The Myth of Corsets and “Organ Damage” A Sexy Silhouette and A Terrifying X-Ray?

Keira Knightley’s Elizabeth Swann plunging near-lifelessly into the sea due to a too-tight corset made for a dramatic image in the hit swashbuckling adventure film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. But why was such a moment so tense and captivating for a modern audience, most of whom had likely never worn a corset before in their lives?  

Simply put, that moment managed to be as effective as it was because, until very recently, it seemed as though the idea that “corsets are extremely dangerous and bad for your health” had outlived the popularity of corsets themselves by at least a century or two.  

For the longest time, one could hardly mention the word “corset” without hearing one of the irritatingly pervasive myths about their negative effects. Practically everyone seemed to have heard from a doctor or a history professor or an Internet blogger that “corsets cause permanent organ damage!” or “corsets rearrange your internal organs!”  or “corsets shrink your lungs and cause your muscles to atrophy!”  

As corsets have begun to increase in popularity once again as part of the ever-growing “waist training” weight loss phenomenon, those annoyingly tenacious old myths have begun to re-surface as well. For every positive confessional from a woman who’s lost pounds and inches off her waist with the health of a corset, three or four self-proclaimed “experts” have popped up to warn her about how she’s “destroying” her body.  

Here at Get Waisted, we are committed to the truth. We want to help our customers move past the tangled webs of misinformation in order to confidently begin their waist training journey. Waist training, if undertaken with dedication, care, and self-awareness, can be an extremely empowering experience which provides a number of benefits both physical and psychological. Therefore, we have created this guide in order to explain the truth about the safety and health of waist training and lay the myth of “permanent organ damage” to rest at long last.

Dangerous, Unsafe Corsets: The Fiction  

The false information frequently spread about corsets (and, to a lesser extent, other shapewear garments utilized for the purpose of waist training) has taken on a number of forms over the years. Some of the most commonly disseminated false statements are briefly summarized below:  

  • Corsets cause permanent rearranging of the internal organs, causing them to function more slowly or break down entirely. This primarily arose from a number of (highly inaccurate) illustrations drawn by anti-corset doctors during the height of the fad (and before the rise of medical imagining technology). Accusations levied against corsets ranged from “they will deform the intestines so food cannot be properly digested” to “kidneys will be compressed by the surrounding organs and cease to function”.
 
  • Corsets will cause the lungs to no longer take in a sufficient amount of breath, and can therefore cause fainting. It is this myth which was drawn upon to create the “corset faint” scene in Pirates of the Caribbean as discussed earlier in this article.
 
  • Corsets will atrophy the muscles of the core and abdomen, making it so that the wearer can no longer move or walk without the support of a corset. “Experts” claiming this as truth often cite examinations supposedly performed on the bodies of long-ago corset wearers who lived during the height of the fad and likely wore corsets on a regular basis.

In addition to helping fitness fans and fashion lovers shed pounds, waist trainers are often prescribed by doctors to help with recovery from hip or spinal injuries or to manage chronic pain or conditions such as scoliosis. How can something which has medically beneficial, thoroughly proven effects also “permanently damage” the body? Simple: it cannot. Application of modern medical science has disproved the claims listed above and placed them firmly into the realm of myth, as illustrated in the following section  

Corsets, Safe If Used Responsibly: The Facts  

Like anything which does reshape the body in even subtle ways, corsets (and all other waist trainers) should be worn carefully and responsibly. If proper caution is employed – breaking in new corsets, giving yourself days of rest in which you do not wear the garment – waist trainers will not deform or harm your body in any permanent manner.  

If you and your fabulous new waist training garment are confronted by “experts” spouting any of the above myths, you can now hold your head high and confidently respond with the medical, scientific facts as presented below.  

  • Corsets, even when worn regularly, do not cause any shifting of the internal organs more drastic than what normally occurs during pregnancy. The interior space of the “female” biological body is designed to move and shift, in order to accommodate the presence of a growing baby. Any slight shifts in the internal organs which regular corset wear may cause is significantly less severe than what is caused by the presence of a second, approximately watermelon-sized body within your own for nine months. In addition, MRIs performed by German medical professionals on a number of lifelong corset wearers, including performer Eden Berlin, conclusively showed that no harmful “rearranging” occurred. The only organs which shifted in any way was the colon or large intestine, which is naturally flexible and was not altered so dramatically that its normal function was in any way impeded.
 
  • Corsets do not permanently compress the lungs. Any dizziness or shortness of breath experienced is a sign that the corset is too tight or otherwise improperly fitted. It is true that, in previous centuries, women and girls did experience shortness of breath and even faint due to their corsets. However, this is an easily avoidable problem caused by a lack of awareness regarding the proper fit of a corset and/or the prioritization of achieving the most narrow, dramatic waistline possible over the comfort of the wearer. A properly fitted corset which is not too tight should be tight but not uncomfortable, and allow for regular breathing at all times. If you experience any of the above symptoms, loosening your waist trainer should rectify them immediately.
 
  • Corsets worn starting in adulthood and paired with an even minimally active lifestyle will not cause any muscles to deform, decay or atrophy. It is true that a small number of instances of improperly formed core and abdominal muscles were identified during modern autopsies performed on the bodies of lifelong corset wearers. However, in every case, these individuals were ones who had been required to wear a corset beginning at an extremely young age. It is possible that some atrophy of the muscles may occur if a person is forced to wear a corset on a daily basis beginning in childhood, as this can prevent the muscles from properly developing. However, if you begin wearing a corset as a late teenager or adult, these problems will not occur. If you still experience some concern; however, the risk of muscle damage can be entirely eliminated by pairing your waist training with regular abdominal and core-focused strength training workouts. (See here for some example exercises to try.)

 

Tips and Tricks for a Safe Waist Training Experience  

Just because a responsibly worn corset is not dangerous and does not cause any permanent damage, does not (unfortunately) mean that no negative side effects will ever occur. As with any fashion choice, from high heels to piercings, your waist trainer should be worn with care and caution, overuse should be avoided and you should stop if you feel any lingering pain or discomfort.  

To conclude this article, we present a list of our top tips for safe, healthy and productive long-term waist training. These techniques will keep you looking and feeling great whether your training garment of choice is a corset, cincher, butt lifter or anything else you could possibly imagine!  

  • Give every new waist trainer a break-in period. For every new garment, whether it’s your first or your five hundredth, start out gradually by wearing it for 1-2 hours per day. Slowly increase the time on a week by week basis until you can comfortably wear the garment for a full day without any discomfort or pain.
 
  • If something feels wrong, stop. Waist trainers should feel tight, but should not be painful or otherwise uncomfortable in any way. Check in with your body on a regular basis. Ask yourself questions to categorically make sure that you are not experiencing any negative effects – Am I in pain? Can I breathe properly? Is any part of the garment rubbing uncomfortably against my skin? Do I feel light-headed, dizzy, or nauseous? Am I itchy? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, loosen or remove the garment to determine the cause of the problem. Adjust and re-fit as necessary before wearing again.
 
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! If you have any questions or concerns regarding waist training, talk to a doctor, personal trainer, professional corseter / corsetiere, or even an experienced friend. It is especially recommended that you communicate regularly and openly with professionals if you are using your waist training garment to aid in recovery for an injury or pain management, or if you are pregnant or have recently given birth.

 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, waist training is all about you. Every single body on the planet is different, will react and respond differently to waist training garments, will experience the training in slightly – or possibly greatly – different ways. There is a truly massive amount of information available – in books, on television, on the Internet – about waist training, cinchers, corsets, their results and their effects. However, the number one most accurate source of information is always going to be your own body. Experiment, try new things, try things differently, don’t be afraid to make changes, and before you know it you’ll be well on your way to finding the waist training technique which is the absolute perfect fit for important, fabulous, special you!  

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the above information, feel free to contact us at any time. Go here to read more about the benefits of waist training, here for a more in-depth examination of how the process works, and here to browse our amazing catalogue full of corsets, cinchers, butt lifters and more!