Woman With the World’s Smallest Waist

Photographs show a woman who had ribs removed to achieve a slender waistline?

Claim:   Photographs show a woman who had ribs removed to achieve a slender waistline.

Status:   Real photographs; inaccurate description.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, September 2008]


Is there any end to what women will do to try to enhance their (perceived) beauty?

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Origins:   Many women have at one time or another engaged in drastic or unhealthful means of achieving a perceived societal ideal of feminine beauty, everything from starvation dieting to radical cosmetic surgery. Rumor has long held (apocryphally) that these extreme measures for achieving a preferred female body shape

include the practice of having ribs surgically removed in order
to create and maintain wasp-waisted figures.

The woman pictured above, 71-year-old Cathie Jung, does actually have a wasp-like waist of the sort that Victorian women were rumored to have achieved through dangerous surgical procedures. Indeed, since 1999 she has held the Guinness World Records title for
Smallest Waist on a Living Person,” possessing a waistline measured at 15 inches (a figure that is commonly described as “about the same size as a regular jar of mayonnaise”). And she did in fact attain her tiny waistline through a form of body modification, but it did not involve rib removal or any other form or surgery.

Ms. Jung started out with a more typically dimensioned 26-inch waistline and, through the wearing of corsets around the clock over the course of ten years, slimmed it down to a mere 15 inches:

Jung says it was her and her husband’s fascination with all things Victorian that led her to pursue a perfect hourglass figure.

“I was sort of a teenager in the ’50s when small waists were in vogue, and when I got into my 40s, the kids were gone. I realized that I was going the way of all women my age and starting to look a little dumpy and frumpy,” Jung said.

So she began wearing corsets full time. This Victorian secret to a slimmer waist has appeared in films ranging from “Gone with the Wind” to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Jung wears corsets day and night, removing them only to shower, ultimately reducing her 26-inch waist down to 15 inches.

“Wearing a corset to me now is a way of life. It’s something I do 24 hours a day,” she said. “Of course, with the Guinness [World Records] book being as popular as it is, people do recognize me.”

“The corset will decrease the space in your stomach, so she doesn’t eat large amounts at one time, which is probably better anyway,” [her husband] said. “The same thing happens when a person has their stomach stapled. So you’re really not shifting organs all around like some people envision.”

Jung has now held the Guinness world record title for smallest waist six years running, and fame has been kind to her. Celebrity designers have created her corsets, famous photographers have snapped her picture, she has appeared in advertisements and she’s made television appearances all over the world.

In a news report for which Guinness World Record holders answered frequently asked questions, Ms. Jung affirmed that she had never had a rib removed or undergone any other form of surgical procedure to attain her current figure:

Q: Have you had surgery?

A: I’ve never had surgery to have a rib removed. I have never had any ill medical effects from corseting. My posture is improved from wearing the corset. The lower ribs are called the floating ribs, and they are very flexible, so everything just moves around like it would during a pregnancy.

Last updated:   26 November 2006


  Sources Sources:

    Schadler, Jay et al.   “Extreme Measures: The Smallest Waist and the Longest Fingernails.”

    ABC News.   23 November 2007.

    ABC News.   “‘How Do You Sleep?'”

    23 November 2007.

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