In a ladies room at Lincoln Center, a slender woman in a very tight dress was writhing in front of a mirror, performing a frantic wiggle dance to pull her dress down over some sort of bodyshaper. No matter what she did, the shaper still peeked out from under this short, body conscious outfit. Clearly frustrated by her efforts, she pulled off the bodyshaper, emerging relieved, but lumpier.
In writing this article, featuring two beloved companies that make body shaping products: Spanx, and Maidenform, I realized two important points right away: 1: body shapers can really make a difference in how you look and; 2: learn how to choose and wear a body shaper or suffer the consequences!
My grandmother wore a girdle every day of her 92 years, even though she wasn’t wearing Herve Leger bandage dresses. Hers was a formidable looking thing with hooks and straps and very stiff, ugly fabric. But, thanks to our fore-mothers, who liberated us decades ago, and space-age-y fabrics crafted into shapewear by designers who care how we feel as well as how we look, modern shapewear really does help you look better. The fabrics, light and stretchy (generally made from interwoven nylon and Lycra spandex), move with you and still control the bulges. We all know body shapers aren’t substitutes for diet, exercise or even surgery, and they won’t shave 50 pounds off your body, but they will make most everyone look sleeker. Even celebrities with personal trainers and hot bodies wear body shapers, because no one has a perfect body made of plastic (except for Barbie). Bodyshapers make even good bodies, better.
Which body shapers will help you look sleeker and feel great? The rest of this article has specific suggestions and advice from the pros about what to select for specific types of clothing. TIP: print this out and bring it with you when you’re ready to shop for shapers!
Buying a body shaper can be as confusing as figuring out your taxes. Should you go for the thigh high panty or the half slip shaper? Would a full body slip be best under a sweater dress? Do you get one with a built in bra, or one that allows you to wear your own? What size will give you the right compression, without compromising too much comfort? White, beige, black or other? The key to getting it right is function, followed by fit.
Try before you buy. If at all possible, go to a store and try the body shaper on, preferably with the outfit you plan to use it with. One good reason to try the shaper on with your intended outfit, is that the shaper might show if it is just a wee bit too long for your short dress, or if the top of your outfit is too low cut to accommodate the top. Be sure that the top of the shaper legs don’t show when you sit down in your dress or skirt. You don’t want to end up like that lady I mentioned during Fashion Week. No matter how she tried to hide it, her shaper, showed.
Bodyshaper sizes are deceiving. They look like baby clothes in the package, and they stretch, but more or less depending upon the amount of compression you desire. Think you’re a small? Even if the size chart confirms this, the sizing may be meaningless when you try to get it on and off. If you have to perform the contortions of a circus performer to get it on, once your body heats up with perspiration, it may be nearly impossible to get it off without cutting it off. But if you get one that is comfortably large, the slimming effect might be…slim.
Consider Your Wait on the Ladies Room Line: To get a shaper on, pull gently but firmly, and keep pulling slowly, as if you were putting on a pair of pantyhose. But if you pull too hard you might poke your fingers right through the fabric. Getting them off is easier when your skin is dry. If you are soaked in perspiration, the fabric will stick to your skin like glue! W hen you aren’t wearing a shaping panty that you can just pull up and down, the shaper will have snaps, hooks or velcro, for the obvious reasons. The ones with hooks are fine, if you are dexterous, but if you haven’t wear tested it first, after you’ve waited on the long ladies room line, you may find yourself wondering how much longer you can hold out, as you realize you can’t easily release yourself from your “bondage.”
How Many and What Colors? If your clothing is remotely sheer, a body shaper in a complimentary color is a must. Anything in a funky color, or with print or trim, will show. Shapers are an investment, but you must have a few different types in light and dark tones.
How do you best take care of shapewear? (can you really throw bras and shapewear into the washing machine and dryer or should they always be hand-washed?) The right answer is no, don’t put delicates in the washing machine or dryer. Hand wash and drip dry is the way to go. But if you must machine wash, use a lingerie bag (to keep underwires and straps from getting caught and loose, foam from getting bunched up or ripping), use the gentle cycle, and a low temperature. Machine drying is never recommended.
WHAT’S NEW? At a visit to see the new Fall collections for Spanx, I got a chance to check out what’s new and what’s going to be hot for Spring, with Alison Abbey, Public Relations Coordinator for SPANX. Not everything she showed me is available yet (some delightful items are coming later in the year, in February, and then in March and beyond), but trust me, you are going to want some of the newbies! Spanx has so many collections, so many colors, so many size choices, and so many specialty items including swimwear and exercise wear, it would be impossible for me to make recommendations. You really need to go to a store that sells Spanx and see for yourself what entices, or visit their user-friendly web site: www.spanx.com .
Spanx has choices for all budgets. Red Hot Label for their Assets line is new, and proves that inner/out-wear can be sexy and fashionable, even if you’re not putting it on display! Assets is more budget friendly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. I like Assets, a lot!
For every day under skirts and dresses, try the Spanx Featherweight Firmers Half Slip ( $42.00). It provides a medium (and therefore, comfortable for every day) slimmimg level. The fabric is soft and light, and pamperingly silky. The half slip has a built in panty (cotton gusset), and all-over shaping thanks to power mesh. This particular piece of shapewear multi tasks to slim you, reduce lumps under clinging dresses and skirts, and also provide the “privacy” benefits of a half slip. While half slip shapewear can roll if it’s not the right size, this one has an edge that is engineered to stay anchored. It’s the perfect every day piece. It comes in small to 3X and in black or beige. It’s a must have.
There is a huge focus on color and patterned tights for the upcoming season, but if you’re going to wear tights, why not make them help make you, well...tighter?” The Tight End Tights from Spanx comes in a variety of colors and patterns and they have body shaping properties. Tights are an easy way to get some shapewear into your daily wardrobe to help you look a bit sleeker under clothing. Spanx tights come in a variety of styles, from traditional to convertible foot, to one that is even reversible. With price points of $28.00-$42.00 and in sizes A-G, there’s going to be at least one pair you can’t live without. *I tested the herringbone patterned semi-sheer tights in black, and found that they were very comfortable and versatile and they look amazing. They are light enough to wear with pumps, but will look chic with shooties, bootie, flats, and boots, as well. Sizing it critical. Get the right one, and your tights will never bind, droop or bag.
For everyday wear, Spanx has also introduced something called But…Naked Thongs, bikinis, boy shorts and briefs. These are actually not compression garments, but they’re lightweight, and help fabrics simply slide better over your butt. The But…Naked bikini I tried for (srp. 2 for $48.00) is a bit pricey, but if feels like you are wearing nearly next to nothing. It comes in 9 colors from the basics, to teal, pink, red and purple and amazingly. One size fits most. These are not grandma pants, they’re silky and sexy in a simple way.
Maidenform is another beloved brand known for “foundations,” but I was surprised at how many body shaping items they offer. If the choices confuse me, I assume they might be a bit overwhelming for readers too. Maidenform has been in business over 90 years, so who better to ask for some guidance to help make wise shaperwear choices? Maidenform’s Fashion Director Norah Alberto answers the questions:
Q: what is the best type of bra to select for a low cut dress?
A: deep plunge bra is perfect for this type of neckline. You need a bra with a very low center. Norah suggests one of her favorites, the Maidenform® Naturally Glam™ Push-Up Plunge Bra ($28.00) in sizes 34 A to 38C in 6 colors. An innovative pad technology reveals new blends of foam for a second skin feel for a natural looking pushup underwire bra. The thin mid section means you won’t have to constantly re-adjusted your blouse or dress. Fabric Content: Body: 71% Nylon, 29% Elastane. A push up with the straps well adjusted, can really make your tops and sweaters look sensational!
Q: What is the best shapewear style to pick for a sweater or jersey knit dress?
A: You want something with completely smooth lines. Seamless shapewear is the key here. Try Maidenform’s Weightless Power® Hi-Waist Half Slip with Convertible Straps ($29.00). It virtually disappears under clothes and you can wear your own bra. Built-in panty helps to eliminate visible panty lines and there are removable/convertible straps that can be worn demi, criss-cross and halter, or strapless. This is a short slip, soyou can wear it with minis, but be careful — this slip has to fit you, or it might roll! Fabric Content: Body: 59% Nylon, 41% Spandex Gusset Lining: 100% Cotton.
Spanx also has a fabulous full slip called the Trust Your Thinstincts™ Tank Full Slip Style: 1818 ($98.00) that slims your entire midsection, but won’t make you feel like ripping off your clothes along with the slip, in an hour. The top is a silky tank-style that has compression-free fabric at the bust so you don’t get flattened down where you don’t want it, but then it’s all business, below. And ultra-thin microfiber smoothes the tummy *I admit to doing the wiggle dance to get into it, but once I did, the slip was surprisingly easy to wear, thanks to luxe, silky fabric, bonded arm holes, a built-in bodysuit with hook-and-eye closure. Another plus is the silicone hem that is actually sticky enough to stay put and not roll. The slimming level is medium, but you will be amazed at what a difference this makes under clothes. The fabric content: Body: 58% Spandex/Elastane 42% Nylon; Bodice: 77% Nylon 23% Spandex/Elastane Exclusive of Trims. It is available in black and nude in XS to XL.
Q: What is the best shapewear style to pick for a short dress?
A: A boy short silhouette does wonders for shorter hemlines. They control the tummy and hips! *I wear-tested the Maidenform DreamLace Boyshort ($10.00) that is available in nude, black, and two prints. The wide lace band at the top is sexy, but the rest of the panty is silky and smooth, with no binding at the legs, and just a little bit of hidden support. While the panty didn’t provide a lot of compression, since I wasn’t wearing a slip, the silky fabric helped with “cling and I felt more covered than I would with a traditional panty. Fabric Content: Body: 80% Nylon, 20% Elastane, Lace: 90% Nylon, 10% Elastane, Gusset lining: 100% Cotton
Q: What is the best shapewear style to wear under pants, where shapewear lines might show?
A: You want something that feels like second skin yet has power. Norah suggests the Maidenform Control It® Weightless Power Thigh Slimmer ($19.00) in sizes small to 2XL is smooth, seamless, light and powerful. It give you great leg and thigh slimming with all over firm control with non-binding legs. Multi tasks for Thigh Slimmer, Seamless, Waist shaping, Thigh Shaping, Rear Shaping. Mid-thigh shapers are fabulous for all around lower compression, especially with pants, but if you are going to wear it with a skirt or dress, wear test it by sitting down to see how far the hem of your dress or skirt rides up.
Spanx also offers a luxurious In-Power Line Super Power Panties® Style: 915 ($32.00) available in three colors (nude, black and cocoa) that come in an amazing array of sizes, from A all the way to a large plus size G. This is a real plus (no pun intended). These really are a hybrid: panty-stomach-slip substitute, thigh slipper. I think they may be my new best shaper friend! These featuregood tummy taming, but the legband-free design is soft and silky and eliminates tell-tale bulges on your thighs under clingy clothing. Under a dress, this garment eliminates the need for a slip, since it reduces cling, and since it comes to mid thigh, it will work under all your dresses unless they are minis. The cotton gusset means you don’t have to wear panties, too. Fabric content: 85% Nylon/15% Lycra® Spandex/Elastane
Q: I like to wear form fitting tees and sweaters? What’s best under these?
Q: Slip shapewear vs. panty shapewear – when do you select one over the other?
A: It depends on your preference and the silhouette you are wearing. A control brief will target a specific area and a slip will shape all over.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of the article! Now, go to your favorite foundation or department store, or buy online at: www.spanx.com and maidenform.com . Body Shapers make great holiday gifts, too. Wrap one up in a pretty box or bag with a sachet, and make someone look and feel, great!