How Shapewear Works


Actress Sophie Monk (c) launches the Hollywood Fashion Shapes underwear shapewear range at Myer Sydney City on Oct. 14, 2008 in Sydney, Australia. Gaye Gerard/Getty Images“Actress Sophie Monk (c) launches the Hollywood Vogue Shapes underwear shapewear vary at Myer Sydney Metropolis on Oct. 14, 2008 in Sydney, Australia. Gaye Gerard/Getty Photographs

One of many traditional tenets of contemporary structure was put forth by American architect Louis Sullivan: "Type ever follows operate" [source: Rawsthorn]. What Sullivan was getting at was that the model of structure and design of any object ought to mirror its goal. Typically kind and performance are wed collectively fantastically; different instances, you find yourself with a really purposeful merchandise that’s not in any respect enticing. On the reverse excessive, you could have a stunning object whose extremely designed kind will get in the way in which of its operate.

There isn’t any place the place this final instance is extra apparent than in girls’s vogue. Consider 4-inch stiletto heels. Or big hoop skirts of way back. These fashions and others aren’t terribly purposeful, however make girls look enticing – at the very least based on the requirements of their time.

For tons of of years, girls have gone to excessive lengths to look "excellent", and for a lot of that does not begin with their outerwear like attire and skirts, however with what’s beneath them. To adapt their our bodies into extra fascinating shapes, girls have turned to particular undergarments designed to flatter their figures. These are known as shapewear.

Shapewear – corsets, girdles and the more moderen bodysuits – can work miracles. These undergarments can fully change the looks of a girl’s form by tucking fats away, resulting in a shapelier silhouette.

Sadly, fats shouldn’t be all that shapewear has been recognized to maneuver. Corsets of the Victorian period had been so constrictive they moved wearers’ inner organs to the purpose that their well being suffered. Reaching the "excellent" kind damage the general operate of their our bodies. These days the state of affairs shouldn’t be so excessive, however the shapewear trade continues to be booming as girls proceed create the perfect physique sort.


  1. Shaping Historical past
  2. Squeezing the Fats
  3. From Bodysuits to Billions

Shaping Historical past

This advertisement for Warner Brothers corsets originally appeared in Harper's Bazaar in 1879. Stock Montage/Getty Images)“This commercial for Warner Brothers corsets initially appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in 1879. Inventory Montage/Getty Photographs)

Shapewear has been molding girls’s our bodies in Western society for greater than 500 years [source: University of Virginia]. All of it started with the corset, an undergarment designed to limit and form a girl’s torso. Within the 1500s, corsets had been produced from inflexible supplies like whalebone, with a keep or busk positioned within the middle to maintain it straight on her torso. The corset normally had shoulder straps and stopped simply in need of the pelvic bone [source: Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco].

Throughout Queen Elizabeth I’s period, the design was largely architectural, leading to molding the girl’s torso right into a straight-sided, inverted cone. Within the early 1800s, corsets went out of fashion (the Empire waist look was modern), however after they returned a short while later, their form modified considerably.

These new corsets accentuated a girl’s hourglass determine, cinching in to present the smallest waist potential (and make the hips and bust look larger). Because the corset acquired tighter, the fats – and even inner organs – acquired squeezed more durable.

Physicians objected to using these corsets and even went as far as to attribute illnesses like tuberculosis, liver illness and most cancers to corset- carrying. Whether or not there was any correlation is unlikely, however medical doctors had been proper that these corsets stunted correct muscle growth and the power to train [source: University of Virginia].

Fortunately, by the 1900s, beliefs of magnificence modified and the corset went out of vogue within the flapper period. By the point curves had been fashionable once more (within the 1930s and ’40s), girls had been utilizing undergarments just like the girdle to clean out the stomach and provides the looks of a flat abdomen. Girdles had been a lot much less restrictive than corsets. Girls’s needs for having flat stomachs and clean traces persists in the present day and led to the event of recent varieties of shapewear, some of the well-liked being the Spanx model.

Squeezing the Fats

Spanx founder Sara Blakely attends the launch of Haute Contour by Spanx at Saks Fifth Avenue on March 26, 2009 in New York City. Joe Kohen/WireImage/Getty Images“Spanx founder Sara Blakely attends the launch of Haute Contour by Spanx at Saks Fifth Avenue on March 26, 2009 in New York Metropolis. Joe Kohen/WireImage/Getty Photographs

Spanx’s founder Sara Blakely stumbled upon her thought for this new model of shapewear when she was aggravated that she could not clean out the panty line seen beneath her pants. She ended up slicing off the ft from a pair of control-top pantyhose and carrying that beneath [source: Wood]. Blakely sensed a enterprise alternative, however to get there, she needed to flip to materials science within the type of spandex.

Spandex fiber (also called elastane in Europe) was invented within the 1960s for women’ undergarments and as a substitute for rubber [source: Reisch]. The fibers, basically advanced varieties of polyurethane, are included into a material, like cotton or polyester, permitting the fabric to take care of its form and never stretch out, irrespective of how a lot you squeeze into it. Spandex is the right materials for turning bodily bulges into smooth silhouettes as a result of it may stretch as much as 600 p.c after which return to its authentic dimension. DuPont producers spandex fiber beneath the model title Lycra [source: Reisch].

Trendy shapewear like Spanx makes use of a mix of elastic and inflexible materials, sewn or knit collectively in several patterns, that end in accentuating specific shapes. The nipping and tucking that these undergarments obtain is ready to give the looks of a 5-15 pound- (2-7 kilogram-) weight reduction [source: Walters].

However everyone knows that girls aren’t actually shedding that weight after they squeeze right into a pair of Spanx, so what’s going on? The place does the fats go? As many people know from private expertise, fats is … properly … squishy. It condenses simply and its fluidity means it may be pushed into tiny empty areas in our our bodies, just like the areas that open up when muscle is compressed. So, the fats can simply be hidden away by simply smooshing it inward.

However shapewear does extra than simply disguise fats. The location of the seams and varieties of materials which might be used can really transfer fats directionally, relocating it to extra fascinating areas. For those who like a much bigger rear finish, for instance, there’s most likely some shapewear that may shift fats round to present you a bit extra cushioning in your behind.

Nevertheless, some reviews say shapewear could trigger blood clots, acid reflux disorder, and respiratory issues [source: Adams]. As the clothes compress the abdomen, intestines and colon, the circulation of digestion could also be stifled, resulting in short-term discomfort. Points can come up on the skin of the physique simply as a lot as the within. As a result of the tightly becoming materials can lure moisture, it may create an setting ripe for bacterial and yeast infections.

From Bodysuits to Billions

Shapewear has moved from being the undergarment of alternative for aristocratic girls of Victorian instances to a ubiquitous vogue possibility for anybody trying to "shed" a half-dozen kilos. You should purchase shapewear as a standalone garment to put on beneath your garments (together with armpit-high shorts and entire bodysuit girdles), or search clothes, like swimsuits and attire that incorporate the expertise. In reality, even males’s vogue has begun embracing the sleeker shapes that a bit spandex may provide. Males should purchase belly-flattening undershirts product of microfiber blends with spandex.

With everybody wanting in on the shapewear fad, Spanx gross sales skyrocketed. In 2012, Blakely made it onto the Forbes journal listing of world billionaires. Nevertheless, as girls embrace their actual our bodies and transfer towards extra snug clothes, shapewear could also be falling to the wayside. In 2015, the New York Instances reported that girls’s shapewear gross sales fell Four p.c from 2014 to $678 million.

Nobody can deny that shapewear is uncomfortable and girls are more and more much less prone to "endure for magnificence." On the identical time, so-called "athleisure attire" like yoga pants and spandex leggings, present some tummy management however in a way more snug manner, and that market is exploding. Girls’s activewear (a class together with athleisure attire) jumped eight p.c from 2014 to 2015 to $15.9 billion in gross sales [source: Tabuchi]. Certainly, Spanx has been emphasizing consolation together with shaping in its more moderen advertising and marketing. However as we all know, vogue is cyclical so the shapewear downturn may simply be short-term.

Whereas some say that shapewear negatively impacts physique picture, others declare that it makes girls really feel extra assured about themselves as a result of they appear sleeker. And confidence, whether or not it comes from squeezing in your extra fats or embracing your actual physique, is at all times a superb factor.

Waist Trainers

Though shapewear is perhaps in a stoop, waist trainers are large. These are mainly corsets, worn to present the wearer an hourglass determine and supposedly assist them lose inches off their center. Though many celebrities love them, these 21st-century corsets have numerous the drawbacks which have plagued corsets all through historical past. Plus, waist trainers solely work briefly. As quickly as you cease carrying them, your fats reappears, except you’ve got been figuring out.

Tons Extra Data

Writer’s Notice: How Shapewear Works

Whereas I have not worn a lot shapewear in my life, I’ve undoubtedly had pants that had been a tad too small. And let me let you know, unbuttoning these and setting my stomach free is without doubt one of the greatest emotions ever. I am unable to think about how a lot these corseted girls of the 1800s should have loved getting undressed at night time!

Associated Articles

  • How the Transfer Tank Prime Works
  • How Corsets Work
  • Historical past of Girls’s Bathing Fits
  • Stuff Mother By no means Advised You: The Science of Bras
  • Shhh! The Underwear Quiz

Extra Nice Hyperlinks

  • Spanx Timeline
  • The Historical past of Shapewear


  • Adams, Rebecca. "Spanx And Different Shapewear Are Actually Squeezing Your Organs." Huffington Publish. Jan 20 2014. (Nov. 28, 2016)
  • Caelleigh, Addeane S. "Too Shut for Consolation: 500 Years of Corsets." College of Virginia. Dec. 1998. (Nov. 28, 2016)
  • De Younger/Legion of Honor. "Corsets in Context: A Historical past." June 7, 2012. (Nov. 28, 2016)
  • Johnstone, Lucy. "Corsets & Crinolines in Victorian Vogue." Victoria & Albert Museum. (Nov. 28, 2016) material/articles/c/corsets-and-crinolines-in-victorian-fashion/
  • Peeke, Pamela. "Physique Fats SOS: Science of Shapewear!" WebMD. June 17, 2010. (Nov. 28, 2016)
  • Rawsthorn, Alice. "The Demise of ‘Type Follows Operate’." NY Instances. Might 30, 2009. (Nov. 30, 2016)
  • Reisch, Marc. "What’s That Stuff? Spandex." Chemical & Engineering Information. Feb. 15, 1999. (Dec. 1, 2016)
  • Tabuchi, Hiroko. "Spanx Tries to Loosen Up Its Picture." NYTimes. April 24, 2015. (Dec. 2, 2016)
  • Usigan, Ysolt. "The Science of Shapewear" Form Journal. (Nov. 28, 2016) of life/beauty-style/science-shapewear
  • Walters, Jennifer. "The Execs and Cons of Spanx and Different Shapewear" Form Journal. (Nov. 28, 2016)


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