If you have yet to unlock the magic that is shapewear, prepare to have your world rocked. It's like someone took an iron to you and smoothed out every lump you have. It's like Photoshop for your living, breathing, three-dimensional body. It works so well that most celebrities wear shapewear on the red carpet. I'm trying not to oversell it, but we are talking about the product that made Spanx founder Sara Blakely the world's youngest self-made female billionaire.
There's just one problem with this genre of wonder-garments: shapewear has gotten so popular that it now comes in a seemingly endless array of styles and fabrics. How do you decide which will work best for your body and your wardrobe? Here's a guide to choosing the best shapewear for you:
1. STICK TO YOUR SIZE.
"Women sometimes try to size down for extra firmness," Sophia-Banks Coloma, a Los Angeles-based stylist who has styled celebrities like Michelle Rodriguez and Mischa Barton, tells WebMD. That only causes bulges and discomfort, and it can "make you look bigger," she says. Go to a store and try on shapewear pieces — wearing underwear for hygienic purposes — to see what fits best on you. Sit down and walk around while you wear it to make sure that you feel comfortable and that the piece stays in place.
2. CHOOSE MEDIUM CONSTRICTION TO SMOOTH LINES, STRONG CONSTRICTION FOR TOTAL FIGURE TRANSFORMATION.
If there's no performance level listed on the tag, check out the clothing label. The higher the nylon content, the more a garment will alter your shape. You can also get a sense of the level of shaping by feeling the fabric. If it's lightweight and slips through your hands, it's likely designed simply to smooth out targeted spots on your figure. Heavier pieces are usually armed with compression zones that will suck and tuck your body into shape.
3. HIGH-WAIST IT FOR SMOOTH LINES THROUGH THE TORSO.
According to Laura Godsal of My Tights, the popular UK-based online hosiery store that sells a large variety of shapewear, high-waisted skirt and shorts styles guarantee a smooth line all the way up your torso. Look for versions that go up to the bra line. For added security, products like this Spanx Slim Cognito Shaping Mid-Thigh Body Briefer hook onto your bra so they won't slip down.
4. TONE THE LEGS USING TIGHTS WITH BUILT-IN SHAPEWEAR.
The first problem with wearing tights over shapewear is that you're putting Nylon blends next to each other, which will cause your tights to shift to the side. Second, this creates an extra layer in the thigh region, which could cause seams to show through your clothes. Spanx In-Power Line Super Shaping Sheers have compression zones that shape the tummy, thighs, and rear while offering the seamless and sleek sheer you get from a regular pair of tights.
5. CHOOSE A FULL BODYSUIT FOR ALL-OVER SHAPING.
The bodysuit is popular because it creates a head-to-toe streamlined shape, saving you the trouble of finding separate top and bottom pieces that work. The all-over coverage is a plus for women who "want to minimize a larger chest," notes Coloma, but it has a chest-flattening effect like that of many sports bras. If that doesn't work for you, bodysuits like this TC 'Torsette' Body Shaper cut around the bust and let your bra do the work of supporting your chest.
6. WANT TO SHAPE YOUR BUTT WITHOUT ERASING IT? THERE’S SHAPEWEAR FOR THAT.
Spanx' Trust Your Thinstincts line introduced the Booty Bra to a few chuckles, but these shorts are worth a shot if you want to shape your derriere without hiding it. Like a bra, it lifts and separates your cheeks to showcase a full bottom, but it also flattens your stomach and smooths out love handles in the process.
7. LOOK FOR COTTON-BLEND SHAPEWEAR TO KEEP YOU COOL.
Shapewear is typically made of nylon and spandex, both synthetic fabrics that don't breathe. That's great in colder climates, where you want to retain as much body heat as possible, but in the warmer months, it makes you more prone to sweat. Fortunately several brands sell summer shapewear, lighter versions of their original products designed with breathability in mind. Japan-based Wacoal offers a wide selection of styles in its Cool Definition line.