Ever wondered how those red carpet stars manage to look so perfect, so svelte? Why are their curves in all the right places? Are they divine human beings or do they have a secret? Of course it’s ……. shapewear. Shhhh! Only it’s not so secret nowadays. Most people have heard of shapewear or girdles or corsets before but, unless they’re already using some, many won’t really know how plus size shapewear can act like magic!
Yet, if it’s so wonderful, why do most buyers not know where to start? There’s literally a world of choice of plus size shapewear! A quick search on the internet will show you that there is a vast array of shapewear out there. Different colours, different styles, different fabrics, different names and a multitude of suppliers. It can easily seem bewildering! If you’re struggling to make clear sense of it all, have a look at our guide below for the answers to the most common questions
What Does Plus Size Shapewear Do?
Plus size shapewear is simply magical! Wearing shapewear underneath your clothes will give you a silhouette full of smooth lines. You’ll feel slim and taut and beautiful. It’s time to wave goodbye to bumps! Wobbly bits will trouble you no more!
By the way, shapewear is just a new name for a much older type of garment. In Europe, women have been wearing shapewear for many centuries and they were very common clothing items by the 16th Century. From the expected corsets and brassieres to hooped skirts (called farthingales) used to hold out their fashionable long dresses. Wood, whalebone and iron were the most popular materials used to make these – imagine the (dis)comfort!
Thankfully, the shapewear of today isn’t as tough to wear!
Wearing shapewear will mean your outfits will look better, fit better and, most importantly, make you feel better about how you look.
The confidence you will get from feeling and looking your best, will soon have a ripple effect. It means you might allow yourself to be in that group photograph, to give that presentation at work, to accept that invite to the night out, to have the confidence to talk to someone new, or to go to that interview feeling your absolute best.
In a world where we are, rightly or wrongly, often judged on our appearance, good shapewear can give you the edge, the confidence to succeed.
How does Plus Size Shapewear work?
Shapewear is pieces knitted and sewn together to enhance curves and compress to nip in other parts, all towards creating a smoother silhouette. In contrast, seamless shapewear, although very appropriate for some occasions (like when you don’t want any seams to show under thin clothing) is not always able to achieve the same results as sewn and knitted pieces. Some seamless styles tend to flatten everything. A lot of cheaper shapewear tends to be seamless as it costs less to make.
Many plus size shapewear pieces are made from a mix of nylon and Spandex. This type of fabric doesn’t ‘breathe’. The more nylon a garment has, the more it will tighten your wobbles. The material in the shapewear will push in the areas of bulges, making your target areas (like your tummy or hips) flatter.
Some shapewear like camis or light bodysuits are made of a mixture of lycra and cotton. This makes a breathable fabric, which may be more suitable for either you or the type of fabric your outfit is made from.
The 3 most popular materials used in shapewear are rubber latex, spandex and nylon. There will be a different percentage of each depending on the type of shapewear it is and the level of ‘firmness’ needed.
Natural Rubber Latex is the sticky sap produced by the rubber tree (hevea brasiliensis tree). It provides unbeatable stretch and compression (more so than Spandex) and is very durable (again, more so than Spandex clothing which has been known to tear).
Spandex (also known as Elastane or Lycra or Lycra Spandex) is a man-made material. Polyester or nylon is usually included with the Spandex to produce the shapewear.
Nylon is a smooth, silky smooth manmade material that is very strong and durable. It’s also pretty waterproof and since it’s a type of plastic it’s very resistant to bacteria or mould.
Where Do All My Lumps and Bumps Go?
Okay, so the first time I tried on high quality shapewear I did look better but I wondered where my bulge had went? Previously, when I’d put on cheaper shapewear it was obvious where it went – it was poking out elsewhere, usually as a muffin top! With high quality shapewear, it wasn’t easy to tell where the bulges had moved to.
Did you know that where a muscle has been compressed, fat can move into that space! It’s been moved elsewhere!
Shapewear can shift excess weight and help you to appear trimmer – it can slim you by a few inches. Just like when you push your hands down on top of your pouch or belly – it gets flatter!
The best shapewear will of course shift that excess weight to someplace you might not mind having it, often your bust or bum!
Why Are There So Many Types of Shapewear?
Plus size shapewear has exploded in popularity as more and more women discover its benefits. Once you’ve wore it for the first time, or seen how it’s transformed a friend’s outfit, you’ll want more pieces. It will quickly become the favourite thing in your wardrobe!
It’s no longer a ‘best kept secret’ of red carpet stars and celebrities. It’s available to everyone, in different price ranges. It’s available in local stores and online. It’s a regular feature on the shopping list for special occasion-wear like wedding dresses, cocktail party wear, prom night dresses, interview outfits and first dates!
What Type of Plus Size Shapewear will Suit My Body Type?
This depends on your body type and also on the outfit you intend to wear it with (or the type of clothes you wear most frequently).
Think about the type of body shape you are? There are four main body types – Apple, Pear, Inverted Triangle and Rectangle.
Most plus-sized people are often either an Apple or a Pear shape. Apples carry weight around their hips and stomachs, meaning their legs are much slimmer and they can look ‘top heavy’. Choose shapewear that doesn’t stop halfway up your stomach, which would cause a bulge or ‘muffin top’. Opt for shorts that go all the way up your torso to under the bust, or full-body slips and shapers that will cover your stomach entirely.
Pears have wider hips than their upper body, with most of their weight carried on the hips and buttocks. They can look ‘bottom heavy’. The aim here is to make the lower half appear more streamlined so power shorts and leggings, or full body shapewear that includes these, is ideal.
What Type of Plus Size Shapewear will Suit My Outfit?
Once you have a good idea of your body type, consider the clothes you want to wear with shapewear. Different pieces can target different areas (like the stomach, thighs, buttocks, bust) so you’ll want the right shapewear to match your outfits (like backless shapewear for a backless dress, shapewear with slimming shorts for capri pants or a trousersuit, a body slip for a close-fitting dress).
Consider too how light or heavy the fabric of your outfit is. Shapewear can come with no seams or very few seams. Lighter fabrics reveal the shapewear seams underneath, so you may want to choose seamless shapewear for light, flowing outfits.
Finally black, think of the colour that suits your outfit the best. Most shapewear comes in nude, or ivory shades – with nude and black being the most bought and most versatile. If a lot of your daily clothes are light colours, black shapewear is obviously not going to be your first choice. Similarly, white shapewear could stand out under light colours. Nude would be the ideal choice. However, if you are buying shapewear for social occasions, and have many ‘little black dresses’, then black would be perfect!
How Tight is Too Tight?
Think about the level of compression you want. This is how ‘sculpted’ you want to appear. Choose the level of control you will need and be realistic!
Light and Medium Control are good choices for everyday wear. This will smooth out any bulges and stop jiggles.
Extra Firm or High Control should be kept for special occasions, for that ‘wow’ dress. It can reduce your frame by one dress size however it is more restricting and less comfortable to wear.
Spanx uses 3 levels of support. Level One is Smooth (‘a light hug’), Level Two is Shape (‘a firm hug’), and Level 3 is Sculpt (‘a superfirm hug’). Level 3 offers the maximum compression and promises total transformation (red carpet style!).
Please remember that if you put shapewear on and your breathing or movement is severely restricted don’t buy it! Try a size or two up instead!
How to Care for Your Plus Size Shapewear
You’ve invested time and money into adding shapewear to your wardrobe so don’t blow it by chucking everything in the washing machine on a hot cycle!
It’s easy to handwash nylon garments and put them on a hanger to dry. Putting nylon in the washing machine and dryer will lead to pilling and shorten the life of your garment. Pilling leads to small holes which will then get bigger over time. However, you can still wash nylon (check the label first) but it’s best to use a cold water setting or the lowest temperature possible and choose a gentle wash cycle.
If you’re using a tumble dryer, remember that nylon dries very quickly so check regularly to see when it’s dry and take it straight out.
Delicate shapewear like arm shapers, hosiery and leggings, should be placed in a mesh bag if you’re going to put them in the washing machine. Again, choose a low temperature and a gentle cycle. Try to avoid using the tumble dryer and hang up everything to air-dry instead.
My Top Tips for Selecting Plus Size Shapewear
- Choose the correct size for you. Squeezing into something too small will make it harder to smooth out the bumps and could lead to you feeling uncomfortable in your shapewear!
- Choose the correct level of firmness or control (eg, light, medium or firm) so that it’s not too light that you can’t see or feel any difference, and it’s not too tight that you can barely move or breathe in it!
- Choose shapewear separate from your bra. Some shapewear covers everything from your knees or thighs upwards but stops at the bust, allowing you to choose the bra that suits your outfit best, eg a T-shirt bra, plunge bra, balcony bra, push-up bra, etc.
- Think about whether you will need a breathable fabric – is it everyday wear or for a special occasion? How many hours will you need to wear it? How many times will you be able to wear it (if it’s something you can wear a lot then it’ll make it much easier to invest in high quality pieces of shapewear)
- Choose shapewear that suits your body type and outfit – accentuate all your good bits!
- One good quality all-in-one body shaper is better than multiple pieces of cheap shapewear with lower amounts of nylon/lycra/spandex that won’t do what you want it to do! (unless of course you like rolling fabric and muffin tops!)
- Choose nude or black more often than white – white can stand out under white or light-coloured clothing.
- Get out there and get started!
I hope that this guide has been helpful in answering some of your questions about shapewear. There are indeed lots of options but if you can follow the tips above then you’ll be able to shop with a good idea of what you need. Please leave any questions or comments below. Tell me about your own tips or any questions I have missed.
Founder of Plus Size Shapewear