Q: Can you elaborate on the physical effects of the compression of the lower chest and abdomen? Is there a similarity between the latter stages of pregnancy during which the digestive system is also severely compressed? ---TJB-Overtone (2/16/97)

A: There are similarities between the effect of corsetting and the effect of pregnancy on the female intestines. The constricting effect of the corset will decrease the space of the abdominal cavity and so will the growing uterus, particularly in the latter part of the pregnancy. The diaphragm will be pushed upwards and the woman will get the typical upper thoracic breathing. Also the intestines will be somewhat compressed and dislocated, although the soft abdominal wall will give away and create the necessary space. Moreover, events are developing, gradually giving the organs ample time to adapt. After delivery the organs regain their normal position, although after several pregnancies the intestines may stay displaced under a flaccid belly.

The woman who starts to tight-lace in a high-waisted corset will also face a gradual but very different transformation of both her figure and internal organs. The daily (and sometimes also nightly) constriction will press the soft lower ribs inwards without too much resistance, and the desired long and narrow cone-shaped waist will soon be irrevocable fact. The lady will proudly look at her new artificial daring curves in the mirror, feel the compactness of her encased figure, and enjoy the firm support of her back. Although somewhat restricted in her movements, she quickly will find her corset quite comfortable. Shortly she will tighten the laces in her back an inch or two more without feeling any discomfort or pain whatsoever. Just as in pregnancy, her compressed and dislocated inner organs must adapt behind the long and slender waist. However, if the tight-lacing is performed gradually and over a prolonged period of time, they do it silently and inappreciably to the wearer. The diaphragm will be pushed upwards and immobilized under the constricted waist. Consequently, abdominal breathing is abolished and the lady is unwittingly breathing with the upper part of her lungs only. Below the confined waist the intestines are pushed softly downwards against the pelvis, and the stomach will be relocated into a more vertical position. The liver partly moves downward due to lack of space and is partly squeezed together. After years of tight-lacing the liver's surface will show several more or less deep furrows - even an extension might the develop, the so-called corset lobe, well known in former days and sometimes surgically removed. To a lesser extent the spleen and the kidneys are affected. Miraculously enough all the organs continue to function faultlessly, as is known from long personal experience.

The ardent tight-lacer aware of her figure, never spends a day without her corset - actually it is the firm base for her outer clothes, measured on the laced figure. As described above, the stiff unyielding bandaging of the waist and the ribs certainly will have consequences. Depending on the degree and duration of the constriction the effect on the body might be moderate and reversible as soon as the corset is taken off. However, even after moderate but protracted lacing the naked body gradually and imperceptibly will be permanently marked. Particularly the lower chest will be visibly narrowed and lengthened. In ladies ardently lacing themselves to true wasp waists for years, the changes are very obvious on the naked body. The lower chest is irreversibly cramped together and the ribs so bent inwards that they almost meet in front (as could be observed in x-rays in the late 40īs when young women rushed into the New Look fashion).  Another mark is the development of a furrow in the waist.

In spite of all these consequences of long-term tight-lacing, it is again important to recognize that the gradual transformation implies no real harm to the woman.  As long as she patiently moulds her figure without trying to crash-lace, there is no danger. Even the most wasp-waisted lady eventually will feel completely free to breathe and move inside her corset and be almost unaware of her corseted state.

The proper construction of the corset is extremely important.  Many women are choose a high corset to get a long elegant waist, but while it is clasping at least one third of their chest and reaching to just under the bust, it might be too short below the waist. The intestines and organs pushed downwards will press on the abdominal wall, which eventually will give way and cause overstretched muscles and a sloppy belly. The remedy is a long enough corset that the abdomen is fully covered and is supported by proper boning.  In particularly, a solid steel busk is indispensable to control the belly and keep it flat. The length of the busk must be carefully measured - a long busk is desirable, but too long a device might interfere with sitting down. The more fully figured lady might find the slightly curved spoon busk useful, whereas the slimmer lady will benefit from a straight one. Finally, below the waist, the corset must widen well over the bulging hips, as well as be roomy enough to catch, fix and keep the intestines and abdominal organs in their modified position. This is where space must be made available!

Less than 100 years ago the majority of women crush-laced themselves into wasp waists as early as their teen years. There are many horror stories about the evil effects of this practice, but as a matter of fact the corset was and still could be an everyday-garment for making the best out of the female figure, and by no means a woman-killer. So good luck with your lacing - it will keep you happy and elegant and cause you no harm - although your intestines will be slightly disorganized, as in a permanent pregnancy!


Return to Main Medical Advice Page

Return to LISA's Main Page