On a sticky day in June, I sat breastfeeding my newborn on one side of my body and jotting iPhone notes with the other, free hand. “Straps that are easy to pull down,” I wrote. “Low neck — but not so low that your boobs fall out.” “A little clingy but not constricting.” Etcetera. No, these were not observations about some new maternitywear I was trying out for the Strategist — they were simply a list of qualities I sought in an everyday tank top.
I know such shirts exist because I actually found one once. Three years ago, after the birth of my first son, I discovered a bra tank from Spanx that was not only ideal for nursing — it had a flexible material and scooped neckline that allowed for instant wailing-baby access — but also comfortable for wearing around the house and acceptable for going to Whole Foods. Plus, it smoothed out my postpartum midsection and made my body feel like it was all of one piece, rather than a disparate mass of kinetic sand. But by the time child No. 2 came along, the top had been discontinued.
In vain, I shopped high and low for an approximation, going so far as to foolishly waste my time giving another shot to those nursing-specific garments whose clip-down straps always come unclipped at the wrong moment. In the process I did, in fact, unearth (and buy) a couple of the bygone Spanxes at Poshmark, but when they arrived, even they felt disappointing, because the fit didn’t quite live up to my memory. I wanted to do better.
Months passed. I eventually returned to work without a single maternity-leave purchase worth speaking of. I had given up my search altogether when news of Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl shapewear appeared in my feed. But something about the brand’s Shaping Camis renewed my hope; their neckline seemed to have just the right depth. Even though they do not include a built-in bra — and I have never ever (not even in seventh grade) been someone with a figure (or a temperament) that lends itself to bralessness — the cleanness of the lines and the adjustable straps compelled me to go ahead and place an order.
That was in October, and I have since bought two more two-packs of the camisole because I don’t want to go another laundry day in my life without wearing one. (I felt somewhat justified because a comparable Spanx number runs much pricier, at two for $58.) Mercifully, the garment’s spandex-nylon blend holds me in without choking me out. But the real revelation is this: It lifts up my breasts even without the built-in bra. I don’t know how it’s possible for a swath of fabric to do this. I sent an email inquiring about the technology at play here, and Frankel herself wrote back to say, “The fabrication is smoothing in a manageable nonaggressive way,” and “the intention is that it’s shapewear you want people to see.” While this doesn’t really explain anything, it also explains everything.
What’s more, the camisole is genuinely reversible — another feature I was skeptical about — with a scoop neck on one side and a subtle V-neck on the other. You’d think this is gilding the lily, or a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none situation. But I’ll be damned: When you’re wearing the same top every day, whether under a cardigan or on its own in the scarily summery weather we had earlier this fall, it’s actually quite nice to be able to (slightly) switch things up. And both styles are equally amenable to breastfeeding.
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