Shapewear and the Body Positivity Movement

Modern shapewear (Spanx, etc.) celebrated two decades in the marketplace on the 15 February. It originally entered the marketplace during an era where the ideal body shape for women was very specific. The in fashion was low-rise jeans, bodycon dresses and peek-a-boo thongs. The aim was to make everything as tight, smooth, taut, toned and overtly sexual as possible. If your natural body type didn’t meet those ideals, shapewear was around to solve all your “problems”.

The Changing Shapewear Scene

Today, nearly 20 years later, the landscape has changed. But, many of the old problems remain. While the body positivity movement has made some progress in a bid to get women to love themselves and their natural bodies as they are, many people still struggle to feel good when they see their natural shape in the mirror. “How can I make my silhouette look smoother?” “Why does my bum look big in this?” “What’s going on with my thighs?” “Should I wear shapewear while pregnant?” Since its invention, shapewear has been advertised as an instant fix for those moments of frustration. The marketing strategy has paid off.

What Exactly is Classified as Shapewear?

Shapewear can be any item of clothing or underwear that changes your silhouette. Many models consider shoulder pads and bras shapewear. After all, how are lifted boobs and broader shoulders any different than the lifted butt, tightened waist and toned thighs you get from spandex bodysuits?

Advocating Body Positivity

Many people are sick of all the strict beauty standards. Physical comfort means nothing if you don’t feel comfortable emotionally and mentally. Shapewear can make the situation more complicated for my people. Kim Kardashian called her SKIMS shapewear brand “Solutionwear”. So, is it possible to be both a shapewear wearer and a body positivity advocate?
Not having to worry about that slinky dress clinging to your belly fat may feel freeing to some, but others feel better going bra-free. The choice of undergarments all depends on the occasion and the person wearing them. Women feel beautiful wearing different items for different events. Clothing choices should all come down to a woman’s personal preferences.

That said, encouraging woman to wear what they want, at any time they want, without facing any shame or backlash is an ambitious goal. What would it mean in everyday life? Can women buy shapewear without continuing unrealistic beauty standards? It seems that no one yet has the right answers.
Huntsman explained that while she thinks there’s no wrong body type to have, it can often be challenging to stay true to that belief, especially when everywhere you go there are constant reminders about what you need to fix. The solution to the prevalence of unrealistic beauty expectations might just be in its infancy. And, attempts at even trying to find a solution could just be revealing things we’ve been trying to hide all along.