Do Corsets Shrink Your Waist?

A corset can cinch your waist.

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If you're aching for an hourglass shape, a corset may be just the undergarment you're looking for. From classy Victorian ladies to classic movie stars, women have used the corset to shape their bodies for centuries. If worn daily with the goal of reshaping your body, a corset may even alter your permanent waistline. Not all corsets are the same, though, so the undergarment you choose depends on whether you're looking to fit into a cinched-waist dress for the night or trying to achieve a long-lasting hourglass figure.

Temporary Effect

Wearing a corset for the evening can generate the temporary illusion of a slimmer waist, but it won't physically alter your permanent shape if you don't wear it daily. A properly fitted corset knocks two to three inches off your waist measurement and redistributes it to your bust and hips, giving an hourglass shape that would make Scarlett O'Hara proud. Unfortunately, once you loosen the laces, your body will redistribute everything back to normal in about 10 to 15 minutes, so it isn't a long-term fix when used in this way.

Boning Options and Styles

Boning is the key to how small your waist will go, both in the short and long term. While modern materials such as steel and plastic have replaced whale bones as the support structure inside the corset, it's still important to note how strong the boning actually is. Flexible plastic that bends when you tighten the corset isn't going to give you as tight a waist as steel rods that provide more support. The material of the corset doesn't matter as much as the boning, since manufacturers only use materials, such as leather or silk brocade, that can handle regular corset use. Underbust corsets, which sit just below your breastline, and full corsets, which rise higher to cover your breasts, both trim and accentuate your waist equally well, although full corsets don't show off your cleavage quite as emphatically.

Waist Training

Some women take corseting to a waist-trimming extreme, following a program called waist training that can permanently reduce your waist size over time. In waist training, you wear a corset for a certain number of hours a day for a few months at a time. The specific time each day and length of time you need to keep it up depend on your body shape and how many inches you want off your waist. The pressure of the corset causes your body to reshape itself and squishes your stomach so your appetite drops. It can even result in weight loss, but it works only in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise. If you want to try it, you'll need a custom corset sized just for you with compression focused at the waistline, so underbust corsets are usually best. A typical rate of waist training reduces your waist size by about one inch every six months, up to a total of four or five inches. Once completed, you may need to repeat it for brief periods every few months if your waist starts expanding outward again.


Your corset doesn't just shrink your waist, it also improves your posture and lends support to your bustline, so it's a real powerhouse of an undergarment. Wearing a corset too tight or too long, however, can cause medical problems in some women. The most serious is Glenard's disease, a condition in which your internal organs sink down and your abdominal wall loses muscle tone. Breathing problems, including shallow breathing that could cause you to faint, are a common problem when wearing a corset. Physical deformities are also possible with extended corset use. You'll need to break in a new corset over a period of two weeks to two months, depending on how often you wear it. Breaking in a corset involves wearing it without fully tightening it so the material can stretch and adapt to your body before trying to wear it completely cinched tight.

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