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X-Rays of Victorian Women Wearing Corsets Circa 1908 (Photos)

I wore a corset once. It was an old-school one that had been custom made for me and was fitted to my body. But the operative word here is fitted. It was so fitted, so confining, so tight, that I thought I might just pass out while wearing it. It didn’t help that the one day I wore it just happened to be my wedding day (a day when you really don’t want to faint). But there was a time when corsets, the far distant ancestor of Spanx, were very much in vogue for those women yearning for a small waist and an hourglass figure.

These days corset wearing is pretty obscure, mostly practiced by counter-culture types who enjoy body manipulations, or goths looking for an antique style. And there is good reason why corset wearing is a thing of the past. It’s not just uncomfortable but it’s not good for your body.

Over a century ago, back in 1908, Dr. Ludovic O’Followell of France studied the effects of corset wearing on the human body. And he got pretty high-tech in his research. The doctor had x-rays taken of women wearing corsets to prove that the undergarments would compress various organs against a woman’s spine, and would push other organs into the lower abdomen.  Ouch.

“If you’re wearing a corset 24/7, it can do a couple of things to your body,” said Dr. Sara Gottfried, a gynecologist to ABC News. “Namely, it will be squeezing your ribs so much that you can’t take a deep breath. Corsets can squish your lungs by 30 to 60 percent, making you breathe like a scared rabbit. They can also put a kink in your organs and cause constipation.” Again, ouch.

Check out these amazing Victorian x-rays right here:

  • Illustration of Corset Wearing 1 of 7
    corset ilustarione

    An illustration of what corset wearing does to the body.

  • Corset X-Ray 2 of 7
    396px-Radiographie_grandeur_naturelle_du_corset_cambre_devant_vue_de_dos

    An amazing close up of one of the corset X-rays.

  • Corset X-Ray Bones 3 of 7
    461px-Padiographie_du_corsetLignedos

    A woman's bones are visible from under the very fitted corset.

  • Corset X-Ray Ribbing 4 of 7
    458px-Radiographie_du_corset_Ligne_devant

    The boning of the corset is very prominent in this one.

  • Small Waist 5 of 7
    454px-Padiographie_du_corset_cambré_devant_devant

    This corset brought the woman's waist way down in size.

  • Even Smaller Waist 6 of 7
    459px-Padiographie_du_corset_cambré_devant_dos

    And this one has even a smaller waist thanks for the magic of the corset.

  • Without Corset 7 of 7
    453px-Thorax_féminin_avec_corsetclichéRadiquet

    A woman who had been wearing a corset, probably regularly, in an x-ray without wearing a corset.

Image Source: Wiki Commons – images in public domain – published before 1923 and public domain in the US.

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