How woman with world’s smallest waist made herself thinner using corsets

By Sanj Atwal
Published
split image of Cathie Jung

In 1999, aged 62, Cathie Jung (USA) was awarded the record for the smallest tight-laced waist on a living person, and she still holds it today at the age of 86.

Standing at a height of 5 ft 8 in (1.72 m), she has a corseted waist measuring just 15 inches (38.1 cm). Un-corseted, it measures 21 inches (53.34 cm).

Cathie was 18 when she first wore a corset, but it wasn’t until her 30s that she decided to wear one full time.

Her waist originally measured 26 inches (66.4 cm) before she started gradually reducing its width over the course of many years, using a training belt. She has never had surgery to define her waist.

Cathie wears a corset for 23 hours a day, only removing it for her daily shower.

The mother of three, who does not eat a special diet or exercise to maintain her waist, says she had "no intention” of setting a world record. “It was never a thought in my mind,” she revealed.

It was due to her interest in Victorian fashion that Cathie first started wearing a corset.

“If you’re going to wear a Victorian dress and have it look appropriate, you need to wear the right underwear,” she explained.

“Once it was time to get a new [corset], it was just natural to get one a little smaller. It was not any goal of mine to ever get smaller or be smaller; it just was a natural occurrence.”

Having such a small waist doesn’t affect Cathie’s breathing, nor has it caused any medical issues. She can still do all the things she used to do before reducing her waist size, such as fishing, driving, and cleaning her house.

Cathie attributes this to the fact that she reduced her waist size very gradually. “If you start having breathing issues or any other kind of issues, it means you’re not doing things correctly,” she said.

Cathie Jung front view

Cathie Jung back view

Cathie describes wearing a corset as “sort of the reverse of pregnancy”. She added: “It just shifts your organs around in a bit of a different area, but it’s not anything that’s harmful to your body.”

Cathie’s husband, Bob, is very supportive of her, and as an orthopaedic surgeon, he’s been well placed to monitor her body as it’s changed over the years. “He would tell me if anything I was doing to my body would not be healthy,” Cathie said.

As a self-described procrastinator, Cathie made the decision to wear a corset at all hours – even while sleeping – for “convenience’s sake”. 

“If I said I would get up in the morning and put my corset on right away, it might be 5 o’clock in the afternoon and I wouldn’t have gotten there,” she explained.

Although she doesn’t adhere to a special diet to maintain her waist size, Cathie does avoid eating any foods which could cause bloating. And instead of eating three large meals per day, she eats more frequent, smaller portions throughout the day.

Cathie Jung being measured

Nearly all of Cathie’s “going-out” clothes are tailor-made to fit her thin frame, although she says it’s not uncommon for her to wear “off the rack” clothes, such as a pair of leggings and a hip-length shirt with a belt, when she’s on the beach near her house.

The reactions toward Cathie’s waist from her friends are mixed: some think it’s “wonderful”, whilst others don’t like it. “It’s a pretty up in the air thing,” Cathie revealed.

Equally, the reactions she gets from strangers are varied. In “conservative areas” of the country, Cathie says people are more “stand-offish” and “hesitant to say anything”. In comparison, she finds that young children are much more open to approaching her, especially if they’ve seen her in a Guinness World Records book.

Cathie doesn’t mind the attention she gets; she in fact welcomes it. “I have no problems signing books for kids and having them ask questions,” she said.

Being a Guinness World Records title holder has been a “very positive experience” for Cathie. She’s appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as TV shows in Japan, China, and South Korea. “I’ve met lots of wonderful people,” Cathie said.

Cathie Jung standing between mannequins

Although we don’t recommend anyone reduces their waist size as Cathie has, here are her tips for doing so safely: “To be successful wearing a corset or tight-lacing, you must have a corset custom made. You must also not try to reduce your waist size infinitely initially.

“You can reduce your waist maybe 2-4 inches around the outside, which is negligible, and not have any ill effects, and just have it change your silhouette, and just doing that is what’s effective. The people that try to reduce their waist infinitely immediately are the ones that get into great distress.”

After several decades of reducing her waist size, Cathie eventually made the decision to stop so that she didn’t have to keep buying new corsets.

She is without doubt one of our most iconic record holders ever and, with her record remaining unbroken after almost 25 years, she is still Officially Amazing!

Cathie Jung holding GWR certificate

The smallest waist ever recorded on a person with normal stature belonged to Ethel Granger (UK, 1905-82), who reduced from a natural 56 cm (22 in) to 33 cm (13 in) between 1929 and 1939.

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