Forget breasts. That is what research by the late Devendra Singh, professor of psychology at the University of Texas says. Dr. Singh was known for his research on sex appeal and human attraction, with a specific focus on the optimal waist-to-hip ratio. His paper, “Optimal Waist-to-Hip (WHR) Ratios in Women Activate Neural Reward Centers in Men”, states that optimal WHR is a “phenotypic cue to fertility, fecundity, neurodevelopmental resources in offspring, and overall health, and is indicative of 'good genes' in women”. Basically, it makes men happy to see such women even if they don’t recognize it themselves.
The ideal ratio between waist and hips is between 0.67 and 0.8. So if you have 40" hips, your waist should be between 27" and 31". If you have 36" hips, your waist should be between 24" and 28". We call this the hourglass figure, displayed by Playboy bunnies, Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansson and, of course, Kim Kardashian.
What these studies show is that you can be plump and yet set off those neurological happy signals if you have a well proportioned figure. In other words, it is not the size of each body part that is important but the ratio. Before you dismiss this as patriarchal crap guaranteed once again to make women feel bad about themselves, here is the kicker: an hourglass figure is also linked to fertility. Wider hips allow for easier births, in other words.
The mysterious thing called sex appeal is largely biological, it seems. Men tend to be attracted to women with healthy body weight, larger breasts, longer hair, high voices and an optimal waist-to-hip ratio. The question is whether this sex appeal can be achieved artificially, something that women, cosmetic companies and shapewear manufacturers have been trying ever since. Enter corsets and waist trainers.
Recently, Kim Kardashian, the reality TV star, created a stir by taking a photo of herself wearing a corset and posting it on Instagram. Kardashian called it a waist-training device, and indicated that it was her way of getting back into shape after the birth of her daughter, North (what an unimaginative name!)
It created a maelstrom of interest from males of all sizes who stormed to the stores to get said corset for their wives and mistresses in the hope that they could duplicate the curvy Ms Kardashian. Others protested that cinching the waist was so Middle Ages.
Although it seems controversial in this day and age, corsets have existed for centuries. The Victorians wore them; Scarlett O'Hara wore them; and Indian mothers used to wrap cloth tightly around their daughters' bellies once they had delivered their babies, so that pregnant stomachs would shrink.
Today, we call it waist training, which sounds a whole lot more wholesome than it is.
As a feminist, Madame Gadgetry thinks the notion of wearing a corset to appear attractive to a man is ludicrous and old-fashioned. But you know what? Dirty secret—she does waist training these days in the hope of attaining an hourglass figure. The most pathetic part: she has to write about it in the third person. Okay, to own up and ‘fess up.
My name is Madame Gadgetry and I am a corset-oholic.
Orchard Corset’s steel-boned under bust satin corset is the proverbial iron hand in velvet glove. In this case, it is steel bones in a satin mesh. Mine is black (although there are a whole range of colours from purple to red to silver), five inches wide, and fits neatly around my waist. The company asks for a very specific set of measurements distilled through a YouTube instructional video. They include:
- Measure the smallest part of the waist
- Measure underneath the bust
- Measure hip
- Measure distance between lower part of bust and place where you bend when you sit.
Long-waisted women, predominantly from Scandinavian countries, with several inches between the breast and hip, need wider corsets, while Indians—general short-waisted, need just a few inch wide corsets.
Both perform the same function. They cinch your waist into a hourglass shape. How does this happen?
In an emailed reply, Orchard Corset said, “Waist training is moving your bottom two floating ribs (by tightening them). As that happens, the rest of your torso follows, giving you a smaller waist. Much like wearing braces on your teeth, over time you can slowly move those bones in.”
Much like braces, the process can be long and painful.
My corset is small. When folded in three, it is about the size of a cloth napkin. It can travel with you. The front part has five steel buttons that close tightly over your stomach. Then comes the cinching. The back of the corset contains laces that cross over like shoe laces. And serve pretty much the same purpose.
The first time, you loosen the laces so that the corset fits around your waist. Then, you button up. After that, it is just a matter of reach to the back of your waist and pulling the laces. The effect is immediate. The steel bones crush your waist inwards giving you an instant hourglass shape. There is only one problem: breathing becomes, well, breathy. You are in danger of hyperventilating. Over time, you learn to breathe over these difficulties. You may not be able to expand your stomach while breathing like most normal folks. But you learn to breathe from your upper chest. There is one side benefit. The corset pushes up your breasts thus negating the need for a wonder bra.
There are many such products in the market, even in India, all sold under the label "shapewear." These are tight but elastic undergarments that aim to mold and hold your bulges in place. For the most part, they succeed.
Prices start at $40
It holds my stomach in, to say the least. I'm able to breathe, but just about. What it does do, very effectively, is to make me eat less. I have been wearing this corset for months.
The wildcard however, is what will happen once I stop wearing this corset. Will my waist bounce outward like an elastic rubber band? Or will I have to wear this waist-cincher forever? That would be a tad difficult to bear.
In testimonials on Orchard Corset’s website, women claim to have reduced their waist size by several inches thanks to wearing a corset for 12-18 hours a day, including while sleeping.
You don’t wear a corset while exercising because bending becomes difficult. The floating ribs ostensibly go in and you get an good waist-to-hip ratio, causing all men in the vicinity to take a measure of your figure.