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Corset Wearer’s Organs Illuminated by MRI


I can hardly contain my excitement! For the first time, we have public information as to what happens to a corset wearer’s organs through the use of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). I’ve wanted to do a study like this for years, but time, finances and limited access to imaging facilities prevented me from doing so.

Fortunately, German medical doctor and TV sensation Dr. Eckhart von Hirschhausen took it upon himself to study how a corset moves organs in a tightlacer on his October 2nd episode of his gameshow, Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen (“Hirschhausen’s Quiz of the Human [body]”).

Internationally acclaimed burlesque artist Eden Berlin volunteered to be studied, wearing a specialized tightlacing corset made by Korsettmanufactur TO.mTO.  The magnetic pull in an MRI machine is so strong that it is capable of ripping steel out of corsets and through flesh – so Tonia Merz, the corsetiere behind TO.m.O, explained how she used non-metal boning and other non-ferrous hardware in the corset so as not to endanger Eden during imaging.

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In this episode of Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen before viewing the results, the contestants had to guess what would happen to Eden’s body when she’s wearing a corset. Here were the options:

A. The lungs are compromised, so she has a lack of oxygen.
B. The kidneys are compressed, so they are less efficient at filtering.
C. The intestine is deformed, so digestion is slowed.

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Here are two MRI images of Eden, with her uncorseted figure on the left and her corseted figure on the right. This image is behind her peritoneal cavity, showing her kidneys and lungs. Dr. Hirschhausen explains how the lungs and kidneys haven’t moved much between the two images.

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This screencap now shows the peritoneal cavity. Dr. Eckhart gestures the normal location of the ascending, transverse and descending colon in the left image, and the transverse part of the colon is clearly viewed (where his hand is).

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Now Dr. Eckhart gestures to the right image and shows how the intestines are flexible. He says that you can see that the transverse colon has shifted so that part of it is above the waistline, and part of it is below. (While it might not have been explicitly mentioned, from the image we also now have confirmation that the liver and stomach move upwards (and the liver remains pretty much in the same shape) and they are not forced down below the waist like some horrendous illustrations once claimed).

Therefore, Dr. Eckhart concluded that answer C (the intestine trapped and digestion slowed) was the correct option.

As a follow-up to this, an MRI was done on a woman in her third term of pregnancy with the baby already in head-down (vertex) position, to show how the intestines have shifted upward considerably (again, the intestines are designed to be flexible). The baby is obviously highlighted in red.

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One thing I should point out is that Eden is not a daily waist trainer but rather wears her corsets for her performances. It’s also unknown how much time she was given to lace up and have her body adjust to the tightness before she had the second MRI taken – I know that if I give my body time to adjust while lacing down slowly, I can feel an intestinal shift after 20-30 minutes, and find that the feeling of pressure is reduced and I can lace a little tighter than before. Fran of Contour Corsets proposes that over time, a tightlacer can coax the entire transverse colon to sit below the waistline, away from the line of highest pressure from the corset, which can make digestion much easier.

Update: Eden Berlin has commented on her experience:

“The MRI pictures where made pretty much directly after i was putting the corset on and on top of this it is a new corset so still very stiff in shape. I think with a corset that my body was already used to and more time before the MRI picture the result may have been a bit different. But my organs where basicly just moved a bit up or down without changing much in shape.”

And on her waist reduction:

“My natural waist is 63cm… it was a 50cm corset and it was actually completly closed.”

Tonia Merz also confirmed that the corset was made to close at 50cm, and designed to give about a 5 inch reduction. With a 20% change in her waist circumference, this definitely qualifies at tightlacing.

If given the opportunity, I would love to repeat this MRI study with different tightlacers to see how the positions of organs change slightly depending on the individual, the silhouette of corset worn, the reduction of the corset, and how long they’ve been training. Huge thanks to Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen, Eden Berlin and Tonia Merz for their incredible collaboration and allowing us to finally see where the organs shift when wearing a corset, and especially to Tonia for her translation of the conclusions!

EDIT, JANUARY 10, 2015: You can now view the full episode here on Youtube (German, no subtitles). The corset topic begins at 35 minutes in, with the MRI portion around 45 minutes in.

38 thoughts on “Corset Wearer’s Organs Illuminated by MRI

  1. Wait. Ur telling me I’m supposed to go slow and gradually get tighter? Oh. Oopsie.

  2. Greetings, again:

    I have a few additions and a correction……

    LINK to “Accessory Grooves on the Diaphragmatic Surface of the Liver: A Cadaveric Study” =
    LINK to the images from the above article =

    LINK to the article “Cartilaginous compression of the liver – clinical and ultrasonographic aspects” =

    CITATION needed to order the “Corset Liver” article through you local library = “Corset Liver, Case Reports, Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 1985 Aug;7(4):361-8”

    CORRECTION: “Subcapsular” = below a capsule, like below the capsule of the brain, the liver, the kidney, etc. No wonder I confused myself; I misread that as “subscapular”, meaning below the shoulder blade! Heartfelt chagrin and apologies. B^(

  3. Shortly after tightlacing I got diagnosed with a lung embolism.
    I did some research and this paper explains what happens to the liver during compression:
    This article also has a link to something called a corset liver.
    I do not know if the embolism is related to the thightlacing but it could very well be.

    1. Hi Marijne, I’m sorry to hear of your health issue! I am glad that you caught it in time. Was your doctor able to confirm whether it was specifically the corset that caused it? One of my friends had passed away from PE that was caused by a yoga injury (she dislocated her knee, and the clot formed first in her knee and traveled to the lung while she was home alone, so no one to call for help). I have a distant cousin who has a platelet disorder that leads to inappropriate clotting, so he is not allowed to fly or stay at high altitudes. I also know a woman who had a clot scare after taking birth control (she doesn’t wear corsets), as well as an older gentleman who had PE form as a side effect of alcoholism. There are many factors and I would be interested to know what factors would be involved in your case, if you are willing to share your experience. This would be the first I’ve heard of a pulmonary embolism that occurred exclusively from wearing a corset if no other factors were involved.

      I will be making a video soon on corsets and the liver, but essentially “corset liver” as it’s been described in the Victorian era has been determined a misnomer, as physicians later determined that what they were looking at was Riedel’s lobe, which 4.6% of the population are naturally have; it seems to be an accessory lobe that develops with age (it’s seen more often in both men and women over 50 years old). 1% of people have a naturally poorly developed right lobe. Also over 15% of subjects (who have never worn corsets) naturally have indentations in their liver, not only from the ribcage, but also a indentation in the back from the right kidney, indentation underneath from the gall bladder, and indentation on top from the right lung. These slight differences in shape don’t affect the function of the liver:

      The Met Museum in NYC has a liver in one of their exhibits that has indentations from the ribcage and fibrosis. However, this was a liver taken from an alcohol abuser who had alcoholic fatty liver disease and cirrhosis, whose liver had enlarged to many times its normal size and pressed against the ribs. However it was the alcohol abuse that contributed to this patient’s death, not the indentations from the ribcage.

      1. Greetings, Ms Lucy:

        I don’t think that the link that Marijne provides, to a 2001 article called “Pseudolesions Due to Compression of the Liver : Underlying Hemodynamics”, means what she thinks it means. It states in part:

        “These pseudolesions [false lesions] are caused by transient compression of the liver by a certain structure (ie, ribs), which typically occurs during a patient’s deep inspiration at the time of CT examination. This focal compression causes focal increase in the tissue pressure at the subcapsular [below the shoulder blade] region, resulting in decreased portal perfusion [bloodflow] and little change in hepatic arterial perfusion (,11,,12). If this compression persists, the unusual hemodynamics result in focal fibrosis [wound healing where scar tissue replaces normal tissue] with deformity, a state classically known as “corset liver” (,13). Corset liver, however, represents a true lesion and is beyond the scope of this article.”

        The article referenced from above, a 1985 item that appears in the “Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology” called “Corset Liver” is not available freely online, but must be paid for. The Abstract says, “We describe four patients with a benign hepatic [liver] malformation most consistent with the rarely described anomaly known as corset liver.” HOWEVER, if you are interested, your local research librarian will be able to get you a copy of the article at little to no cost through an interlibrary connection. The full citation you’ll need is:

        The “Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research” has a 2017 article called “Accessory Grooves on the Diaphragmatic Surface of the Liver: A Cadaveric Study” which states, in part:

        “These grooves [on the diaphragm side of the liver] are named as “cough furrows” appearing due to chronic cough or due to a condition called “corset liver” occurring due to application of a tight corset to correct scoliosis or to get an attractive figure [2,3].” I do not understand that, though, as the diaphragm is located perpendicularly ABOVE the liver, safely away from a corset bite.

        In the “journal of Ultrasonography”, 2018, is an article called “Cartilaginous compression of the liver – clinical and ultrasonographic aspects”, illustrating that compression and shifting of abdominal organs is downright normal (especially in women with leptosomatic body types – tall, lean, low muscle tone) – the subjects were NOT corseted .

        If corsets were so detrimental to women, they would have died at even greater rates than they did of childbirth, since NOT all women bore children and died, but ALL women wore corsets.

        1. Thank you for these resources and for your valuable input, Jay!

  4. Hi – you’re probably aware of this by now, but Bernadette Banner on YouTube has a video about her experiences titled “I Grew Up in a Corset. Time to Bust Some Myths. (Ft. Actual Research)” It’s very useful in educating people that supportive corsetry is not some kind of perverse body abuse.* She also has many videos about making historic costume, support garments, etc. I’m not posting the link because it might not get through your comment filters, which is wise of websites!

    *unlike most modern heels, for example.

    1. Hi CV, I’m very familiar with Bernadette, we’re in some Facebook groups together. :) I agree her channel is a great resource for those interested in sewing reproduction garments.

  5. hola my name Ayelen, I know it has been a long time but I wanted to know if it is safe then tu use corset? Please Im starting to use y realy need to know this…

    1. Hi Ayelen, corsets are as safe as any other clothing as long as you’re in good health and you use it responsibly, but some people do use it as a form of body modification, so you should be aware of the possible things that can go wrong if you wear one that doesn’t fit properly or it’s not used properly. I talk about the “dangers” of corsets (but also the dangers of carrots) in this article, for context, and you can also read my series on Physical Effects of Corseting. If you have any suspected health issues and/or if you are under the age of 18, then I recommend speaking to your doctor before trying a corset.

  6. Not all of us are waist trainers. I wear my corset because:

    A. I’m a Steampunk and Historical costume wearer and corsets give me the correct silhouette.
    B. Because it supports my heavy skirts, and
    C. It’s wonderful support for my bad back.

    I achieve a 3-5 inch waist reduction without resorting to tight lacing (I’m just squishy). A broken rib prevents anything tighter. I have no problems breathing or digesting. As far as I can tell my internal organs move less than they did when I was pregnant. The only real issues are that when corseted I can’t change my shoes and getting into/riding in/exiting a car probe problematic. Seat belts and hoops are unmixy things.

  7. Hi Lucy,
    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I do love it and refer back to it often. I’d like to repost it on my blog but the original video looks to have been removed? I’d love to know where to get a copy? Do you think you’d be able to post it on your youtube channel? It’s SUCH a valuable video to reference.

    1. Hi Raven, I didn’t realize that the video was removed again. I wouldn’t post the video on my channel because that might result in a copyright strike (I don’t own the content) but I know that someone else in Germany was planning on posting the video, with English subtitles. I’ll see if that’s still happening.

  8. Hey there,

    I have been following some videos on YouTube about wearing corsets and came across yours.
    The link to the German TV programme doesn’t work anymore of course, but I’ve researched it on YouTube: Hirschhausens Quiz des Menschen – 2014 Folge 05 v…:

    Have a great 2015.

    1. Thank you so much! I didn’t know that it was recently uploaded – I will update the post right away. Thank you again, and happy new year!

      1. Hello Lucy
        This is a link I found for the Hirschhausens Quiz Des Menschen video

        1. Hi Pam, sorry I didn’t realize the other link had been set to private! Thanks for the new link, I’ve updated my blog to redirect to that one. :)

          1. Hi Lucy,
            I knos your not a doctor. But maybe you csn give a careful opinion. I have an enlarged liver that gives me a 33″+ waist. My dresses fit me at a 27′ as what I wore from age 20-48. I just need a corset for entertaining.
            I don’t see an issure do you?

            1. Hi May, this is really a question that’s best answered by your primary physician, I don’t know the medical cause of your enlarged liver, whether it’s NAFLD, hepatitis (quite serious), or something else. A big liver and distended abdomen is just the symptom, but the underlying cause of the issue should be addressed first before considering a corset.

  9. Hello, Lucy and this is very interesting to see and I think I will share this with my friend who has just got into the world of Corsets.This brings me to a question that I hope you can help me with. I started waist training about a month ago and I paired it with aerobics and clean eating because I wanted to loose some weight and it really helped. Recently I discovered your great blog and I finally started to see some results in my silhouette. However, I noticed not both of my sides were equal: one of my oblique muscles curves more than the other slightly but not to dramatic. Because of my budget at the time I bought a really great off the rack corset but next month planing to go custom, the corset it self is very sturdy with no unequal sides or anything of that nature. So I am wondering can it just be my body is not very symmetrical? Such as one of my obliques being stronger than the other? Is it the way I am lacing?Or is there a way to even out my sides?
    -thank you Lucy

    1. Hi Becca, I was actually working on a video on corsets and asymmetry at the time you made this comment! You can view it here (I’m still working on the written article for it). If you have any further questions after the video please let me know and I’ll try to help. :)

  10. Thanks so much for posting this Lucy! My fiancee had some concerns about the future progression of my corseting since I like dramatic hip spring (I’m going to get the Petite Josephine since it’s had so many recommendations!) I’ve sent him this article and I’m sure he’ll breathe a sigh of relief. Really appreciate it! This saves me a lot of man-management. :) Raves

  11. This article is bogus because it doesn’t clarify that it’s only about tightlacing, which does alter the internal organs. In truth, even tight-lacing doesn’t do much harm if it’s only done occasionally.

    However, as an entertainer I’ve been wearing historical corsets for more than 20 years. I make them myself specifically to my own measurements. They do no harm because I never compress more than four inches, which considering how squishy I am is very little. Instead, my corset is the best support my bad back has ever had. It also encourages me into correct posture. You can not do historical recreation without authentic undergarments and if you’re doing anything from 1500 to the present means some kind of shaping garment.

    1. DannyJane, please read the article more carefully. I mention near the end of the article that Eden Berlin is not a waist trainer, but she tightlaces for her occupation – and the experiment had been rushed. I also mentioned that the results may have shown differently depending on the experience level, the reduction, and the individual person.
      I agree that a well-made, custom fit corset can be more comfortable than even a medical back brace.
      Watching the segment of the show, it was not an attempt to prove that corsets will kill its wearer, but simply to illuminate what has occurred inside of Eden given the circumstances.

  12. One thing that might be worth pointing out though is that if corsetry is actually comparable in terms of physical stress to pregnancy, then that doesn’t exactly translate to ” totally safe”. I mean, pregnancy is still, despite all of modern medicine, quite a stressful physical state. Even uncomplicated pregnancies can cause some really major side-effects.
    If long-term waist training is like being pregnant for years on end then, well…I haven’t had kids, but that doesn’t sound good :P
    With that said, we should definitely be looking at it with actual, empirical facts rather than cultural hysteria.

  13. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing.

  14. Finally! Someone shows that pregnancy moves the organs in the same way as a corset. And pregnancy is not demonized by the general public.
    I love that they did this study. Seeing real medical science that proves what corset wearers have known all along is comforting. Education is the solution. Sure, there will still be anti corset propaganda, but now we have the medical proof.

    Thank you for this wonderful post, and I will for sure add your blog to my Feedly app.

  15. Oh i wonder if the corset maker used carbon fibre boning that i’ve seen recently for sale on a corset making site. It is fascinating to see how the corset does and doesn’t effect the organs within the body.

    1. gah i meant DOES and doesn’t effect organs lol

    2. Hi Kristen! Tonia said that she used a heavy duty plastic boning (not the featherweight stuff), it was about half an inch wide, and she said that she used more plastic bones in that corset than she normally would have done for metal.
      The grommets she used were made of brass (an alloy made from copper and zinc) so if it was a “clean” brass then it should contain no iron, and so wouldn’t be affected by the magnet.
      Tonia mentioned that before she made the corset, she took all the materials for the corset (including the fabric) and tested it in the MRI machine to make sure that no part of it would react, before she made the final corset for Eden. :)
      The carbon fibre would be another cool option but probably only for the center front, as they have very little flex to them and don’t really come curved for the sides of the waist.

      1. Oh no, the carbon fibre ones i’ve seen on this site bend better than steels! fibre glass is brittle but carbon fibre has a lot of flex but also a lot of strength, have a look! :)

        1. Hm, I read Vena Cava’s description, they said that the carbon fibre bones are 24x stiffer than the steel.

          1. ah lol…just read it again..yeah not as bendy. DOH! I saw the pic of the two bending and got the two mixed up. But even saying that, they are rather remarkable step away from metal.

  16. Oh i wonder if the corset maker used carbon fibre boning that i’ve seen recently for sale on a corset making site. It is fascinating to see how the corset doesnt and doesnt effect the organs within the body.

  17. Oh man, actual *science* and corsetry, instead of just hyperbolic freak-outs? Unheard of! Seriously though, this is really interesting and well-written. More, please!

    1. Isn’t it fascinating? I hope this opens the doors for the opportunity for more corset-related medical testing – I can see this information being relevant for orthopedic technicians who make medical back braces as well.

  18. Sounds interesting I’ve been tight lacing forabout a year now. I’d be interested in looking at how my body has changed. It does seem to aid digeston in my case and I have lost weight since tight lacing. Thanks for th insight though most interesting.

    1. Hello Edward! I’m glad that corsets have seemed to help improve your digestion – I have heard this from a few other corset wearers as well; if they had problems with bowel movements in the past, it seems to have gotten easier for them with a corset. Of course, results and experiences vary and some other people do seem to have slower bowel movements, which is why I’m so curious to see what’s happening inside!

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