As with many things that are popular and dramatic, corsetry and waist training come with their fair share of myths and tall tales. Corsets have been a staple in fashion for centuries, be it for modesty, shaping, sex appeal, drama or what have you. These myths range everywhere from the thought that corset wearers are insecure to women in olden times removing ribs to fit into their corsets and even corsets causing broken bones.
While many of us here are part of the family of alternative fashion genres, stigma and false accusations are somewhat commonplace. People will always believe what they want, but we, here at the Violet Vixen, want to clear up these rumors for you. Corsets are not meant to be harmful or scary. Corsets are meant to be fun and expressive, a way to ramp up your fashion or give you the ability to modify your body without having to worry about permanent repercussions. So, without further ado, let us dive into these fables.
This is, and never has been, accurate. A proper fitting corset made with high quality materials should NEVER cause you pain, especially when it is properly broken in and seasoned. (Check out our blog on "How to Season a Corset") Corsets are made with sturdy fabrics, and often steel boning, to keep the body in the wearer’s desired silhouette. Sure, thinking of your torso being encased in steel can sound a little intimidating. However, when you slowly antiquate your body and your garment to one another, perfection ensues, as the corset slowly molds and takes shape of your body.
There are only a few ways this myth is ever “reality”. The first being, that corsets can be uncomfortable if the wearer does not properly measure their body. To avoid this, we at the Violet Vixen provide a world of tools and tricks, tape measures to our customers who might not have one, and even corset consultations to ensure that you get the best possible fit for yourself. (Check out "How to Measure for a Corset") Another way this myth can seem true is with a low quality garment. This is why all of our custom, made-to-order, Violet Vixen branded corsets take a good chunk of time to make. We make them with the highest quality materials we can get our hands on and specify the shape to our customers’ measurements. Wearing a corset that you can grab and go straight off the rack might be made with low quality fabrics that can irritate the skin and acrylic/ plastic boning which can easily warp, not hold shape and even snap and cause cuts. An additional issue would come with trying to tight lace a corset that is not properly seasoned and broken in.
All in all, when it comes to this myth, there are definitely things you can do to make sure that your corset is not uncomfortable. Make sure you are making a wise investment when you are purchasing a corset, get something high quality that will last. Make sure you get a proper fitting corset for your body. Listen to your body, maybe you have laced too tight or improperly, maybe you have been laced in too long, maybe the fabric is irritating you. When your body is talking to you, listen to it and make necessary adjustments. Lastly, make sure the corset you are wearing is properly seasoned! If it is not properly seasoned, go check out our blog post where I go through how to properly and safely season a corset. (How to Season a Corset) You will thank yourself for it!
There is honestly, little to no legitimate evidence that wearing corsets can cause permanent damage. Corsets provide temporary reshaping and modifying of the body. Wearing a corset will not give the wearer a permanent hour glass figure, it will only shift the way the body holds weight temporarily in order to give the illusion, or emphasize, a dramatic waist. Sure, when someone is tightly laced into a corset, things may move around a bit due to the construction of a corset, but once the garment is removed, the body redistributes the weight back to normal.
Much like any trend, fad or staple in the fashion and beauty industry, there will always be people who fabricate scare tactics and tall tales to get a rise out of people for whatever reason. Wearing a corset will not cause your organs to shift permanently, wearing a corset actually shifts organs less than a pregnancy would. In most cases, people’s organs are not even affected by corset wearing. Wearing a corset will not damage your lungs and cause you to faint. If you do feel faint or dizzy while wearing a corset, it is not due to lung damage, however, to improper fit and/or improper wear. Wearing a corset will not cause damage or atrophy to your muscles.
In some medical instances, corsets are actually recommended. While not necessarily the exact kind of corsets we are talking about here, it is the same basic principle. Medical corsets do exist and aid in benefiting those who live with scoliosis, spinal injuries, hip injuries and even those with chronic pain. I, personally started wearing corsets more frequently following a car accident that left me with nerve damage and back problems. Corsets can help correct posture. It is important to remember that you can get the benefits corsets provide if you are using them correctly.
For this one, let us use logic. Think about what medicine is like today, think of how it is ever improving and changing. Now think of how medicine was in the nineteenth century. In a world where there was no pain relief, no magic drug to knock you out, where people were so afraid of surgery and pain that they would often opt for their ailment or injury to worsen, and ultimately cause their demise in many cases. People were dying in war due to infection and medical issues more commonly than the wars themselves. Do we really think, in that time where the fear of pain and post-surgical infection was so high, that someone would voluntarily put themselves in that position?
Anesthesia, specifically ether, was not even discovered for medical use until 1846. Ether was used by an American dentist named William Morton to extract a tooth without pain. So, sure there was eventually ether. However, ether made patients nauseous, lowered pulse and caused violent vomiting. In addition, ether is highly flammable and explosive, so using it near flame for visibility would end poorly. Shortly after, we had nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and chloroform. But there was still the issue of the medical system not being up to snuff.
It is understandable how people can quickly grab at this myth, seeing how tiny some Victorian corsets are. Many corsets were also not only worn by adults, many young girls wore corsets, as well. It is important to note, that in these days, a corset was a foundation piece meant to give shape and support the heavy dresses and coats that were worn in those days. Due to corsets being foundational, of course, they will be smaller than the garments they are supporting.
Now, when a lot of people think about corsets, they think about that ever so famous scene in Pirates of the Caribbean where Keira Knightly’s character faints while laced in a corset. A lot of people seem to think this was because of lack of oxygen, but that is likely not the case.
There are a few reasons people can feel faint when wearing a corset. The first of these is being laced in improperly or laced in too tight for what the body and corset is used to. This can cause issues with blood pressure. Which is why we always advise proper seasoning and lacing techniques. Coupled with this is also over-exertion. If you don’t properly break in your corset and wear it tightly laced to an event, there is potential for trouble.
Another big reason for people feeling woozy while wearing corsets, especially in olden times, would be dehydration. Corsets are usually made with heavy duty fabrics to hold shape, as well as heavy duty (typically) steel boning. Couple that with heavy dresses and coats and you’re bound to rapidly sweat and lose water. Much like any new lifestyle change or body modification, you are going to need to make some changes. One of those changes while wearing corsets will likely be to up your water intake when you’re laced in, especially if you are in multiple heavy layers.
Much like how the heavy fabrics from corsets combined with layers can cause one to become dehydrated, they can also cause one to overheat. Be mindful of what you are wearing, how long you are wearing it for, your surroundings and forecast. If you are out at renaissance festival or a concert in the heat of the summer, make sure you can modify your outfit and take away layers if need be.
Keep in mind, these reasons are mostly user error. And that is not to mean offense, it is best to research and understand something before you get into it, and that includes fashion trends such as corseting. Learn how to properly season and lace a corset, learn how to address your body’s need for water and learn how to keep an eye out for overheating. And ALWAYS listen to what your body is telling you.
There are countless reasons that people wear corsets, very little of that is someone is insecure or trying to compensate for low self-esteem. Not that there is anything wrong with wearing a corset for that purpose! If having that nice tight hourglass figure that some people do not naturally have makes someone feel better and more secure, by all means, go for it!
Some people wear corsets to waist train for vanity, for drama and extremes, and even to help with post-partum bodies, to encourage and help reshape. Some people wear corsets as a form of anxiety relief, think of weighted blankets, think of warm embraces, in a sense, a corset can feel like this to some people and provide that comforting compression as a constant.
Some people wear corsets as a one-and-done type deal, for costumes, for weddings, for photoshoots and other special events.
Some people wear corsets in the bedroom, for performances, to provide general amped up sex appeal. The comfort one can gain from the tight hourglass figure or compression can translate into the bedroom or on stage for a different kind of confidence.
Some people wear corsets for culture, for fashion, for sense of self. Everyone from renaissance goers to LARPers to historical reenactors to gorgeous Goth queens, Drag queens and everyone in between often wear corsets as a means of signifying their personality.
A lot of people, myself included, wear corsets for the simple nature and beauty of the art. The striking silhouettes, the gorgeous fabrics, the ability to play with and manipulate the way your body can shift weight to fill out different proportions. It can be very exhilarating and invigorating.
Above all, corsets started out as, and will always remain a foundation item. Something to build and give shape and exquisite silhouette. Not only do corsets make clothes look and fit better in some instances, they can make the wearer feel better, with that effortless posture and can even sometimes be more comfortable than wearing a bra for some women.
It is important to remember that every reason for wearing a corset is a beautiful and valued one. Be it for added self-esteem, for exhibitionism and extremes or for cute pinup foundation wear.
Thank you so much for taking the time to explore and bust some corset myths with me! (Get it, bust?) If you ever have any questions or concerns when it comes to corsets and corset wearing, please feel free to reach out to us at any time! (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org) We have tons of resources and tips to help everyone find their dream corset!
Merry Meet, Merry Part and Merry Meet Again!
About the author:
Morticia has been helping to revamp and take over the customer relations side of The Violet Vixen since the end of summer 2019. Specializing in alternative and over the top fashion, she has years of experience in the fashion and beauty industry and has had quite a few high profile clients. A practicing Pagan of over fourteen years, she is our resident witch and lives to create and craft. Morticia has always been a friend to the spooky, avant-garde and kitschy side of things, with a serious talent of marrying playful and gothic looks and attitudes.