That Corset is to Die For

Ad, New York Tribune, 11 May 1902

For women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tightly lacing a corset to achieve an hourglass figure was still very much popular despite a movement to end such an unhealthy and uncomfortable trend. Here are a few news accounts of women who actually died (or were said to have died) due to the wearing of this fashionable undergarment.

The Evening Bulletin, Maysville, KY, 9 Feb. 1895

The victim was a poor servant girl who died after a fright, and her death was attributed by the medical witnesses to the fact that she was too tightly belted to enable her to stand the wear and tear of any sudden emotion.

The Highland Weekly News, Hillsoboro, OH, 20 Feb, 1868

She had carried on the practice until finally her ribs were so pressed in on the lungs as to cause an attack of apoplexy, resulting in death.

Dakota Co. Herald, Nebraska,

Elsie Gasser went to have an operation for appendicitis, but during the surgery doctors discovered that her appendix was fine. “The operation so weakened her that the injury to the vital organs from tight lacing brought on her death.

Western Reserve Chronicle, OH, 15 June 1870

This humorous piece suggests that men could be used to “squeeze” women instead of having them wear corsets. “These corsets should be done away with, and if the girls can’t live without being squeezed, we suppose men can be found who sacrifice themselves. As old as we are, we had rather devote three hours a day, without a cent of pay, as a brevet corset, than to see the girls die off in that manner. Office hours almost any time.”

The Elk Advocate, Ridgeway, PA, 15 June 1865

This is another amusing blurb about corset-related death from the Semi-Weekly Interior Journal in Kentucky on April 20, 1886.

The St. Louis Republic, 16 Aug. 1903

If the girl wore her corset very tight for a long time she could cause a stoppage of the bowels, suppression of the urine, and septic poison might then result.”

The Evening Dispatch, Provo, UT, 27 Aug. 1895

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