century, heavy foundation wear fell almost entirely out of favour. It wasn’t until around the 1980s that corsets saw a major resurgence (and one that we can largely attribute to Jean Paul Gaultier’s corseted costumes for Madonna); corsets stopped solely being hidden under clothing.

There’s no doubt that corsets have become somewhat of a staple for many modern lingerie brands; however, for many of these labels, it can certainly be debated whether or not these garments actually count as ‘proper’ corsets. Many of these pieces are lightly boned with plastic and without much curve cut into the patterns: they will not offer any real form or shaping and cannot really be referred to as foundation wear. Arguably in these instances, the difference between corsets and basques and bustiers has become somewhat blurred.

It’s very rare to see actual shapely corsets being sold alongside lingerie (with the exception of certain vintage-inspired brands such as What Katie Did and Kiss Me Deadly). Curvy corsets and ‘waist-training’ have certainly seen a resurgence in recent years, though there’s certainly been a shift in the number of retailers that actually market these corsets as pieces of underwear.

Many corsets are now being designed exclusively as outerwear pieces, whether these be additional accessories to casual wear (as brands like Orchard Corset and other lower-priced OTR labels seem to target) or evening and bridal wear. These pieces still often give a nod to lingerie though: many OTR styles include loops for suspender attachments as standard. In addition to this, it must be noted that the boundaries between lingerie and outerwear are becoming more and more blurred, corsets non-withstanding: consider the number of lingerie brands that create bras with extravagant necklines and harness attachments.

Of course there will always be corsets that are created specifically as lingerie, whether that be historical reproductions or modern interpretations of girdles. Nevertheless, the area of corsetry that most interests me and that I aspire to as a designer most is one that will never remain in the world of lingerie: couture. Whether it be Mr Pearl’s impeccable creations on the Parisian catwalks or Sparklewren’s lace and Swarovski encrusted delights, these are pieces that should be criminal to cover up with clothing. It’s the side of the industry that is totally uncommercial that interests me most: the area where creativity can take wing most. Costings and mass production aren’t considerations for pieces like these; I suspect this is where my personal disconnect between corsets and lingerie originates.

There’s no ‘correct’ answer for corsetry’s position in the lingerie world. A number of prominent figures in the corsetry community were asked for their thoughts on the matter. The variety of opinion certainly offers some food for thought! (Special thank you to Cathy Hay for asking Mr Pearl’s thoughts on the matter!)


Mr Pearl: Corsets are objects in their own right, whether lingerie or showpiece. They’re connected to shoes, hat and gloves…. They exist in their own world. They are not fashion, they are beyond fashion. They can be in or out of fashion. Once they were required but that time will never return…. But imagine the waists you’d see! Lingerie is something very private, to be shared in private. Corsetry should be shared wherever possible.



The Do’s and Don’ts of Corset Waist Training

Get an hourglass shape with a waist training corset
By Carla Snuggs

Right now, one of the hottest items in shapewear is the waist trainer. In search of the perfect hourglass shape, celebrities like Kim Kardashian wear waisttrainers to slim and trim their figures. Kim recently posted a photo wearing a purple corset.

A weightloss corset like this helps support long-term slimming and may help you lose inches through the science of compression. The latex lining stimulates thermal activity and perspiration, mobilizing fat and toxins. You will see results as soon as you put it on. Add time, plus a healthy diet and active lifestyle and you’re going to love the edge a garment like this gives you.

To find out more about different types of waist trainers and high compression garments, Posh Beauty Blog turned to Ruben Soto, owner of Here are Soto’s waist training tips and tricks.

There are plenty of high compression garments that will produce the desired results instantly (general high quality shapewear). With that said, there are products that are best to increase thermal activity in the midsection and others that are best for more traditional waist training.

Corsets such as the Amia Cincher are recommended for an instant 1-3 inch reduction of the midsection. This cincher works due to the PowerLatex core that stimulates thermal activity and perspiration in the midsection.

Steel-boned waist training corsets such as our Black Cashmere Underbust Corset (above) are meant to reduce inches over time through high compression from tight-lacing techniques. The result overtime is the readjustment of the lower ribs for a more defined, hourglass waist. Typically, someone would wear the corset comfortably for a short amount of time to build up tolerance, then make it tighter and wear it for a longer period of time.

The DO’s and Don’ts of Wearing a Waist Training Corsets


• Wear the garment for a few hours at a time to build tolerance.

• Wear the corset for longer periods after you become comfortable.

• Select a proper fitting item.

• Discontinue use if you feel any discomfort.


Do not continue usage if you experience any of the following

• Numbness in the legs

• Shortness of breath

• Sharp stomach pains

• Pinching
Why I LOVE Cincher By Amia

I was sent Cincher by Amia, a beautiful waist training corset, and I love it! I wore the cincher for three weeks and found that I naturally ate less and lost about an inch off of my waist. Amia’s cincher is great because it allows you to wear any style of bra or panty. The cincher has PowerLatex and FlexiBoning, so it is super comfortable and doesn’t dig into your skin like other waist cinchers. It’s also got a 2-row frontal hook and eye design so it’s really easy to put on and you can continue to use as you slim down.

Have you ever worn a waist training corset? Leave your comments below – I’d love to hear about your experiences!