From the MutterMuseum – the deformed ribcage of a woman who wore corsets vs a normal ribcage

Just as a heads-up, there are proper and improper ways to wear a corset. Contrary to popular belief, not every Victorian woman tightlaced, and neither does everyone today. You can wear a corset for support and not have it so tight that it permanently deforms your body; it will still restrict your movements as far as bending at the waist goes (depending on how long the corset is/etc.), but you can breathe and such. Problem is that, just as you get women today who wear too-high heels that permanently damage their joints and back just to be fashionable, so you had women who would wear their corsets too tightly. But most of the “thirteen inch waist” stories came not from reality, but erotica of the time. Some women would have narrowed ribcages from being corseted at an early age, but as modern tightlacers can attest, this doesn’t mean that you can’t breathe or function.

Here. Have some info on corset myths. And some information on modern tightlacing (may be mildly NSFW).

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