For centuries, we’ve heard people harp on about the risks, dangers, and allegedly “misogynistic” uses of corsets. But is it possible that a corset can benefit a person, or even assist in healing them? To me, corsets were always much more than just vanity – they were armour. There is a reason that my avatar shows me wearing a helmet and corset together. (Yes, because it’s silly, but also because they’re synonymous.)
One person may look at a Trojan helmet and say, “Look at this torture device. Can you imagine wearing a heavy dome of metal on your head in blistering heat? Don’t you know that helmets represent war, and war is bad? Don’t you know that helmets cut off your peripheral vision, and so figuratively represents ‘blinders’? Why won’t you liberate yourself, and take off that helmet?”
Only the owner of that helmet knows how many times his helmet had saved his life in battle. Today, many of our “battles” are fought from inside our own bodies.
While reading through over 100 entries for my latest giveaway contest, I came to the realization that corsets can help and heal people in many ways – physically, mentally, emotionally. It affects much more than our egos and bank accounts. Sometimes corsets become our therapy, our medical devices, and to some, even part of our identity.
Without divulging personal information, here is a (by no means exhaustive) list of how corsets have helped a few of my viewers in the past:
- Corsets help minimize back pain and correct posture, to help those with past injuries (e.g. car accidents, slipped discs), neurological disorders (e.g. tics, ataxia) and autoimmune disorders (e.g. osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia).
- Corsets prevent scoliosis patients from worsening of their curvature once they no longer have a brace, or they may be used to prevent back pain from the curve.
- By extension, correct posture also helps prevent other skeletal issues. One viewer has experienced relief from her plantar fasciitis while wearing a corset because of the redistribution of her weight on her feet. I have experienced considerable pressure taken off my knees since wearing corsets (bad knees run in my family), as corsets have changed the way I sit and stand.
- Corsets are used as lumbar support to prevent potential back issues, and give support during work — eg during heavy lifting, repeated tasks or long hours in front of a computer.
- Corsets are used to reshape and feminize the figures of transgendered women, or genetic women with deformities or undesirable figures.
- Corsets are also worn by men who need back support – a custom fit piece can help them keep a masculine physique, so they don’t have to worry about any feminizing effects or stigma of off-the-rack corsets meant for women.
- Corsets are sometimes used by singers as a support; they provide resistance against which the diaphragm can push, which can help the singer achieve higher or more powerful notes.
- Corsets can also help to protect the organs during horse-riding or motorcycling, holding the kidneys in place and preventing bruising of the retroperitoneal organs.
- Corsets are helpful in minimizing menstrual cramps in women. Many women temporarily relieve their dysmenorrhea by lying in the fetal position, which exerts pressure on the peritoneal organs and somewhat decreases the painful uterine contractions. Corsets can mimic this position by exerting pressure on these same organs, reducing uterine contractions (and thus cramping) while her posture remains erect.
- Corsets can prevent hiatus hernias by exerting external pressure on the abdomen, or can prevent hernias from worsening (they can also help minimize the pain from one) if they’ve already occurred.
- Corsets can sometimes help to heal diastasis recti, the splitting of the abdominal muscles (postpartum) by holding the muscles together and preventing them from separating further.
- Corsets are used as a weight loss aid – they do not allow much expansion of the stomach, thus helping to control appetite and reduce food portions.
- Corsets give some women an hourglass shape that they may never be able to achieve naturally (through diet and exercise). Medications like steroids or conditions like thyroid abnormalities or PCOS make weight loss nearly impossible. Corsets can change a woman’s figure (through redistribution of adipose tissue) when it seems that nothing else helps.
Mental/ Emotional Benefits
- Converse to the previous point, many women have been able to overcome their eating disorders and learn to embrace and celebrate their curves by wearing a corset. Many have gained and maintained a healthy weight, since their girth and eating habits are “controlled” by the corset.
- Corsets can boost the self-image of those with low self esteem, and encourage a greater notion of self-worth – this can apply to those with poor body image and those who have been emotionally abused.
- Corsets are worn by many to ward off depression or anxiety – the corset feels like a secure, constant hug, which is naturally comforting to many people, the way that being swaddled is comforting to a child. Pressure on the abdomen can also somewhat negate the “butterfly in stomach” and nausea symptoms associated with anxiety.
- Corsets act as a coat of armour and a mode of “physical” therapy for those who have been physically abused in the past. People who have been physically or sexually abused may feel safe by wearing a corset, as it is a rigid garment with steel and often many layers of fabric, making it difficult to feel physical contact of anyone “outside” the corset.
Benefits with Societal Impact
- Corsets improve a person’s carriage and give the wearer a certain poise – the air of confidence, high self-esteem and assertiveness, whether or not they may feel confident that day. This body language – straight posture, chest high, shoulders back – silently demands respect from others. The corseted may notice that colleagues may start to treat him/her with more respect, and over time s/he may come to expect this better treatment, regardless of the corset.
- Many people simply revel in owning a custom, personal luxury item. Corsets are one of the most personalized luxuries, as many corsetieres take no less than 14 measurements of the body to ensure the corset perfectly fits the wearer. A corset will be exclusively made for the owner and no one else, both in fit and in fabric/embellishment specifications, and is often one of a kind. Owning such a piece can figuratively lift the owner out of mediocrity, helping to separate them from the rest of society in their mind, and filling a certain need to be a “special snowflake.”
- Perhaps the most prominent would be the fact that women today are liberated and empowered to wear what they like. In Western culture, women are not forced to comply with hard fashion rules; they are free to choose what to wear and what not to wear, in almost any combination. (This is why I love corsets paired with trousers!) Feminists who wear corsets are quite common, and are quite aware of a superficial sense of irony, but it all comes down to expressing oneself in the way one sees fit.
To say that a corset has never caused harm to any wearer would be a lie. However, to claim that a corset has never benefited any wearer would be a bigger lie. To those who have never experienced a corset, I would never force one on you – but I at least encourage you to look past the frills, the “fetishy” connotations, and the volatile history, to what a modern corset is able to do for its wearer. You’d be hard-pressed to find another simple garment that has the potential to help, or even heal, a person in all the ways that a corset can.
*Please note that this article is strictly for information purposes and not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*