The corset, if you're one of the small percentage of our readership not wearing one right now, was meant to suck in a woman's problem-areas with the small side effect of cutting off all circulation between their legs and head.
The result was not so much an hourglass figure, but a body that became an actual hourglass. Queen Maud of Norway was famous for her very small waistline, and many of her gowns are still exhibited so everyone can view their beauty and not-at-all freakishness.
How It Could Kill You:
The act of donning a corset didn't actually become truly dangerous until people started tight lacing them to the point that their insides were squeezed like a toothpaste tube.
Unsurprisingly, when tight lacing was fashionable people didn't breathe very well. With their liver in their throats and their lungs in their bellies, Victorian women invented "the heaving bosoms." Breathing the wrong way in one of these things could break a rib (a serious injury in the days before anesthesia) and cramming all of the organs inwards could cause internal bleeding. Female impersonator, Joseph Hennella, was doubly unfortunate when, in 1912, he first collapsed on stage as the result of the tight lacing from his corset, and then when The New York Times wrote the part about what killed him, they said it was his "increasing girth."
In 1903, a woman died suddenly due to two pieces of corset steel that became lodged in her heart. Yeah, when your outfit fucking stabs you to death, it's probably a sign that you've made a bad fashion decision.
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