Forget the corsets and girdles of old. The new breed of hold-you-in foundation garments give you a sleeker silhouette without the pain of more old-fashioned alternatives. Since we’re bigger on average than we used to be, it’s no surprise that women are queueing up to buy products that’ll make them appear slimmer or more toned. But which do you go for? To help, I’ve tried everything from smoothing tights to powermesh slips in my search for the best shapewear…
Spanx Higher Power high waisted briefs £27 Figleaves.com
Many would consider Spanx the ‘original’ shapewear. Obviously they’re not (just look at undies from fifty years ago) but as far as the modern revival goes, this brand does really take things to the next level, and ‘higher power’ is the star product for those who want to flatten their tum, lift their bum and define their waist. It was the first product I tried, and since then I’ve been hoooked on the power of good shapewear.
With a waistband that sits directly under your bra, these beat old tummy-control knickers because you’re not left with a roll of flab over the waistband. They shape you from hips to waist. On the legs they’re more like low-denier tights, slowly graduating up to a powerful, thick fabric that’ll definitely give you a slimmer appearance.
Spanx work because they’re powerful without being painful more mildly uncomfy) they don’t roll down as easily as some other products, and they definitely make you look slimmer. However, they’re not sexy; the nude ones give you the appearance of a sausage in its casing, and there’s a hole at the crotch with two ‘crossover’ gusset sections that allow you to go to the loo without removing them – this isn’t exactly attractive but it does the job!
8/10 – marks lost for the ugly factor!
Flexees Waist Nipper $26 Maidenform
Like a simpler and less attractive alternative to the corset, this does a similar job; helping to hide ‘muffin top’ and smooth the stomach and waist to create a more hourglass shape. While it doesn’t make you drop inches in the way a good steel-boned corset can, it does help to create a smooth line and stop any wayward flab from spilling out (mmm, nice) without the pain of a corset. The hook and eye fastening is extremely secure; mine is quite a tight squeeze but I’ve never had the stitching come loose or a hook break or bend. It’s made from a stretchy, control fabric similar to what you’ll find on most bodysuits and girdles, and because it fits in the gap between bra and knickers, can be easily sneaked off if you suddenly need to impress. I have this in nude and find it works really well under trousers and slim-fitting tops to create a smoother line.
9/10 - Works well, does the job perfectly, except under very fitted items where the hooks show.
Gok Wan ‘Sex Kitten Corset’ £45 SimplyYours.co.uk
Many of my clothes are quite fitted at the waist because I like that 40s/50s bombshell look, and this corset is very good for creating that nipped-in silhouette, but also has the added bonus of looking attractive in its own right. You can team it with nice undies and you can go to the loo like a normal human being. It looks pretty, gives a flattering shape and definitely hold everything in. So far, so good.
Like the other pieces from the Gok Wan shapewear range, a good deal of though has gone into the construction of the garment. Though some of the branding is a bit in-your-face (I could have done without the bright pink ribbons with ‘Gok’ scrawled on them) I did appreciate the attention to detail; the ‘modesty panel’ under the ribbons, the fact the lacing fastens at the waist and not at the hips (gives more ‘pulling’ power!) and the double hook & eye fastening to secure it properly at the bust. It also has a really nice sweetheart shape at the neck, rather than being straight across and giving a shelf-like effect.
However, I would warn you to be careful. I actually managed to bruise the skin under my boobs by pulling this too tight the first time I wore it. Don’t be tempted to yank it too tight if you’ll be wearing it for more than a few hours. Corsets improve your posture and keep everything well and truly strapped in, and overall, this is probably one of the pieces I wear the most, but it is restrictive (I rarely sit down / eat when I have it on)!
8/10 – Marks dropped for the overt Gok branding and the bruising!
Firm control low leg knickers £16 Marks & Spencer
As ‘big knickers’ go, these are some of the best. The waistband is thick enough that I avoided the awful muffin top (just about) but others might not be so lucky. I found these were great to wear with jeans (and long tops, natch) to help avoid too many lumps and bumps, but they began to dig in a bit by the end of the day. For the elevated price, I don’t think they’re as good a buy as a the even higher waisted M&S pants, a waistnipper or a pair of Spanx.
They wash well, you can tell they’re good quality and the anti VPL cut around the hips and upper thigh is clever, but overall, I think the price is too steep.
6/10 – Work well, but too expensive considering the potential for rolling flab at the waist!
Gok Wan Sassy Slip £55 at Simply Yours
Wow. Once I’d shoehorned myself into this thing, I was impressed, but I do have one tip when you’re shopping. If you’re a graduate of the Bravissimo school of bra measuring (ie. you’re quite curvaceous, but they’ve measured you as a narrow back size with a big cup) go up at least one back size when ordering this. Trying to get myself into 34DD was tantamount to getting an egg through a sieve. However, when I finally did it, I looked like I was about to be painted by Alberto Vargas.
This is the closest to a proper old-fashioned girdle you’ll find without buying vintage / repro vintage. The top is cut like the bra from the same range – a padded deep plunge with a slightly irritating bell charm on it. It’s got adjustable straps to make it halter / crossover if need be, and the hook and eye fastening extends all the way down to the hips. Then the rest is cut from a seriously hard-working powermesh that holds in all your wobbly bits to create a smooth line. It’s topped off with removable suspenders (four of them). Inside is a gusset with hook and eye fastening that makes getting it on even trickier.
All in all, though the results are amazing, I found this one quite a struggle. I’m sure if I had a bigger size it would be fine, and it’s perfect if you want to look amazing for a big night, but don’t want to have to reveal ugly shapewear at the end! However, just beware the powermesh really is powerful, and you’ll feel quite constricted.
7/10 – In a bigger size, this would probably get higher, but still loses a mark for that god-awful bell charm!
Spanx Hide & Sleep Full Slip £57 Figleaves
If you wear a lot of jersey pieces, wrap dresses, sheer items or fabrics that cling, this stretchy, full slip is a lifesaver. Though it’s not as shaping as some of the other items from Spanx, what it does is create smooth lines under your clothes, giving medium control to keep things where they’re meant to be and also stop VPL. Though it’s expensive, I thoroughly recommend it as I’ve worn my black one frequently (in fact, I have it on as I’m writing this). Unlike other options, this doesn’t feel restrictive or tight, and as an added bonus for those with big boobs, it can replace a ‘modesty cami’ if you wear the black version under something with a low neckline.
For the very brave, I also reckon the black version would make an amazing body-con dress!
10/10 – Comfy, flattering, and works brilliantly under fitted dresses.
Cette Magic Knickers Support £16.99 TightsPlease.co.uk
Imagine a pair of stretchy tights knit so finely together that they’re the approximate size of a postage stamp when you’re not wearing them. You’re not far off these babies if you have that image in your head. Probably the least attractive of the bunch, these super-powerful pants really do suck in your tummy, bum and thighs just like Spanx, but there are a couple of downsides.
Firstly, the shape is cut fairly low on the waist, resulting in the famous muffin top. There is a higher-waisted alternative that I’m sure would be a better option. Secondly, there’s no gusset opening which means every time you need the loo you have to wrestle with 140 denier of sheer torture. They do hold you in and they’re slightly more comfy and breathable than Power Panties, but all in all I don’t think they quite compete.
7/10 – They do the job but they’re ugly and going to the loo is a nightmare.
Slimming bodysuit £14.99 JML
I wasn’t expecting great things of this bodysuit, sold through infomercials by crazy purveyors of mad gadgets JML. But actually, for £15 it’s not that bad. A sort of Spanx-lite, it doesn’t have the suck-you-in power of the more specialist products, but it does help to give a smooth line under a fitted dress or pair of tight trousers, and the added bonus of spaghetti straps means it stays up better than some of the cheaper underbust shorts. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by this, but it doesn’t sit up there with the ‘megabrands’ in shapewear terms. It’s also worth nothing the gusset has an unflattering hole (with no crossover section for modesty) and the fabric is very thin in places meaning you must buy the right size or it’s likely to rip.
6 / 10 – Ok, but nothing special.
note: parts of this feature were originally published on my old site, Catwalk Queen.