Rachel Holmes' hilarious article in The Guardian about her experiments with the euphemistically-titled "shapewear" for the holiday season reminded me — with pictures — of a time that rarely saw me without such garments.
Unlike Holmes, my mother's insistence that a lady wore stockings (and a broadening ass) led me to mega-control-top pantyhose. They were my gateway shaping drug and from there it was easy to slide into (or wriggle, cursing, into) the leg-less shaper garments woven of the same stocking-nylon, and from there into two larger shaping garments sold in a department store. It was another way to fool myself that I didn't have to buy new clothes to fit my expanding body, I could buy a couple of pairs of quasi-underwear and everything would be fine!
Yeah, I finally got off my ass and changed my diet and exercised and lost weight, and got rid of most of that crap last year, with the exception of a couple of only minor-shaping stocking things that I wear only when a thong would show (think: satin cocktail dress).
Recently, though, like Holmes, I had a new dress that I had to get into — I mean, it fit, but it was satin, and there was little room for error (some of my minor errors have been creeping back up on me the last couple of months). The problem was that, like many women, much of the night would be spent sitting. Holmes identifies two problems with this:
Watch out for the ones with waistbands that start at your ribcage - they will gradually roll down to your waist. Before you know it, you've got your very own Fern Britton gastric band. Your bottom half will slowly start bloating à la Violet Beauregarde, the gum-chewing human blueberry from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except - and this is a key point - you're so tightly wrapped that there's nowhere for the gas to go.
This is, after all, the problem with the legless-stocking variety — the more it sucks in what it needs to suck in, the more likely it is to create a new bulge, or roll down in a fail of the epic variety. So, like Holmes, on the hunt I went.
What Holmes fails to describe is the humiliation of trying to squeeze yourself into one of these garments — there's pulling and then yanking, re-adjusting, more pulling. If I hadn't been trying them on in a store I would have been tempted to coat myself in baby powder first. Nonetheless, once you get one on, dress or no dress, you've got to contemplate yourself in a bodystocking in a mirror.
Eliminating bulges is control pants' raison d'être. This, then, is probably the most important question of the lot. First up is the worst offender: the Trinny and Susannah thong. My boyfriend's reaction sums up these exceptionally ugly pants nicely: "What have you done to your bottom? It looks like a shelf. Can I put my cup of tea on it?" Not exactly the desired response.
The Spanx and M&S pants go right up to your chest and a little way down your legs, so you're seamless and bulge-free along your entire mid-section (sort of like a sausage).
This was also my experience, as I can only imagine what would possess someone to try on a sucky-inny thong.
In the end, like Holmes, I came down on the side of Spanx — despite the fact that one pair cost nearly what my dress did — but, I'll admit, this purple jobbie from Gok Wan's lingerie line would have held some fascination for me, too. Like Bridget Jones before us, though, there is one pitfall to wearing these out with the kind of dress that might get you laid.
It's more than possible that you could find yourself in a bedroom scene while wearing control pants. I tested how quickly the different versions could be whipped off in the dark, with 'hilarious' results (if you find severe bruising funny). Pitfalls include the tangling of control pant and tights, resulting in futile tugging, hopping, and eventual collapse.
So, I guess there's a benefit to getting comfortable with your bulges after all — or at least not buying satin dresses when you think you need them.
Control Freak [The Guardian]