Let’s be honest: having kids changes your body. Suddenly, there’s a permanent pooch where your once flat tummy was, and you’ve got a few extra lumps and bumps popping up in other places. But it’s A-OK because our little bundles of joy were worth it. Plus, at this stage in the game, we’ve learned to embrace what we’ve got and love ourselves no matter what because it’s not about being perfect.
With that in mind, we still want to look and feel our best, and a handy little tool known as shapewear can help us achieve that in a cinch. A few key pieces of the best shapewear you can buy right now can add to our already-existing arsenal of belly bandits and well-fitting, comfortable bras.
The shapewear market has exploded in recent years. Since the inception of SPANX’s first feetless control top pantyhose in 2000, the global shapewear market has grown to more than $1.9 billion — with hundreds, if not thousands, of styles available. Undoubtedly, women are spending their hard-earned money on the sometimes constrictive garments that promise a smoother foundation underneath their clothes.
What is shapewear?
Shapewear includes bras, panties, biker-style shorts, leggings, bodysuits, and full-body garments that offer light to firmer compression to smooth and shape areas of the body, virtually eliminating any lumps and bumps under clothing.
Once just a celebrity red-carpet stylist hack, it finally became mainstream in the mid-2000s. Shapewear can provide the smoothest possible look under your clothes and, sometimes, even make you look one to two sizes smaller. It operates essentially as a “compression garment,” meant to squeeze and “suck you in” wherever you desire. It’s almost like being photoshopped IRL. What’s not to love?
How to shop for shapewear
- Compression: The most important thing to know is its varying compression levels. A lighter compression garment will do more smoothing, whereas heavier compression will provide more shaping.
- Styles: There are many options, be it a bodysuit to whittle the middle, a biker shorts style to slim hips and thighs, or a full-length piece to target all the areas simultaneously. You’ll want to make sure your shaper doesn’t show, so first figure out what body parts you’re trying to address and then figure out if your chosen dress or outfit will allow it to be completely inconspicuous.
- Sizing: It’s a common misconception that women should size down to get more of a “squeeze” with their body shapers. The compression level accomplishes that. For the best effect, you must shop based on your NORMAL pants or dress size. Like bras, all brands run differently, so be sure to check out their size chart for reference.
- Other Features: Do you want to WYOB (“wear your own bra”) or hook it to your bra, or do you want one built into the garment? Do you want to ensure it won’t roll down (a common issue with shapewear, so look for silicone lined on the edges), or will it be easy enough to get in and out of the restroom? Can you breathe in it? These are all factors to consider when choosing your perfect piece.
Related: 4 fave postpartum shapewear finds to support your recovery & confidence
Levels of compression in shapewear for women
The most important factor when considering a shapewear piece is the level of compression you might look for. It can mean the difference between being able to breathe in it – or not. Here is a breakdown:
- Light compression: This will have the most stretch and give and allow you the most room to breathe. It’ll provide a seamless and smooth look under clothes.
- Medium compression: A medium compression piece will allow for some shaping and smoothing out unwanted lumps and bumps but won’t make you look smaller. It’ll be sturdier and have less give than those lighter compression pieces.
Firm compression: The firmest pieces will have the most snug fit, making them the hardest to get on and off, and you will feel the squeeze — but this means it can help you trim off one or two dress sizes!
10 best shapewear pieces for women
Now that you’ve got an idea of what shapewear can do, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best shapewear for women you can get right now. Whether you want it for a special occasion or just everyday use, we’ve got you covered.