Body Shapers: Body Suit Test

Friday, 17 October 2008 | Tags: , , , , ,

An undergarment staple on the red carpet, body shapers make big promises to shrink your waistline and smooth your bulges. We put some body suit styles to the test to see which, if any, earn the A & K Stamp of Approval.

The Basics

  • Body shapers (also called shapewear) are worn by women (and some men) of all ages and sizes.

  • Designed to contour the body and compress tissue, a variety of shapewear products claim to take inches off certain areas, such as the waist, hips, or thighs, and some claim to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

  • Body shapers work because they’re made of fabric blends (polyester or nylon) that contain Lycra or Spandex. The higher the Lycra/Spandex levels (usually 5-22%), the more firmness and control the garment provides.

  • Look for fabrics that are said to have “recovery” or “memory” properties to help them bounce back into shape.

  • Traditionally, garments were made by sewing in control panels, but newer technologies allow manufacturers to use the lightest of microfibers, which offer greater comfort and more seamlessness.

  • Try to avoid shapers with lots of visible seams as they can show through your clothes.

  • For warm weather, or if you overheat easily, look for a shaper with a cotton blend fabric or a cotton gusset (crotch area). Also look for fabrics that have moisture-wicking properties, which improves breathability.

  • For more comfort, look for cuffs or elastic configurations that ease digging in, riding up, and general discomfort. Many manufacturers are using stretch lace these days to help eliminate thigh binding. Make sure you feel any lace trim to ensure it’s not rough or uncomfortable.

  • “Memory fabrics” are designed to resist stretching over time.

  • There are many different body shapers on the market. Here is a list of the basic types that are available:

    • Regular underwear of all different styles (even thong) with shaper panels built-in are mostly used for tummy control. Look for a higher, no-roll waistband.

    • Bicycle shorts or mid-thigh shapers are short pants that stop mid-thigh or just above the knee and help control thighs, waist, tummy, and/or butt. To control fuller hips and bottom, look for a style with side panels.

    • Footless leggings go to the ankle, mid-calf, or knee and work under pants or longer skirts to smooth panty lines and bulges in hips, legs, tummy and butt.

    • Control-top pantyhose or briefs are designed for tummy control, with some also including butt-lift panels

    • Waist shapers aim to reduce inches off the waist area and are designed to work like old-style corsets to help achieve the hourglass look.

    • Slips/full body shapers are typically mini-skirt length and either are skirt only, or include a built-in top and bra. The full-body shapers aim to slim waist, hips, tummy, thighs, butt, and provide upper body smoothing and breast support (usually with underwire). Some even reduce bust size. Look for wider straps to prevent digging in. Some come with removable straps for strapless dresses. These should have lots of underwire and structural support (sides) in the bra area.

  • To figure out which one to buy, decide what part or parts of your body you want to control, and the level of control necessary.

  • Degree of control varies from brand to brand and fabric to fabric. More control typically means more uncomfortable:

    • Light control is milder than control-top pantyhose and tends to smooth more than it shapes.

    • Medium/Moderate control smoothes and shapes but does not really reduce overall size.

    • Maximum/Firm control shapes much more than the others and can take inches off total size.

  • Be sure to try on the garment before buying. It might be worth trying it with a specific dress or other item of clothing you will be wearing on top of it.

  • Put the garment on the same way you would pantyhose: gather up from legs to waist, step into legs, pull up, and then gradually roll up any torso segments. Rearrange afterwards to ensure proper placement of seams and edges.

  • To ensure you have a good fit, look for these signs:

    • The waist should stay in place when you sit down.

    • The crotch should fit naturally against the body. If it hangs low, you likely need to go up a size or get a longer torso length.

    • The legs should not cut or bind at the thigh – discomfort may indicate the need for a style with a longer leg length.

    • The torso should fit smoothly; bulges or wrinkles may indicate a need for a shorter length or smaller size.

    • You should be able to walk normally. If your movement is reduced, it’s too tight.

    • A smaller size does not mean more control! Don’t go too tight. It can create more bulges and discomfort, and possibly reduce circulation to your limbs.

    • Undergarments with visible elastic bands will be more prone to “sausaging”, making your flesh bulge where it meets the fabric.

  • Care for your garment by following the washing instructions on the label. Generally, shapers should be hand washed with gentle soap and cold-warm water. Line or air dry only. High temperatures can break down the controlling performance of the fabric over time.

Be Aware

  • Watch for the butt-flattening characteristics that some firm control shapers cause. Look instead for ones with butt-lifting capabilities.

  • Don’t buy white. Even under a white t-shirt, nude looks better. It may also blend in with your skin tone should it accidentally be revealed. Black is also good if it goes with the outfits you’re intending to wear it with.


We invited some volunteers to come with us to the costume department of the Vancouver Opera, where wardrobe supervisor Parvin Mirhadi, an expert at shrinking divas down to size, measured our results.

  • MiracleSuit (23% Spandex): $69
  Bare Necessities
     . . . 
  • Body Wrap (25% Spandex): $85
  Bare Necessities
      . . . 
  • Spanx “Slim Cognito” (18% Spandex): $150
  Bare Necessities
     . . . 
  • Flexees Onesie (wear your own bra) by Maidenform: $59
  Bare Necessities

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Inch Test

We were all measured around our waist, stomach, hips and thighs and calculated the combined total loss for each of our body shapers:

  • MiracleSuit: 5.75 inches

  • Body Wrap: 8.5 inches

  • Spanx: 7.25 inches

  • Flexees: 9 inches

Fit and Comfort Test

  • MiracleSuit: Our more busty tester felt like the suit didn’t provide enough support for her chest. This suit seemed to be the least comfortable for all of our testers, and the seams for the control panels were very prominent, meaning they could easily show through to your clothing.

  • Body Wrap: felt more comfortable than the MiracleSuit and appeared more flattering, if you could say a body shapper is flattering! Kristina liked this one the best.

  • Spanx: It felt like it did the most for our testers becuase it was the hardest to get on.  It also fit quite low in the chest on Anna, and our busty tester Jude felt this one also didn’t give enough provide support. Overall the Spanx felt most comfortable for all of our testers.

  • Flexees: This one required you to wear your own bra underneath, which was helpful for our testers who didn’t feel the other suits provided enough support.


While we lost the most inches with the Flexees, we all preferred the comfort of the Spanx “Slim Cognito” suit, which gets the A & K Stamp of Approval.



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