I’ve been promising a post on Spanx for a while. Spanx are a mysterious garment, of the type often referred to as “foundation” or “shapewear”. This is confusing, because there is also a makeup called foundation. It seems as though women can be very strongly, er, founded in parts that folks aren’t even supposed to see.
My earliest interactions with “foundational” garmets had to do with Control Top Pantyhose – the kind you ordered from the Hanes catalog that came in little plastic eggs. Their purpse, as far as I could make out, was to bisect the wearer. Perhaps this was to facilitate the old “saw the woman in half” magic trick. Or maybe it was part of a grand conspiracy to keep women down by making them so uncomfortable when formally dressed that women would decide to leave the board room just so they could wear some jeans already.
After a very brief flirtation with Control Top, I vowed my top would never be controlled again.
When Spanx came around, I assumed they were Control Top, but worse. They were like Control Middle. Or Control All. It didn’t even occur to me to buy them – and the cover pictures of women non-chalantly standing around in peachy-tube-like-materials on the cover did nothing to convince me I was wrong. I would stay in technology – in jeans! – and avoid the Patriarchal Plot.
Then I was given a really, really cool opportunity to interview for a job that would be a big promotion and would involve me and my family moving to Germany. There are not that many opportunities you have like this. And Germans? They’re formal. A suit was an absolute requirement. A new suit. A nice new suit. So I went to the rarified air of the Burlington Mall, credit card in hand, and checked out the offerings at Macy’s, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and Ann Taylor.
At that final place, I found A Great Suit.It’s cream colored, with some non-traditional tailoring elements. It fit beautifully. It said, “I can comply with German cultural expectations while still bringing my uniquely American flair to hit the right balance of fitting in and shaking up.” It had to be mine. I turned around to exame the posterior view when – to my horror – two vast lines were therein outlined – inverse parenthesis around my derrier.
The saleslady came in. I pointed out my posterior problem. “Of course” she said. “You’ll have to wear Spanx with that in order for it to look right.” Before the sun set, I had in my possession one cream suit, one silk blouse, a pair of extremely stylish (and woefully uncomfortable) high heeded pumps, and a package containing Spanx.
That night, I went over to my neighbor’s house and shared my opportunity and my excitement and my new purchase. My girlfriends insisted that they MUST SEE this amazing suit of mine, so I went into the bathroom to put it all together. But when I came out! Alack! The posterior parenthesis persisted!
“I thought that Spanx were supposed to get rid of panty lines?!” I complained.
“Um…. you’re supposed to wear them instead of underwear, not over them.”
“What about the pantyhose? Do they go on top or below?”
“If you need to wear hose, you buy the Spanx that include them, not the ones that are just the tops, but NO ONE wears pantyhose anymore. Even my grandmother doesn’t wear them anymore.”
And this, my friends, is why we all need girlfriends who are more sylish than we are: so we don’t show up a imporant interviews wearing three foundation layers when we should be wearing one.
That opportunity didn’t work out. I didn’t get to fly to Germany to interview. But I did now know when, why and how to wear Spanx, and I’ll happily share this treasured information with you, in case your girlfriends aren’t around next time you need to get ready for a big interview.
WHEN: You should wear a foundational undergarment with any outfit where you wear a tight, clingy fabric on your lower range. You can wear them with skirts, dresses (especially the knit dresses I like so much) or even clingy trousers.
WHY: Spanx do three things: they eliminate the dreaded pantyline, they even out your belly and thighs so what might end up looking like a bulge gets averaged out, and depending on the cut you buy, they can also prevent that annoying bit where your thighs stick together. Despite my early experiences with Control Top, I find Spanx actually quite comfortable to wear: no threat of bisection!
HOW: Wear Spanx instead of underwear. If you are the kind of person who still wears pantyhose – buy the version of Spanx that has them built in. If you sometimes wear shorter skirts, invest in one pair that doesn’t go down the leg, and one that does (for longer dresses).
While I have referred to the original brand name (partially because I find the word “Spanx” inherently amusing), there are bunches of great brands of shapewear – many of which are less expensive. Target, for example, carries a brand called Assets which is literally half the price. Dress Barn carries them up to 3X with great ratings for comfort.
Many dress makers now assume you’ll be wearing these, and design accordingly.
So…. quesions? Comments? Other incredibly obvious things I don’t know, and ought to before I make more stupid shapewear mistakes?