Goodbye girdle hello shapewear! Find shapewear that fits!

Today’s body shaping undergarments and bodysuit shapewear are taking style notes from the constume designers of Mad Men and yesterday’s lingerie. They are incorporatinglace, plunging necklines and lots of great feminine sex appeal. Camis, while controlling and smoothing your midriff, are now pretty enough to be worn on their own.


For centuries we had the corset, which could compress a wearer’s waist to a mere shadow of its original size. (The inability to bend or take a deep breath was one of the side effects.) The 20th century ushered out whalebone and steel, the main components of the corset, and ushered in rubber for a new and improved contraption called the girdle. The invention of Lycra in the late 1950s, and even better knitting technology in the last dozen years, saw a shift into the next generation of foundation garments: shapewear. 


How to find Shapewear that fits

A common mistake is buying a size too small, which causes bulges and ripples instead of a smooth line, says Claudette Groody, vice-president of merchandising for Doris Intimates in Montreal, which makes Secret shapewear. So stay true to your size, says Maggie Adams, public relations manager for Spanx. “Sometimes women seeking extra comfort or control will size up or down, sacrificing function or comfort.”

Some shapewear comes in degrees of control. Buy light- and medium-control shapewear for every day. Light control smoothes out bulges; medium can stop jiggling. Reserve firm for special occasions: It can take you down a size, but is more restricting—hence, not necessarily as comfortable.

If possible, bring your shapewear with you when you try on an outfit, says Canadian celebrity stylist Linda Gaylard. “I've seen shapewear make an outfit look worse, not better,” she says. One relatively slim client had a scooped-back dress. The shaper came to just above the waist, creating back fat. “It can feel like stuffing a sausage.”


What to wear...

Consider the fabric of your outer clothes. Cotton may cling to a hosiery-type shaper, so opt for shapewear of a slicker fabric, like a polyester/spandex blend. Clothing fabric such as silk or clingy jersey requires seamless shapewear to make it invisible.

Under a jersey wrap-style dress, go with a high-waisted slimmer underneath. Avoid a full-slip style, as those are usually cut too high; wrap dresses typically have a deep V at the cleavage.

Going black-tie? If you have your eye on a stylish bias-cut gown, a shaping undergarment that goes only to your mid-thigh can create a visible line. Instead, try a body suit that starts under the bust and goes down to the knee.


Top Tips!

  • If you're wearing a slim high-waisted pencil skirt (or a body-hugging dress), and want to ensure a flawless line, choose a high-waisted half-slip and, as an extra assurance of smoothness, a cami.
  • Under a slinky, body-skimming dress, try a full slip. If the hem of the dress is flared, then go for a body suit with legs for freer movement.
  • Under pants, wear a capri-type shaper that goes to the calf to hold you all the way down.
  • Rolling of the hem of a leg or waistband is usually the sign of a poor fit.