Cinch that corset like I'm Scarlett O'Hara
April 30, 2012 11:09 PM   Subscribe

Everyday shapewear for the plus-sized woman?

So, last week I was in a store and a saleswoman walked up to me and asked me how many months I was. I am not pregnant, but have gained more than sixty pounds as a side effect of medications I cannot stop taking.

While the saleswoman's slip of the tongue may have been uncouth, and while I'm working on losing the weight, I think I would feel comforted if I had some supportive, structured undergarments to minimize my midsection.

Problem is, I have little experience with shapewear and am unsure of which garments to buy. Bodysuits? Bustiers? Girdles? (Do they still make those?) Do I want boning? Spandex? Boning and spandex? Some other space-age material?

I'm hoping to create the illusion of a straight-ish line from just below my bosom down to my hips.

I doubt that shapers that come with a bra attached will work well for me, as I'm a 38G (according to the fitters at Nordstrom). I also am not interested in thigh-shaping stuff, since summer is approaching and I wear skirts that are only knee-length.

I'm also hoping to find supportive garments that I can wear in 100-degree humid weather.

The other important feature is practicality. You know those Spanx that you can tie to your bra to make a bodysuit? But then you're wearing them and you can't use the restroom without completely undressing? That stuff may work for weddings, but it won't fly on a daily basis.

Where should I be looking for these garments? Do you have any specific brand recommendations? What other things, in addition to shapewear, can I use to re-hourglass-ify my figure? Belts, obviously. Anything else?

I've looked at items from Vedette, Squeem, Flexees and Dr. Rey. From what I can tell, the most practical item would be one of those under-bra vest-corsets, with bodysuits coming in second place. Am I wrong?

I'm willing to pay for high quality, but I'm not necessarily looking for exquisite brocade luxury goods that I can wear to the clubs -- just for good solid underthings that might help boost my confidence. And maybe keep strangers from asking about my non-existent pregnancy.

PS. I am a US size 14-16, so not quite plus-sized in the traditional sense, but I suspect I might also fit a 1X.
PPS. For bonus points, is there anywhere in NYC where I can go to try these items on and then buy them? Like, a super nice boutique staffed by fairy godmothers who will not judge me but just help me find the pieces I need?
posted by brina to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I'm about your size, maybe a bit bigger, with most of my weight in my (exensive) belly. I wear Spanx for special occasions, but they're too much for every day for me. For day to day wear, I wear these Flexees, and I'm very happy with them.

But here's the thing -- it's not a corset. It's not a full slimming garment. It doesn't give you a hourglass waist, just a smoother, less belly-full look. I truly don't believe that anything like that will ever, ever be comfortable for day to day wear. Truly, I think Spanx is the best of the best as far as not miserable shapewear goes, but you can't live every day squeezed in like that. I'm afraid anything that would give that shape would be stiff, hot, and miserable enough to undermine your confidence more than than your body can in the long run.

I hated my body for a long time. I hated it so much when I was a size 4; I never felt beautiful or sexy. I stopped hating it right around when I hit a size 14, learned how to dress myself, found smoothing undies, and got right in my head. That person who said that to you is an asshole. They're rude, unacceptable, inappropriate. There's no excuse for someone to feel so free to talk about your body (pregnant or not) in such a cavalier way.

I hope you can to an good place with your body, too. I hope you don't have to torture yourself with a miserable girdle in hot weather day after day first. I love my squeezy panties, but I had to learn to love myself more before they did me any good.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:32 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You're more plus-size than I am, so apologies if this isn't a useful suggestion, but I have used an Esbelt corset to get into tighter party clothing. It's not sexy, but it's good if you want to wear something that would usually make you uncomfortable. I think they go to a UK20 which I think is a US 18?
posted by mippy at 1:54 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: You most certainly want something that gives you some shaping control starting below your bust, not at your waist.

I wear shaping camisoles by Flexees or Spanx. I find them comfortable enough to wear almost every day, and they coincide nicely with the fact that a great way to minimize your midsection is to wear something loose (like a cardigan or blazer) over an underlayer. (I most often wear those camis under cardigans that i keep buttoned until a button or two below my boobs. Also, keep in mind that they tend to roll up if you don't tuck them in.) I have pretty big boobs I wear a DD bra, but they're prob an E) and while these camis do do a bit of squishing, i find it's more 'minimizing' than 'squashing'.)

Remember than aside from shaping undergarments that blazers and cardigans are your friend.
posted by Kololo at 2:42 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: Shapewear does not have to be uncomfortable but I would say that the sort of stuff that really chinches you in is not going to feel light in humid heat, ever. Turns out that my favourite thing to flatten my stomach are body suits, followed by magic knickers that go up to your bra. Things like waist chinchers seem to work best if you wear lower waisted magic knickers underneath because otherwise the chinching in of the waist just 'displaces' the bulges further down. Either way I don't find them uncomfortable at all - but light is not a word I'd use to describe them either.

But be realistic. Even the really shaping stuff will not give you a straight line from your bra to your hips - you'll get a smooth, lump and bump free line that allows your clothes to look much better but you'll still have a tummy. How smooth depends on how much support the shapewear is supposed to provide.

As to how to get you to an hr glass shape - that's what you need your outer wear for. Work with cuts and belts to create the illusion of an hr glass.

And yes, try on stuff and move in it - bend down, sit down, reach up, pretend your climbing stairs - the most annoying thing that shapewear does when it does not fit properly is ride up or down thus giving you exaggerated bulges...
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:28 AM on May 1, 2012

I do not think you will find anything that is comfortable in humid heat in the way of shapewear, and from experience as a plus size lady now losing weight with exercise and diet due to a health scare, nothing really does that much to hold in a big belly and get rid of that pregnant look, it just looks a little more firm. To me, comfort would matter more than appearance in hot humid weather. Do pay attention to how your clothes look on you, and perhaps get a friend you trust to critique before you buy. The right style can help and the wrong style can exaggerate figure flaws.

Can you exercise at all? You might not be able to lose weight but you could firm up a bit, and it really does make you feel better no matter what your size.
posted by mermayd at 4:51 AM on May 1, 2012

I'm a voluptuous person myself. As long as you got a bra fitting at Nordstrom, and your underpants are comfy, that's about it. As far as girdles go, isn't getting rid of those awful things part of what the women's movement was about? Yes, Spanx are great for special occasions or nights out, but wearing them in the summer, well, that makes me sweat just thinking about it.

I agree with many of the posters above, just finding the styles that flatter your figure will be enough.

My friend runs a great blog, and it's a great source for information on fashion and the politics of fat.

I like Lane Bryant panties, Wacoal bras and really cute outfits. The rest takes care of itself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:00 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: Spanx are great. There's a secret, the panty panel has an opening - you can use the restroom without disrobing. I almost returned mine, thinking it was a flaw.
posted by jennstra at 6:42 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: Everyone else here is right on target: nothing will be nice for hot weather (although some options will be more bearable than others), nothing will get rid of everything (although lines can be improved), and oh my, it's amazing what a really good bra can do (people *always* ask me if I've lost weight whenever I plunk down for a new bra).

Being a busty girl myself (40G holla!), I'm a fan of this style of smoothing camisole. Flexees makes a good product, although I have similar styles by other makers (Spanx, Hanes) that are fine.
posted by smirkette at 6:42 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: First of all, I'm sorry that you were put in that situation. Rude!

It's not fancy, but the fitter at Orchard Corset is great at finding shapewear that will work with what you want.

For various reasons, I've worn Vedette shapewear on and off through the years - I really like their 701 model. You wear your own bra, but the shaping starts beneath your bra line and goes into a panty style. It's easy to unhook and 'go' and I've worn it in the summer. It's not awesomely cool like it would be if you were wearing panties and a bra, but it was bearable for a few hours. FMMV though. I had issues that made it feel better for me to have something pulling in at my body all the time, than letting things go, so it was actually a relief to me to wear it, rather than nothing.

You won't get a totally smooth shape with any sort of modern shapewear - it will pull you in, and smooth you out though. Manage your expectations when you shop for pieces!
posted by carmenghia at 6:46 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: After having three babies at once, my stomach looks perpetually pregnant. But I really like this camisole I got at Kohl's a while back. It's not hardcore, but it definitely helps.
posted by pyjammy at 7:23 AM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: I wear this from Flexees just about every day. It has a hook/eye clasp for using the restroom.

It is hot in the summer, but where I live, everything is hot in the summer.
posted by getawaysticks at 12:42 PM on May 1, 2012

Want to second ruthlessbunny. Go for a proper fitting at Nordies. A good support bra with a high back will keep you from jiggling and a nice paid of panties with just a bit of lycra will work for the bottom. I am a foundations snob and even I couldn't pull off shapewear in humid climates.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 2:26 PM on May 1, 2012

Response by poster: My fear about the shaping camisoles is the possibility of them rolling up at the bottom, thus making themselves part of the problem. It looks like under-bra bodysuits are probably the way to go.

If you all have recommendations for shaping camis/corsets that do not roll up at the bottom, I'd love to see them. I'd also welcome any further recommendations for under-bra bodysuits. And un-recommendations, too, if there are brands/styles that just don't work well for whatever reason.

posted by brina at 3:11 PM on May 1, 2012

Best answer: I found a lot of helpful guidelines in the book Dress your Best (I think from another ask.mefi recommendation). My library has it, yours probably does too. It goes through body shapes at pretty much every size and proportion to each other and gives a lot of suggestions for how to look the way you want to. I was amazed at how much women's bellies were basically hidden in plain sight. (Now I need to figure out how to pull that trick more often.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:54 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

The one I have does not roll up. The middle section is thicker than the rest of it, and the bottom stays down nicely. (I understand your concern - I have a long torso and it's hard to find shirts that cover well.) That said, I usually tuck it into my pants or skirt so it's kind of held down by that.
posted by pyjammy at 7:53 AM on May 2, 2012

Oh man, I feel your pain. So many similarities -- the meds, the shape (looking pregnant). I'm always in search of my waist. Fun! I wear the bodysuits -- some are better than others. Flexees are good, but I find the WYOB ones uncomfortable -- two sets of straps to keep in place and with my long torso, the two pieces don't really come together well. I'm really uncomfortable with any sewn-in boning as it tends to warp and bend in odd places when I sit and feels decidedly miserable in warm weather.. So, yeah, I'm watching this thread for ideas as well (and trying to de-carb, de-sweet my med-fueled appetite) so I can not be asked about being pregnant. It sucks.
posted by bluemoonegg at 7:41 PM on May 2, 2012

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