Suck it up and suck it in with shapewear?
October 6, 2010 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Women's underwear-filter: Is shapewear now a must-wear under work clothes? I want my clothes to look great but I hate the thought of feeling like a stuffed sausage all day!

A comment I remember in an earlier MeFi thread talked about the importance of good, well-fitting underwear in giving one a general aura of class. I know how important it is to actually get fitted for a bra (for women) and one of my closest friends was raving about how much better she looked after getting properly fitted (and, as seems usual with fitting, she wound up wearing a completely different bra size from what she was wearing).

But I'm getting the feeling that beyond a well-fitting bra, shapewear has become a requirement for looking good in clothes. I don't work in a glamour industry, but I do need to present a polished, professional appearance. Plus, yes, a youthful appearance and slimness do count. Besides, I love clothes and fashion and have a wonderful collection of vintage costume jewelry and want good quality outfits as a backdrop.

FTR: I'm of average weight, maybe could lose a few pounds and definitely could work out more, which I've started doing. I'm also petite and short-waisted (if I wear my shirts tucked in it's really noticeable, so I usually don't).

Shapewear brings back horrible memories of control-top pantyhose - invented by Satan himself, as far as I am concerned. So, assuming that I might want to suck it up and in and get some shapewear, do I spend or save? Can I go to discount stores (like Ross and Marshall's) or shop discount sites online and still get good stuff?
posted by Rosie M. Banks to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Clothes that fit right will eliminate the need for shapewear, and also provide the mental boost of being comfortable, thus more at ease. It might be worth doing to talk to a tailor - not that you need to get everything tailored, mind you, but they should be able to impart a sense of what to look for and what will and won't fit your body in flattering ways.

Failing that, or if you want to try the shapewear thing anyway, it's more than okay to hit up discount stores. Accept that this is a process of finding out what works and what doesn't, but a good rule of thumb is that the right shapewear will make you feel streamlined and not like a sausage. So be prepared to experiment. Also, once you find a brand and size that work for you, just go ahead and get a bunch of them. If it works, it works.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:29 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I absolutely do not think that shapewear is necessary under work clothes. The only time I think it's necessary is if you are trying to wear a form fitting dress and you want to cut down on odd shapes or belly fat.

It sounds like you need to reassess the size clothes you are wearing to work. An average weight person should not need to wear shapewear under appropriate work clothing to look polished.

If you are interested in shapewear though, I recently bought some for my wedding dress at Macy's and it was 40% off. Macy's has sales and coupons all the time.
posted by two lights above the sea at 10:32 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: IMO shapewear is used to make up for poorly fitting clothes and too thin fabric. At some point manufacturers figured out that they could half-ass tailoring by throwing in a touch of stretch the fabric and women will still purchase it.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:33 AM on October 6, 2010 [11 favorites]

If you feel like a stuffed sausage then your clothes are too small. Buy well-fitting clothes in good fabrics and you'll look a lot more polished and feel more comfortable.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2010

I have never worn shapewear undergarments and don't plan on it. Just buy things that are the right size and you'll be fine.
posted by something something at 10:42 AM on October 6, 2010

elsietheel, OP is worried that shapewear will make her feel like a stuffed sausage.
posted by futz at 10:45 AM on October 6, 2010

Damn it. I read too fast and skip over important words.

Shapewear sucks. It's hot and makes it hard to breathe. My suggestion of getting better quality clothes stands.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:51 AM on October 6, 2010

What's your goal? To eliminate panty lines? To make yourself look thinner?

You can wear thongs or "no panty line" underwear to (mostly) not have panty lines. But, yeah, clothes that fit shouldn't be pinching or bulking in weird places.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:53 AM on October 6, 2010

Yeah, my mom made me wear a girdle when I was a teenager back in the sixties, gross! Avoid tight "shaping" anything. clothes that fit properly, that hang well on your body are definitely more comfortable.
posted by mareli at 11:05 AM on October 6, 2010

Response by poster: Since I intend to build my work wardrobe around a few good high-quality pieces, this is good information. I'm already used to going to a tailor to get my pants hemmed, etc.

I had - back when I had money and was a size 3 - a beautiful expensive wool suit that was SO flattering. It was, as I said, expensive and good wool. I'd rather pay for the suits and separates than the shapewear, and I know where to get good clothes at a discount (yay sales and consignment shops!).

It's also good to know that there is shapewear out there that isn't horribly uncomfortable, should I decide to wear it.

Thanks, Ask MeFi! Great suggestions and answers as usual.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: It's not all just well-fitted clothes. Sometimes a little extra help can really make things look, hang, and drape better, especially if you're wearing a clingy dress. The shapewear itself should fit you correctly. You shouldn't feel like s stuffed sausage in shapewear. If you do, it's too small.

I don't think it's a requirement but depending on your body type and what you're wearing, yes, I think shapewear can make you look more polished. I'm not talking about heavy duty girdles at all. There are all kinds of light-duty shapewear that can help and not be too constraining. It's worth checking out Ross or other similar places for options and seeing if it works for you.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:19 AM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: Speaking as someone who has these kinds of issues allllll the damn time... if it makes you feel better, go for it.

Sure, I could buy better pants that don't stretch out in the middle of the day, or bigger pants that don't give me a muffin-top-esque bulge. But [tmi] the cinch below that is currently what's holding the pants up, and if I went bigger they'd REALLY not fit. (I wear belts sometimes, but they dig into me when I sit down, and it's uncomfortable.) I don't have a lot of money to spend on such things -- and if I did, I wouldn't have the money or the time to spend washing them properly.

I haven't worn Spanx or the like to the office, but when I've worn them to full-day events it hasn't been that bad. I actually find them rather comfy because they make the things on top of them not dig in as much as they could. And they rarely have boning, etc. in them like old stuff, so that's good. (A proper bustier or bra is still very useful, but usually not for everyday wear.) The Target-brand Spanx substitute is just fine and has served me well for several years now.
posted by Madamina at 11:33 AM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: Under a clingy dress or skirt, try wearing a slip. It makes the garment hang amd drape very well. It also can help certain fabrics retain your shape, when sitting down stretches the fabric under your butt.
posted by wryly at 11:50 AM on October 6, 2010

If your main problem is too-thin shirts that cling and show everything, get a plain tank top or camisole to wear underneath. The shirts will drape more smoothly, you'll still be comfortable, and you'll also avoid potential issues with low-cut shirts or button-downs that gap open in the chest.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:52 AM on October 6, 2010

Tailoring probably won't cost more than the shapewear, and would definitely be the better solution for suits and such. A little goes a really long way toward making you look polished. Shapewear's not so bad under the clingy stuff, but it's not the most comfortable thing ever. Good advice above on buying it.
posted by asperity at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: I wear long, tight singlets which are technically shapewear and they do make my clothes sit better. But I wear singlets every day anyway, I like the tight material against my skin, and I don't have expensive business clothes, so I definitely don't think it's necessary.

There are a few things which make these particular singlets work well. They have two stretchy panels for my breasts with a small bit of ruching in the middle (which is actually really ugly) so each one gets to poke out and look natural rather than turn into a horizontal sausage like most shapewear singlets. The singlets are long so they stay tucked in even when I'm active, but aren't constrictive or inconvenient like a bodysuit. And they have a stretchy panel running down the back so the whole thing fits my body really well, no sausagy feeling, while still providing a flat surface across my front.

I don't wear any kind of control top pants because they just don't work on a short body person with a flabby middle (I'm flabby all the way to my breasts). I get a muffin top wherever they end at the top, they pinch at my waist (which is quite narrow), they squeeze in and make things look weird wherever they end at the bottom, they roll down at the top, and they don't provide a smooth line through my (short) torso. Whereas a singlet skims my middle, gives a smooth area for my waistband to sit on (which is comfortable), and end naturally across my hips so no cutting into my buttcheeks at the back. Also, as I said, I wear singlets anyway so it's not a big change. A huge spanx-like body suit is going to have most of the same benefits but with a whole lot more material, and they look like torture to me.

(I wear belts sometimes, but they dig into me when I sit down, and it's uncomfortable.)

As an aside, this happens to me too. Several years ago I started wearing a long scarf tied around my waist as a belt (it was fashionable for a while) and it works so much better. The scarf bends and is comfortable and I can make it as tight or as loose as I want to hold my pants in place. I either tie at the front and tuck the ends in so it's invisible or tie at the side with the ends hanging down to add colour to my outfit. Now I have a whole bunch in different materials and colours to match my clothes, which is fun. With a smooth line of material running underneath from the long singlet and a scarf tied around my waist, my business pants sit really nicely and the shirt hangs straight over the top (I don't wear suits though).

In the end a not great fitting suit is going to look cheap regardless of what you wear underneath. Also having clothes that fit well is the key to looking polished regardless of if it's underwear or outerwear (or shapewear). So focus on that and you should be good!
posted by shelleycat at 12:28 PM on October 6, 2010

As someone whose weight has fluctuated a bit, a find that i love my 'shapewear tank tops'. They don't give me that constrained uncomfortable feeling, but they keep my midsection sleek looking, and i only wear them when i'd be wearing a spandex-y tank top under things anyway. I recommend!
posted by Kololo at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2010

Shelleycat, where do you buy the singlets?
posted by purpletangerine at 12:48 PM on October 6, 2010

They're Jockey Shapewear, from Farmers in New Zealand (I don't know how widely this stuff is sold around the world). I've tried to find them on the Jockey website but it looks like my particular model has been discontinued, although I think it's this one.
posted by shelleycat at 1:01 PM on October 6, 2010

Response by poster: I will definitely focus on shapewear camis/tank tops. They sound more comfortable than the full-body suits of armor, and more suitable for my body type (short-waisted and, alas, a bit thick in the middle). I'm not aiming to take off inches, just look sleek and put-together in clothes without any weird muffin-tops or bulges.

Also, the camis sound a LOT more convenient when one has to use the toilet. I don't relish the idea of wrestling myself into and out of full-body Spanx (I know some have gussets, but still, that sounds chancy).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 1:02 PM on October 6, 2010

I don't think it's necessary at all, and agree with a lot of the commenters in regards to the quality of the clothing.

OTOH, I'm at work and wearing spanx right now... I don't feel like a stuffed sausage at all. I don't wear them most days, but I don't love the way my belly's been looking lately, so I feel much more comfortable in spanx than if I had to worry about sucking in my gut all day. It's really just for a couple of dresses that would look better if I was working out a few extra days a week. Since I'm not, I cheat.

My friend picked them up at Nordstrom Rack and they weren't super spendy (I think $30 for a pack of two).
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 1:19 PM on October 6, 2010

The Target version of Spanx is called Assets and are made by the same company as Spanx. I'm sure they're knockoffs in some way but I can't tell a difference. I frequently wear the opaque tights (rather than full body shapers, which I don't have any of and have never tried), but I like them fine and they cost half as much as "real" Spanx ($14 vs. $28 for tights). I don't feel like a sausage; in fact as someone else mentioned I actually like how they make me feel streamlined and tucked in.
posted by CheeseLouise at 1:34 PM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take a look and identify what areas of your body look bony, what areas look fleshy, and what areas look muscular.

For the fleshy areas that you want to corset in, your clothing needs to be constructed with curves that follow the contours of your body and are made out of taut to medium-taut fabric such as denim, as opposed to drapey or flowy fabrics like velvet and chiffon.

For the fleshy areas that you don't feel the need to corset in, reverse this and do wear drapey flowy things.

In general, shapewear isn't necessary except under certain things (and you'll know them when you see them). I would point out that if shapewear is uncomfortable or makes it hard to breathe, you are wearing too small a size. It's supposed to give a smooth base for outerwear, not make you smaller.
posted by tel3path at 2:00 PM on October 6, 2010

Best answer: My clothes fit well--that is, they're well-made, the proper size, and I'm not bursting out of them--but I am occasionally tempted to wear shapewear to hide a particularly noticeable tummy bulge or a ripply thigh. And then I squeeze into Spanx, feel awful and uncomfortable and self-conscious all day, and sometimes end up with very unhappy (chafed and smelly) ladyparts if the weather is warm and I've had to wear Spanx all day. And the difference they make isn't even that noticeable! I think for those of us who are particularly curvy and jiggly the effect is more psychosomatic than anything.

So I've come to the conclusion that I look and feel much better without the shapewear. No one has any illusions that my body is smooth, slim, and flawless, and it's silly to try to pretend otherwise. As long as your clothes fit well and are professional (whatever that means for your particular work context), it is absolutely not necessary to wear shapewear under your clothes.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:43 PM on October 6, 2010

I have one of those full-body spanx things everyone seems to hate. :) It's not that bad! I don't wear it much though - rhiannonstone is right in that it doesn't make much of a difference. I'm a bit overweight, so instead of removing my flab, it just squishes them a little. However, it makes my clothes move more smoothly over my body, so things fit and drape a bit better.

I haven't tried the singlets. Those sound like they could work well.
posted by WowLookStars at 7:26 PM on October 6, 2010

I carry fat around my mid-section and have found Esbelt corsets to be the best thing in sucking it in if I want to wear something fitted for a special occasion. They do a tank-top shaped one and a under-bust corset. However, I would NOT want to wear one every day. They are made of rubber, so they are heavy and hot after a day of wear.

If you're concerned then perhaps a change in cut or style is what you need. It took me YEARS to realise that with a large bust and height I needed to go for the longer fit rather than just a bigger size in a regular. I know your pain, as many formal clothes aren't designed to suit curves or bulges at all. Esbelt corsets If I worked in a formal office I would seek a personal shopper in a big store to help me and stop me picking out things I like which just will not fit me.
posted by mippy at 8:45 AM on October 7, 2010

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