women's apparel

The Very Best Shapewear

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

In this article

First things first: There’s nothing wrong with not wearing shapewear, which has a reputation for being uncomfortable — the phrase “sausage casing” came up often in interviews for this guide. But I like to think of it as a secret weapon (and a bit of a confidence booster) for smoothing out my curves, giving me some lift, and hiding possible panty lines, so I feel my best in whatever I’m wearing.

Plus, the industry has gone through big changes in the last five or so years: Much of today’s shapewear is meant to be comfortable enough to wear every day, and lots of brands have made their lines more inclusive, with fits for different body types and a range of skin-tone shades. There’s also a lot more competition in the market: Kim Kardashian–founded Skims is a formidable Spanx rival, and start-ups like Shapermint abound.

So to find the best shapewear, I put together a panel of experts — including underwear-store owners, plus-size bloggers, and Hollywood costume designers — and asked them about their favorites. Then I started trying their recommendations myself, wearing them under everything from jeans to figure-hugging frocks to judge their level of comfort and see how smoothing and supportive they really are. Or, if you’re shopping for more underthings, we have guides to the best underwear and lingerie as well.

What we’re looking for

Sizes

Getting the right size makes all the difference in shapewear — a piece that’s too big won’t do much smoothing, and one that’s too small will be squeezing. Whenever possible, I highlighted the brands offering a wide range of sizes. Some of the shapewear below starts at XS and goes as high as 8X, with a few pieces using band-and-cup bra sizing instead of lettered sizing.

Type

I included a mix of slips, shorts, thongs, tanks, and bodysuits, and made sure to mention features like whether a piece of shapewear comes with a built-in bra or is cut as a thong or a brief. The type you choose will determine its effect — whether that’s shaping your thighs, stomach, butt, or whole body.

Comfort and shaping level

Some shapewear is going to be a little bit uncomfortable, especially if it’s a full-coverage piece that compresses your entire torso — “you’ll likely not want to endure them for more than an evening,” says stylist Jessica Cadmus. But even if you’re willing to put up with some squeeze, “it should never be so tight that you feel like you’re suffocating underneath your clothes,” explains Shammara Lawrence, founder of the Power of Plus. However, there’s a lot of shapewear on the market now that feels stretchier and forgiving enough to wear day-to-day. To judge comfort, I ranked each recommendation below on a scale of 1 to 3 — with 1 being as comfortable as shapewear can get with more minimal shaping; 2 feeling tighter but bearable; and 3 being the tightest and least comfortable but most effective with the highest level of shaping. These numbers are based on my own testing and what those I talked to said.

Best shapewear overall

Sizes: XXS–4X | Type: Bodysuit with brief | Comfort and shaping level: 2

Listen, Kim Kardashian knows how to make — in the words of our sister site the Cut — “maddeningly good shapewear.” And while there are other well-established and much-recommended brands, it’s hard to beat Skims’ inclusive size range and relative affordability. The shapewear from Skims even comes in a nice range of “nudes,” with names like sand, ochre, cocoa, and espresso.

Skims uses its own support scale, which ranges from ultralight to extra-strong; this bodysuit is ranked “strong,” and the brand suggests sizing up for more comfort or ordering your usual size to get the most shaping. I’d personally suggest sizing up, as I’ve found the bodysuit runs small. With that said, don’t be too scared by how tiny it looks coming out of the box, because this thing really stretches (just know there will be some wiggling involved to get it on). The bodysuit contours my curves and sculpts my shape while still feeling comfortable. It highlights my butt instead of flattening it, with a cut that’s a little cheekier than the standard brief. (I don’t wear underwear with it, and again, sizing up helps keep it in place.) I have worn it for long nights out, and under a close-fitting jumpsuit, without issue, and I like that it’s not traditional-looking — nothing like the girdles my grandma owned. (“It looks as though you’re wearing a skin-colored leotard, not some torturous contraption,” adds former Strategist writer Chloe Anello.) For $70, you’re getting a really good piece of shapewear.

Best splurgeworthy shapewear

+Body by Julia Haart Powersuit
$107
$107

Sizes: XS–XXXL, A–F cups | Type: Bodysuit with a plunge and thong | Comfort snd shaping level: 2.5

The Powersuit from +Body by Julia Haart (an eponymous company created by the former creative director of La Perla) comes in at almost $200 — though it’s on sale right now for about half that. I think it’s worth the splurge for feeling more bespoke-fitting than my top-pick Skims bodysuit (the brand credits this feeling to a material called “Powerbond 2.0”). The +Body Powersuit is easier to put on and has a real structure that holds me in. It goes up to a size XXXL (though the top of the size range tends to sell out fairly quickly) with a choice of different cup sizes, from A to F.

I have to do some hoisting to get my breasts into the cups — but once they’re in place, they’re in place. I wear a D-cup and find that I get better overall breast support from the +Body because it has a built-in underwire, which the Skims bodysuit doesn’t have. Still, the Skims is more comfortable for everyday use, while the +Body gives me a much more contoured look to show off. It does what it promises, forming to my body and creating a smoothed-out silhouette. Its plunge neckline means it works better than the Skims under lower-cut tops, and it gets a special commendation because it’s meant to look good on its own, unlike much of the shapewear that makes up this list. “It actually made me feel good about myself. The majority of the other shapewear I tried felt and looked relatively unsexy — I would be embarrassed if anyone saw me in just the shapewear, which definitely impacts how you feel about yourself,” explains Anello, who tested an older version of the design.

Best shapewear bodysuit with a built-in bra

Sizes: 34B–40DD | Type: Bodysuit with a built-in underwire bra and brief | Comfort and shaping level: 1

If you want the lacy look of the +Body Powersuit but don’t want to spend three figures, this Bali number rings up at just $60 (or even less on Amazon, depending on your size) and comes recommended by celebrity stylist Ali Levine, who says it fulfills the “the four F’s: fit, form, fabric, and fashion.” She describes the bodysuit’s peekaboo lace as “very sexy as well as slimming and trimming for the body.” There’s also a bit of breathability with the lace, and the built-in underwire bra provides good support.

Best shapewear bodysuit with a built-in minimizer

Sizes: 34C–40DDD | Type: Bodysuit with built-in minimizer bra and brief | Comfort and shaping level: 1

Wacoal’s Visual Effects Bodysuit is one of the best bodysuits I’ve tried, hands down. If it came in a bigger size range — it’s only made for bra sizes 34C to a 40DDD — it might’ve even earned the “best overall” title. But I still think it deserves a spot on this list for people with larger breasts. The bodysuit features my minimizer bra of choice, the Wacoal Visual Effects, for a piece of shapewear that is lifting and lessening without making me feel like my breasts are uncomfortably smooshed. I don’t feel like I’m in some corset-tightening scene from Pride and Prejudice while putting it on. I know some shaping is happening, but I don’t really feel it — the bodysuit works with my whole figure rather than against it. It’s easy to shimmy out of the bodysuit too, with no red marks to report.

Best strapless shapewear bodysuit

Sizes: 32B–40C | Type: Bodysuit with underwire cups, back strays, and brief | Comfort and shaping level: 3

Levine recommends this strapless bodysuit from TC Fine Intimates as a “perfect foundation” that will smooth your stomach, waist, and back while suiting different necklines, as it’s cut in a sweetheart shape at the top. “I’ve used it for awards shows like the Emmys and Oscars,” she says. You select your size based on your bra size instead of what would best fit your torso, with the bodysuit available in sizes 32B to 40C. Because it’s labeled “extra firm” — with underwire cups and “stays” (see here) for back support — you’re probably going to feel that it’s tight at first. But Levine thinks the bodysuit is bearable for a formal event where you’d like to pull out all the stops. It also comes with a set of bra straps that you can attach for versatility, if you’re wearing it under a dress or top with more coverage and want additional support.

Best plunge shapewear bodysuit

Sizes: XS–XL | Type: Bodysuit with a plunge, low back, and mid-thigh shorts | Comfort and shaping level: 2

As Levine says, “We all think of Spanx when we hear ‘shapewear.’” The company first earned a following for its bodysuits, which were some of the only comfortable shapewear for the longest time. This version lets you show some skin, with deep plunges in both the front and the back that make it work well with low-cut necklines and backless dresses while still smoothing your waist and the small of your back.

I’d compare the feel of this bodysuit to an all-over sports bra — it’s pretty uniformly compressive. Be prepared to do some adjusting to get the right fit: Though it features padded cups, you can’t select your cup size. I had to play around with the straps and the position of the cups to make sure all the roundness of my breasts was reined in. I wear a 36D, and eventually, I got the top to feel supportive and secure so that I didn’t fear popping out from the top. But because it’s pretty plunging, I don’t think it would be as supportive for those with even bigger breasts. (And if that’s you, the bodysuit below might work better, since it lets you wear your own bra.)

Best open-bust shapewear bodysuit

Sizes: XS–3X | Type: Bodysuit with bust opening and shorts | Comfort and shaping level: 1.5

If you would rather wear your own bra, try an open-bust bodysuit. The OnCore from Spanx hides the outline of a bra well: It’s cut to curve around cups and comes up high on the sides of the bust and in the back, so there’s no hint of band or bulge from a hook-and-eye closure. It features the same torso and thigh sculpting as the Suit Your Fancy above, though this version feels lighter and more breathable despite being made from the same blend of stretchy nylon and elastane. The fabric just doesn’t feel as thick here. Because the bodysuit is more of a full-coverage style, running from under the bust to the middle of the thighs, “you might get a little tired of wearing it after a full day,” says stylist Grace Thomas, but she says the fabric feels very smooth and promises “it won’t be something you’ll want to remove the instant you put it on.” You can also get a panty version of the bodysuit, which stylist Alison Deyette says her clients tend to like better for getting a similar shaping effect with less material.

Best shaping slip

Sizes: XS–XL | Type: Slip | Comfort and shaping level: 1

Commando’s underwear is known for its true-to-the-name, gone-commando fit, and though I have only worn this slip once so far under a dress with a full skirt, I was impressed with how invisible it feels. The material is slinky microfiber on the outside and comfortable-on-the-skin cotton on the inside, hence the “two-faced” title. Cadmus says her clients appreciate the seamlessness of the slip, which is “basically undetectable to the eye” and about as comfortable as shapewear gets. Because the slip is only lightly lined and doesn’t have cups or an underwire, I felt like I needed to wear a bra with it, but you may feel differently depending on your cup size and the look you’re going for.

Best shaping shorts

Sizes: S–8X | Type: Shorts | Comfort and shaping level: 2

My pick for the best shaping shorts is this pair from Rago, because it’s available in more sizes than any of the shapewear on this list, from a size small to an 8X. Costume designer Alison Freer loves the brand’s whole line, going so far as to call its bodysuit “a testament to what proper garment construction can do for the female form.” She says these shorts are a standout because they’re high-waisted (“anything that cuts you off in the middle of your midriff won’t be able to do much real shaping”), with shaping panels and contour bands to hold you in. The shorts also feature “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 grippy, lace leg holes that don’t ride up or bind your thighs,” Freer adds. (Alternatively, if you’re in the market for shaping shorts that are compatible with thigh-high slits, Skims makes pairs to show off the right leg or the left leg, which stylist Samantha Brown describes as “ingenious.”)

Best (less expensive) shaping shorts

Sizes: S–3X | Type: Shorts | Comfort and shaping level: 1

The Spanx Power Short won’t cause visible panty lines, can be worn without underwear, and has a non-digging waistband, according to Sapna Palep, CEO of lingerie retailer Journelle. (She also stands behind the brand’s higher-waisted Higher Power Short that costs $2 more.) Palep likes that when she wears the shorts, they don’t feel like a heavy extra layer — they are bearable and breathable throughout the day. They “smooth out your form without changing who you are,” she says. (Another pair of shorts I heard about comes from Spanx’s diffusion collection called Assets. Stylist Ansley Morgan considers them an essential to stop her thighs from rubbing against each other.)

Sizes: S–XXXXL | Type: Shorts | Comfort and shaping level: 1

Or you could try these lighter and thinner shorts (which were featured in our guide to preventing thigh chafing) from start-up undergarment-maker Knix. Former Strategist senior writer Karen Iorio Adelson and Kara McGrath, deputy digital director at Allure, are devotees. “They’re really lightweight, so you don’t get sweaty,” Adelson says. McGrath compares them to wearing nothing, recommending them to anyone she can — “and everyone who’s bought them tells me they’re a game changer.” And Strategist writer Dominique Pariso goes for the High Rise Shaper Shorts, which are similar to the Thigh Saver but with a super-high cut that starts right under her bra. There are “no noticeable stomach lines,” and they are comfortable enough that she forgets she has them on.

Best shaping briefs

Sizes: XS–XL | Type: Brief | Comfort and shaping level: 1

Undies branded as “shaping” sometimes make unwanted lines with lots of seams and panels. But stylist Erica Ball describes this pair as “relatively seamless,” even with its brief cut. They have not-so-noticeable panels throughout that “help draw everything in,” explains Ball. Made from a soft microfiber fabric, they are so comfortable that she can wear them without complaint for an entire day: “This is an easy shapewear item that gives me drastic results with little effort.” (There’s also a thong version that she has similar praise for.)

Best (less expensive) shaping briefs

Sizes: 28–46 | Type: Brief | Comfort and shaping level: 1

These Ragos are made from a breezier mesh-and-lace combo and go up to a size 46 (equivalent to an 8X on the brand’s sizing chart). Though they’re more of a granny panty than the Commandos above, they cost half as much and will still smooth your stomach. Freer likes that these are cut higher on the thighs, making them a lot more comfortable. “The only seam on this panty is cleverly hidden between the cheeks, making it invisible under clothes,” she says.

Best shapewear thong

From $53

Sizes: S–XL | Type: Thong | Comfort and shaping level: 1

A shaping thong might seem like an oxymoron, but Dina Scherer, owner of Modnitsa Styling, says this lacy, high-waisted one from Cosabella will dispel “the misconception that shapewear can’t be sexy and feel great on you while doing its job.” She promises that its front panels smooth you out even with the thong’s more minimal coverage in the back. But if you’re looking for something more heavy-duty, there are different thong-style pieces from Spanx that come highly recommended too.

Best shapewear tank

Sizes: XS–3X | Type: Tank with scoop neck | Comfort and shaping level: 1

Yummie is perhaps best known for its tanks, which are what Levine usually has clients wear for red-carpet and press events. “I like how soft yet fitted they are,” she says. This one features two inner panels that can be moved to the front or the back of the tank to smooth out what you want. (You can also change the neckline from a scoopneck to a V-neck by reversing the tank.) Levine especially loves it for underneath sheath dresses and blouses. Brown is also a fan and says it works just as well under clingy sweaters. She adds that the tank could even be worn on its own “with a nice pair of trousers.” And though it may be counterintuitive to how you put on normal tops, when wearing any shaping tank, remember: Step into the garment and shimmy it up.

Best shapewear cami

Sizes: S–4XL |Type: Cami with scoop neck | Comfort level: 1.5

Shapermint is a newer shapewear brand that has become well known for its camisoles. I like that I can actually go braless in this one —it’s like wearing a great bralette. It really feels like I’m sucked into it, which is why I’m ranking it as in between a 1 and a 2 on the comfort-and-shaping scale. And while I wouldn’t wear the cami underneath something overly formfitting, it’s great for a dress with draping, as it’ll lie flat against the body when you want to feel a little more secure. Though I’ve shunned shaping tops in the past because they often roll up at the waist, this one stayed put through sitting and standing. I wasn’t tugging at the neckline or pulling it down. You should double-check your measurements before you buy, as the cami runs small, and the brand recommends sizing up if you’re between sizes.

Some more shapewear we’ve written about

Our experts

Karen Iorio Adelson, former Strategist senior writer
Erica Ball, stylist
Samantha Brown, stylist
Jessica Cadmus, stylist
Alison Deyette, stylist
Alison Freer, Strategist contributor and stylist
Shammara Lawrence, a freelance fashion writer and founder of the Power of Plus
Ali Levine, celebrity stylist
• Kara McGrath, deputy digital director at Allure
Ansley Morgan, stylist
• Sapna Palep, CEO of lingerie retailer Journelle
Dominique Pariso, Strategist writer
• Dina Scherer, owner of Modnitsa Styling
Dena Silver, fashion editor
Grace Thomas, stylist

Additional reporting by Chloe Anello, Lori Keong, Lauren Levy, and Dominique Pariso

The Very Best Shapewear