During my first summer in New York, I walked out of the Times Square subway station and my bright-red dress blew up and exposed my underwear. A woman gasped from across the street. A man whistled off-key. I screamed and shuffled the rest of the way to my summer internship with my hands pinned to my sides, my cheeks the same color as my clothing. “And that’s why you always wear shorts underneath your dress,” said the Arrested Development–style narrator in my head. I learned my lesson, and from that day forward, I’ve never worn a dress without Flexees shorts underneath them between May and September.
It took me years to find Flexees by Maidenform’s Light Control Shorty Shapewear (they’re $8 on Walmart, and come in sizes S through XXL). It’s a long name, but its specificity matters: the boy shorts and “thigh slimmers” from the same brand were too short and too long, respectively. I am five-one with a long torso and short legs, so these hit mid-thigh and rest around my natural waist. They work best for just-above-knee-length dresses and longer if you don’t want them to show, but they could also come in handy if you want to wear a miniskirt to work without being an HR violation.
Even though they’re labeled as shapewear, they don’t have the same intense pressure as, say, Spanx. Wearing them is like a gentle hug, not the strangling, sausage-casing feeling that I associate with shapewear. The completely seamless shorts feel like a light compression sock on a plane, or what I imagine it’s like when my puppy, Marshall, wears a ThunderShirt to calm his anxiety. They make sure everything stays in place in my torso area and that my thighs don’t rub together. Good-bye forever, chub rub.
When I say seamless, I mean it. The only seams on the whole thing are the cotton crotch patch — there’s really not a more eloquent way to say that — and the waistband. The material is smooth, thin, and mostly made of nylon and elastic, so it stretches a lot to put them on, but stays put once you get the in place. The material forms to your body and moves with you, and I tested its limits when dancing for four hours at a wedding. Even during big kicks during “Footloose,” they stayed put without riding up, and as I left the reception to a huge gust of Buffalo, New York, wind, I didn’t even bother holding my dress down. My Flexees made sure I didn’t flash anyone on the way out.
Writer Alison Freer finds that these Undersummers are a great Spanx alternative. “Where Spanx aims to banish bumps with the fabric equivalent of a steel vise, Undersummers gently work with your body’s shape. They’re like a turned-up version of granny panties–slash–boy shorts (note the high tummy) that slim, rather than choke, in all the right places.”
Danny Koch, fourth-generation owner of the Town Shop on the Upper West Side, told us that they’ve sold thousands of these Simone Perele “skirt shapers.” He notes: “These make your butt look really good, too.”
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