What is a girdle and should I use one? 4 reasons to try a girdle and the surprising benefits (including better posture!)

Modern girdles differ from traditional designs

three shades of the same girdle for reasons to try a girdle article
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When was the last time that you heard someone talk about girdles in the same breath as the best shapewear? Chances are, it’s been a while (if ever). But traditionalists insist that they work. So if you have found yourself wondering whether to try a girdle or about the benefits of a girdle this article is for you. 

Traditionally, this early 20th-century invention was a type of ‘partial corset’ with a longer length (from lower torso to upper thighs), open bottom that skimmed the legs like a skirt and straps to attach to stockings. A long way from the girdles of today, this early iteration was made from elastic fabric and boning and stretched the figure out into the new, popular S silhouette. 

From the 1910s onwards, girdles quickly replaced corsets, prized as they were for their relative comfort and ease to put on (specifically, they didn’t require a small team to tie a woman in). It wasn’t until the 1960s that this undergarment truly fell out of favour; outshone by developments in pantyhose and with their longer lengths not being compatible with the era’s mini skirts and dresses, the girdle was quickly discarded.

The girdle never entirely disappeared though; the girdle still exists today, albeit in a different guise. In fact, you’ll probably know the girdle by one of its contemporary names – body shapers, waist trainers or waist cinchers (as popularised by Kim Kardashian in 2014). Some, such as the Naturana Open Girdle by Suzanne Charles, have the traditional opening at the bottom while others (Maidenform’s Waist Cinching Brief With Cool Comfort® And Anti-Static) have been updated to include briefs, shorts (see Miraclesuit’s Instant Tummy Tuck Hi Waist Thigh Slimmer) or to be extra-longline with a high waist and mid-thigh legs – check out SPANX’s Power Conceal-Her® High-Waisted Extended Length Short.

You can forget any notions of tortuous 19th-century-style corsetry and fainting ladies – modern girdles are as far from their vintage counterparts as you can imagine. While traditional girdles focussed on constricting women’s forms, modern girdles are designed to support and offer only comfortable control. As long as you shop for the correct size, you should be able to walk, sit and breathe deeply without any issue and you shouldn’t experience any pinching or bulges at the edges.

4 reasons try a girdle 

Need a little more convincing? We’ve rounded up four reasons why you should try a girdle, from the health benefits to the emotional gains. Of course, as with everything, girdles should be worn in moderation; doctors warn against wearing them for extended periods of time, to avoid any potential health issues. As such, the benefits we’re discussing are only a given for those wearing a girdle occasionally or for short periods of time, such as at special events.

Back support

Girdles that are longer in the back, such as Ann Michell’s Violeta Mid-Thigh Post-Surgical Girdle, and Leonisa’s Undetectable Edge Boyshort Shaper With Booty Lifter, aren’t just designed to slim and smooth your tummy, but also to offer extra back support. This makes them a good choice for those who hold a lot of tension in their neck, shoulders and back – by relieving tension in your problem areas, girdles can help to reduce other symptoms of back pain: pressure on knees and feet and pain-related headaches and migraines. Of course, if you suffer from acute back pain, we always recommend talking to your doctor before purchasing.

Postpartum support

Postpartum or post-pregnancy girdles are not just about making you look slimmer post-baby (though this is definitely one of the added benefits); they’re actually medical-grade compression garments, designed to fit comfortably around your belly to support your body while it recovers. In fact, these girdles have been found to support your abdominal muscles while they heal, stabilise your pelvic floor, encourage blood flow, reduce swelling and fluid retention, improve mobility and aid postpartum workouts.

In particular, a study in 2017 found that women who delivered by C-section found their healing process was aided by wearing a postpartum girdle, particularly reducing their pain, discomfort and bleeding.

Of course, for any individual concerns, talk to your doctor first; if you are given the go-ahead, our favourite postpartum girdles on the market are Leonisa’s High-Waisted Firm Compression Postpartum Knicker with Adjustable Belly Wrap, the Bellefit Corset and TiRain 3 in 1 Postpartum Belly Support.

Improved posture

Many of us suffer from bad posture, especially those who work in office environments, hunched over laptops and desks for long periods of time. Wearing a girdle not only encourages you to sit up straight and hold yourself tall, but also trains your body into the good habit when not wearing it.

Confidence boosting

While girdles haven’t actually been proven to help you lose weight, you can’t underestimate the boost of confidence they can offer, especially when worn for special events. Popping on a girdle under your carefully chosen outfit – whether that’s for an important meeting, party, wedding or date night – can totally alter your headspace, allowing you to focus on being fully present, and at your most confident, for the event.