Q: I have read much interesting information on your website but I'm still not sure if there are any health risks incurred by wearing a corset. If the stomach is pressed and the kidneys pushed  downwards can that be healthy? Is there any sickness which is known and caused by the pressure of corsets? And if you cannot breathe as  much as you can without a corset, is there not a risk in that?  Another question is if the case is known where a woman died by wearing a corset too frequently or too tight? I read of a woman in the 18th or 19th century on the Internet, but I need a source that is more trustworthy. --- Anonymous magazine editor  (9/06)

A: The kidneys are well protected, as they are shielded from any direct pressure by the structure of the back.  19th century medicine initially blamed tightlacing for wandering kidneys, but later concluded the two unrelated, and treated the condition (ironically) with a corset, albeit with one which confined primarily the lower abdomen. Following the well published guidelines on corseting and corset training should prevent issues. The actual pressure experienced from corseting is not all that high compared to those pressures that exist naturally in the body. Much of  the pressure experience is from the skin and from the confinement of the lower ribs. The reduction in breathing capacity depends on the style selected, but modern tightlacers do not experience this as a significant issue: when great exertion is anticipated, either leaving the corset off or loosening it, is sufficient.

The corset pressure on an empty stomach is not relevant, but it will be if the individual would overeat  and then tightlace. This can produce great discomfort, but it is a completely avoidable situation. When not wearing a corset, a large meal will expand the stomach and displace the intestines considerably. Abdominal organs by natural design can moved around considerably and are primarily affected by having  a reduced capacity.

I do not know of any modern day tightlacing fatality. Keep in mind that historic reports are difficult to judge on their validity, especially from centuries past when medicine was fraught with much misinterpretation. Reports from the early 20th century indicate that many physicians had to admit hat, although they were convinced tightlacing was unhealthy, their patients who had maintained the practice
for decades lived to a ripe old age! People will get ill, if they wear corsets or not, but if they do get ill and they were wearing a tight corset, it's often that the corset was or is blamed erroneously.


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