What modern shapewear can do for your curves

Popularized by Spanx, today’s body-slimming undergarments are easier on the body than their predecessors

What modern shapewear can do for your curves

Source: Best Health Magazine, November/December 2009

Whether you’re wearing a curvy, ’40s-inspired pencil skirt or are headed to a party in jeans, you want to look sleek. You want to look sexy. And sometimes that takes a bit more control than simply sidestepping the sweet table. Enter the newest body slimmers or ‘shapewear.’

If you’re thinking: Not me, I’d never wear those things’you might want to take a look at what’s going on in the lingerie department.

Today, there are not only many brands and price points, there’s also every purpose imaginable. ‘It’s not necessarily about taking you down a size,’ says Lisa Nemish, a shapewear buyer for HBC. ‘It’s also about making you look more firm, sleek and smooth.’

Fashion trends in the past 15 years have contributed to shapewear’s increased popularity, says Jennifer Klein, who owns Secrets From Your Sister lingerie stores in Toronto. ‘There are a lot of knits and body-clinging materials’ in women’s clothing, she says. While we don’t quite mirror countries like Italy, where television is packed with infomercials showing women wearing shapewear for activities such as vacuuming, here in Canada shapewear is not just for the party circuit anymore, says Nemish; it’s becoming an everyday part of women’s wardrobes.

New and improved

Manufacturers say shapewear is more comfortable now than even as recently as five years ago. Older versions mostly compressed the body with thick elastic bands, sometimes causing waistline bulge and the dreaded ‘uni-bum.’ But experts say that has changed. ‘It’s not just about compression anymore,’ says Klein. Some products will sculpt your derrière so it looks perkier, or hold in your tummy or slim your thighs without the fat displacement or other side effects that gave earlier shapewear its bad rap.

The finer deniers’the weight or thickness of the fibres’of today’s slimming undergarments, as well as the finer-gauge machines on the manufacturing end, create thinner, lighter fabrics. ‘The finer denier yarns and stitches can provide tighter knit constructions,’ explains Maria Hinchcliff, who is in research and development with Maidenform in the United States. ‘By using finer denier elastomers, such as spandex, elastane or Lycra, more can be added to the fabrics.’ This technology offers greater control, she adds, but again within a lighter-weight fabric construction and ‘with a more desirable feel.’

Production advancements have led to fused seams’eliminating seam lines’and better control panels so pressure is spread out comfortably, says Philippe Berthaux, president of French luxe line Empreinte. Laser-cut edges reduce bulging, and moisture-wicking finishes and improved fabric ‘breathing’ also help wearability.

It’s sexier, too

While science and technology are doing their part, you’re not exactly going to create the right mood for a romantic encounter with your partner if you’re stripping down to a pair of slimming pants à la Bridget Jones’s granny pants. So shapewear is taking style notes from lingerie. La Senza incorporates stretch lace, plunging necklines and the feminine appeal of lingerie into its shapewear, says the company’s branding manager Tamara Jedeikin. And camis that control and smooth your midriff are now pretty enough to be worn on their own, as well as under a garment.

Have you tried shapewear? Tell us what you think in the comments.

This article was originally titled "Gone with the Girdle," in the November/December 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.