Remember the famous scene in Gone With the Wind when Hattie McDaniel, who stars as Scarlett’s mammy, ties her corset so tight she can barely breathe or eat? That scene wasn’t much of an exaggeration of the common beauty practice that was popular at the beginning of the 1900s and this trend is starting to make a comeback with women today.
Ethel Granger was the most famous tightlacer of all time, surpassing Scarlett O’Hara’s tiny 17-inch waist by another four inches. As we know, women are much larger today than they were in the beginning of the 20th century, but our obsession with these unrealistic body proportions hasn’t lessened, particularly with the recent attention centered on Ioana Spangenberg.
The 84-pound Romanian model boasts a 20-inch waist and that’s precisely the center circumference women are seeking via tightlacing today. If you simply Google “corset training,” you’ll find a ton of videos from women bragging that they’ve been able to shave nearly 5 inches off of their waists by practicing tightlacing, a method of gradually reducing the size of your waist by wearing corsets. The difference between this and wearing Spanx or shapewear for example is that those garments provide a temporary reduction in belly bulges and back fat via smoothing, whereas tightlacing is aimed at reducing the actual size of one’s waist over time, and that’s where health concerns come into play.
Mild, short-term effects such as shortness of breath and chaffed skin often result from wearing corsets but the effects can be far more severe because tightlacing over a long period of time doesn’t just effect your outward appearance, it causes internal organs to become squeezed together. This puts pressure on the lungs because they aren’t able to fully expand; the rib cage becomes smaller and with less space inside, organs like the heart become compressed and have to work harder to function properly; digestion becomes difficult because of the compression of the abdomen, and all of these side effects can lead to organ failure.
Unfortunately, the resurfacing of this practice is more evidence of the never-ending trend of putting vanity before health. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to achieve the coveted hourglass shape that has been the ideal standard of the female body for centuries but using corsets to achieve it is hardly worth the long-term damage. Furthermore, it’s not even a realistic body type and speaks to the body issues plaguing women today because most of the women who engage in tightlacing are already thin, they’re just seeking a way to exaggerate that thinness into fabricated curves.
It’ the exact opposite of people getting butt shots and implants to embellish their waist to hip ratio, they just think that by not going under the knife and wearing a simple undergarment they’re doing less damage when in reality they aren’t. At some point we’ve got to become OK with tightening up our waistlines with diet and exercise not harmful 20th century beauty fads.