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The Effect of Bridgerton: Corsets Are Back - But Are They Bad for Your Health?

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year and a half, you would know about the release of Netflix's series Bridgerton, and how successful it was in being able to create the most monumental drama-enriched historical romance we've probably had. Ever.

But the show also chose so many iconic fashion choices from the 19th century for the actors to wear, which ultimately influenced the reappearance of the well-renowned garment; the corset.

The corset

The corset is a support garment commonly worn to hold and train the torso into a desired shape, traditionally a smaller waist or larger bottom. They were also used to "beautify" women, and make them more appealing to eligible suitors, or in other words, to the Male Gaze.

After reading the sentence above, you're probably (and hopefully) thinking that that is quite a problematic concept, especially so within our very progressive 21st century society.

But unfortunately, it's what worked at the time.

Men preferred women who had that 'perfect' hourglass figure - as it was more appealing to them because it would then mean they'd have more successful pregnancies. Doesn't make sense, right? Because the corset is literally faking that in the first place. It's laughable, really.

It is literally trying to say that unless you can morph your body into a specific shape, and can create that 'small waist, big bum' illusion using a corset, you'd be more aesthetically pleasing to a man.

Why should we wear clothes that appeals to the male gaze? Shouldn't we just wear what we want to wear and feel amazing in, without worrying that it may come with the consequences of men trying to stick a baby in us? No, thanks!

But in begs the question: how detrimental is the health benefits surrounding corsets affecting both the physical and mental health of women and men who wear them?

Physical health and corsets

I think nearly everyone has seen the picture from the Google images archives of the comparison between a woman who doesn't wear a corset vs a woman who does. People who saw the picture at the time theorised whether a corset really can do that to a woman.

Does it really push all her organs to the middle of her body? Are her ribs really broken?

The answer is plainly, no.

However, from the 1800s onwards, boned corsets and bodices were known to make women faint due to their corsets being laced too tight, due to the compression on their lungs, and this would then cause them to have difficulty breathing. But we've come a long way since the 1800s, and now know that if corsets are worn correctly, they do not cause damage to the spine, ribs or otherwise. Modern corsets are designed to be worn safely, with no possible health problems to be experienced at all if worn correctly.

So, could it have an affect on mental health instead?

Mental health and corsets

Since the re-introduction of corsets thanks to Bridgerton, as well as TikTok influencing the style choice, corsets could have mental health implications as a result of reinforcing a particular body type and image that not everyone will be able to achieve.

Corsets reinforce the overly glamourised hourglass body-type, represented by a lot of well-known models and celebrities worldwide - most famously, Marilyn Monroe. Also, at the time she was famous, corsets were still very much in fashion. So does that mean Marilyn's hourglass figure was real, or enhanced?

The same goes for Kim Kardashian, the 'Marilyn Monroe' of the 21st century, shall we say. Her body is defined to be hourglass shape, with the small waist, big bottom mantra that a lot of women aimed for in the 16th century. But is it causing detrimental health problems for the young girls and women who look up to Kim K and want to be just like her? Possibly.

Sadly, it could be causing unrealistic expectations of body image, to which, the majority of the time, is only ever achieved by the use of a corset.

Ultimately, if you think a corset could have unbelievable negative health affects on your physical or mental health, don't even think about using one. If you're struggling with your appearance, always consider talking to someone. But don't try to give in to achieving an unrealistic body standard that, the majority of the time, has to use a piece of clothing to be achieved.

Your mental and physical health is more important than a flimsy piece of clothing - even if you do want to look like Daphne Bridgerton!


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