Shapewear admittedly has a reputation for being unforgiving, uncomfortable, and torturous even — the term “sausage casing” came up a lot in interviews for this story. But it’s no longer just a fixture on red carpets or saved for special occasions — now, shapewear is everywhere and meant for everyday wear, whenever you want a bit of a boost, a hint of a lift, or just a little tuck. You’re also more likely nowadays to find shapewear in all different sizes, shades — for all different skin colors — and, well, shapes, including ones meant for thigh-high slits (more on that below).
Of course, you’ll want your foundation to be fitted enough to provide some support, “but it should never be so tight that you feel uncomfortable or like you’re suffocating underneath your clothes,” explains Shammara Lawrence, a freelance fashion writer and founder of the Power of Plus. “The best shapewear is snug and form-fitting yet soft and so comfortable you can wear it for hours on end without feeling constricted.” That’s the same advice that stylist Jessica Cadmus gave us — with one exception. “If you’re going to your tenth reunion and know your ex is going to be there and you want to ensure that they hit the floor when they see you, you may opt for that body-con dress under which you wear a full-body shaper that pulls you into a firm, smooth shape,” Cadmus says. “This will feel constraining and you’ll likely not want to endure this for more than an evening.”
To find the best shapewear that’s also comfortable enough to wear to work, we spoke to boutique owners, plus-size stylists, and Hollywood stylists and costume designers about their go-to styles. Then we combed our archives for any exceptional undergarments we’ve written and raved about before. That’s how we ended up with quite a long list of cool people-approved shapewear — so, to make things easier, we organized them by type of garment, from bodysuits to shorts to tanks to briefs to thongs to tights to leggings to lingerie; when applicable, each category leads with the stuff we heard about the most (hint: Spanx isn’t the only shapewear brand out there, but it’s a fan-favorite for a reason). If you need to skip ahead to any category, just click any of the linked words in the previous sentence.
Best shaping bodysuits
Of course, we couldn’t write a story about shapewear without mentioning Spanx. As celebrity stylist Ali Levine says, “We all think Spanx when we hear shapewear.” Levine is one of three cool people (all stylists) we spoke to that recommend Spanx’s bodysuits; the second is Dina Scherer, the owner of Modnitsa Styling, who pointed us to this style as a great one to wear with backless dresses or low-cut tops. Scherer likes how the bodysuit has openings in the front and back that allow you to show skin, while still providing plenty of support thanks to its mid-thigh length legs and padded cups.
When it comes to shapewear, Levine says to always consider “the Four F’s: fit, form, fabric, and fashion.” This Bali body briefer, she says, delivers across all four categories. The stretch lace looks chic, while the softly lined underwire cups and hook-and-eye closure will show no lines under your clothes. “Very sexy as well as slimming and trimming for the body,” she promises. “It’s the perfect blend between comfort, function, and fashion — and a great price point as well!”
For another open-bust option, Levine recommends the Miraclesuit by Bare Necessities, which shapes the midriff, tummy, thighs, and bottom with its stretch microfiber and mesh material. In addition to its open bust that allows you to wear your own bra, the bodysuit also has an open-crotch design so you don’t need to wriggle out of it to go to the bathroom. Plus, Levine adds, the legs are sheer so they’ll be virtually invisible under your cocktail dress. “It’s a great shaper that’s very smoothing,” she says.
Should you want something to wear under a strapless dress, Levine says this bodysuit “gives you the perfect foundation.” The strapless sweetheart neckline and push-up demi bra look great under most necklines, and the piece smooths your stomach, waist, and back, she explains. “It sculpts your entire body,” promises Levine. “I’ve used it for award shows like the Emmys and Oscars.”
Unlike the bodysuits above, Levine says this Bodyshaper from Jackie London — a New Jersey–based shapewear and intimates store — can actually transform a figure because it offers a higher degree of compression and support to pull your waist in, almost like a waist trainer would. Adds Levine: “I’ve used this for celebs for the red carpet and it truly changes their silhouette.” In addition to this open-bust style, Jackie London also has a more seamless all-in-one bodysuit for those who may crave even more coverage.