BERLIN: Time would not pass if Michele Koebke’s body were an hourglass; the German woman’s waistline has been cinched to a circumference of only 16 inches.
And although her waist is currently the same circumference as a mayonnaise jar, she still has plans to go slimmer.
Koebke, 24, has been wearing a corset every day for three years. Even falling asleep in the device, she says the corset allows her to achieve peak femininity — a bottlenecked waistline she says “feels nice and smooth.”
The last representative size survey for German women was carried out in 2009, and before that in 1994. In that time, the average female waist size increased from 33.5 inches (84.9 cm) to 35 inches (89 cm). Meanwhile, Koebke’s waist has shrunk 9 inches since 2008. Due to the hypertrophy of her back and stomach muscles, she has trouble standing upright without the help from her corset. Doctors warn Koebke that any further constricting of her waist risks effectively paralyzing her.
“In time, it won’t be possible to move without the corset,” says Dr. Rudiger Langer, “Or in the worst case, it won’t be possible to move in general.”
Koebke eats upwards of 10 small meals throughout the day, because her stomach doesn’t have room for larger meals at fewer intervals. She doesn’t see the dietary change as a hindrance.
“My life hasn’t changed, just slowed down a little,” says Koebke, whose waist measures 22 inches without the corset. “Now my movement is more feminine.”
But femininity isn’t Koebke’s only motivator. The Berliner no doubt acknowledges the current world record is only one inch trimmer than her current measurement. In this pursuit, she says she’s willing to brave the challenges.
“Right now I’m a little breathless,” she says. “Changing corsets is like a high-performance sport for me.”
The process of tightlacing — wearing a corset so tight as to permanently modify one’s figure — is a precarious one, as the added compression can cause people to fall unconscious. Over time, the wearer can also experience prolonged health risks such as heart palpitations, mucosal build-up in the lungs, and, in more extreme cases, fractured ribs.
So far, these issues do not intimidate Koebke, who will continue wearing the corset at all times — except for in the shower — until she has crossed the heralded 15-inch threshold.
“I’m not worried about the medical implications. I would reconsider if I thought they were serious or wearing a corset could prove fatal — but, as far as I’m concerned, that’s not the case.” – Samaa