I've always been somewhat reluctant when it comes to the world of shapewear. I know all about the supposed lifting and smoothing properties, which we're usually taught are wonderful, helpful characteristics in apparel. But I've never really worn shapewear myself, always a bit uncomfortable with the suggestion that my body "needs" to be lifted or smoothed. Nonetheless, I decided to experiment with four different types of shapewear to see what these body-hugging garments are actually like, and gauge the pros and cons of each. Taking four different pieces out for a spin, I found out some, well, interesting things about wearing shapewear on a regular basis.
For someone who has survived 21 years sans shapewear, I couldn't help but wonder how this experiment would turn out. Were constricting panties and tight corsets going to change the way I thought about undergarments, or myself? I was skeptical. Of course, I've heard some good things about their chafe prevention benefits and abilities to keep everything in place underneath tight clothes. But I've also heard some bad things, like about their tight restriction potentially harming one's organs. I took this as an opportunity to formulate my own opinions, and discover how the products might work on my own curvy body.
I did a little shopping and raided my mom's closet for some shapewear pieces to wear over the course of a few days. Trying everything from basic briefs to a super-tight corset to boy shorts, here are my experiences wearing four different shapewear pieces.
1. The Brief
I started my shapewear experiment with a basic piece that also happened to be the least threatening of the four: a brief. It was high-waisted, and the fabric around the butt cheeks was kind of rounded. I paired this one with a skirt and long sleeve shirt combination for my first day. And I was prepared for the worst to happen.
But surprisingly, the day went smoothly, as did my clothes over the top of the brief. Despite feeling tight over my love handles and my thicker hips, it was the perfect accompaniment to the high-waisted and rather tight skirt I was wearing. Plus, it meant there were no awkward panty lines created by low-rise knickers underneath the skirt. However, towards the end of the day, the brief felt so tight on my skin that I could feel it cutting into my waist.
The Verdict: The main benefit of the brief was that it prevented an uncomfortable panty-line-to-skirt-hem ratio. That being said, the constriction was definitely uncomfortable after eight-plus hours.
Boy shorts and I go way back. For as long as I can remember, I've been wearing boy short-style underwear while appreciating the extra coverage and comfort they can provide. I was hesitant to get too excited about the boy short shapewear, though, since the brief experience was less than pleasurable. But, to my delight, the day went swimmingly.
Although the extra smoothness was not as noticeable as the brief, the boy short prevented any kind of chafing underneath my skirt. Plus, if you're anything like me, you probably have nightmares about your skirt flying over your head or ripping right at the butt crack. An extra layer underneath felt like a saving grace.
The Verdict: These boy shorts are definitely staying in my underwear arsenal. Anytime I'm wearing something short, loose, or just want an protective layer underneath, I'll likely reach for these.
So, I had my mom's wardrobe to raid when looking for some shapewear options. Since tight undergarments force her to sit and stand straight with her shoulders back, she swears by corsets' restricting properties as a way to reduce the back pain she has because of her scoliosis. Personally, I definitely understood what she was talking about when I took this baby out for a spin.
When I sported the very tight corset brief with a high-waisted pair of boho pants, I could feel my spine straightening pretty instantly. But after a few hours of wear, it was cutting into my skin just like the brief did earlier in the week.
The Verdict: I definitely agree with my mom in regards to this type of shapewear being great for keeping your upper body straight. But it's definitely not comfortable enough to wear all day long.
Another piece I borrowed from my mom was the quintessential shapewear tank. After wearing this and feeling how tight it was, I felt a lot of sympathy for the ladies back in the day who used to wear even tighter, laced-up versions of these every. single. day. Can you imagine feeling like your organs are getting squeezed underneath your clothes every day? Nope, I don't want to either.
Thankfully, I only had to experience it for less than 24 hours. While I definitely felt some pain and discomfort when sporting this one, I must admit that I enjoyed the pros. Not only was my natural figure defined underneath my dinner date garb, but the tank top also worked with the push-up bra I was wearing to really bring out my ladies in a way that felt comfortable to me.
The Verdict: I felt super sexy on this night, and also loved how great my posture was. This is definitely the best option for maximum definition of your natural shape, as well as support for the breasts. However, after dinner I was ready to rip the thing off of my body.
Is Shapewear Worth It?
Now that I have had the chance to try out shapewear, I can definitely see the appeal of wearing it. These items made me feel confident and sexy, while highlighting my curves and defining my waist. But I couldn't help but question why this mattered to me, and whether my delight in these items was rooted in some internalized body shaming. Plus, after a few hours of wear, I was always super uncomfortable (except in my beloved boy shorts, of course) and all I wanted from them was off.
However, if you're looking for shapewear to improve your posture, I definitely recommend looking into one of these pieces. Even though they were uncomfortable after a few hours, I'll definitely be revisiting a few of them in the future if ever I want to show off my body in a particular way. At the end of the day, my biggest takeaway from this little experiment was that our shapewear opinions — like all our opinions — are entirely our own. It's not my place to judge other women for wearing or not wearing shapewear. Nor is it anyone else's place to judge my own preferences on the matter.
My hope is that I can continue to work out any lingering body shaming going on in my subconscious while still being able to appreciate the anti-chafing, posture-enhancing, curve-showcasing properties of these super tight garments.
Images: Melodi Erdogan