Thursday, November 29, 2012


This is an educational post, aka wordy.

A common misconception is that skinny or slender women don't need shape wear. "Need" is a tricky word, but let me say that as a very tall slender woman I still find a place for shape wear in my wardrobe. Yes I am thin, but it doesn't mean I don't have the common softness (my mom calls it the fat apron to keep the baby warm) that is natural to womanhood. I can't speak to super fit women with absolutely no body fat, but I'd say in general most woman can benefit from shape wear, if for no other reason than to make them feel more feminine.

Back in the day women's fashions just didn't work without their foundations, and the case is still true, but today's styles tend to be more "natural". Don't think for a second that celebrities don't use shape wear. Any formal gown has built in foundations. Usually if something looks off on the runway it's bc of the underwear. It all starts with underwear. If nothing else the modern starlet is wearing Spanx. Everything is an illusion, deal with it. Push up bras, bustiers/longlines, waist cinchers, shapers, control top hose, it's all marvelous and finding the combo that works for you and your wardrobe is what it's all about.

FYI: Some of these items might be more expensive than you anticipate, but remember the appropriate foundation makes everything you wear on top look better. Don't go cheap on the innerwear if you want to look your best. And once you have it take care of it.

I've posted links for all the items because it's easier than formatting a lot of pictures and modesty blah blah blah.

Body stockings: Available at most dance stores a body stocking is exactly what it sounds like and kind of just holds everything in and negates the need for other underwear, creating a smooth look over the body with no panty lines. It's not the best for shaping, but like I said, has no panty lines. Other items discussed later will shape more.

Tights: Tights with added support at the top is a very basic way to shape the lower belly and thigh region and can be found in their most common incarnations in the pantyhose section of your local pharmacy. Words like "control top" or "support" are to be looked for. Some just have a heavier knit pattern over the thighs and belly, others have special grids of elastic etc. Spanx is an excellent source for soft and smooth shapewear and makes an array of control top tights. You can get them online or in some department stores. Period hose here.

If you just want shaping in the thigh and belly region without the full tight this example from Va Bien would be great for the midsection and wouldn't have a panty line, or tights the whole way down. Great for slinky knit dresses.  Va Bien is a very great shapewear company that the theatres I've worked in use for long lines. They provide a wide array of belly and thigh shapers.

Shapers: Shapers can include panties, bodysuits, girdles, and cinchers. They are more structured than tights and can include extra boning or elastic bands. They focus on defining the waist and smoothing the torso and can extend over the thighs.
Panties are what they sound like. In this context they are usually high waisted to shape the belly. Here are some Va Bien examples.
Bodysuits are also exactly what they sound like. They can be unitard/leotard like with our without legs, under the bust or with a bra built in. The kind with straps but under the bust can usually boost the girls despite not having a bra, like this Va Bien. Spanx options.
Girdles sound oldtimey because they are oldtimey. A lot of women these days prefer the smoother and softer look of the Va Bien and Spanx options I've linked. Girdles are the original and more heavy duty version with elastic panels and strips, and bones. They don't just pull on like the others, most need a zipper or hook and eye closures. These are for a more period and structured shape. Since I don't have that much to move around I got mine from Wal-Mart fof $20 (basic versions of all that I've mentioned can be found at Walmart). Mine is power mesh with Rigilene bones, a hook and eye closure in the center front and at the crotch.
Cinchers again, do what they say. They are specifically for cinching the waist. Unlike a corset which diminishes the rib cage and waist, cinchers are mostly for the soft waist under the rib cage. Think 1940s and 50s movies where you can see their rib cage then their waist nips in dramatically. They can extend above and below the waist but are focused on the waist.

Longlines: Also known as bustiers or merry widows, longlines are as close to a corset without being a corset as any of these. They tend to have either plastic boning or spiral steel which is more flexible. They are also constructed of much more flexible material. They have an attached bra and can stop at the waist or extend over the tummy. Smooth longlines that hide their bones are available, as are super lacy and pretty ones. Like I said, I've worked a lot with Va Bien longlines and I'm saving for one.

I figure we all wear bras so I'm not addressing them here. If you want a period bra look here. If you do want bra advice I'd say go to a lingerie store and have them measure you. Even though I have a small chest I know the value of a good bra and again, you get what you pay for.

So there you go. Let me know if you have any questions. Start at Walmart or a department store if you want to try some of this on. Like I said, Spanx is a great, soft and smooth place to start. If you're not use to shapewear know that the goal is to smooth not to constrict. Don't let vanity get the better of you. Buy the size that smooths the most, not squeezes. A well fitted shaper doesn't cause bulges and rolls to erupt from it. Also, it's shapewear, it's going to feel a lot different from a tshirt and sweats. 

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