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Shapewear secrets

Categories: basics


Actress Gwyneth Paltrow poses during Paramount Pictures & Marvel Entertainment's 'Iron Man 2' photo call held at the Four Seasons Hotel on April 23, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Yoga? Yes, but Gwyneth is also a fan of Spanx.

I have a deep and abiding love of shapewear. Like a perfectly fitted bra, a great pair of what Laura Bennett calls “power panties” can completely change the fit of an outfit. There are a variety of options out there for shapers, but I prefer the ones that look like bike shorts, because they do the most work — they hold in your stomach and lift up your backside, all at once. Miraculous.

My “problem area” (I hate that phrase, but you know what I mean) is my derriere; no matter how many miles I run or how many donuts I say no to, my tush just isn’t as firm as it was 20 years ago (go figure). Certain pieces in my closet — a jersey dress, a fitted pair of trousers — look that much better when I’ve got a little extra help underneath. I’m also not a fan of VPL, but I’m not a thong girl, so for pieces that require a smooth back view, a shaper is my go-to undergarment.

Which shaper is the best? It depends on what you need it to do, how long you’re planning to wear it, and how much you want to spend. Here are my three favorites.

Spanx In-Power Line Super High Power, $38


Spanx is the gold standard of shapewear, and the Higher Power line is truly the answer to your prayers. Spanx are perfect for heavy duty shaping; my Spanx make it possible for me to look great in pants that are a full size smaller than what I typically wear. This is the shapewear that whittles five pounds off your midsection, easy. A word of caution, however: this is not shapewear for the faint of heart. Spanx are heavy duty, serious shapers, and while they will slim you and compel you to stand up straight, they’re not exactly comfortable. Wear judiciously for events where you want to look smokin’ hott (class reunions, photo shoots, your ex’s wedding) but don’t plan to eat much or take particularly deep breaths.

Verdict: Red carpet shapewear, but not for all day.

Body Wrap Firm Control High-Waist Long-Leg Panty, $42


Body Wrap is my go-to brand for shapewear; these shapers strike the perfect balance between holding it all in and not squashing any internal organs. I can wear my Body Wraps shaper all day; like the Spanx, it does make me sit up straighter (it’s just not comfortable to slouch over in sturdy shapewear) but unlike my Spanx, I don’t fear for the health of my spleen after a few hours in these. Body Wrap is the perfect option for under clingy dresses and fitted pants.

Verdict: Making a power presentation? These are your power panties.

Hanes Smooth Illusions No Hose Moderate Control High Waist Smoother, $15 currently $9.99


Hanes line of shapers gets two thumbs up from me for two reasons: one is the fit — they hold everything in without binding, and they are lightweight enough to wear all day, even in summer — and the other is the price. At less than half the cost of the Spanx shapewear, Hanes Smooth Illusions is a perfect solution if you’re looking for an affordable, wearable everyday shaper. The Hanes shaper also has a clever “no leg band” design which eliminates the sausage casing effect that other shapewear can have on your thighs. While this shapewear won’t shave five pounds off your figure, it will give you a smooth, contained line under a dress or pants, and it’s comfortable enough to wear all day long.

Verdict: The perfect solution for your budget and your butt.

Are you a fan of shapers? Which is your favorite?

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12 comments so far...

  • I like Assets by Sara Blakely at Target. I think they’re the Spanx “house brand”. I have bought 2 pairs, and they are ~$12-15. Also great tights shapers, too. Good for every day wear, and there is NO leg roll.

    Terri  |  July 26th, 2010 at 9:12 am

  • This is so helpful, Susan! I’ve been thinking about trying shapewear and didn’t know where to start.

    Gabrielle of Design Mom  |  July 26th, 2010 at 6:50 pm

  • Oh, but I am a Spanx loving fool thanks to two c-sections that left my lower abdomen NOT in 20-year-old form any longer. Their products are filled with sparkly unicorn magic and I adore them.

    They are not for the faint at heart, but they are also not your grandmother’s corset — I find them to be rather comfortable. They also have great “panties” for target just the tushie area that I like, too.

    Pammer  |  July 27th, 2010 at 8:34 am

  • Love Spanx. Should have bought stock.

    I wear the waist high version rather than the higher powers because i can’t keep that top part up. Doesn’t quite go high enough (i’m tall.)

    I wear them just about every day.

    For pants, which I rarely wear, I usually go with spanx footless tights because I think the slight indentation where the spanx shorts end on the thigh shows under most pants.

    rb  |  July 27th, 2010 at 8:57 am

  • I am in my 20s and I still don’t have a firm butt… or firm anything, really! I think that this post has given me the courage to start trying shapewear for events just by making it more accessible. Definitely going to pick up the Hanes one for a starter!

    And just because I don’t get the whole thong thing - does anyone else feel like well-fitting thongs create their own bulge because of the strings???? I don’t get why people choose those for slinky dresses.

    Leah @ justpluckingdaisies  |  July 27th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

  • Must. Try. Spanx.

    Phe  |  July 28th, 2010 at 7:47 am

  • I wore my Assets to more than one swim meet this year. Perfectly comfortable and smooths out those bumps that a cotton jersey dress clings to.

    Julie @ The Mom Slant  |  July 28th, 2010 at 10:41 am

  • Am I the only one who gets a terribly upset stomach from shapewear? I wear a 16 or a 14w depending on the fit. If I wear shapewear for more than an hour, I must run to the bathroom because in so sick. I have tried different amounts of control, shorts, undies, one piece swimsuits. Any suggestions?

    Melissa  |  July 31st, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  • I use Seamless High Waist Long Leg Panty Girdle Style 4287, it’s got a great fit - comfortable, but it tucks me in all the right places.

    Myka  |  August 4th, 2010 at 6:39 am

  • I had no idea Hanes had such a good option. I’m a loyal Spanx girl, but they are pricey. Well worth it, of course!

    Diana Lee  |  September 9th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

  • I tried the Hanes shapewear (same item shown in the photo), and it didn’t even last one day of wear. The problem is the silicone/rubber binding at the top (the torso/bra line area). It started cracking and separating from the fabric immediately, and every time I pulled it down and put it back on (restroom), it cracked and separated more. Eventually, about half of the silicone/rubber had separated from the fabric. I was in an all-day job interview (don’t ask), and this thing fell down more and more from the torso area every time I moved. “I’m sorry, I want you to think I’m a modern, competent professional, but I need to visit the restroom to adjust my girdle.” I should have spent the money on Spanx, because I spent $13 on a single-use product.

    Ann  |  September 9th, 2010 at 7:14 pm

  • How do you keep from bulging over the top? THis is my complaint with even nylons. At the top where they strong waist band is, my soft chub dents in and there is the proof of my fat. Between my bra band and the nylon. How does everyone else keep this “bread back” from pooching out?

    Sarah  |  September 9th, 2010 at 7:30 pm