CORSETS: An Analysis

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An Analysis




Copyright 1913, by EMMA E. GOODWIN
All Rights Reserved


AFTER more than twenty years of actual work in the con­struction of women's clothes I have embodied the results of my experience in what I believe women should wear in the form of corsets. In the five years past, during which these corsets have been made, they have been submitted to the severest critical tests by physicians and surgeons with the purpose of proving the basis of physiological correctness which has been my ideal in corset designing.

An actual pictorial comparison of correct corseting with that which ordinarily befalls women at the hands of the usual venders of the popular corsets of commerce, should prove enlightening to the physiologist who desires to know the reasons why corsets in general are wrong, and should lead to a more intelligent ap­plication of these garments to- the physiological needs of women. In the presentation of this subject I have purposely omitted scientific terms, the use of which would be pretentious on the part of one not possessing a medical degree, and have expressed the matter in the simple language of my experience. With this explanation I submit this writing to the considerate attention of all those who are working along lines which lead to better con­ditions of health and finer physical development of women.


17 e. 3J sl
373 Fifth Avenue,

New York City.
1—A Normal Corset

RIGHT or wrong applied to human beliefs and actions is sometimes said to be relative according to circumstances or conditions, but there are certain fundamental principles to which conformity or non-conformity is es­sentially right or wrong, and among these are the principles which govern the health of human beings.

The concern of this writing is to dem­onstrate the principles governing the con­struction of the corset--the most im­portant garment worn by women--which must conform to the laws of physiology or it is radically wrong and a serious detri­ment to the bodily efficiency of the race. Not only has the suffering from the physi­ologically incorrect corset devolved upon the foolish women who for generations have voluntarily submitted to varying de­formities of the body, that they might dress in prevailing modes, but it has fallen upon all those with whom they have been asso­ciated. Some physiologists plainly assert that the prime cause of women's physical inferiority to men lies in their unhygienic methods of dress. Op­posing this are statistics declaring the greater longevity of women. Hence, it would seem that in spite of an idiotic de­fiance of the laws governing the proper development and func­tioning of the body, Nature's provision of endurance and vitality has enabled women to sustain a considerable part in the scheme of the race. How much more creditably they might have sus­tained that part, to what greater heights for the whole race in the more perfect development of the threefold being--physical, mental, spiritual--they might have attained, had it not been for the physical inefficiency of the constricted body, only those who have studied the subject scientifically can have an adequate understanding.

The kind of corsets women wear is as essential to health as the kind of food they eat, and should no more be dictated by fashion than should their bread and butter. The history of the varying shapes and proportions of corsets is found in the history of the costumes fashionable at the different periods de­scribed-the corset designed for the fashion, not the fashion for the corset. And even at this day women ask for corsets to give them "the latest fashionable figure," and corsets are advertised "to produce the lines of fashion," instead of the normal lines as shown in illustration 1.
2—Iron Corset

It is useless in this analysis to touch more than in the briefest man­ner possible upon the corset of his­tory. Recent writers upon the sub­ject have dug it from the tombs of antiquity and drawn it from the legends of mythology and brought it down through the ages in all its variations, including the iron corset in­vented by the infamous Catherine, shown in illustration 2, and while interesting, these facts are not essen­tial to this discussion. Only the cor­set as it exists in the memory of those still living need be considered in pointing out the methods for improv­ing that of the present day.

3—Corset Ideal, 1893

Medical annals for scores of years are bountifully supplied with writings and illustrations concerning the physiological evil of tight lacing—the fundamental crime of the corset—which seemed to reach the limit of possibility be­tween forty and fifty years ago, and continued with little varia­tion for over thirty years. The waists of the fashionable women of England from 1860 to 1870 were often of such small di­mensions that they were easily spanned by the two hands, while France boasted of "finishing schools" for young ladies where the pupils were graduated with eleven-inch waists. Little girls of seven were laced into corsets as tightly as two grown persons could pull the strings and these corsets were worn day and night. In 1893-4 there was sold in this country the corset shown in illustration 3, as "the corset which produced the ideal feminine form." The advertisement accompanying this illustration reads: "This shape is, so to speak, classical, for it will always be the greatest favorite among fashionable women.

Distinctive qualities:
Well studied, plastic form,
Extreme softness of wearing,
Unlimited Durability."

4—Typical Girdle Corset

This last one can well believe, for the garment was constructed of thick black or colored coutil, lined with another fabric, and closely filled with heavy strips of whalebone, the steels or "busks" which closed the front being stiff and curved inward over the diaphragm.

5—Corset with Hose Supporters

In 1893-4 the riding of the bicycle by women brought the first freedom from corset bond­age known for generations. Women could not ride without breathing, and they could not breathe in the corsets they wore, so they either rode without corsets or wore short girdles, many of which appeared at this time. These girdles enabled women to preserve the smallness of the waist while giving more expansion to the sides of the thorax and freedom for the act of propelling the wheel. However, they were only a little less harmful "than their immediate predeces­sors, as they pressed the abdominal contents downward and exerted extreme pressure on the stomach at the top of the steel clasps in front, often bruising the flesh at this point. To relieve this pressure the wearers of girdles stooped forward, contracting the diaphragm and rib wall, shortening the length of the body from neck to waist in front, and throwing the pelvis forward. For same years many women considered the girdle, such as illustration 4, a healthful form of corset and yet most evil results from a physiological standpoint were brought about by its use. Nothing could produce worse cases of enteroptosis than the so-called hygienic girdle.

About this time the corset began to have its hose supporter appendages and again the woman's body suffered. The downward pressure of the corset, tight about the waist, was increased greatly, pressing the abdominal contents down upon the pelvic organs. The back muscles were strained in an effort to maintain the equilibrium of the body against
6—The "Kangaroo" Corset
the downward pull of the hose sup­porters, which vainly endeavored to hold the wrongly cut corset in a position which should suppress the abdomen. Il­lustration 5 shows the actual results of tight waisted corsets with hose supporters attached, and this is the reason for the bad reputation given to hose supporters on corsets by the physiological critics.

The function of the hose supporter should not be to fix the position of a cor­set which otherwise slips out of place on the body, but to support the stockings in order to do away with round garters, which impede the circulation. The cor­rectly cut corset assumes and holds the right position on the body whether hose supporters be fastened or not.

Next in chronological sequence there emanated from the workshops of fashion an idea new to our day and generation—­the "straight front" corset, a picture of which appeared, direct from Paris, as in illustration 6. This corset threw the balanced weight of the body forward, curved the spine abnormally and produced what was known to fashion authorities as the "Paquin slant," to joke writers and cartoonists, the "kangaroo shape." This designation is also used by orthopedic specialists in describing this particular phase of incorrect body balance.

It is a significant fact that the avowed purpose of all fash­ionable corsets always has been to reduce the woman's body somewhere, as though normal physical development were Nature's mistake, which we must perforce correct; therefore, we have been importuned in turn by the makers of "waist reduc­ing" corsets, "abdominal reducing" corsets, and then "hip reducing" corsets. The object of the straight front corset was the complete obliteration of the roundness of the abdomen, and incidentally to provide a place where the fashionable belt or girdle could be extended in a point, it seemed indefinitely, mak­ing the body of a short, stout woman appear at least half waist.

Never has the designer of fashionable corsets taken into con­sideration the physiological fact that constriction of the flesh of the body around one portion will result in an increase at the points where pressure ceases; hence the bulging shoulder flesh and the protruding abdomen of the waist constricting corset, and the widening thigh muscles of the flat hip corset of the present mode. In the wearing of the first straight front corsets, which flattened the abdomen abnormally, women with full abdomens
7—Prominent Hip Corset, 1905

forced the surface flesh up across the region of the diaphragm and caused rolls of flesh to accumulate between that point and the breasts. These cor­sets also pressed sharply across the muscles of the back at the waist line, far women did not wish to sacrifice their inherited idea of small waists, which the new straight front would have required had it not curved in ab­normally at the waist across the back. This type of corset gave to its wearers more breathing room than fashionable women had known for years, and it was a hopeful sign of our progress toward better conditions to observe that, with the variations of fashion during the past seven or eight years, we were not asked to return to the curved front cor­set worn for many generations; and the physiological critics were inclined to the belief that the evolution of the corset was toward those of saner and better designs.

8—Flat Hip Corset, 1912
Through all the centuries and in spite of the anathemas of the church, the edicts of state, the counsel of the physicians and the ridicule of the humorous, the form and wearing of corsets have been controlled by fashion; but fashion answers not to reason or common sense, it only pampers to the desire to attract the envious or admiring attention of others. As soon as a mode becomes common the fashionable seek something for the time being new and different. Corsets have been made to follow the varying fashions in dress. Fashionable dress demanded small waists; corsets were made to constrict the waist regardless of physiological consequences—even unto the death of the fair devotee who ware them. Fashionable dress also demanded large hips and corsets were made as in illustration 7, with very prominent hips and Nature's deficiency in that respect supplied with padding. Fashionable dress suddenly took a notion to be as straight and scant from shoulder to foot as an Indian's blanket, and we were
9—So-called "Hygienic" Corset, 1910

told in all the dress news of the day that "fashion says no hips." Corset makers then tried to obliterate every normal curve of the body and make women's forms as nearly as possible like the little wooden effigies of Noah of our childhood memory, and the fash­ionable corset was made as shown in illustration 8. In all these changes of the form of women's bodies there has been no reason, no common sense. The only utilitarian element in the whole scheme is that of making it possible for those who have something to sell to destroy the utility of that which they have sold the previous season. This is not so irrelevant as it may seem. The physician wishes his patients to wear a physiologically correct corset when he finds one which he can prescribe with the assurance that it will perform its func­tion properly, and the corsetière in filling this requirement is often met with the patient's objection to changing the fit of the dress to suit the change of form. Especially do women of the older generation object to the enlargement of the waist. Many a physician in times past, finding both the corset makers and the corset wearers obdurate in their determination to follow the edicts of fashion instead of the laws of health, has thrown up his hands and sur­rendered to defeat. An eminent pathologist of Europe wrote: "What is the use of introducing the principles and appliances of hygiene into the huts of the poor and ignorant, when the scions of wealth and pretended intelligence, especially of the gentler sex, show their contempt of hygiene by their dress and general wearing apparel? In days gone by I have battled against that diabolical invention called the corset, but this crusade has been given up by me as absolutely futile."

Athletics and physical culture for women, though not as popular as they should be for the good of the race, have helped to strengthen and unify the little ripples of corset reform which can be traced both here and in England for the past twenty-five years.

First the term "hygienic" was applied to so-called "health waists," a modification of the corset, which, while not constrict­ing the waist line of the body, permitted the pressure of the skirt bands and left the abdomen unsupported, as do all short or incorrectly cut corsets. As late as the year 1910 a so-called hygienic corset was made, as shown in illustration 9, curved in around the waist and utterly lacking abdominal support.
10—Alleged Surgical Corset, 1913.

A few corset makers, mainly women knowing their own needs, attempted to produce corsets that were more comfort­able and therefore less injurious to health than those of the ordinary conventional type. To these they applied the term "hygienic." The number of these in­dividual corsetières multiplied and their work became popular among those who knew them and won the attention and en­couragement of members of the medical profession who are ever ready to adopt that which holds promise of improved physical condition for their patients. Seeing this new opening for "business" the rank and file of corset manufacturers began to adopt the terminology of the "hygienic" corsetières, though without changing the principles upon which their corsets were constructed. To illustration 10 attention is particularly directed as showing a corset advertised by the makers as a "surgical corset," and highly recommended by them to the medical and surgical professions as a solution of the corset problem.

However, nearly all the corset makers who have thus adopted the terms "hygienic" and "anatomical" as applied to their product have done so in the attempt to serve two masters. Go­ing back only five years one encounters such corset advertise­ments as this: "A corset which reduces the waist from three to five inches, and yet is comfortable and 'hygienic.'"

"The corset which gives ease, comfort and grace, especially suitable for the prevailing fashion in gowns." "Our corsets have been adopted by the leaders of the fashionable world. Our cor­sets appeal to your desire for perfect health." So enamoured of the term "hygienic" did corset makers become that a corset was named the "Hygienic" and then advertised as the corset which produced "the latest fashionable figure."

Why the corsets thus advertised are not physiologically cor­rect is due to two fundamental causes—the inability of the makers to design the correct garment, and their persistent ad­herence to the conventional forms of corsets, varying only to follow fashions in dress.

What corsets should and should not be are both clearly and uniformly defined in the writings of many medical and physi­ological authorities. Broadly stated, the corset should be con­structed primarily for support, not compression. It should assist, not prevent, normal bodily development. It should per mit, not restrict, free breathing, heart action, digestion, circula­tion and muscular activity. When, upon careful physiological test, it is proved that a corset fulfills these requirements it may be declared "hygienic."

An eminent physician whose scientific experiments with, and tests of, corsets have made him an acknowledged authority on the subject, states that, in spite of the claims of corset makers regarding the physiological correctness of their products, he finds by actual tests that the majority of corsets have now, as they have had for ages, the greatest pressure in a lateral direction around the waist or middle zone of the body.

This is the ancient crime, the hereditary fault of the corset—­waist constriction—the evil results of which are clearly defined by all writers upon corset therapeutics as follows: Diminished lung capacity, interference with digestion and heart action and downward pressure of the abdominal contents with a correlated lack of that support from below upward, which is so necessary to the healthful functioning of these organs, and the buoyant, natural poise and motion of the body. That this primary fault still exists in the majority of corsets sold today, is readily proved by any one who cares to make a few simple physiological tests.

The corsets used for the photographic reproductions which follow are those of the most popular makes, much advertised as "correct" in every feature, "abdominal supporting," "hygienic," etc., and all "fashionable," sold in great numbers in all the lead­ing shops. None of them is priced at less than five dollars. In each case the wrong corset is opposed to the physiologically correct corset of the same size and general type, all being stand­ard or stock models of each make, selected by the different cor­set salespeople to suit those serving as subjects for the tests. An observation of these illustrations will show why many women are not more comfortable in their corsets and why the treatment of physician or surgeon often fails of good results because of the patient's erroneous method of dress.
Plate 1. First Subject
Plate 2. First Subject

First Subject: Young girl of seventeen, has slight spinal curvature from which there has not been any suffering and for which she has not received treatment.

Plate 1 shows one of the most popular corsets of commerce advertised from one coast to the other as "the favorite of dress­makers." Arrows show the high tight line around base of thorax. This corset is loose across abdomen and the waist con­striction is 3 inches, the normal waist measurement being 24 inches, while with the corset on, it is only 21 inches.

Plate 2 shows the fitting of the normal corset, supporting the abdomen and widening the rib wall. Chest expansion was doubled in this corset, the first corset allowing an expansion of only 1½ inches; the second, an expansion of 3 inches.

Plate 3. First Subject
Plate 4. First Subject

Back of first subject in plate 3 shows the high tight line across back at base of thorax, where the pressure of the wrong corset is greatest as indicated by the arrows, and the normal width of back with normal length of waist of the correct corset in plate 4. This corset has the tendency to straighten the slightly curved spine by pelvic and spinal support, and relief of the pressure around base of thorax.

Increase in lung capacity and expansion of chest and rib walls after three months' wearing of this corset were such that the subject could not wear the incorrect corset worn previously.

Plate 5. First Subject
Plate 6. First Subject

Profile of first subject shows in plate 5 the wrong corset. Pressure is around base of thorax, across diaphragm, and at waist in back carried down in straight line from waist to bottom of corset, where it bulges out across back and over thighs. The pelvis is thrust forward, shoulders thrown backward, and bal­anced weight of body rests upon the heels.

Plate 6 shows the normal curve of back, abdominal support, freedom from pressure over stomach and diaphragm, and normal balance of the body in the anatomically correct corset; the great difference in the body poise shows plainly between the parallel lines.

Plate 1. Second Subject
Plate 2. Second Subject

Second subject, of well-proportioned, well-developed form, age thirty-five, with no defect in physical development except a slight inward curve of spine at waist.

Plate 1 shows a so-called "abdominal reducing" "hygienically correct" corset which throws the pelvis forward, exaggerates the inward curve of spine at waist, does not support the abdomen, but instead exerts a downward pressure across the diaphragm. Balanced weight of body thrown back at least 2 inches.

Plate 2 shows that the normal corset corrects the exaggerated curve of the spine and supports without downward pressure. The perpendicular lines show the remarkable difference in the body poise produced by the two corsets.

Plate 3. Second Subject
Plate 4. Second Subject

The back of second subject in plate 3 shows the high tight line around base of thorax caused by the pronounced inward curve of the corset above the waist line. The body normally curves outward slightly at a point between arm and waist, and the high curve of this corset presses in uncomfortably.

Plate 4 shows the curve of the normal corset at the waist line where a curve inward is physiological and must be sufficient to fit the body with comfortable snugness at this point or the gar­ment will mount upward when the wearer sits.

Plate 5. Second Subject
Plate 6. Second Subject

The second subject in plate 5 wears a corset which claims to give upward and inward support to the abdominal walls, to establish the balanced weight of the body in the correct position, to follow the normal curves of the spine, permit full breathing, etc.; briefly, to do everything a corset should do and nothing a corset should not do. But it appears upon physiological test that the correct features inadvertently have been neglected by every one concerned in the production of this corset except the writer of the advertising.

Plate 6 shows the correct corset of same size, quality and general type as that shown in plate 5. The comparison is easily made. Note especially the perpendicular lines from chest to foot in the two plates, indicating the difference in body balance induced by the two corsets.

Plate 7. Second Subject
Plate 8. Second Subject

The second subject, plate 7, shows front view of same corset as plate 5, and the pronounced curve around base of thorax in line indicated by arrows. Pressure is greatest at this point and across diaphragm.

Contrast the corset in plate 7 with that of the correct corset in plate 8, with normal width at base of thorax and curve at waist on sides where curve is physiologically correct, and does not interfere with expansion of rib wall or movement of dia­phragm in breathing.

Plate 9. Second Subject
Plate 10. Second Subject

Second subject, in plate 9, illustrates a very fashionable "flat­tening hip" corset, such as has been sold by thousands the past two seasons in the best shops of this country. The directions of the extreme pressures are indicated by the arrows. The body is cramped through lower part of thorax and hips until it is im­possible to assume an erect posture.

Contrast with this the line of pressure indicated in plate 10, which lifts the body into an easy, normal, comfortable poise, by the support through the lower part of the abdomen in lines that follow obliquely over the hip bones and around the back, re­inforcing the natural muscular tension of the abdominal walls.

Plate 11. Second Subject
Plate 12. Second Subject

Second subject, in plate 11, shows the front of the same "flattening hip" corset as in plate 9. The horizontal line over the head indicates the height of the wearer. Contrasting with plate 12, which shows the physiologically correct corset, there is a difference of 3/4 inch in the height of the body. The incorrect corset invariably cramps the body and shortens the figure. At the point indicated by the arrow, the lack of pelvic width of the corset in plate 11 prevents the easy movement of the hips and causes the corset to mount up on the body when the wearer moves, exaggerating the pressure at base of thorax. The re­quired pelvic width of corset in plate 12 allows unrestricted mo­tion of the body and the corset remains in place.

Plate 1. Third Subject
Plate 2. Third Subject

Third subject, in plate 1, illustrates a corset in which the makers claim "all pressures are those which are physiological." The pressure in this corset is around the base of the thorax and extends around the body in lateral lines down over the hip bones, being most extreme across stomach and diaphragm. In plate 2 is shown the corset of correct proportion and outlines, of same size, quality and general type, but of entirely different propor­tion and poise. It must be borne in mind that these photographs are not retouched, consequently the garments are pictured with actual fidelity to the facts. The great difference in body balance indicated by the perpendicular lines is as pronounced as in the cases of first and second subjects.

Plate 3. Third Subject
Plate 4. Third Subject

Third subject, in plate 3, shows the back of same corset shown in plate 1; arrows indicate the line of pressure around base of thorax, while plate 4 shows same corset as plate 2, with curve of corset at normal curve of body at waist line.

The greater ease of the body poise in the corset shown by plate 4 is evidenced even from the back views of these corsets.

The subject has drooping right shoulder which is exaggerated by the pressure around thorax of the corset in plate 3.

Plate 5. Third Subject
Plate 6. Third Subject

Third subject, in plate 5, shows the same make of corset much advertised as hygienic and abdominal supporting, as that shown on second subject, plate 1. The arrows indicate the points upon which extreme pressures are exerted. There is no abdominal support. Plate 6, a well-known fashionable cor­set of commerce, exerts extreme pressures at points indicated, that at a point low upon the back—about the base of the spine—increases the inclination of the wearer to flex the knees and thrust the body forward at the hips. This and the pressure over dia­phragm and around base of thorax causes the shoulders to droop forward and the entire anatomy is out of poise.

Plate 7. Third Subject
Plate 8. Third Subject

Third subject, in plate 7, shows a corset similar in construc­tion to those shown in plates 5 and 6. Greatest pressure is directly around the lower part of thorax with the same physi­ological effect. Full breathing is impossible in such corsets, as can easily be determined by taking the measure of the chest in expiration and inspiration, with and without the corset.

Plate 8 shows the same subject with the correct corset on, the line of pressure being from lower part of abdomen to center of back by way of the hip bones. The contrast between this last and the three preceding illustrations should be illuminating to the careful observer.

Plate 1. Fourth Subject
Plate 2. Fourth Subject

Fourth subject, in plate 1, illustrates the usual misfit which befalls the stout woman who needs an abdominal supporting cor­set. This corset provides no abdominal support, and exerts the greatest degree of pressure around the waist line.

Contrasting with this, the corset in plate 2 relieves stomach and diaphragm of all pressure and lifts the abdomen up, back and in, giving a delightful feeling of buoyancy to the whole body. To sum up the evils of such corsets as those shown as in­correct in the preceding photographic reproductions: The pre­vailing defect is the high tight line midway between waist and bust. Those that are large in proportion at the waist and very tight in lateral lines around the hips mount upward on the body when the wearer moves and press tightly against the lower ribs. All of them exert greater pressure upon stomach and diaphragm than on the abdomen and there is no upward oblique traction from the lower part of the abdomen to give actual ab­dominal support. In the attempt to follow fashion require­ments many of them are cut with insufficient anatomical width from hip to hip, so that the pressure upon hip bones in some in­stances is almost unbearable. The downward pressure of the flesh of the hips causes the thigh muscles to enlarge abnormally, and many women who have been fashionably corseted the past two years assume the attitude of bending at the knees when standing or walking, as though about to sit down.

A variety of incorrect postures, all more or less harmful to health, are induced by incorrect corsets. The almost universal deformity among women caused mainly by wrong corsets is the protruding abdomen. This occurs in the slender type of woman with faulty posture as well as in the woman who is over-fat.

The diagrams which follow record the actual outlines of the subjects without corsets, with incorrect corsets and with the cor­rective corsets. These outlines are made at the time of fitting, before any exercise or training by the wearing of the correct cor­set has improved the development of the body. The variety of conditions, the too thin and the over-fat, and the range of ages, from thirteen to fifty-six, give a fair idea of the possibilities of corseting for physiological results when the types of corsets used are fundamentally correct.
Diagram 1.
Diagram 1 shows a comparatively slender subject. The dotted outline shows the figure without corset. Ab­dominal muscles sag, allowing contents to fall forward and downward, chin and chest droop, shoulders are round, balanced weight of the body is thrown at least two inches back of the normal position. The broken outline shows the figure fitted in the much ad­vertised "abdominal reducing" corset, photographs of which are shown on second subject, plate 1, page 16. The extreme pressure of this corset is at and above waist, particularly great across the back and sides, where it comes in contact with the floating ribs. It forces the abdomen downward, bring­ing pressure from above upon the pelvic organs. There is absolutely no upward support in this type of corset and the greatest tightness is in lateral lines at and above the middle zone of the body. Roundness of shoulders is increased owing to extreme pressure upon the lower part of thorax, chest and chin de­pressed and balanced weight of the body thrown directly on the heels.

The black outline shows the figure fitted in the physiologically correct corset. Head and chest are raised. shoulders straight­ened, abdomen lifted up, back and in, and the balanced weight of the body is carried forward to the normal position. The tightest lines of this corset follow obliquely from lower point of abdomen at top of pubic bone, over hips, radiat­ing around back. Abdominal support is actual and constant, and there is no uncomfortable line of constriction anywhere. The required space is given for full breathing and the normal functioning of every organ of the body. The accompanying table of comparative measurements will assist in an under standing of the case, and reference to third subject, plate 8, on page 25, will show the type of corset which produces these results.

Age, 33.
Height, 5 ft., 4 in.
Weight, 125 lbs.
 (Measurements taken in inches.)Body.Incorrect
 Bust . . . . . . .33 33 35 
 Thorax (at ninth rib)27 26 28 
 Hips36½37 36 
 Width of thorax (at ninth rib) 8¾ 7¼ 9
*Depth of body at diaphragm 7½ 6½ 7¾
*Depth of chest 6½ 6¼ 7¼
*Depth of abdomen 8¾ 9¾ 8¼
 Chest expansion 3¼ 2¼ 3½
 *(Taken from front to back)
It will be noted that the physiologically correct corset increased the width of thorax ¼ inch, while the incorrect corset had de­creased the same width 1½ inches; also that chest expansion was increased ¼ inch by the right corset, and decreased 1 inch by the wrong corset. The increased capacity of the chest walls was due to the freedom from pressure around the base of the thorax and the lifting up of the abdominal walls, which invariably increases the expansion of the thorax.
Diagram 2.
Diagram 2 shows the outlines of a typical over-­fat subject. At the time of fitting the same make of so-called "abdominal reduc­ing" corset was worn as that shown on the figure in diagram 1 and photographed upon fourth subject, plate 1, on page 26. Practically the same conditions were met as in the first case except for size of subject, and the same physiological results obtained. Body without corsets, shown by the dotted outline, was bet­ter in poise and proportion than with the corset worn, shown by the broken outline, which brought extreme pressure around lower portion of thorax, pressed abdomen down and forward, ending at a point which left entire weight of abdomen unsup­ported, and threw balanced weight of - body directly upon the heels. Difficulty of breathing and an inability to stand or walk any distance made life very uncomfortable for this woman, The corrective fitting gave upward and inward support to the abdomen, carried the balanced weight of the body forward to normal position, relieved the pressure on diaphragm and rib wall, lifted the head and straightened the shoulders. The comparative table shows the differences in the lateral meas­urements:
Age, 42.
Height, 5 ft., 3½ in.
Weight, 208 lbs.
(Measurements taken in inches.)Body.Incorrect
Bust45  4749 
Hips50  5147 
Width of thorax at 9th rib11¾1112½
Depth of abdomen14¾1512½
(Taken from front to back)
Diagram 3.
Diagram 3 shows another typical large figure, weight about 240 pounds, age fifty-six years. Slight rupture had occurred after abdominal operation some years before. One of the or­dinary popular commercial cor­sets was worn, which cut in across the back at the waist line, pressed upon the diaphragm and forced the abdomen downward. as shown by the broken outline. The dotted outline indicates the body without corsets, which was not so badly out of shape as with the corset worn. The black out­line shows the restoration of correct poise, lifting of head and chest and strong abdominal sup­port of the corrective corset. After one year's wear of the corrective corset the patient is appreciably younger in appear­ance. She has resumed much of the work which she had for some years been unable to per­form and the tone and vitality of the whole body are greatly im­proved, owing to the perfect support of the abdomen and freedom from constriction of the upper portion of the body.
Diagram 4.
The influence of the corset upon the posture of the individual is a matter far the mast careful study. Corsets in general have little or no corrective in­fluence upon the bad attitude, because the basis of their construction lacks every element required to produce the desired result. But with a corset built fundamentally upon physiological prin­ciples the results are positive and easily produced, even in those cases which appear almost hopeless to the com­mercial corset fitter. The key-note of the correction lies in the abdominal sup­port, which can be obtained with the correct corset even when the iliac crests are more prominent than the ab­dominal wall.

Diagram 4 shows an extreme case of backward tilt of the upper part of trunk, the balanced weight as usual falling upon the heels. Patient had worn the ordinary type of corset, which fitted only at the waist line and exerted downward pressure at diaphragm. The dotted outline shows body without cor­sets, and the black outline the correc­tions made with the physiological corset. No change was made in the regular "ready-to-wear" model of this corset except to reinforce the back with two extra groups of boning down each side of the center.

Diagram 5.
Diagram 5 shows by the dotted out­line the figure of a woman, age thirty-­eight, who had never worn corsets, but had worn a so-called "hygienic" waist. Over this waist her skirt bands had pressed across the stomach and around the waist. The relaxation of the abdominal walls allowed the entire ab­dominal contents to sag forward and downward. The patient suffered from indigestion and backache. The corset, indicated by the black outline, was fitted to support the abdomen, allow­ing plenty of room across stomach and diaphragm. The change in posture and the relief from the feeling of weight was immediate, and the pa­tient was able to walk and exercise much more vigorously than usual. Six months later the attitude without cor­sets showed marked improvement, also greater development of chest and rib-­wall and better muscular tone of ab­dominal walls. This case is a fair answer to the question as to whether or not women are better off without corsets. The ef­fects of not wearing corsets In this instance were sagging abdominal walls, resulting in stomach and intestinal trouble, and faulty posture which caused constant back­ache. Both these conditions were corrected with the supporting corset.
Diagram 6.

Diagram 6 shows by the dotted out­line the form of a girl, age thirteen, who had not worn corsets. The extreme shoulder sag was compensated by the thrusting forward of the abdomen and the drooping of the head. The spine was straightened, head lifted, abdomen supported, chest raised and brought forward, as indicated by the black out­line, by the corrective fitting of the corset.

The fundamental principle under­lying such a correction is in producing a sustained normal position of the pel­vis, forming a firm base for the spine, which in turn supports the upper por­tion of the body. Lifting the abdomen with a firm pressure from below lifts the chest and head and straightens the shoulders. Every detail of this correc­tion promotes the healthful development of the body, and no injury can result from fitting young girls with such cor­sets when faulty postures cannot be corrected by exercises. The corsets must give, first of all, actual abdominal support and no pressure whatever around the thorax, though normally correct lines of the back must be sus­tained by firm and careful fitting.
Diagram 7.

Diagram 7 shows in broken outline the shape of an average bad corset upon a slender young woman unusually wide at hips for the width of rib wall. The corset was tight at waist and pressed the flesh downward over the hips, causing it to bulge out at the thighs.

A reference to the first sub­ject of the photographic plates 1, 3 and 5, an pages 13, 14 and 15, will show the type of corset which produced the outline in­dicated by the broken lines, and in contrast to that the plates 2, 4 and 6 on same pages, the cor­set with which correction was made.

Comparative measurements of the two corsets (in inches) :

Rib wall2528

It will be noted that the wrong corset constricted the waist 2 inches and the rib wall 3 inches. This for so small a per­son greatly diminished the breathing capacity.

Six months after fitting patient could not wear the former corset, awing to increased expansion of rib wall and diaphragm. "Nervous indigestion" and a feeling of extreme exhaustion were the conditions from which there was a gratifying relief.
Diagram 8.
Diagram 8 shows in the broken outline a typical case of the deformity of the figure caused by one of the "flatten­ing hip" corsets upon which corset makers have expended all their energies the past two years. Being too narrow at the hips to go down in place at the waist line, this corset is short-­waisted and constricts the lower part of the thorax. It presses the flesh downward and causes a most unsightly bulging of the thigh muscles. The black outline shows nor­mal proportions restored by the correct corset. Comparative measurements of the two corsets (in in­ches) :

The first corset showed a difference of 20 inches between waist and hip measurements, the second, a difference of only 14½ inches, producing better proportions by 5½ inches and giving a comfortable feeling as well as better appearance to the body. This shows that a large woman appears much less conspicuous if her body is not encased so tightly in corsets that the flesh is displaced and caused to protrude where the pressure of the corset ceases.

Diagram 9.
Diagram 9 shows by the contrasting outlines that it is possible to make a good figure better. The woman, forty years of age, weighed 200 pounds. The worst feature of the corset, indicated by the broken outline (which was custom made by an "expert" designer), was the deep curve in the back which threw the body out of poise. The black outline shows the correction made with a ready-to-wear model of the physiological corset, proving the basis of construction of this corset to be normally correct in outline, proportion and poise. Improvement in comfort was as great as im­provement in appearance, and the fitting was a practical illustration of the fact that the corset which is anatomically correct is also the most beautiful in outline, and that correct poise of the body means also added grace.
Diagram 10.
Diagram 10 shows out-lines of an extremely large and difficult subject, weigh­ing 293 pounds. Patient was unable to stand for more than a few moments at a time, owing to the great weight of abdomen which was entirely unsupported by the corset she was wearing, indi­cated by the broken outline. This corset pressed in under shoulder blades in back and hollowed in over the dia­phragm, pressing the ab­dominal contents downward. Breathing was difficult, owing to the constriction of the thorax. The dotted outline showing the body without corsets was not as bad as that with the corsets she was wearing. The black outline shows the correction by the physiological corset. The pa­tient's comfort, health and appearance were vastly im­proved. A decrease in weight of thirty-five pounds in two months occurred because of the patient's ability to walk and exercise while wearing the physiologically correct corset.

The following comparative measurements show the exact correction (in inches) :

Incorrect Corset.Body.Correct Corset.
Diagram 11.
The foregoing record of the case was made at the first correction. A second corset was fitted five months later, and one year after the first record a second test was made with the results shown in dia­gram 11. Comparison of the two body outlines. the first in dotted lines, the second in black lines, shows the improvement in the body without corsets. The muscles of the abdomen have regained their tonicity to a gratifying extent and in­stead of allowing the ab­dominal contents to fall down and forward there is fairly good natural support.
Diagram 12.
In diagram 12 comparison of the new corset outline in black and the new body outline, indicated by the dotted lines, shows that the ab­domen does not fall forward more than one inch when the cor­set is removed. The natural ab­dominal measure has been reduced from 60 to 53 inches—the corset measure from 66 to 50 inches. The patient has lost 46 pounds in weight, can stand without difficulty, climb stairs, walk long distances, and is in very much better general health.
Diagram 13.
Diagram 13 shows the outline of the two corsets--­the black indicating the one made one year later than that indicated by the broken out-line. The reduction in size is a marked improvement in ap­pearance as well as an in­dication of better physical condition, and instead of be­ing grotesque and unsightly in form, the patient dresses becomingly and the at the age of fifty-four has become much brighter than it has been for many years.

The foregoing outlines are typical of many cases that have been corrected in the manner shown. The diagrams are made directly from the outline of the body upon a wall chart at the time of fitting. The corrections are immediate and positive, and in many cases the after improvement in development of muscu­lar strength in rib wall and chest, with reduction in size of ab­domen, with better tonicity of abdominal muscles, contributes to improved vitality of the entire body, while the chronic pains due to erroneous posture are almost invariably relieved. A PHYSICIAN has said: "A scientifically fitted corset is a boon to many women. Without it they never become strong, but with it they receive the necessary assistance that enables them to be transformed from unhappy ap­paritions and hypochondriacs without ambition to normal, healthy women." And again: "In many cases of semi-invalidism a properly constructed, corset will lift its wearer to health and develop her form into lines of beauty."

It is the contention of the physiological corset maker that the lines of beauty are the lines of health, and that physical beauty cannot exist without the healthful, normal development of the body. The corset should be subject to the criticism of the physi­cian or surgeon, and the patient or the corset maker who is not amenable to that criticism is neither sensible nor scientific.

The prime factor in the improvement of bad conditions is to possess ourselves of a complete knowledge of those conditions. Corsets have been, and most of them still are, wrong from the physiological standpoint. A recognition of this fact is the first step toward making them right. Knowing why and where they are wrong is clearly demonstrable by scientific tests that are easily made by physician or corset maker, and this is the next step toward the needed reformation. To institute a method to make them right is the last and most important step of the process.

Criticism is one of the most unsatisfying things in the scheme of existence unless it be possible to point out the remedy for the existing evil. That corsets could be right has been a matter of grave doubt to the physiologists for so long that even now they view the corset makers' claims to the correctness of their designs with considerable incredulity. In the language of one member of the profession. they would "like to be shown." The corset maker cannot deceive the physician; corsets, according to thera­peutic value, are classed as good, bad or indifferent. The indif­ferent corsets are not as plentiful as the bad, and the good cor­sets are the fewest in number. The indifferent corset is that which does not effect any hygienic betterment and really should be classed as bad. The bad corset prevents perfect development, induces abnormality of shape and function. while the good cor­set tends to the better development of the body, serving as a physical training for the increase of healthful vitality.

Place an indifferent corset upon a poorly developed subject whose body is out of poise chest hollowed, abdomen forward, and there will be no improvement in the conditions, even though such a corset may not be tight in the waist and may even fit the outlines of the body. Apply the bad corset and the evil conditions are com­plicated and increased, while the good corset first of all lifts the body into the correct poise by the bracing up and in of the ab­dominal walls, restores normal proportions, induces deep breath­ing and puts the subject into a position for the attainment of better health. Good corsets assist the physician in the effort to restore normal conditions, while the woman who never wears any but a good corset will escape many of the so-called inevitable ills, prolong her enjoyment of, and increase her usefulness in, life.

We are through for the present with the corset made with the avowed purpose of diminishing the waist to the smallest pos­sible size, and also with that which was supposed to entirely obliterate the roundness of the abdomen, exaggerate the size of the hips and increase the curve of the spine. We have been struggling with that which was intended for the complete an­nihilation of women's hips. Why this was not as bad as the others is no fault of fashionable corset makers, but because it was a mechanical impossibility to make it so. With corsets made so small in proportion through the hips women could not get them on without increasing the size of the waist. So fashion made a virtue of necessity and created the mode of "large waists." These "flattening hip" corsets exert extreme pressure in lateral direction around the body-one zone of pressure at the base of the thorax around the floating ribs and another from about six inches below that around the hips extending as far down as possible and still permit the wearer to assume the sitting position; but at the point of release the flesh of the thighs often bulges out, giving most unpleasing outlines to the form. With this form of corset the rotary or lateral motion of the upper part of the body is almost impossible and women move stiffly, "all in one piece," as one writer puts it. The waist line is high and there is pressure upon the stomach. The flesh of the back is pushed up toward the shoulder blades. Extreme pressure exists from back to front at the base of the spine, all this throwing the body out of poise, flexing the knees, pushing the pelvis forward, causing the shoulders to droop and shortening the body in the front length from neck to diaphragm. Many women are from one-half to one inch shorter than their normal height with this very modish corset on.

The results of the fashionable stoop affected by the young women of today and encouraged by the corset which at­tempts to obliterate the hips, will be told by the next decade when those same young women reach maturer years and present another problem to the orthopedic specialist and the gynecologist. No sooner has the novelty of this new shape of woman worn off than we are informed by the creators of fashions that it will be fashionable for women to have rounded abdomens. and corsets, therefore, are being advertised which "curve inward over the diaphragm" and "round outward over the abdomen," and the young women who pose as fashion models upon whom the new styles of gowns are exhibited are even wearing a pad to simulate a prominence of the abdomen which has not yet been produced by the corset. This carries us back just one hundred and twenty years to an editorial comment published in the Lon­don Times, March, 1793: "The fashion of dressing, at present, is to appear prominent, and the stays are made accordingly; with­out any regard to law or reason. The idea was first sent for­ward by a few dropsical Ladies. The Wapping Land-ladies are all at the very pinnacle of the fashion. Nature has given them prominences which far out-picture the false mountains at the West end of the town."

With this just before us can women of today boast of much progress toward the attainment of reasonable judgment, broader scientific education or higher standards of art than our English-­great-grandmothers?

The productions of the corset making art in this present year of grace, 1913, show plainly that the majority of corsets are not right. Scientific tests show why and where they are not right. To assure better conditions for the women who need the correction of the right corset and insure the growing genera­tion against the need of future correction for their bodies, corset making must be put upon a different basis.

The physiologically correct corset gives a truly beautiful fig­ure, over which gowns may be made in the prevailing modes, but the corset which changes its design according to the fashion, with­out regard to the scientific principles of physiology, is sure to fail of its purpose as an example of hygienic corseting. Physicians recognize what is right, a few corset makers know how to pro­duce what is right, and such women as have been correctly cor­seted realize the advantages of the right corset. Shall appeal be made to the producers of the popular brands of corsets with which the majority of women are supplied?

A few years ago the manufacturer of a certain corset was shown where his product was physiologically wrong and the reply was, "What do we care? It sells, doesn't it?" That same manu­facturer is now advertising the corset he produces as "hygienical­ly correct," but has not changed the principle upon which it is cut. It still "sells" through spurious advertising claims, which seem to be the present day test of merit in merchandising. Shall we appeal to the women who wear the corsets to demand the right thing and accept nothing else? This would go a long way toward the needed reform, because the manufacturers are mainly concerned with selling their goods-if the buyers demand some­thing different they will make haste to provide it in so far as they are capable. But the manufacturer who rises to the plane of scientific corset making must not allow fashion to dictate the proportions and outlines of the corsets produced. The woman's body normally and healthfully developed must be the standard of perfection, the proportion thereof preserved and the normal lines followed, and once fitted correctly should be fitted in the same way except for such changes as the changes in her physical development make advisable.

We are nearer now than ever before to the correct and ra­tional idea of corsets; if the medical and surgical professions take courage and do not weary in well-doing, if women will not close their eyes to the thing that is for their lasting good—the rational corset—and if the corset makers who know what is right will carry out their principles in spite of fashion, fashion will be controlled by the corset and not the corset by fashion, and women will come into their natural heritage of healthful physical development.

The scientific test of the correct corset may be thus sum­marized:—

  1. It must establish the balanced weight of the body in the correct position. This is done by the cut and poise of the corset giving a distinct upward and inward support to the abdominal walls, encasing the pelvis snugly but comfortably, and following the normal curves of the spine which allow the body to preserve equilibrium with perfect ease.
  2. The natural size of the waist should never be reduced, but in some instances should be increased, as in the raising of prolapsed viscera, and no pressure allowed at or above dia­phragm.
  3. The base of the thorax must not be constricted; in sitting or standing the rib wall should be free to expand to the fullest extent, for pressure upon the rib wall prevents full chest ex­pansion.
  4. There must be no lateral constricting lines anywhere—the lines of tightness from the lower part of the abdomen at top of pubic bone should pass obliquely over the hip bones and radi­ate around the back, distributing the pressure in such a man­ner that there is no constriction across the muscles of the back.
  5. Top and lower edges of the corset must be of such size and form that no line is visible beneath the gown and no bulg­ing flesh appears.

The corset which endures these tests will fulfill the ideals of physician, wearer and corset maker, providing those ideals are based upon scientific knowledge, a true conception of physi­cal beauty and an ingenious application of artistic skill.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).