Style + Beauty

Making Shape Wear Work for You

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 (Associated Press)

What’s the secret behind Sofia Vergara’s curves? Shape wear.

The 40-year-old actress, who recently admitted to wearing foundation garments under her skin-tight couture for events to “smooth everything out,” is launching a line of shapers with Kmart in June. And the Colombian bombshell isn’t alone. Adele and Katy Perry are just a few of the many celebrities who’ve been open with their love for foundation garments, like the popular brand Spanx, to hide pesky pounds for highly-photographed red carpet moments.

While this slimming secret isn’t new, style experts believe that while the summer season calls for less clothing that can hide unwanted bumps, the right shape wear can deliver a boost of confidence.

“Shape wear provides the perfect canvas underneath clothing to keep them from clinging,” explains style expert and “The Bra Book” author Jene Luciani. “In some cases it can even make you look a size smaller without diet or exercise. Some shape wear is really meant for cinching, much like a girdle, and then some of it simply smoothes, much like control top pantyhose.”

Luciani also says that the idea of shape wear being made for heavier women is a myth, and that anyone, regardless of their size, can benefit from wearing the right figure-hugging lingerie.

From tightly-sewn fabrics to extra-wide elastics, Marianne Gimble, co-founder of lingerie brand Va Bien, says there are a plenty of designs and brands available to help hide any imperfections for a special night out.

“In today’s market there is shape wear for everyone,” says Gimble. “It ranges from ‘light control’ pieces, which are typically seamlessly knit like hosiery, to ‘firm control’ pieces constructed of powerful fabrics that are cut and sewn together. It’s important for shoppers to first identify how much control they’re looking for. That is, do they want to be sucked in with firm control or just smoothed with light control? Cut and sewn shape wear does a great job at targeting trouble areas, as the seams ‘catches' bulges accurately and shifts them to more desirable places.”

But does flattering your figure with too-tight undergarments come at a price? Some say yes.

Cora Harrington, founder and chief editor of The Lingerie Addict, is familiar with the downsides of shape wear.

“As someone who’s worn both vintage-style girdles and modern-day shape wear, I don’t think today’s designs are any easier than yesteryears,” she says. “We do have better fabrics and materials today, and knit shape wear tends to be more flexible than the cut-and-sewn kind, but shape wear is shape wear. It’s meant to mold your body in a particular way.”

Dan Koch, owner of New York City-based lingerie store The Town Shop, which claims shape wear as one of its most popular products, insists women should first be familiar with their size and understand which part of their body they want to control before actually wearing it.

“It’s just as easy to put on a piece of shape wear these days as it is to put on a piece of underwear,” he insists.

It’s also important to speak up when trying to find the best fit at a boutique. If you experience any pain or numbness around the areas you’re looking to tighten up, or if breathing alone becomes too difficult, getting a bigger size is necessary. The goal is to tighten up while feeling as comfortable as possible. In addition, certain fabrics can be breathable enough to wear for certain seasons, including summer.

Tomima Edmark, founder of online intimate apparel retailer HerRoom.com, says there are a few important tips to keep in mind in buying the best shape wear for you.

“The main thing I take into consideration is spandex content,” says Edmark. “I want to make sure the percentage is in double digits. You don’t see any shape wear with a spandex content higher than 25 percent. Next, I look at the edges. I don’t want them to roll or bulge. I look for lace edges or edges with silicone gripper tape that will stay put.”

Nivara Xaykao, intimates and swimwear editor for Stylesight, also believes comfort is key in making shape wear work for you.

“I recommend customers giving the shape wear a test drive in the fitting room,” says Xaykao. “Walk, run and jump around. Make sure it doesn’t ride up or bunch, but that it feels snug and secure.”