“History Myths” is a charming blog that reads somewhat like Snopes or FactCheck, except with the obvious focus on popular myths and legends throughout history. While nearly all articles are a fun read, here are a few that would be of particular interest to corset-enthusiasts. It’s also worth it to read through the comments of each article, as some very pertinent points are made by other readers.
Myth #59: Women had very tiny waists in “the olden days” - historical corsets and outfits displayed in museums usually have waists ranging between 21 inches to 35 inches, the average being around 23″-25″.
There is quite a lot to say on this topic, including the fact that many of the corsets of the time were not designed to be closed all the way – it was customary to have a 1-3 inch gap in the back, meaning that an 18″ corset may have been worn closer to 21″. Also, be aware that while many museums display articles of clothing that are best preserved, many of them preferentially display corsets and clothing that would be most interesting to visitors – those being the most elaborate, and those with the tiniest proportions – although they may not necessarily be representative of the average of the time.
MYTH #47: The fainting couch was invented during Victorian times for tightly corseted women to use whenever they felt faint - the chaise longue has existed (and been fashionable) for millenia, certainly not made for the sole purpose of fainting women. (Note: I talk a bit about the “fainting stories” in my blood pressure article here.)
Myth #28: Women had ribs surgically removed to make their waists smaller - There is zero evidence supporting that ribs have been surgically removed for cosmetic reasons, ever. That goes for today’s celebrities as well – Cher, Janet Jackson, and Marilyn Manson have all been subject to the rumors of rib removal – you can read more about this on Snopes, here.
Once again, it’s best to read through the comments and not just the articles, as some of the information in those articles have been debated as well. But these articles provide a good place to jump into further discussion.