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She despised the hardships of war, but Scarlett O' Hara was more than willing to suck it up --and in -- to achieve the perfect figure.

In one of the most unforgettable scenes from Gone with the Wind, our heroine boasts a 17-inch waistline with the help of a waist-whittling, breath-taking apparatus called the corset, which dates at least to the early 1800s.

Somehow, the quest of many women to mold their bodies into an hourglass has spanned centuries.

"From the video vixens to some other major celebrities that we all are aware of, everyone wants the slender waist, larger behind or derriere, and the flatter stomach," says Cass Butler of Butler Body Wear in Dallas.

Everyone from Kim Kardashian to Jessica Alba, who both claim corsets helped them get their bodies back more quickly after having babies.

Now, ordinary women everywhere are sharing photos of whittled waists on social media and crediting "waist training" - the 21st century nod to the corset.

Many of them are like entrepreneur Cass Butler, who not only sells latex waist-shapers, but wears one herself eight to 10 hours a day.

"Not only am I the president, I'm a client," she jokes.

Women who swear by the waist-cinchers say they are weight-loss tools that double as shapewear by creating a smooth silhouette underneath clothing, free of bumps and bulges.

Butler claims that in eight to 10 weeks you can expect to lose at least two inches off your waist. Over time, she said, you should see a real change in the body's overall shape.

While a healthy diet and exercise is recommended, she says it's not necessary for results. Plus, your slouched shoulders and bent back will correct themselves.

"This is training," Butler says. "We are actually contouring the shape of the body."

Nikki Jackson says she was frustrated by other shapewear, which often redistributed her weight into noticeable lumps elsewhere.

"I've worn so many different girdles myself, and I was skeptical," she says.

But after trying a waist-trainer, Jackson says she liked how she looked in her clothes - and the attention she received from her husband.

"Your walk is different; your strut is different; and you hold your head a little bit higher," Jackson says. "And then when you have the mister still watching - and I've been married 27 years - that's a plus!"

If women like Jackson are skeptical, some medical experts are even more doubtful.

"So the question has been, do they cause harm?" asks Dr. Alfred Johnson, a Dallas-area physician who specializes in internal medicine and women's health. "The answer is yes... they can if you tighten them too tight. If people use them before they are fully mature and while they are still growing, it can cause deformities."

Johnson says he believes any weight or inches lost are because the waist-trainer compresses the stomach, forcing the wearer to eat less.

"If you squeeze it too tight, it affects the organs," he says. "It can affect your digestion. It can affect the bowel movements."

Johnson says body shapers can definitely improve posture and make someone a more mindful eater. He doesn't recommend wearing one during exercise because it can restrict breathing.

However, Teresa Reed wears hers even during an intense workout. She said she has lost three inches from her waist.

"I can work out and not wear the trainer and probably get the same results," she says, "but I have found that this is getting the results faster," Reed says.

Jackson now is a skeptic turned believer.

"Do you think they could make some arm trainers, thigh trainers and other trainers? Because I will take those," she jokes.

Butler said she's taking more orders every day on her website - even some from men. Clearly the desire to tame the tummy is as universal as it is timeless.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Waist-trainers cut a striking figure

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