Getting Waisted: Modern Day Victorians

Getting Waisted: Modern Day Victorians

Brittany Le, Copy Editor

The practice of Waist Training, which relies on using a steel-boned corset for body modification, is controversial. Waist Trainers are currently used for cosmetic reasons to achieve a smaller waistline, or for orthopedic reasons to correct a crooked spine. This practice dates back to the Victorian Era.

In the later years of the Victorian Era , medical reports and rumors claimed that tightlacing – a more extreme version of Waist Training – was fatal. As a result of this, women who suffered to achieve small waists were condemned for their vanity and criticized by their peers as being slaves to fashion. This controversy also exists today as Waist Training is appearing everywhere and is endorsed by celebrities.

“An hourglass shape is highly desired in the world of fashion,” says Ms. Matella, a fashion teacher at Wellington High School.

Celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have displayed their interest in waist training through social media, saying she’s “really obsessed with waist training”, on her Instagram account.  Her endorsement can be found on magazines, on television, and  on online  articles demonstrating the power a media celebrity like Kim Kardashian can have on the public. Other waist training advocates include Khloe Kardashian, Snooki, Beyonce, Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson, Amber Rose, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Some students are a bit more skeptical of waist training.

“I personally don’t like the idea of waist training, but as I am not the one changing my body, it’s not my call. Your body is your body, and you can do with it what you like. Don’t use a waist trainer because you feel pressure from the media, other women, or men; if you insist on doing it, then make sure it’s for YOU, and no one else. Again, you don’t need an hourglass figure to be beautiful,” Andrew Siegel, senior, said.

In the early 1900s, the tiny corsets began to fall out of fashion. The feminist and dress reform movements had made comfortable clothing more acceptable. The rise of the Artistic Dress Movement made loose fitted clothing and the natural waist fashionable in many parts of the world that had practiced with Waist Training Corsets.

Couture Designers like Fortuny and Poiret designed the brassiere and the girdle, promising to give the illusion of an hourglass body without using a Waist Training Corset. Modern day department stores such as Macy’s and JcPenney’s have designed products that promise the same ideal. They call these products “Waist Cinchers” and “Waist Snippers”.

Corsets eventually died out due to bad media, but made a comeback around the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Waist Training corsets have reinvented themselves and given themselves a new name. They are commonly worn for Halloween costumes to create a “sexy” appeal, without the restriction of a true corset.

“Today the boning in a corset is made out of plastic.  Making modern day corsets out of plastic boning allows the garment to fit naturally to the body,” adds Ms. Matella.

Teen stores such as Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, Pac Sun, and Papaya are advocates of “corset bustiers”, an item that exposes a girl’s midriff and gently shapes and tightens the waist, all the while pushing up the bust.

A few stores online such as Etsy and Corset Center sell Waist Trainers for an average of 50 dollars. However, finding Waist Trainers locally isn’t easy. Common department stores such as Macy’s and J.C. Penney’s do not carry the item, but offer an alternative commonly referred to as “spanx”. This garment is worn underneath clothes to smooth out the appearance of the body.

One online store,, tries their best to influence women to buy their product. By challenging their self – esteem, on their home page, the phrase “Summer is coming. If you don’t start waist training now, you’ll HATE yourself later!” is displayed in bold bright letters. The subtitles go on to say, “Be desired. Be the center of attention. Be the envy of all your friends.”

These words are meant to catch the eye of most webpage visitor, and can incite controversy over the meaning and subliminal message of the phrase. Is this meant to motivate, or to tap into a woman’s self – esteem?

J.C. Penney’s sells an item similar to Waist Trainers that they call “Waist Snippers”.  Many of the online reviews by women who’ve tried the item give it 4 ½ stars, stating that it “holds the tummy in good” and is a “dead stop” for “maximum spot control.” J.C. Penney’s Waist Snipper can allude to an hourglass figure, for those who do not wish to take it to the next step with a Waist Trainer.

Macy’s also offers an alternative item to the Waist Trainer and a similar product to the Waist Snipper. This is known as a “Waist Cincher”. Macy’s claims it “hides perceived flaws or imperfections,” which is similar to what the JC Penney product claims.

However, Macy’s goes on to say that it will “make women feel beautiful and put together.” Implying that women need their product to feel beautiful, and having an hourglass shape is the only way to feel that. Macy’s Waist Cincher essentially claims to only slim a woman’s body and is not designed for permanent results.

“Women do not need an hourglass shape to be beautiful. There is no ‘ideal’ body type for a woman to have to be attractive. The human body is a work of art; any shape can be beautiful,” adds Andrew Siegel.

Charlotte Russe, a store whose target audience is teenagers, also sells similar products to the Waist Trainer but has parallel intentions like those of JcPenney’s and Macy’s. The price is considerably cheap, advertised for 12.99, and gives the same visual effect as a 50 dollar waist trainer. Are these products preparing young girls for the real world of Waist Training?

A student at Wellington High is ready to move up to a Waist Trainer.

” I promote Waist Training. I’m a firm believer that women should be able to do as they please with their bodies. I would Waist Train because, although I already have a tiny waist, I would like more of a curve,” says Kiana Rodriguez, senior.

The upside to Waist Training is that it will do what it intends to: create a smaller waist. It can also build someone’s personal confidence if having an hourglass body shape is what they desire. Waist Training can help tighten skin and even help with posture and back support.

The downside to Waist Training is that it could possibly reshape a person’s bone structure if the process is not done correctly. It can cause excessive sweating and create trouble breathing if it is used excessively or done improperly. It can also cause your muscles to weaken, which can potentially lead to muscle atrophy.

Controversy exists over the Waist Trainer. Many claim it is healthy, not healthy, and healthy only if it’s done properly. Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine claims that Waist Training is ill logical.

“It’s also uncomfortable, restricts your movements, and if you wear it really tight, it can make it difficult to breathe and theoretically could cause rib damage,” states Mary Jane Minkin.

An anatomy teacher at Wellington High School also agrees that Waist Training isn’t healthy.

“If someone is waist training, I personally think they are looking for an external cure to an internal problem. I would not promote this product,” says Mrs. Roberto.

However, a student at Wellington High begs to differ.

“I would use the product properly so I could get the results that I wanted. It is all a personal choice and no one has the right to judge, ” adds Kiana Rodriguez, senior.

Just like any other garment, a Waist Trainer must be broken in and the body will become accustomed to the constriction of the practice. The Waist Training Corset is said to be most beneficial when worn for only a few hours at a time to prevent someone from passing out. When the trainee is comfortable, she can wear it the entire day.

The corset is initially worn on the first set of clasps. Once the garment is worn-in, the woman can begin to use the second set of claps, essentially making the corset tighter. As the waist beings to adjust to the new cinched tightness, the wearer of the corset will usually progress to the next size down as part of the waist-reduction regime.

The name “Waist Trainer” is everywhere. However, its last name “Corset” is often omitted from ads or product description.