A Beginner’s Guide To Choosing Shapewear

Hi there, don’t be shy, come on in and make yourself comfy. I know that choosing shapewear can be a little bit intimidating, a little bit embarrassing and it’s probably not the nicest thing you need to buy this week. However, let me reassure you that if you choose the right stuff, it will TRANSFORM your outfit.

Don’t talk daft I hear you say. No really. If you buy the right stuff, shapewear can make you look so much better in your clothes. No, you won’t go from a size 16 to a size 8, that clearly is unrealistic. What shapewear will do is SMOOTH things out and stop your clothes from being too tight and clingy in those horrid places. It will make your waistband fit more comfortably, it will make your bum less wobbly and it will make you feel a lot more confident in what you are wearing.

Where do I start?

Okay, I’m going to be all teachery about this and give you a load of numbered bullet points to think about. I did draw out a flow chart but it got far too complicated. I might try another one soon…

1. Do you need to be able to eat, drink and breathe and wear the shapewear for a long period of time? If you do, then please avoid anything that is SUPER STRONG and BONED. This stuff is amazing, believe you me, but it is hard to do anything but look nice in it. If you have answered yes to the first question then you need to go for anything extra firm and below. See, we have already eliminated a whole pile of shapewear from your search!

2. Is your outfit low backed? By low backed, I mean does the back stop below your bra. If it IS low backed then you are going to be fairly limited in the shapewear you can wear. The last thing you want is for your shapewear to show above your dress or top line, so you need to choose shapewear that is either low waisted or even low slung.

3. Is your usual dress size over a UK size 20? The bizarre thing about the shapewear world is that most brands and styles come in sizes UNDER a UK dress size 20. However, there are certain brands that do some superb shapewear that has been specifically designed for plus sizes / fuller figures, basically anyone over a size 20.

4. Is your usual dress size under a UK size 10? If you are really petite but are still wanting some shapewear you are quite limited in what will fit you. Not many brands do teeny tiny sizes. Presumably because you are teeny and tiny and your need for shapewear isn’t that great! However, if you are wanting a bit of help, especially with your tummy (as most of us do), then these are the styles you will need to try.

5. Can you wear shoulder straps with your outfit? If your dress or top is strapless or strappy, you will need to avoid any shapewear that has shoulder straps. If your dress or top has sleeves though, there is a wonderful range of shapewear that is held up with straps.

6. Have you got big boobs? Sorry to be all personal, but if you are looking for a full bodysuit but you have big boobs compared to your dress size, then you need to avoid anything with a cup. Most brands now do shapewear suits with a scooped out section at the front. You wear the bodysuits on top of your own bra. This gives a far better fit than a generic size 16 cup IYSWIM.

7. Does your bum tend to show VPL even in big M&S pants? If so I do recommend that you avoid panties / knickers / briefs, what ever you call them. Shapewear needs to fit tightly in order to work. So it will fit tightly across your bum. Yes, lots of brands make the fabric all smooth and tapered, but VPL happens on the nicest of bottoms, including my own. If this is you, go for shorts.

8. How unforgiving is the fabric of your outfit? If you are wearing super sleek silk without a lining, the chances are that any seam, no matter how flat sewn will show through. Sadly this rules out the majority of extra firm shapewear for you. There is lots of lovely FIRM control shapewear WITHOUT seams that will look a lot better under your slinky dress.

9. Do you need an escape hatch? Also known as an opening gusset (hate that word, I’m in the wrong industry!). Not all shapewear comes with an easy option to wee. Pretty much no low waisted shapewear is made with an opening gusset, and that includes thongs, briefs, knickers and panties. Lots of bodysuits and high waisted shorts come with an opening gusset, but not all of it does. So if you are wearing something that would be tricky to wiggle out of, choose your shapewear wisely!

10. What part of your body is bothering you the most? Most women I’ve chatted to about shapewear (which is a lot!) are most bothered about slimming their tummies and waists. Good news! The majority of high waisted shapewear, waist cinchers and body suits will cover that area nicely. However, if you are wanting coverage or shape elsewhere, there are specific garments that target different areas. For example, if you are wanting to wear a really tight jumper or top but you get bra lines or back boobs, a thing called a torsette will work wonders. It will cover high up over your back creating and much smooth back area. If you are wanting some shape on your bottom, there are some brilliant pieces of shapewear that boost your bum – either by creating more volume, or acting like a push up bra and shaping and lifting it.

11. Doesn’t all high waisted shapewear just roll down? I’ll be honest with you, yes, a lot of it does. Especially if you wear it lots and the top becomes a bit loose. Or if you have chosen a size too small and the band is stretched too tight. You can either try tucking it under your bra for some stability, or you can buy some little straps that attach it easily to your bra.

12. Isn’t all shapewear uncomfortable? Again, I’m being honest with you, anything beyond FIRM control will be quite obvious in terms of you feeling a bit trussed up. If you want shapewear that makes a difference to your size, it won’t be the most comfortable of things to wear. The strongest shapewear are the waist cinchers which are boned and made from strong stuff. These can be tricky to wear, especially if you are not used to them. You won’t be able to eat a full portion of fish and chips from the takeaway while sitting in front of the telly whilst wearing one. FIRM control shapewear and below (medium or light) is actually pretty nice and easy to wear. It is easy to get on and off and you won’t feel too hot and bothered in it.

Finally, we need to talk about what SIZE shapewear to choose. It is oh so tempting to buy shapewear in a size smaller (or even more!) than you normally take. Please for the love of all things stretchy do not do this. Shapewear is sized according to the dress size or measurements you are RIGHT NOW. So choose your shapewear in the size that you currently take. If you are in between sizes, it can be tricky to get the fit right. Some brands tell you to go up a size but sometimes it is best to go down a size. Make sure you buy from a company that will accept exchanges and returns so you are not left with a drawer full of stuff that doesn’t fit!

Are you any clearer about what shapewear you are wanting to go for? If you are still confused, drop me a message with as many details as possible. Please include your usual UK dress size, waist measurement and anything relevant about a specific outfit. I will get back to you with some recommendations.

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