Monday, October 4, 2010
The History of Shapewear
For as long as "fashion" has been in existence, women (and even men at various times) have relied on undergarments like corsets, waist cinchers, girdles, briefers, and pettipants to help transform, slim, and shapen their figures.
Until the early 1920s, corsets made of whale bone and steel were commonplace in haute couture. Fabrics used ranged from canvas, brocade, silk, and summer-weight cotton blends. From the late 1800s to the early 20th century, the "wasp-waisted" corsetry was in vogue:
From the 20s/30s to the 60s, full girdles with open bottoms were wardrobe staples for most women. Ladies also wore pettipants, body briefers with snap crotches, and girdle panties for shape control. Most shapewear made during this time came with garters attached for nylon stockings. In the 1960s, the invention of pantyhose slowly replaced stockings and thus, girdles.
By the 1980s, most shapewear looked like flesh-colored bathing suits with no places to attach stockings. Name brands like Olga, Playtex, L'eggs, Underalls, and No Nonsense offered ease of wear and convenience.
In the 1990s, Victoria's Secret and Wonderbra continued the evolution of modern lingerie/shapewear. Both companies strived to give women cleavage with bras that boasted "cleverly angled" padding with inserts made from foam and even silicone. Nancy Ganz "Body Slimmers" introduced lyrca-infused undergarments that promised shaping and control:
As the 21st century dawned, Spanx became the must-have for both the office professional and the Hollywood A-lister. Spanx makes shaping hosiery, leggings, panties, camisoles, bras, and even shapewear clothing.
Spanx's creator, Sara Blakely, has taken the undergarment world by storm and as a result, is a millionaire. I wish I would have created Spanx! I could be living in Maui and drinking Mai Tais every day! Wouldn't that be nice?
Even though I love my vintage girdles and pettipants, I have to admit that I am a 'true believer' when it comes to Spanx. Even though I lost 33 pounds almost 5 years ago, I still rely on my Spanx Power Panties to improve my shape, especially on days I am wearing a pencil skirt or pants. I was skeptical when I first heard about Spanx 7 years ago but after I shimmied and wiggled into a nude-pair of butt, tummy, and thigh-reducing panties that resembled bike shorts, I am telling you, I felt transformed. Gone were the 'saddle bags' and 'muffin top!' I wanted to strut down the street like Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever!"
So, in an era of Spanx and silicone 'cutlet' bra inserts, what is a vintage-loving gal to do? Do we wear vintage but forgo the bullet bra, ditch the nylons, and avoid the girdle?
I, for one, wear bullet bras. I do not like underwire after switching to the bullet bra. Not only it is more comfortable, I feel like my breasts look better. Ever notice that the wire bras seem to make our breasts sag prematurely? The wire pushes/digs into our breast tissue. I am convinced this is part of the reason.
I also wear a full, open-bottom girdle most days of the week, especially during the fall when stockings are more comfortable during cooler temperatures. In the summer months, I prefer panty girdles. I can remove the garters and thus, I can smooth my figure without having to wear nylons.
Speaking of nylon stockings, I love them, especially the ones with back seams! I refuse to wear pantyhose. I do not like the way they feel or look. Whenever I see them, all I can think about are those goofy Underall and L'eggs commercials of the 1980s! Even the hose color names were bad; "Suntan," "Smoke black," and "Barely Sand!"
In my opinion, I think wearing vintage (even vintage repro) shapewear and nylons makes my vintage wardrobe look better. This is especially the case when I am wearing a 50s button-down dress with a cinched, belted waist and a full skirt. Since I only wear nylons, having a girdle (full or panty) with garters is a must.
Shapewear also gives me more confidence. I feel womanly and ladylike. There are days I want to put on a pair of rolled jeans and saddle shoes instead of wiggling into a girdle. There are even days all I want to do is 'bum out' in my "Morrissey" tee and pink pajama pants. Yet, when it comes to wearing vintage daily, for me, shapewear is a must-have.
So, girls, what is your take on shapewear? Do you wear it? Like it? Not like it?