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X-rays from “Le Corset” (1908) Explained

Lucy’s note (September 4, 2023)  – ten years after the original post was published, Dr. Rebecca Gibson debunked the x-rays in an exposé. My previous unedited post remains below, but please take it with a grain of salt and be sure to read my followup post here.

Several articles around the internet have picked up on the old Wikipedia publication “Le Corset” written in 1908 by a doctor named Ludovic O’Followell.

When I first saw these photos, I (like many others) immediately thought that they were tampered with or “doctored” (couldn’t resist the pun!).  But actually, there’s a good chance those photos are (somewhat) real. This is why it’s important to read the WHOLE story instead of jumping to conclusions from a set of photos.

This is two examples of the photos in question (I’d post them all, but the computer I’m working on today is ridiculously slow and takes over a minute to properly load a page):

X-ray projection of a Victorian style (“curved”) corset, from “Le Corset” (1908). Same waist reduction as that shown below.
X-ray projection of a straight-front (“line”) corset, from “Le Corset” (1908). Same waist reduction as that shown above.

If you know anything about X-rays and about how corsets are made, you will see that this doesn’t quite add up.

  • Why are the binding and laces as dark as the steel bones? They are usually made just from fabric, and like the rest of the fabric in the corset itself, should not show up on the projection.
  • Why do the bones show up clearly only on one side of the corset, and not the other? After all, when you see a saggital X-ray of a skull of a subject wearing earrings, you see BOTH earrings on either side of his or her head:
This is how an X-ray works. Incidentally, I myself have gotten an X-ray recently and could see my earrings right through my skull as well.

However, today I’ve been reading through that chapter – those photos were originally used as a comparison of how the older Victorian (“curved”) corsets compressed the 9th-12th ribs (and the doctor also admitted that the Victorian corset was also positioned too high on the subject), compared to a straight-fronted (“line”) corset of the same waist reduction and how it hardly affects the position of the ribs at all. The author explains that the curved corset not only restricts more of the ribcage by starting higher on the body, but restricts breathing much more than the Edwardian “line” corsets; and shows that with a well-made corset, the ribcage does not have to be restricted at all.

He notes that the corsets used for the X-rays had in fact been modified; they used suture in the binding to make the edges show up and had dipped (or otherwise treated) the whalebone in one side of the corset (but not the other) so it would show up more clearly (presumably because balein is cartilage, it might not show up at all in X-rays as it may not be dense enough). They had also replaced the normal laces with wire. After the radiographs were taken, the photo was then optimized (probably drawn over) to mark the details more clearly.

The doctor had to admit that the subject, although she corseted for a few hours every day, she was in good health. He mentioned that he wanted to compare this subject with another woman in good health who had *never* worn a corset, but apparently couldn’t find one at the time of this study.

He also notes that since the X-ray is a projection of a 3-dimensional subject, the image becomes distorted and must be compared with X-rays of the subject without the corset as well – otherwise the image of the corseted figure looks much more abnormal than it really is.

There is quite a lot of information in this publication that I would love to touch on in the future (for instance, the argument that the corset caused spinal deformities such as scoliosis merely from the fact that it was observed in more women than men at the time – this had been de-bunked eventually from the fact that scoliosis found in modern young females progresses at a rate 8 times that in young males).

I encourage you to read a bit of “Le Corset” out of mere interest if you’re proficient in French (or happen to have a good translator). As always, take this information with a grain of salt.

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Timeless Trends Slim Longline Corset Review

This entry is a summary of the review video “Timeless Trends SLIM Longline Underbust Corset Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Center front is about 13″ long and the shortest part of the corset (close to the side seam, from underbust to lap) is about 11″ – so this corset is more recommended for those with longer torsos, not recommended for short-waisted or those of very short stature. Gives a modern slim silhouette; I’m able to achieve 3-4 inch waist reduction. Comes rather low over the hips, no pinching or discomfort because the adjustable hip ties can allow 6+ more inches of space if needed. The longline corsets seem to have a bit less space in the underbust compared to the regular length corsets, in my experience.
Material Outer brocade with red flowers on black satin which is fused to twill. (This particular style is only available through distributors) The longline cut comes in many different colours and fabrics. Lining also in twill.
Construction Seams appear to have been lock-stitched with seams pressed open; the layers of fabric secured to one another by stitching in the ditch, with the boning sandwiched between the two layers of twill.
Binding Satin bias binding in matching colour; machine stitched on both inside and outside.
Waist tape A 1″ wide invisible waist tape – sandwiched between the two layers of twill.
Modesty panel No back lacing protector, no front placket.
Busk Standard flexible busk with 6 pins (equidistantly set), about 12 inches long. Further reinforced by a flat steel on either side of the busk.
Boning 26 bones (not including busk), 20 are 1/4″ wide spiral steel; 6 flat steels, 3/8″ wide, beside the busk and grommets. The bones on the side seam of the longline corset only extend from the waist to the bottom (to reinforce the hip ties), as opposed to their overbust corsets which has bones running the full length of the side seam.
Grommets 28 grommets total, size #0 two-part grommets with moderate flange; absolutely no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommet.
Laces 1/2″ wide, single-face satin ribbon. Holds fine for my purposes; I have only ever once experienced SF satin ribbon snapping (after 1.5 years of use, after I ironed it). Some clients find that longline corsets have too-short laces; I recommend buying some overbust-length laces along with the longline corsets for ease of lacing.
Price Most underbusts are $119 USD when not on clearance (available on the Timeless Trends website and also through me).
Red floral on black longline
Red Black Floral Slim Longline product photo

Final Thoughts:

This longline underbust was admittedly a surprise when I first tried it on. I was so used to having at least 6″ space in the ribcage and about 8-9″ space in the hips compared to the waist, as had been the case when I owned my two standard-length underbust corsets from Timeless Trends. However, their longline corsets seem to be more narrow through the ribcage, only having about 2-3″ extra space in the ribs compared to the waist. For this reason, I really recommend this corset primarily to those who are truly pear-shaped, who are narrow through the ribcage and wide in the hips. This corset also works pretty well for larger clients, who often seem to have a smaller underbust measurement compared to their waist – this type of corset allows them to cinch in the waist and smooth over the hips, while not having to deal with significant gaping at the ribcage. The extra length also helps prevent any lower pooch from peeking out the bottom edge.

The quality of construction is still the same; in the several years I’ve owned their corsets, I have never once had an issue with a bone poking through, a seam ripping, a grommet coming loose etc. At worst, I had heard of a busk pin popping off (which can happen to even the best busks if not handled properly), and if seams do have a gap, it’s a manufacturing flaw that is easily rectified with their exchange policy. These guys take their guarantee seriously. I do plan to resume selling this brand as I am a distributor, so check out the “Buy a Corset!” page if you’re interested.

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Corset Troubleshooting: “My knots and bows keep slipping!”

I openly admit that I have never been a Girl Scout and I only know how to tie a handful of knots. But one thing I do know is that if your bows and knots are slipping out (of your shoes, your corsets, your boats) when you don’t want it to, then something is wrong.

Knowing how to tie a proper square knot is useful in corsetry in two different places:

  1. When securing the permanent knot at the end of the laces (near the bottom set of grommets), and
  2. When tying your bow at the waistline (if you’re using the bunny-ears method to lace your corset).

I know of several people who simply tie their “bunny ears” in a full knot because they’re so frustrated with their bows coming out – however, if you ever panic or feel claustrophobic and need to change out of your corset quickly, you’re going to have some issues trying to pick out that knot behind your back. It’s worth your while to take the few minutes to learn how to tie a proper bow, and then you’ll never have that issue again. Your bow will stay secure, and as an added bonus if you’re using pretty ribbon, your bow will be balanced and will look like one of those lovely bows that people always draw.

There are a million sites and tutorials showing how to tie a proper square knot and its related balanced bow. Here I’ve made a tutorial in the context of corsets (since it’s a bit trickier when you’re trying to do this behind your back where you can’t really see what you’re doing):

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“The Corset Diaries” Book Overview

This written version is essentially a transcript of my video review of the same book, which you can see here if you’re not the type to like to read (but note that if you don’t want to read a review, why would you read an entire novel?)

Please note that both the review and the video DOES contain spoilers, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Continue reading “The Corset Diaries” Book Overview

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Contour Corsets Review (Summer Mesh Underbust)

This entry is a summary of the review video “Contour Corsets Summer Mesh Underbust Review” which you can watch on YouTube here:

Fit, length Front is about 12.5 inches long, back is 13.5″ long. Unique silhouette in which the ribcage mostly follows the natural contours, tapering a bit through the lower ribs, but nips in dramatically at the waist for an extreme hourglass shape – almost wasp-waist in silhouette. I had requested this type of ribcage – if you prefer a more natural shape, this can be accommodated. This is called a “mid-hip” cut; coming slightly over the iliac crest but not longline. Extreme hipspring. See the “Final Thoughts” section on other fitting notes.
Material Primarily one layer of very strong, almost no-stretch poly mesh. I chose the “gold” color to match my medium-olive skin tone (it’s a cross-weave of a light yellow and deeper pinkish-copper). Despite being synthetic, the holes in the mesh allow my skin to breathe. Still, I always wear it with a liner underneath. Boning channels and binding are made from somewhat matching light-brown twill.
Construction 6 panel pattern, with most of the hip-curve between panels 3-4. At least triple-stitched: Lock-stitching between panels, seam allowances pressed open and zig-zag stitching to further stabilize the seam, then external boning channels, double-boned on the seams (external channels often contribute to an even stronger seam). No garter tabs (not requested).
Binding Brown twill that matches the boning channels; machine stitched inside and outside.
Waist tape None. This corset is strong enough without a waist tape, and in fact stronger than many of my corsets that do contain waist tapes. (I admit I had my doubts, but this corset has been tried and tested for nearly a year.)
Modesty panel 4″ wide stiffened modesty panel (lacing guard) in the back, suspended on the laces. 1″ wide modesty placket under the front closure, with a very heavy flat steel bone (essentially a boned underbusk).
Front closure Not a busk! The front closure is a “stayed zip” – heavy duty metal YKK zipper, secured into twill panels with the mesh overlayed. A 1/2″ flat bone is on either side of the zipper, and a 1/4″ flat bone sits on top of either side of the zipper as well. The very stiff and heavy 1″ underbusk further stabilizes the zipper so it doesn’t buckle. This has been my first tightlacing corset with a zipper and I’ve had no isssues with it.
Boning 29 total steel bones. On each side, there are 10 bones in external channels, then 2 flats on either side of the grommets in the lacing system, as mentioned before another 1/2″ steel beside the zipper, another flat bone on top of the zipper, and the last 29th bone is the heavy underbusk underneath the zipper.
Grommets 26 grommets total, size #0 two-part grommets with a large flange; set closer together at the waistline; high quality – no splits, no wear/fraying/pulling out of grommets
Laces I opted for the heavy-duty lacing; nylon braided shoe-lace style laces; they’re thin, they grip well and they are long enough. Very easy to lace up; they glide through the grommets well but hold their bow tight. Zero spring.
Price The Summer Mesh underbust costs between $520 – $575 at the time of this review. The price depends on the size and other considerations (see below). Asymmetric patterns (for those with scoliosis, etc) add $100. You can see her full price list here.

Final Thoughts:

When I first recorded the review and did the “first edit”, it was nearly 20 minutes long because I had so much to say about this corset. It is like no other corset I’ve had before, so even for a review such as mine (which is on its own pretty objective, but still comparable if you read across the tables of different reviews on this site), it can’t really be compared to other corsets in my collection. The posture, the materials, the construction, the pattern/ silhouette – everything  about this corset is just… different. Be prepared for a really long discussion (and as model KathTea had once said, “If this is tl;dr then corseting is probably not for you”).

Continue reading Contour Corsets Review (Summer Mesh Underbust)