• Sophie Stekel

Not Your Mama’s Spanx: The Shapewear Trend

Sound the trumpets because hip-hugging, breast-raising, stomach-flattening shapewear is on-trend once again.


Shapewear, which includes corsets, girdles and bustiers, was designed to temporarily alter and accentuate parts of the body by sucking in excess fat to reveal busty breasts, a narrow waist and protruding hips. Corsets also forced the wearer into having ramrod straight posture that affected the way they moved. Slouching? Forget about it, because it was physically impossible.


Shapewear has continuously gone in and out of style throughout history. The corset, which was first spotted in Spain and Italy in the 16th century, has remained an essential part of women’s dress for centuries. Picture everyone from Marie Antoinette to Eliza Doolittle (from My Fair Lady, not the British pop star) in a tight-laced corset made of whalebone.


When the 1920s rolled around, the flat boyish figure became the style and corsets were thrown out the window. We have Jean Paul Gautier to thank for its contemporary revival, as he brought back boned corsets for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour in the 1980s.

Corsets, which were once used as undergarments are now being worn on top of clothing or worn on their own as the outfit’s main attraction.


Tibi’s Amy Smilovic admits that she enjoys working with shapewear. She told Elle Canada that she loves “taking something with the rigid history of a corset, something that was hidden, and bringing it to the forefront.”


The most talked about items from Tibi’s spring 2018 ready to wear collection were the translucent PVC snap waist trainers that Smilovic strategically styled over a pale grey checkered blazer or float dress to add hips to what was previously a shapeless silhouette.

Along with Tibi, Mugler, Jonathan Simkhai, Marni, and Dolce & Gabbana took the vintage look and made it modern in their recent collections.

From left: Tibi, Dolce & Gabbana, Mugler (source: vogue.com)

As Smilovic stated, “the fundamental shift in attitude now is that if you want to shape your body, you can. If you don’t, then don’t.”


Fashion today has embraced flaunting the body in all of its parts instead of hiding it behind bulky layers. The corset, despite its restrictive nature, was historically known for doing that. Corsets were considered to be an extremely erotic piece of clothing back in the day as they sculpted the body and accentuated all the right curves that made tight-wearing men go wild.


Therefore, it is no wonder Kim Kardashian is a frequent wearer of the shapewear trend. Kim is notorious for loving her curvy body and has never been one to shy away from showing it off. Rumour has is that she is secretly working on a lingerie and shapewear collection of her own.

From left: Emily Ratajkowski, Kim Kardashian and Bella Hadid in shapewear (source: vogue.com)

Corsets used to be laced up so tightly that one might wonder how the individual could possibly be getting enough oxygen. Designers today recognize that corsets should probably not be pulled so taut as to make one’s eyeballs pop out and rearrange their internal organs. Therefore, corsets are now made softer, stretchier and far less rigid than they were when they trended in the past.


Stores like Forever21, Aritzia and American Eagle offer a plethora of shapewear options like waist-training belts, bustiers and shaping shorts. I myself own a black corseted top from ZARA and wear it often because it does wonders for my waist.


Stylists recommend wearing shapewear pieces underneath see-through dresses, overtop mens button down shirts or even on their own with a pair of baggy trousers.


Although shapewear is often thought of as outdated items of dress, women still strive to mould their bodies into the ‘ideal’ figure and shapewear offers them the opportunity to do so. And while shapewear is still a term that is largely associated with moms who want to hide the pooch, it has unraveled into a high fashion trend that is ever-present on today’s streets and runways.


If Kim K has anything to say about it, shapewear will not be going out of style anytime soon.