It suddenly occurred to us, probably years after it occurred to everybody else, that Spanx is big business and big news. Sara Blakely's re-invention of the 'g-word' in 2000 was one thing, but the marketing phenomenon that accompanied the launch would have impressed the executives from the major foundation garment houses of half a century ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sara Blakely


In fact, there are many parallels to be drawn here. In the 1950s and 1960s, celebrities such as Jane Russell and Maureen O'Hara were happy to declare that they wore Playtex girdles even if they didn't actually pose in them. Today, after a short period of being embarrassed to admit that one was wearing the very garments that women had discarded in the 1970s, Bridget Jones brought girdles or 'magic knickers' into the open. These days, Spanx is endorsed and worn by the majority of celebrities or so it seems; is this marketing at work here? Certainly Oprah Winfrey, Adele, Gwyneth Paltrow, Helen Mirren and Princess Beatrice are fans of their 'shapewear' and why not. Real women wear real foundation garments. Dedra Messing, Molly Shannon, Kim Kardashian, Lily Allen, Beyonce, Jennifer Garner, Mindy Kalling, Tyra Banks, Tina Fey and Rachel Bloom are even happy to pose in their elastic underwear, but that's show-business.



The similarities between now and half a century ago just don't end there, the marketing department has even developed some really, I was going to say 'cheesy' names, but actually, they are quite clever, by marketing standards. Thinstincts and Slim Cognito are my favourites. The 'haute couture, high-waisted, mid-thigh short' is included here because, of all the products, this one starts to look just a little bit like a traditional girdle. The panel cut and the shaping all hark back to the glory days of the 1960s. All it needs now is a zipper, some bones and a satin panel here or there. Oh, and please, please make these garments in white. Before you ask, Spanx even has some before and after pictures (right), but unlike those of 50 years ago, these are quite believable.

Reporter:  "To what do you owe your fantastic figure Miss Russell?"

Jane Russell:  "Underwear!"

She knew then and a whole new generation of stars now know the secret.

Well done Sara Blakely, however, I wonder if, like Dorothea Allen, the owner of Spencer in Britain, she ever wears her own products? Miss Allen never did.


Below we see that zippers and bones are definitely back and the pretty girl on the right even boasts a panel that could pass for satin. There's hope yet even if the girl in pink looks like she is wearing her granny's knickers..


The internet is not short of 'before and after' images; teachers take note!



If you would like to see a hilarious take on Spanx, then have a look at the images below that come from a YouTube clip:


There is more than a degree of humour involved above, however, this is not so far from the truth. The following scenes come from a promotional video extolling the virtues of their 'shapewear'. The film comes from that bastion of industrial strength elastic, Latin America, in this case, Colombia.

The shop assistant selects the appropriate garment and (on the right), the before and after scenes are actually very successful. The customer has really achieved a splendid figure, however, below one sees the reality. The victim (sorry) customer can get the garment up her thighs, but it takes their combined efforts to fasten the hooks and eyes across her abdomen.


This is a warning. In the old days, the ardent swain might be surprised by the change in his object of desire as the corset or girdle is removed, but with these modern elastic contraptions, he might get twice the woman he expected.


Of course, nothing breeds success like success and Spanx imitators abound. The latest to jump on the bandwagon being Kim Kardashian with some quite strange but fascinating advertising. Is that really 'M' in a body stocking?