Effects of Long Term Corseting on the Female Skeleton: A Preliminary Morphological Examination

  • Rebecca Gibson American University
Keywords: Corset, Gender, Ribs, Spinous processes, Skeletal morphology


This 2012/2013 study looks at corset dimensions and skeletal rib deformation in female remains from three time periods and two locations to understand certain aspects of longevity.  All artifacts and skeletal remains originate from the Early Modern, Victorian, and Edwardian periods.  The corsets are held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and range in date from 1750-1908.  The data on the skeletal remains are the result of the author’s examination of collections held in the Musée de l’Homme in Paris, France, and the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology at the Museum of London Archaeology (MoL) in London, England.  An anachronistic view of corseted women posits that they lived short and painful lives.  I examine these skeletal remains with an eye toward establishing that rich or poor, young or old, corseted women lived comparatively long lives, and that the corset was not, in itself, a death sentence.  My findings indicate that although women experienced skeletal deformation because of corseting, they also lived longer than the average age for their times. 

Author Biography

Rebecca Gibson, American University
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology


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