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She’s one of the coolest women ever to become famous for body modification: Ethel Granger. Ethel is known for having the smallest waist ever recorded due to corsetry. She also grew a collection of piercings over her lifetime, including piercings of the septum, both nostrils, several in her ears, and both nipples, many of them stretched to accommodate jewelry of up to 0 gauge.

Ethel began modifying the size of her waist and getting her first ear piercings after strong urging from her fiance, Will, who during their marriage would custom fit many belts, corsets, and septum rings for her.  In the space of approximately ten years, she took her waist to a record-breakingly tiny 13 inches through a practice called “tight lacing” in which highly supportive boned corsets of decreasing size are gradually laced closed to tighten the waist.  At the time of her modifications (about 1930 to 1950), there were no professional piercers working openly and the large gauge piercings in her nose were so uncommon that she seldom wore jewelry in them out in public.

Although she didn’t like the look of tattooing, she also had a well known tattoo artist ink permanent color on her lips and cheeks; possibly the first instance of what we now call “permanent makeup.”  Prior to Ethel, the only other woman with a waist as small and piercings was famous French singer and actress Polaire, who was said to have corseted to 14 inches and had worn a nose piercing for several years.

Ethel retained her status of smallest waist in the Guinness Book of World Records until 1998, when the category was finally retitled as “smallest waist on a living person.”  The title is now held by Cathie Jung, with a waist measurement of 15 inches.

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