Mae West once said, “Cultivate your curves – they may be dangerous, but they won’t be avoided.” That’s what classic shapewear is really all about. Waist cinchers and control-top tights aren’t just for hiding your flaws – they’re for flattering and accentuating your natural curves. When you select the right pieces and wear them correctly, you won’t just lift breasts naturally, tighten your tummy and give your silhouette a sexy boost – you’ll boost your confidence, too. But flail blindly through the world of Spandex and Lycra and you could end up looking like a can of Pillsbury croissant dough that was left in the car too long. You don’t want to look like a lumpy sausage monster, do you?
We couldn’t bear the thought of our followers running around like bratwursts in maxi dresses, so we reached out to our network of style-savvy experts to get some tips on how to rock shapewear like a red-carpet pro. Here’s what they had to say.
The 5 “Dos” of Classic Shapewear
1. Do have a specific goal. “When purchasing shapewear, do your research to find the garment that is going to target your problem areas,” says Ruben Soto of Hourglass Angel. “If you are worried about your love handles and buttocks, shapers with boy shorts will take care of that for you. If one of your primary concerns is back fat, then a camisole shapewear bra is an excellent choice. If your lower abdomen is what you’re trying to conceal, a slimming panty is all you need. With slimming panties, your lower abdomen isn’t the only area concealed – these pieces also compress your rear, giving it a smooth and firm appearance. For all-over coverage and a piece with maximum function, a body suit is the winner.”
2. Do be picky about your pieces. There isn’t one key piece that can do it all, says Dan Koch, owner of Town Shop, NYC. “Dresses may need a shaping slip, but for tops you may need a shaping camisole and for pants a control panty. You need specific pieces for different silhouettes. If you don’t want to invest in a wardrobe of shapewear, take a look at your clothing and decide what type of shapewear will work best for most of your clothing. A color closest to your skin tone works best.”
3. Do wear the right underwear. Writer, editor and stylist Jenny Davis reminds women that it’s important to wear the right underwear with shaping garments. “If you wear shapers with a thong,” says Jenny, “you can extend the life of your shaper because you’re not washing it as frequently, breaking down the elastic. I also just like the added liner and the secure feeling of a thong with a shaper.” Jenny also offered a bonus tip that we just had to share. “Many people may not know that Spanx makes fishnet tights, so you don’t have to endure grid-butt.” Grid-butt is definitely not sexy. Thanks, Jenny!
4. Do rely on shapewear for added coverage. Holly Xerri is the creator of Camiband, a unique brand of shapewear that can be worn several different ways. “Shapewear can do more than just smooth your silhouette,” says Holly. “It can also give you some added coverage. Just slip a Camiband around your waist, hips, bust or bikini bottom – wherever you need some extra coverage.”
5. Do experiment with retro styles. Cora Harrington, founder and chief editor of The Lingerie Addict, says vintage shapewear styles are back in vogue. “It may sound old-fashioned,” she says, “but retro items like girdles, corsets and corselettes (the classic shapewear your grandmother used to wear) are still effective, and they’re also very much in style now. If you love the style of Mad Men, Dita Von Teese or Downton Abbey, vintage-inspired shapewear may be perfect for you. Rago, Kiss Me Deadly and What Katie Did make the best retro shape wear around.”
The 5 “Don’ts” of Classic Shapewear
1. Don’t go formal without it. “Most every body type and age should use shapewear under their formal wear,” says wardrobe consultant Lori Wynne. “I promise you, Pippa was wearing shapewear under her bridesmaid dress. Nothing screams low-class worse than your backside jiggling around like two kittens fighting under a blanket when you walk.” If that’s not the look you’re going for (and we’re pretty sure it isn’t), take Lori’s advice and slip into some classic shapewear before your next formal event.
2. Don’t wear it with everything. Some women love their shapewear so much that they go a little overboard and wear it with every outfit they own. Lauren Matthews, a DC Style for Hire stylist who was trained and hand-selected by Stacy London of “What Not to Wear,” advises women to steer clear of classic shapewear when donning certain items of clothing, especially jeans. “Most jean styles are lower-waisted (though high-waisted styles are making a comeback), and the backside of the jeans are not the same as dress pants,” she says. “Plus, jeans are also creating their own shapewear within the jean to lift the buttocks. Adding shapewear under jeans can actually make them not fit as well.”
3. Don’t abuse it at the laundromat. Illysia Neumann-Loreck is a fashion stylist and the publisher of MadlyChic.com. She’s worked backstage at over 50 shows during N.Y. Fashion Week, and she tells women to wash their shapewear with care to preserve the fabric. “Shapewear should last you a few years,” says Illysia, “but different brands with different amounts of Spandex and Lycra will last different lengths of time. The key to making shapewear last longer is to either hand wash it or to wash it on the gentle cycle in the washing machine. Don’t put it in the dryer, because high heat breaks down the fibers in Lycra and Spandex.”
4. Don’t be ashamed of your shapewear. “Gone are the days that you had to wear what looked like ugly biker shorts!” says fashion and beauty expert Mary Alice Stephenson. “Women tell me they shimmy out of their shapewear and hide it before they go home to the men in their lives. Now you can buy shapewear that you will want to show off. One of my favorite lines that controls curves and looks great too is Sofia Vergara’s new SOFIA by Sofia Vergara, made exclusively for K Mart. Not only is it priced right (from $13.99 to $23.99), but it smoothes, slims, lifts and tucks.”
5. Don’t leave your arms out in the cold. Charla Krupp, author of “How to Never Look Fat Again,” shares a tip that might surprise most women – shapewear can help tame jiggly upper arms, too. As Krupp told the San Francisco Chronicle, she prefers the Premiere Sleevage plus Cleavage Control Top by Slimpressions, a 3/4-length sleeved T-shirt to wear under long-sleeved tops or dresses. It has control panels to compress the arms and torso, mesh armpits for breathability and soft bra cups to prevent the “uni-boob” look.” Bye-bye, bat wings!
We loved the smart, sophisticated and sassy ideas our experts gave us. We only wish we’d known some of these tips earlier, because it could have saved more than one of us from a classic shapewear mishap. Do you have an ingenious secret on how to use shapewear to lift breasts naturally or give your booty a boost? Even better, do you have an embarrassing shapewear horror story you’re brave enough to share? Tell your tale of woe by posting in our comment section.