There’s an often-overlooked, but vitally important part of women’s clothing: the parts that go underneath. This subject is more complicated than you might think at first glance, and has changed radically in the last few generations. Women may spend a lot of time thinking about what to wear for any given occasion, but we should be spending nearly as much time contemplating what to wear under our clothes.
Women’s underpinnings shifted from corsets in the late 1800s to early 1900s to much less structured or even not present by the 1960s. They’re now coming full circle with the epiphany of shapewear that helps create the perfect silhouette without surgery or obsessive dieting.
This is not all vanity, but rather an acknowledgement that dressing properly starts at the first layer. Slips and stockings aren’t just something for older ladies. Instead younger women are discovering the sexiness and appeal of being fully put together, and trying to learn how to match lingerie and outfits. If this is new and mysterious territory for you, never fear. There’s a learning curve, but the results are worth it.
Not ‘Good Enough to Just Push the Fat Around’
Between the era of the corset and the modern enthusiasm over shapewear, ideas on women’s bodies and their clothing shifted significantly. “Clothing was showing more of the body, so it wasn’t good enough to just push the fat around,” said Valerie Steele, the author of “The Corset: A Cultural History” and the director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “The other reason was the thought that you shouldn’t have to rely on it, you were supposed to be healthy and in good shape already.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to look good in my clothes and feel good about myself, even when not at my best. Fat or fit, women are beautiful, and nurturing our sense of that is never a bad thing.
Spanx launched in 2000, and actually made garments for real women. Previous to their launch, the women’s hosiery industry used the same-sized waistband for all products, something that doesn’t make sense when looking at the vast sizing differences women need. Spanx opened the door for a new generation to explore undergarments beyond the basics.
The New York Times discussed these shifting ideals: “For over 50 years, women in America have largely cast off such constrictive undergarments, which feminists criticized as symbols of repression. The nylon and Lycra underwear brand Spanx has been credited with reintroducing, and reacclimating, women to the concept of extra help for figure problems, but it may have also opened the door to a new generation of young women embracing the faja [girdle], which is far closer to the real thing — in all its organ-shifting, curve-exaggerating strength.”
Here Are a Few Places to Start
So, where to begin discovering what great underwear can do for you? Look at what you wear and what your life requires of you. Are you a professional, and need to wear business casual? Do you wear dresses to church or elsewhere? Think about your wardrobe and figure before running out to splash out on expensive lingerie (of course, unless that’s your thing).
Once you have a grasp on your lifestyle, think about your figure goals. Are you looking for some shaping and smoothing? You should look at a bodysuit to provide support and flatter your curves. If it’s just your stomach that you’d like to nip in, try this.
Dresses can blow up, be too short unexpectedly when you bend, cling from static, and if you have children they can pull your skirt up. Slips solve any see-through problems, and the aforementioned Spanx not only do some nice smoothing but can prevent a wardrobe malfunction. Slips come either in shaping or not-shaping. I prefer full slips, not half, because they won’t ever slide down and slip off. Cosmo has an article on avoiding dreaded VPLs (visible panty lines), and they include Spanx as a solution.
Bras are a far broader category because they cover so many needs and situations. So many women (estimates say more than 80 percent) wear the wrong bra size. Not only is this not ideal for comfort, you may also have a cup that runneth over, if you follow me. Get a fitting from a professional (free at most lingerie stories), or read one of the many detailed guides online on measuring yourself.
Did you know there are bras designed to go under your favorite T-shirt and not show? If you need more support, you want an underwire bra. If you have a special strapless dress, you’d benefit from a bandeau. Bras are made to support in special situations like nursing, for wear during sports, and under tank tops.
Dress from the skin out. You’ll look better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll avoid embarrassing mishaps. Seize what makes femininity so unique and special, and love those curves. Our bodies are distinct, and no need to pretend they’re not. Wearing such light clothing that you can’t realistically wear any undies, let alone feminine and helpful ones, isn’t enlightened or going to do away with gender differences. All it does it give a free view to people who don’t deserve it. Embrace womanhood. Embrace shapewear.