"I like good strong words that mean something."- Louisa May Alcott

shapewear 3As I write this, there’s a woman out there struggling to free herself from a shapewear attack. Her adventure started out innocently—a relaxed weekend shopping trip, taking time to check out the fancy lingerie, and then fashion’s latest addiction—shapewear. “I’ve got the time,” she rationalizes, “I don’t recognize anyone entering the change room—why not give it a try?”

The next thing she knows, her arms are twisted around her face in an angry head lock, she can’t see through the fabric stretched across her eyes and her chest is being “minimized” whether she intended it to be or not.

I write as if this has happened to me.

With today’s thin fabrics, the idea of a smooth “under” layer is enticing even to someone like me who might not otherwise be a shapewear candidate. But what I don’t get is the sizing. I’m not a large woman, yet, even the largest size managed to keep me in a half Nelson for a good 20 minutes.

First introduced as Spanx, shapewear has be re-molding women’s bodies (men’s too) since Sarah Blakely famously cut the feet off her control top stockings in 2000 and accidently invented a new version of girdles and corsets.

Today shapewear is promoted to “suck” and “tuck” in ways that makes one wonder just how far one is prepared to go in order to realign their body parts. Just consider some of the great “tag lines” of our time:

“Butt –lifting”

Go ahead, shape my day.”

Want to shape your butt without erasing it?” (alarming),

Or my personal favourite: “Power shaping in your panties.” (????)

Although no documented shapewear attacks have been recorded since Blakely reached multi-millionaire status, there are various online warnings about side effects, ranging from cautious to National Enquire-level strange: “Shapewear is typically made of nylon and spandex, both synthetic fabrics that don’t breathe,” advises one doctor. Another headline ominously reads: “ShapewearCrushes Organs.”

Once freed from my shapewear encounter, I began to think, what would happen if you wore shapewear for an entire day? There are times you might—ahem—need to remove something. Like yoga class —“sorry I was late, but after a 20 minute wrestling match with my underwear at least now I’m good and stressed”. And of course, idea of using a washroom would be unthinkable. It’s bad enough calling for help in The Bay but at least it’s the woman change room in the lingerie section. (I used to wonder why some people take so long in the Starbuck’s washroom — I think now I know why.) A romantic encounter? Very, very awkward.

My litmus test for figuring out if I’m the only one alarmed by society’s latest addiction is to ask, “What would Hollywood do?” I got my answer watching Heat, when Melissa McCarthy (playing a police detective) cuts the legs off the suit of her partner (Sandra Bullock) and gasps when she sees Bullocks thigh shapers.

Spanx Sandra Bullock“These are my Spanx,” Bullock explains, “ they hold everything together. It just keeps everything where i’s supposed to be.”

McCarthy responds, “that’s a lot of compression.

For the record Beth is keeping her one pair of shapewear with the idea that sometimes a bit of compression is okay

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Comments (2)
November 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm

I and 300 image consultants received a pair of Spanx as a “gift” in our conference goody bag. Yes, really! Putting them on was a great bonding experience but I’m not sure how many of us had the breath to recommend them to clients.

November 9, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Wow, I would have loved to have seen that happen. Both the “trying on” and getting the gift in the goody bag. Sure beats a pen!