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The boon and bane of corsets

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Feb 28, 2023 5:00 am

While it is very hard to topple the 1.65 billion viewership hours of Squid Game in its first 28 days on Netflix, the 1,282 million view hours of Bridgerton Seasons 1 and 2 (80 million lower than the first two seasons of Stranger Things combined) makes this period series one of the most-watched shows on Netflix. Fever excitement ensued after the confirmation of Seasons 3 and 4 with the third one debuting in April 2023.

Today’s fashion has, in fact, been inspired by the “regency style” of Bridgerton. Now, we see a lot of empire waistlines, puff sleeves, pearl jewelry, embellished headbands and hair ornaments, opulent jewelry, and of course, corsets.  

More than just fashion, a corset can also double up as a waist trainer when worn every day for a few hours over a period of time. While worn normally under clothing, I also see several wear it over clothing (and no I am not talking about the corsets meant to be worn as a top). The idea is to pull the midsection in tight to provide a smaller and slimmer silhouette. To achieve the cinching effect, waist trainers are normally made of tough materials with velcro, hooks, ribs, fasteners and lace.

The popular Netflix series Bridgerton has inspired the use of corsets in today’s fashion. Corsets are also widely used as waist trainers, which means use for eight hours a day for several weeks.

Celebrities, models and beauty queens have been talking about waist training and corsets for a long time now. It is quite easy to believe that having an hourglass shape is as simple as wearing a corset. But how safe is it?


Aside from the most common side effect of rashes and skin irritation, the tightening effect of a corset may cause numbness due to constriction of blood flow. This may affect your nerves and cause numbness or a “pins and needles” sensation in your legs.

Breathing issues may also result because of the restriction on the diaphragm and the reduction of oxygen you can take in, which reduces the effectiveness of vital bodily functions. Some pass out from lack of oxygen. That means you’re wearing it too tight.

Since your midsection is compressed, your stomach may be too constricted, resulting in indigestion and heartburn or acid reflux. When it becomes chronic you can develop gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), which can permanently damage the lining of your esophagus due to stomach acid burns.

If you wear a corset uncomfortably tight for long periods of time, it may result in the permanent dislodging of internal organs that may cause some internal damage. The upper organs will shift upwards and the lower organs downwards, which may result in pain, if not dangerous consequences.


Wearing a waist trainer is the easiest way to get into tight jeans or a dress. Warning, though: you just want to pull in your tummy for a slimmer appearance, not cut off your oxygen supply and pass out.

The almost 10 million followers of Iron Heart actress Sofia Andres know that the beautiful mom has long endorsed corsets as a way of keeping her hourglass shape. At the start of 2022, she said that she was wearing it every day and has changed to the next-tighter set of hooks—note the transition from the fourth hook to the third hook column.

A waist trainer improves your posture since it keeps your core tight and upright especially if you are wearing a longer corset. They are actually used for medical purposes but the type and use should be under the guidance of your physician.

The one I got to try four times (the last one after removal of my ovaries) is, of course, postpartum belly binding. Those who underwent normal deliveries are advised to wear the abdominal binder for a period of one to two weeks after giving birth, while the ones who delivered by C-section are advised to wear them for four to six weeks for a duration of eight hours per day.

The reality of whether the result will be a boon or a bane depends on how tight you wear the corset.

Pregnancy stretches the midsection, which may result in reduced core strength and back pain. Binding helps by providing support in the recovery and healing of the body as it goes back to normal after carrying a baby for eight to nine months.

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The International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics even reported that those who wear an abdominal binder after a cesarean delivery experience less pain and bleeding than those who don’t.

The posture improvement from the support a corset provides helps those with scoliosis. A medical corset will allow them to mitigate the painful and disabling effects of scoliosis. Some even find relief from sleeping in a corset. 

Same goes for those with osteoporosis, especially those whose weak and brittle bones have resulted in severe back pain. The stabilization and strength provided by the corset to the spine as an external support can lessen the pain.

Bad posture also causes headaches due to constricted nerves on the spine, and improved posture via the corset can alleviate that. It has also been reported that the posture improvement can help people with asthma by allowing the lungs to open up resulting in easier and better breathing. Singers also say that corsets allow them to reach higher notes. 


You can see from the above that the benefits can also be the cause of debilitating disadvantages. There is an immediate cinching effect, yes, but if that constricts your breathing and intake of oxygen then it may cause irreparable damages to your organs.

If it’s too tight, you might dislodge your organs, which may cause a lot of pain and other internal damage. While the better posture advantage helps in a lot of cases (scoliosis, asthma, osteoporosis, etc.), there is a debate that being dependent on a corset actually weakens our core muscles, which will result in more back pain and poor posture. 

The reality of whether the result will be a boon or a bane depends on how tight you wear the corset. It should be tight enough to do its job of pulling in the tummy, but not so tight as to hamper natural breathing.

While some advocate using a waist trainer while exercising, please note that a study said it can reduce your lung capacity by 30 to 60 percent. If you couldn’t stand wearing a facemask when working out (which was never evaluated by studies to hamper breathing while working out), then please refrain from using a waist trainer while working out.

While using the waist binder can act as a spark plug for real weight reduction or fat reduction measures, you cannot rely on it long-term to achieve meaningful results. There are still no shortcuts. You still have to focus on better nutrition and engage in regular exercise. 

The American Heart Association, as well as the World Health Organization, recommend 150 minutes a week of cardiovascular exercise such as running or walking and at least two days of strength training.