Q1: I am a singer and interested in using a corset, but am  concerned about possible atrophy/immobility of the diaphragm.   I've spent quite a bit of effort learning to breathe  "properly" from there, and would be devastated were my body to  "forget" how to project and support my voice. I'm a bit  asthmatic and would hate to permanently affect my lung  capacity. That said, how much time can I spend in a  moderately-laced corset without affecting my ability to  breathe and sing well? --Heather  (4/15/01)

A2: There are a few factors to consider - supposed immobilization of the diaphragm and asthma: the diaphragm is a very tough muscle and for it to atrophy would require very rigid long term constriction of the lower chest combined with considerable compression or tightlacing of the abdomen, to the point of the waist becoming solid to the touch. The effort required to perform abdominal breathing in this case would be very high and consequently would  inhibit any movement of the diaphragm. 

Although this was practiced by some Victorian women, today's corsets (e.g. look at hourglass styles) do not rigidly constrict the lower chest. As a consequence, the diaphragm will continue to function as normal, even though breathing deeply will require extra effort.

For singing, this is actually likely to be of help, as it promotes chest breathing rather than abdominal breathing. When you research this topic, you will find that opera singers either wear a corset, depending on the costume used, or a tight band around the lower ribs to promote this. I suggest you search the Web for this and confirm it for yourself, as many people are surprised at this.

An independent factor is your asthma. You will probably know what your triggers are that provoke the asthma, such as smoke, dust or allergy. If you use medication (e.g. an inhaler), then use it as before and avoid conditions that provoke an attack. Corseting in itself does not cause or provoke asthma, but when an attack occurs, you should not be constricted and you need to loosen the constriction right away. In your case I would recommend a spiral boned hourglass corset. These hardly restrict the lower chest and do not interfere much with breathing. Use common sense and for example do not lace yourself over-tight and run up the stairs.

The duration of the corseting can be indefinite, provided in your case it does not constrict the lower chest as described.  Also, you should always remove the corset periodically to exercise, avoiding atrophy of the back and abdominal muscles.

Q2: I am an aspiring classical soprano, and as a classical singer I must be able to have complete control over my diaphragm and abdominal muscles; also,  I must  be able to expand my rib cage abdomen completely.  I am aware that when  one tight laces the internal organs are rearranged and the rib cage curved inward. Now clearly I would not be able to perform and practice whilst I am laced but if I tight lace will I be able to retain the control I  need? --Anonymous  (7/20/05)

A2: I would like to suggest reading the "effects on physiology" in "Corseting the Human Body"  to explain the degree of tightlacing that is associated with organ displacement. For classic opera, a moderately laced corset actually helps to provide a "base" to breath against. In such a corset, abdominal breathing is not inhibited at all. Many professional opera singers in costume would be wearing a corset underneath to match their period costumes, but also to provide this "base". If you plan to figure train and tightlace, then do this during the times you are not singing. Also consider the different corset styles.


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