In our advice column, Ask the Strategist, we take your most burning shopping questions and scour friends, call up experts, and draw from personal experience to answer them. As always, please comment with one of your own — we’re here to help.
Question: What’s the best shapewear?
I reached out to Danny Koch, fourth-generation owner of the Town Shop on the Upper West Side, one of the best bra shops in the city for people with big boobs, and the place I bought my first pair of Spanx a few months ago.
“I’ll start at the beginning. We have these names like Spanx and shapewear, but the truth of the matter is that these are all girdles. It’s a brilliant marketing ploy. That being said, the tech and advancements in shapewear have been unbelievable, and the beauty of shapewear has changed dramatically as well.”
“Simone Perele is a Paris-based lingerie and shapewear manufacturer, and they have a group of shapewear that works and it’s pretty, and that’s something that people have not really done before. We’ve sold like a thousand pieces. Once a thousand women have decided to buy anything in our store, you know it’s serious business.”
And one more thing: “These make your butt look really good, too.”
“The new thing is more targeted compression. Shapewear used to be a sausage case that just squeezed everything, but the issue was that when everything’s squeezed it needs somewhere to go — up, down, or sideways. Now, they’ll make a zigzag down the thigh, say, and specifically press everything in there, so it’s a zoned compression and nothing goes where it’s not supposed to go. That allows for a smoother look, and the waistbands won’t roll down, which was an issue that a lot of people had. Spanx’s newer OnCore collection has been really terrific at this specifically. They’ve figured it out and we sell a ton of them. Those are offered in plus sizes, too.”
“There’s also a brand called Yummie, which is really terrific. These are a little bit softer, a little bit more forgiving. Some people don’t like to have things that feel incredibly tight, but they still want to smooth themselves out.”
“The original brand that was around way before Spanx is called Body Wrap. That still, to this day, is one of the favorites of our sales staff. It’s made with something called a circular knit — instead of the needle going up and down, it goes around and around and around — so it looks a lot smaller on the rack, but it has a terrific hold, a really great feel, and it’s thinner than most shapewear. They do everything from a little brief panty to a high-waisted long-leg piece. They go up to sizes three XL, and they even do a plus-size all-in-one, which looks like a bathing suit, basically. It’s a vast collection.”
A second opinion
I also got in touch with our very own Alison Freer, an expert shopper and costume designer who knows all about Hollywood’s tricks and secrets. She’s already written about things like the best boob tape, best black tights, lingerie bags, the most flattering slip, another pair of shapewear she loves, a smoothing tank top beloved by Oscar winners, and invisible underwear. Here’s what she had to say.
“Actresses on TV shows all show up to work with some sort of full-body shaper (from thighs to under-bust) that can be worn with their own bra. We call it the ‘Sausage Casing,’ but it really works wonders, making your clothes lie perfectly with zero lumps or bumps. This one from Rago (started by a pair of Italian immigrants in 1947) is so firm, you could bounce a quarter off of it, but it’s still shockingly comfortable — a testament to what proper garment construction can do for the female form.”
“The best shaper garments are always high-waisted, as anything that cuts you off in the middle of your midriff won’t be able to do much real shaping. This long-legged pair of shorts has totally flat seams that won’t ever show under clothes, a split crotch so you don’t have to wriggle out if it to use the bathroom, and special gripy, lace leg holes that don’t ride up or bind your thighs. The directional contour bands worked into the lace are what allow it to shape your waist, hips, and derriere — while still moving with your body for maximum comfort.”
“Sometimes, all you need from your shapewear is a little bit of extra help — not a whole body lift. This firm-hold granny panty has special V-shaped leg openings that allow it to expand around the thigh, giving you the freedom to walk, run, and jump in total nonbinding comfort. The only seam on this panty is cleverly hidden between the cheeks, making it invisible under clothes — and the floral-patterned lace gives it a certain coquettish charm, should the wind ever decide to blow your skirt up over your head.”
And one more thing …
This one’s from Danny Koch of Town Shop: “Spanx just came out with Spanx for your arms, and you wanna know something? People are buying it.”