September 9, 2013

Manteo woman with the smallest
waist in the world visits Ocracoke 


Cathie Jung never expected to hold the Guinness Book of World Records distinction for smallest waist when she began wearing a corset 54 years ago.

Jung and her husband, Robert, of Manteo, were in Ocracoke recently for a visit.  Cathie, 76, was fine with people at SmacNally’s talking to her about her tiny waist—a size Scarlett O’Hara would envy.  Measured by the inside of the corset, it is 15 inches, which is a Guinness record she has held since 2002.

You can find Cathie, “the Corset Queen,” on the Guinness website under Human Body/Smallest waist on a living person.

She wears a corset of some kind 24 hours a day, except for when she bathes.

“I’m more comfortable wearing it,” Cathie said about the attire she began donning in earnest 30 years ago when she began to wear it full-time in order to trim her waist with what is called “tight lacing,” from 26 inches when she was married to her current 15 inches.  Measured around the outside of the corset while worn, her waist is 18 inches, and uncorseted, her waist is 21 inches.
It’s all about the Victorian image, Cathie said about her unusual interest.

“We’ve been interested in Victorian costuming forever,” she said while she and Bob, a retired orthopedic surgeon, had a drink at the waterfront bar. “You need to have the right shape for the clothes.”

She and Bob wore Victorian clothing—and corsets--at their wedding in 1959 and donned the attire at special events after that.

“It helped my back when I wore it,” Bob said.  In fact, according to the National Geographic video on Cathie’s website -- -- corsets were invented to help support backs.

While Cathie wore a corset only occasionally during her child-rearing years, the image is one the two have been fascinated with for decades, not to mention the slimming effects such garments have on an aging figure.

“I’m interested in the elegance of the image,” she said.  That interest led them to others from all over the world with the same interest, who gathered yearly in Europe.  A final event of this group, then 200-strong, in Dusseldorf, Germany, attracted the local press and television.  Guinness saw those photos and approached the Jungs.

“We initially said no because there are a lot of far-out things in that book,” Bob said.  “We didn’t want to be aligned with weird stuff.”

Eventually, after Guinness persisted, the couple agreed, but on their terms, and now the couple travels all over the world at least once a year for appearances on behalf of Guinness.

The Japanese were very interested in making sure Cathie had no surgery to achieve her tiny waist.

“They took X-rays and CAT scans,” said Bob, who noted that his wife has not had ribs removed or anything like that. “That is not true,” he said about the myth of women removing ribs to have smaller waists.

Achieving her smallest-in-the-world waistline is something she had to do over many years of training her body.   Bob made a plaster cast of her body, then a dress form made out of foam with which the best corset makers in Europe crafted the more than 100 corsets she owns.  One of them, as shown on Cathie’s business card, is an outer-wear corset of sterling silver.

She has gotten used to modifying her actions while wearing the corset.  “No one sits for a long time in a corset,” she said. A recliner is preferred over a chair that causes one to bend in the middle.  While she doesn’t restrict what she eats, she eats small portions, sharing plates with Bob.

“I’m average height,” she said, noting she is 5 feet 6 inches, and her weight varies between 130 and 140 pounds.

Corsets as a fashion item these days are mostly worn over clothing, Bob noted.  “Interest in corsets has never disappeared completely,” he said. They are often seen in high fashion as overlays.

Cathie’s website includes Cathie’s story, photos, the history of corsets, and videos of her appearances with such television personalities as Tyra Banks.  It includes a National Geographic film of Cathie and the pros and cons of corset-wearing.

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