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Conical vs Round Rib Corsets – How to choose the best silhouette for your body

Gemini longline corset, round rib and conical rib silhouette modeled and designed by Lucy Corsetry

WHAT?! You just got finished reading through a dozen blog posts / watching an hour of corset videos on Youtube to figure out what length and size of corset to get, how many bones it should have, and how much to budget for your corset, and there’s still more to learn??

At the risk of overwhelming the beginners, the silhouette of a corset is what can make or break the whole experience! A corset that is ) ( shaped is often less comfortable than a corset that’s } { shaped, even though the latter seems much more dramatic to the eye, even if the two corsets have the same measurements at the top edge, waistline, and bottom edge.

When I designed the Gemini corsets in 2015, my goal was to empower wearers with a choiceround rib or conical rib? It’s up to their individual preference! However, sometimes too many options can lead to more confusion and analysis paralysis. How do you know which silhouette is right for you? I receive this question almost weekly among my prospective clients, and this list of factors is what developed from having these conversations over the past 7 years. Hopefully this list will help you decide which silhouette is better for you:

(Take the quiz to find out which style is better for you!)

Created on By Lucy

Conical Rib vs Round Rib - Which is Right for Me?

Try this quiz to see if your body and your experience level makes a conical rib corset (aka tapered or straight rib), or a round rib corset (aka a cupped or convex rib) better suited for you!

1 / 12

Is your corseted waist larger than 26 inches (66cm)?

2 / 12

Do you have any prior experience with corsets? Was your last corset more conical or more round ribbed?

3 / 12

Do you experience claustrophobia or have any anxiety around corseting?

4 / 12

Do you sing or do public speaking professionally?

5 / 12

Have you ever played a brass or woodwind instrument?

6 / 12

Have you ever been a competitive swimmer?

7 / 12

Do you have experience with ballet or Pilates?

8 / 12

What is your main reason for wearing a corset?

9 / 12

How do you feel about historical clothing and vintage silhouettes?

10 / 12

How is your digestion on most days?

11 / 12

Have you ever carried a pregnancy to term?

12 / 12

Have you ever cracked or broken a rib before (childhood accidents, contact sports, etc.)

Your score is

The average score is 62%


Physiological factors:

Corset size

Let’s say you have a small frame, and the circumference of your floating ribs is 26 inches around if you were to look at an x-ray of yourself. But let’s also say your natural waist is closer to 40 inches, and you wear a size 32″ corset. The waistline of the corset is still 6 inches bigger than where your natural ribs sit! The corset will cinch in mostly adipose (fat) tissue and possibly some musculature, but mostly affects the squishy flesh that lies over your ribcage, while the ribs themselves might not be compressed much or at all.

However, if someone else has a larger frame but less body fat, such that their floating ribs have a lower circumference of 28 inches but they happen to wear a size 22″ corset, their ribs will have to accommodate a lot more compression. For this reason, many bigger corset wearers who have softer waistlines and wear corset sizes larger than 26″ find it easier to wear conical rib corsets compared to very lean corset wearers who wear smaller waist sizes.

Singing, public speaking, or playing a brass instrument

Singing, public speaking, and other activities which require projecting the voice, usually requires diaphragmatic breathing and a large lung capacity. Since conical rib corsets can result in more shallow breathing, speakers and performers that depend on the strength of their voice may prefer a more round rib corset.

Brass instruments strengthen the diaphragm and costal muscles in a way that singing or most woodwind instruments don’t. Blowing through a tiny aperture in order to create the “buzz” takes a lot of strength to overcome the resistance. Not only does this build up the muscles around your ribs (and more muscle tone can make your body more resistant to waist training) but also taking full, deep breaths over and over again for years during brass practice can cause your ribs to expand or flare permanently, creating a more barrel-shaped rib cage.

Woodwind instruments don’t require as much diaphragmatic strength so they typically don’t have as much resistant muscle, but they still require a large lung capacity.

Of course – if you don’t use it, you lose it – if you quit playing the tuba after middle school, you will likely lose some of that muscle tone, but a flared rib can persist. If you no longer practice a brass or woodwind instrument and your goal is to make your ribs appear more narrow, a conical corset may help with this.

Competitive sports – especially swimming

While all strenuous sports require deep breathing, competitive swimming is particularly demanding on core and back strength, as well as regulating your breathing. This goes for speed swimming as well as synchronized swimming, and even “mermaiding” and freediving (where a large lung capacity is advantageous to stay underwater for extended periods of time).

Just like with playing brass instruments, this type of exercise builds up corset-resistant muscles around the ribs, and also can eventually cause flared ribs. If you no longer swim competitively and your goal is to train your larger ribs to be more narrow, a conical corset may help with this.

Ballet and/or Pilates

Ah, finally a sport that complements corseting instead of fighting against it! Ballet and Pilates are both activities designed to contract the core and “close” the ribs. They prioritize both lean strength and flexibility of the body’s muscle groups. As conical rib corsets also “close” and taper the ribs, wearers who have previous experience with these activities may be at an advantage. Learning how to breathe with contracted ribs through sport, they may already naturally breathe in a way that’s conducive to wearing corsets. And if they have sufficient flexibility in their oblique muscles, they might find it comfortable to wear corsets.

Those who dance professionally may not want to waist train strenuously or as a lifestyle, because wearing corsets for 23 hours a day, 6-7 days a week can atrophy core muscles and work against your dance training. However, those who dance moderately or casually can also lace moderately. It’s common for corset wearers to be mistaken for dancers due to their good posture and subtle changes to their movement!

Cracked or broken ribs, past or present (childhood accidents, contact sports, etc)

This goes without saying – if you have any previous injuries to your ribs, this can cause rib sensitivity, asymmetry through the ribs, more rib rigidity (bone fractures can put you at marginally higher risk for refracture), and generally more discomfort and resistance to anything pushing down on your ribs, also known as A Bad Time when it comes to trying to wear a conical rib corset.

Interestingly, some folks with hypermobility can experience spontaneous rib dislocation, where their ribs “pop out” of place suddenly and painfully. Bioanthropologist Dr Rebecca Gibson and Kitty Krell of Crimson Rose Corsetry are two such people with H-EDS who experience this, and both wear corsets for medical purposes – a conical silhouette corset can place continuous pressure on the ribs to prevent them from popping out.

If you’ve ever had an injury to your ribs, whether it led to a broken rib or not, proceed with caution and even bring it up with your doctor before attempting to train your ribs.


All sorts of interesting things happen during pregnancy (especially in third trimester). Most relevant among them: your body creates the hormone relaxin which loosens all the ligaments of your body. This is designed to widen the pelvis to allow passage of the baby during natural labor, but as the hormone doesn’t discriminate and affects every joint in your body, it can also result in side effects like one’s feet growing a shoe size – and flaring of the ribs (especially in someone with a short torso and/or large baby that pushes out on the ribs).

That’s not to say that one can’t wear a conical rib corset to train the ribs inward again, but it may take more work and more discomfort compared to someone who was never pregnant. And if you ever plan to have more kids, you can expect your ribs to flare right back out again, leading some to believe that training the ribs between pregnancies is a practice of futility. If this is you, you may be more comfortable with a round rib silhouette in the interim – at least until you’re certain you’re done having children.

Digestive issues

This is another situation where YMMV, especially in the case of IBS where one can fluctuate between constipation and diarrhea, and any number of irritants or food sensitivities can set one off. One person might be able to eat grapes and high-FODMAP fruits in a corset without bloating, another person might be able to drink milk just fine, and yet another person might be able to consume neither without debilitating pain.

Oddly enough, it’s worth mentioning that (anecdotally! Not done in any peer-reviewed study) the conical rib seems to be a more comfortable choice for people who have sensitive tummies, while the “pinchy” waist restriction of a very cupped or pipestem corset can set off acid reflux or IBS issues for some. While we could speculate as to why this happens (it may have to do with the effectiveness with which a cupped-rib corset can “divide and conquer” as Fran Blanche put it in an old article), it really seems to depend on the person.

Of course, ideally you should be in good health with regular digestion if you wish to pursue waist training at all. You will need to be monitoring your bathroom activities when you start waist training anyway.

Previous corseting experience

The body responds best to consistency. If you started with a round rib corset, it may feel easier to continue with round ribbed corsets (maybe even progressing to “rounder” and more cupped in silhouette).

Likewise, if you started with a more tapered-rib corset, you may find yourself gravitating towards more conical silhouettes (maybe even progressing to dramatically “geometric” ice-cream cone ribbed corsets).

If you’re still looking for your very first corset, the Gemini may not be the corset for you because it is specifically designed to give a very dramatic, striking silhouette, designed for advanced waist reduction. (However, if your body is naturally curvy (curvier than an hourglass) such that a Gemini might be the right beginner corset for you, continue reading through the rest of this article to determine which silhouette might be better to start with.)

Model wears the Gemini corset in the conical sihouette (left) and the round rib silhouette (right)

Psychological factors and personal preference:


If you have claustrophobia or if you get anxious from waist restriction, the Gemini corset may not be the corset for you because it is specifically designed to be a very dramatic, striking silhouette, designed for advanced waist reduction.

However, this conversation is meant to be about silhouette in general, not necessarily waist reduction (there are more mild-reduction corsets out there that have straight ribs or rounded ribs, if you’re more of a beginner and trying to choose between them!).

If you have limited experience with corsets, any round rib style is likely to be better for those who might have claustrophobia or anxiety around corseting. A round rib Gemini corset has the ability to place pressure primarily at the waistline, and little to no pressure on the ribs and hips, so it can feel more like a narrow training belt (while still looking stunning).

YMMV though, as some folks like the narrow band of pressure, while others find it unnerving and would much rather have the smooth, gradual (for lack of a better word) gradient of pressure that comes with a conical rib, even though it results in more compression overall. As with all things that affect your psyche, it’s very much subjective and up to individual preference.

Your main purpose or goal for wearing a corset

Different tissues and systems of the body have different levels of difficulty when it comes to waist training. As we mentioned under #1, fat (adipose) tissue is the softest and compresses readily by corsets (although it also tends to bounce back easily, and so it’s more difficult to see long-term results if you’re compressing primarily adipose tissue).

Oblique muscles take time to first stretch and then ‘mold’ to the shape of a corset (can take many months). Bones take the longest time as it requires your costal joints to become more flexible, and for very advanced (lifestyle) corseters, there’s even an element of bone remodeling over years! So if your main goal is long-term waist training to make your natural waist smaller (semi)permanently, then the conical rib will be more effective in achieving this.

If however your goal is for a temporary but dramatic-as-possible tightlaced silhouette, the round rib may be the better choice.

If you are looking for a gentle hug of a corset for back support and pain relief, going for a gently tapered silhouette in a mild waist reduction will be better than swinging too dramatically on either end of the spectrum (too conical can hurt one’s ribs, and too cupped can hurt one’s lower back if it’s not well fitted to your body or experience level).

Your aesthetic preference (and taste in historical clothing)

Most historical corsets have a more tapered rib, from the very straight Elizabethan bodies, to the smoothly tapered Victorian corsets, and the even slightly more conical Edwardian S-curve corsets. The very conical silhouette of the straight-ribbed Gemini lends itself particularly well under 1940s and 1950s Dior New Look retro style clothing.

On the other hand, when corset enthusiasts speak of anatomically correct / anatomically patterned corsets, they are typically talking about more round-ribbed and convex-hipped corsets which gently cup and support the rigid areas of the skeletal frame, while only compressing the soft areas of the body (the squishy waistline). If this is your preference, and if you like “stealthing” under modern clothing, the round rib may be more to your liking.

What additional factors, if any, would you add to this list? Do you personally prefer round rib or conical rib corsets? Leave a comment below!

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The X-Rays were ‘Doctored’ – Gibson’s Newest study exposes O’Followell’s Le Corset as a hoax

Summary (TL;DR)

  • Anthropologist Dr. Rebecca Gibson published an article on June 20, 2023 critiquing Ludovic O’Followell’s famous 1908 study Le Corset and exposing it as faulty.
  • The data was messy, the x-rays were heavily manipulated, and the subjects might not have been alive.
  • Even physicians and researchers are not immune to bias, but O’Followell’s ‘doctored’ research should be viewed as what it is: deceit.
  • Since it was the first (and for a long time, only) study on the physical effects of corseting that used x-ray imaging (radiography), many of his incorrect conclusions were blindly accepted as fact and went without debate or correction for over a century. Other studies on corseting provided exaggerated illustrations, but no radiographs, and were even worse (Gibson even referring to them as hoaxes).
  • The one thing O’Followell and Gibson agreed on is the conclusion that responsible wearing of corsets shows “no correlation with other diseases or death.”

Gibson states that the Le Corset (1908) does not stand the test of time.

Not only because medical knowledge has advanced so much in the past century, but also because O’Followell’s study is a lens into a culture and time where misogyny was even more rampant in the medical community and society at large (women were often diagnosed with hysteria; women were not considered legal persons with equal access to education or voting rights; women were often reduced to mindless “victims of fashion” with no agency or bodily autonomy, thought to have suffered to appease the male gaze).

“Throughout his book, O’Followell argues that the medical “harms” done to women who corseted were self-inflicted, either by abuse of the corset, or by wearing a bad corset (badly made, ill-fitted, unsupportive, laced “too” tight).”

Gibson 2023

O’Followell also believed that tightlacing for vanity’s sake by young women ought to be “punished.” O’Followell conceded several times in his work that only tightlacing would be a risk for certain health issues and that a well-constructed, properly-worn corset that’s not tightlaced would pose no danger to the heart and circulatory system.

Despite this begrudging admission, the main argument O’Followell put forth was that corsets compressed the ribs (and therefore it’s reasonable to assume that any organs lying within the ribs would also be compressed) and he tried to “prove” this with radiographs.

Evidence shows that the x-rays were likely manipulated.

X-ray projection of a straight-front (“line”) corset, from “Le Corset” (1908) via Wikipedia Commons. Gibson spends considerable time breaking down the flaws of this particular radiograph.
Slack laces shown in blue (Gibson 2023)

The laces are too slack (blue)

Gibson’s observations: The metal wire lacing (used to show the lacing in the x-ray) was slack on the top half of the corset – indicating that O’Followell was not consistent in the way he laced his subjects for the study. He also mentioned that his subjects didn’t participate in lacing up their own corsets (more on why later) so the way the corsets are worn in these images may not be indicative of how women normally wore their corsets. How could his results possibly be reproducible if the corsets aren’t properly and consistently laced and tightened to fit?

Lucy’s thoughts – what if O’Followell deliberately overtightened the corsets at the floating ribs in a way that caused the subjects discomfort? How is it possible to get an accurate “snapshot” of how the corset affects the body over time if that snapshot is not consistent with how these subjects wore them on a daily basis? (You’ll soon learn why that wasn’t an issue after all.)

Binding overhang shown in red (Gibson 2023)

That is not how binding works (red)

Gibson’s observations: In radiographs, soft tissues of the body (fat and muscle) are seen as transparent, hazy shading, while denser materials like bones and metal are more opaque. The metal ‘suture’ was said to be inserted into the top and bottom binding of the corset to visualize the borders, but it doesn’t wrap around to the front of the body – rather it flies off to the side in a way that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t accurately follow the true edge of the corset. In fact, Gibson says that the orientation of this wire seems more indicative of the metal laid on top of a body that might be lying down.

Lucy’s thoughts: I initially thought the dark haze above the black line was “muffin top” or flesh which might indicate that the top was overtightened, but I think I’m wrong here as the original shown above from Wikicommons doesn’t show the same darkness – and it’s hard to overtighten an area where the laces are so slack as previously outlined in blue. At first I wasn’t going to bother mentioning this, but my readers may have drawn a similar conclusion.

Boning protruding through the binding in purple (Gibson 2023)

The bones are too long

Gibson’s observations: The steel bones are protruding through the top of the binding, which is inconsistent with the way any corset at the time would have been constructed. They’re clearly too long for the corset. (While this might not seem relevant to the conclusions drawn in O’Followell’s study, it’s another example of sloppy, unreproducible work and perhaps the use of a corset that is atypical of the era.)

Lucy’s thoughts – if the bones were removable and not secured in, this may affect the fit of the corset – it’s not providing proper vertical tension, and may lead to the fabric collapsing and wrinkling uncomfortably in places. If, on the other hand, the steels were not in the corset at all, and instead laid down overtop of the subject… well, nothing would surprise me at this point.

No organ outlines, but also no front of the ribs. (Gibson 2023)

Where are the organs?

Gibson’s observations: often in radiographs, different organs can be partially visualized and distinguished from each other – the lungs are full of air and they look different next to the heart or solid liver, for example. Gibson took the images to radiology technologist Rory Langton to see if they could see the outlines of any organs. It was inconclusive. X-ray technology was still a bit crude (it had only been around for 10 years at the time of publishing).

But, weirdly, the front of the rib cage and sternum can’t be viewed here either, and usually the far-side of the ribs are not obscured by soft organs in x-rays. Gibson says, “Such complete opacity is more consistent with the rib cage having been stuffed with something to maintain its shape.”

Vertebrae outlined in green – this orientation would cause instant paralysis, shock and death (Gibson 2023)

(MOST CRITICAL) The spine is not compatible with life

Gibson’s observations: The lumbar vertebrae make no sense on a living person. (In normal x-rays, the spine looks like a literal column with the vertebral bodies stacked like thick layers on a cake, similar to this image, pulled from this study on AI learning in radiology – Lucy)

Compare with O’Followell’s image: you’re looking more at a top-down view of each vertebra, through the canals where the spinal cord should be – the spine is not stacked at all, but rather each vertebra is rotated upwards 90° and then twisted clockwise another 45°. This is probably not compatible with life and there’s no corset that could do something this drastic. Langton says that this is an x-ray of either a dead body or artificial body parts.

Lucy’s thoughts: having studied anatomy and physiology, I’m frankly embarrassed that I didn’t see this earlier. (Then again, a century of health science experts didn’t notice either.) But this is also why I had no need to worry about the corset being uncomfortably wrinkled or overtightened on the body, and why the subjects didn’t “participate” in their own lacing of their corsets. Because they weren’t alive, and maybe never were.

If you’d like to play around with the orientation of a 3D model of a vertebra for yourself, you can do so here (from

Normally, the vertebral bodies (2) are stacked on top of one another like thick layers on a cake, the spinous processes (6) face backwards like little dorsal fins, and the spinal cord runs vertically through the canal.

But wait, there’s more (trickery)

Gibson goes on to analyze other x-rays from the Le Corset, including an x-ray showing the back of the ribs, with the busk showing in front of the pelvis, meaning that the corset was possibly worn backwards. But upon closer inspection…


According to the Langton, the pelvis is imaged from the front – but the orientation of the ribs look like they’re imaged from the back. So Gibson says this was likely a composite image of “at least two” radiographs with the back of someone’s thorax pasted onto the front of the pelvis.

Also, there were no corsets in 1908 that had this specific contouring on the edges. The metal lines again appear to be laid on top of a body that was lying down. And again, whether this subject had all of their internal organs is “inconclusive.”

Understandably, some bodies of literature that relied on O’Followell’s findings and took them to be fact may now be (at least partially) called into question. 

In Gibson’s previous publications (her doctorate thesis in 2015 which I covered on my channel, and her followup book The Corseted Skeleton in 2020), Gibson borrowed skeletons from 19th century European gravesites and studied their ribs and spines – noting distinctions between different cultures (corset wearer or non-wearer), sexes, ages, etc. She noted that corset wearers during this time period did show the influence of the corset’s pressure on their skeletal structure. But importantly, she also noted that in nearly 4000 death records, zero of them mentioned corsets or tightlacing being related to the cause of death. (And she said some of those “causes” on the written records were creative, like “died from evil”, so you’d think corsets would’ve come up at least once. It never did.)

Gibson goes on to say it’s important not to confound the causes of certain skeletal deformations and erroneously blame the corset for certain findings, as some other anthropologists are guilty of doing.

Can be caused by rickets alone, but NOT corsets aloneChanges to the sternum (pigeon-chest), “waviness” of ribs.
Can be caused by corsets alone, but NOT rickets aloneDownward angling of the spinous processes (Gibson 2015).
Can be caused by rickets OR corsets (or both, but not necessarily)Flattening and/or narrowing of the rib cage.
Allegedly requires BOTH rickets AND the wearing of corsets from pre-pubertyRachitic Flat Pelvis, or the “flattening” of the pelvic girdle from back to front (which can only happen with extremely soft and malleable bone from malnutrition and starting from a young age, and the unique downward pressure on pelvic tendons caused by specific corsets) (Ortner & Putschar 1985, p 279).
Lucy’s thoughts: I personally need more evidence re: rachitic flat pelvis. Different types of rachitic pelvis can be seen in male and female skeletons, young and old, but I haven’t been able to find any publication that proves that rachitic FLAT pelvis is unique to corset-wearing European women.

Notable quotes and conclusions

Were corseted women all victims of violent, patriarchally-enforced dress codes?

Gibson hints that this is certainly the narrative that some researchers seem to benefit from propagating. But just as humans today are not a monolith, so women in 18th and 19th century France possessed – and expressed, in writing to magazines and newspapers – differing opinions, preferences, and experiences. Some men penned essays on the silliness or dangers of women’s fashion, while others called a woman’s natural silhouette “uncivilized”. There is also plenty of evidence of women responding to these opinion columns rejecting both of these claims.

“The corset became, if not villain, then antihero for which some could root, against what most of society and most of the medical community believed and advised.”

Gibson 2023

Humans are not immune from bias – including physicians, researchers, and society in general.

Gibson states that we cannot take outdated medical publications as 100% fact, or continue seeing the researchers as an unerring authority, especially when there is clear evidence of cherry-picking their subjects and patients, using small sample sizes, manipulating their data, doctoring their evidence, and relying on anecdotes – and particularly when the author of the work is clearly biased or otherwise had a conflict of interest, as O’Followell did.

Society / culture (and the individual people who make up that society) can definitely hold biases and this can definitely skew their conclusions. But it’s particularly egregious to manipulate the raw data to fit one’s agenda.

“In many cases, inaccuracies were passed to researchers, or from researchers to the reader, for various reasons—the culture may have had their own agenda.”

Gibson 2023

Conclusion: are corsets dangerous or not?

According to O’Followell: in Le Corset (1908) he admitted, perhaps begrudgingly, that only tightlacing would be considered a risk for certain health issues – and that a well-constructed, properly-worn corset that’s not tightlaced “cannot have any dangerous influence on the heart in particular and on the circulatory system in general.”

According to Gibson: in The Corseted Skeleton (2020) she shares how nearly 4000 death records failed to blame the corset as the cause of death, and she goes on to say that although there are clear permanent effects of tightlaced corsets on the skeletons she studied, her “examination showed no correlation with other diseases or death.”

What do you think of Rebecca Gibson’s latest study?