Corsets are, well, pretty damn terrible.
Though everyday wear is a thing of the past (thank God), you’d be hard-pressed to find a working actress today who isn’t all too familiar with the contraption that’s literally a medieval torture device.
With two star-studded royal period pieces (The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots) generating buzz this year, we’ve received our fill of A-list corset moments from Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Margot Robbie, and Saoirse Ronan.
Stone, a first-time corset-wearer and the only American lead in The Favourite, had some difficulty with her restrictive costume. “I think being American and never having worn a corset, I was like ‘Are you kidding me?? How is this possible?’” Stone told InStyle. In time, though, she says her body actually adapted to the shape of the corset.
In October, Stone explained that her organs “shifted” to accommodate the new silhouette. “After like a month I was totally used to it — you do get used to it, it’s very scary. Your body does sort of change shape temporarily,” she told us. As for long-term damage, though, Stone wasn’t too concerned. “I wasn’t scared because people have done this for such a long time and I know it’ll be fine, and people wear corsets all the time, probably much tighter — and I was like begging them to LOOSEN UP.”
Despite the discomfort, the Oscar winner credits the garment in aiding her transition from Hollywood movie star to 18th century British social climber. “The costumes are so beautiful and it really does help. The way you stand, the way you breathe, the way you move … It does a lot of the work for you. In terms of being historically accurate, it keeps you really upright.”
Emma’s co-star, Weisz, agreed that while painful, the corset played an essential role in the film. “It’s painful, but it gives you a lot,” she told us. “We’re not playing women who are oppressed by anything — fashion, society, men … The corset can be quite an oppressive thing, but luckily we were pretty dominating, unoppressed gals.”
As for Mary Queen of Scots, Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne handled the old-timey waist-trainer a bit differently. “The corsets on this film, they’re kind of a hybrid shape — they’re not super Elizabethan because I wanted a more curvy, more feminine shape,” she told InStyle.
“I think corsets, they are restrictive because you are creating a silhouette that is different from the body, but I think it depends on how they fit and how they’re made. When you put them on first they feel very hard and cold, and the corsets we had were very lightweight, very thin, and they warmed up and they mold to the body. So yes since there is a sense of pull on the body you are restricted, but it’s where the pull is [that determines] whether it is supportive or whether it’s uncomfortable.”
Liam Daniel/Focus Features
Liam Daniel/Focus Features
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Generally speaking, any clothing item that physically pains you can’t be great for your overall health. Doctors tend to agree. As Stone mentioned, corset-wear can change the arrangement of your organs, which can actually affect the way your body digests food. Aesthetic medical professional, Dr. Galyna Selezneva, explained that “a shift in the pressure on your internal organs means you will be less tolerant of certain foods, including gas-producing and fatty foods, and some individuals might find that normal portion sizes are too much. All of this can also increase the chances of heartburn as your stomach shifts up beyond your diaphragm causing acid reflux.” OK, that’s a big “thank u, next” from us.
A study relayed by Forbes in 2015 found that the skeletons of Victorian women were deformed by corset-wear. Not only did the organs shift downward to make room for the compressed ribcage, but their spines were actually misaligned. Check out these gag-inducing graphics (if you dare).
Naturally, extreme waist compression isn’t ideal for your lungs, either. At the height of the Kardashian-inspired waist-training craze, Dr. Oz did an experiment where he tested the respiratory capacity of a woman wearing a waist-trainer, and the same woman after she’d removed the piece. With the restrictive garment in place, her lungs functioned about half as well as they should.
Wellness expert and physician Dr. Taz Bhatia spoke to InStyle about the long-term health risks as well, explaining, “Long term use of corsets and waist trainers can disrupt blood flow to visceral organs, including the liver, kidney and the intestines.”
“It can also affect breathing capacity as well,” Bhatia continued. “These affects can last for months if the corset had been used extensively. Corsets should be used minimally at best and not a long term solution for weight or fat loss.”
TL; DR: Hey, kids, just say no to old-world beauty standards.
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