Q: I have read all the pros and cons of corset wearing, but am not aware of any studies or research performed on the subject. Are you aware of any legitimate studies which have been done regarding the actual long and short term effects of the wearing of corsets? I am referring to studies which would merit publication in any reputable medical or scientific journal.  Although the subject is only of academic interest to me, one way in which I judge the credibility of things which I read is to compare with things written by acknowledged credible sources."  
'Streeter' -- (5/15/03)

A: There are several approaches to research on any topic, but ultimately it is about proving or disproving a thesis. In the case of corseting we have considerable anecdotal information from the past, and real information from the present. The next step is to integrate this information without a pro or con bias, which is nearly impossible to do, regardless of the intentions of the researcher. Above all, honesty and objectivity are critical, but rarely adhered to.

In the case of corset wearing, we have reputable information from modern-day tight-lacers who constitute the extreme of corset wearing. Its essence is that of course there are direct effects, such as reduced breathing capacity, and mobility, and long-term effects, such potential skin and muscle deterioration, which are confirmed by monitoring modern wearers.  Anyone practicing less then the extremes would not experience these problems, or would experience them to a lesser degree.

Much of the anxiety regarding corset wear has moved to the background as more and more individuals have returned to some level of corseting, thus providing a solid database against which one can judge any assumptions.

Clearly a corset can be made to be uncomfortable and problems could follow. Modern-day wearers demonstrate that consistency and long-term commitment are fundamental to successful figure modification; i.e., without negative health consequences.

E.g., modern work performed by Colleen Gau indicated that enactors wearing moderately laced corsets experienced some direct effects of corseting, such as reduced breathing capacity. To be fair, however, proper corseting requires long-term and gradual training, so that the physique is given time to adapt. (Almost any of our clothes have some kind of effect on our physique. Some are more obvious than others, but nevertheless there is an interaction.) My point is that an isolated study with the intent to prove that corsets are detrimental to health could probably “prove” this, by over-lacing the subjects in too short a period of time. Such subjects are likely to be uncomfortable and may even exhibit digestive problems and shortness of breath.

On the other hand, a study that set out to prove that corsets have health benefits would show reduced loading of the spine, improved posture, and generally improved self-perception, provided sufficient time were given to acclimatize
these same subjects.

However, these studies are not necessary, given the readily available genuine reports from active corsetees on, for example, the LISA website or their own websites. It is evident that these individuals take this activity seriously and are not setting out to harm themselves.

I also point to my own summaries in Corseting the Human Body, which could be perceived as "pro-corseting," but my intent was an objective interpretation of the available data. My sources included public libraries, 19th-century medical records and journals, modern journals and records, and the experiences of modern-day wearers.

Rather than trusting any scientist’s or researcher’s work, I would suggest forming your own conclusions from what modern-day wearers experience. I have yet to read or hear about someone who has not enjoyed corset-wearing, or who has been injured by corset-wearing. Anyone who has experienced problems has been able to resolve them by exchanging experiences with other corset wearers. By doing so a modern database of proper corset-wearing and ‑making techniques and methodologies is being formed. Of course, there will be exceptions formed by those not following the guidelines, or those who insist on accepting the negative generalizations associated with corseting.

A key in studying the subject is the matter of degree. Some opponents will cite a 2" waist reduction as disastrous to health, ignoring the fact that most jeans or skirts would have difficulty staying on the body with less tension at the waist. In general, a 4" reference point (or danger-limit) is mentioned, although all corset wearers quickly identify an individual comfort level which they tolerate, which will vary from 2" to 6" (or 7" in some cases). The body is designed to provide signals which prevent injury. Long-term adaptation is a function of physiology and is available to any living organism. Long-term wearers demonstrate anywhere from 4" to 10" reductions without injury, long‑ or short-term. Do your research and look at the modern examples!



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