Bra Sales Statistics
Girdle Sales Statistics
US Bra Sales Statistics, 1960 - 1982 by Roger K
Discussion of the Bra Sales Table
Table: Annual US Bra Sales in Thousands
Discussion of Bandeau Bra Sales Trends
1. Strapless bras sales declined sharply in the sixties
2. Padded bra sales rose sharply (117%) in the sixties, then reversed
3. Sales all bras declined during 1975, a probable anomaly
Discussion of Longline Bra Sales Trends
1. Longline sales declined by 2/3 from 1967 through 1977
Discussion of the Bra Sales Table
On the next page is a table of sales figures for various categories of bras. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau wasn’t farsighted enough to include the category “underwired,” which would have been of most interest to us historians.
2. Regular (in other words, unpadded bras with straps).
3. Padded, including contour-lined.
4. Strapless or convertible.
5. Total of Bandeaus (the non-longline items above, 2–4).
6. Longlines, defined as “with band 3 inches or more, excluding bra-lettes [torsolettes, or Merry Widows].” (The Census Bureau retained the term (dating from before WWI of “brassiere” for longlines, and also the old term “bandeau” for non-longline bras. This parallels the way “girdle” used to mean only “open girdle” or “straight girdle,” with “panty-girdle” having to spell out its deviation from the norm.)
7. Total of All bra-types. This figure differs from the Census Bureau’s total, because I have categorized “bra-lettes” (torsolettes, or Merry Widows) as shapewear (since their main purpose was to squeeze the waist) and placed them in the girdle category. See my other article.
8. Longline sales as a % of Total bra sales.
Table: Annual US Bra Sales in Thousands
Discussion of Bandeau Bra Sales Trends
1. Strapless bras sales declined sharply in the 60's
1970 sales were only 30% of those of 1960. This presumably indicated a decline in interest in dressing up for special occasions where formal strapless gowns were worn, like proms and so forth, and an increasing focus on everyday clothing. The same trend away from the centrality of formal affairs is indicated by the even sharper decline in the sales of torsolettes (Merry Widows)—1970 sales were only 22% of those of 1960.
2. Padded bra sales rose sharply (117%) in the 60's, then reversed
This compares to a rise of only 28% for non-padded bras. This was part of a strong trend toward the acceptance of more artificiality in everyday dress. (E.g., makeup was more often worn as an everyday item, and much more often worn by schoolgirls. Most schoolgirls got their ears pierced and therefore regularly wore earrings, which they hadn’t done in the 50s. Etc.) Following 1968 this trend was reversed by a new trend toward naturalness and authenticity: by 1974 padded sales had fallen 23%, compared to a decline of 14% in non-padded bras.
3. Sales of all bras declined in 1975, a probable anomaly
Sales of all categories of bras fell sharply in 1975, but three of those categories rebounded just as sharply to their previous levels in 1976. I suspect there was some anomaly in the data collection process—e.g., one or more companies may have gone bankrupt or been taken over and had failed to report their sales at the end of the year. So I would assume figures for the three categories that rebounded hadn’t actually declined.
Since bankruptcies were ongoing throughout the 70s, the likely failure of many of these firms to report their sales to the Census Bureau in the first quarter of the next year may well have artificially depressed sales figures for several years. So foundation sales probably declined a little less sharply in the 70s than they are thought to.
Discussion of Longline Bra Sales Trends
Longline bra sales declined by ⅔ from 1967 through 1977
Longlines were usually sold for use in conjunction with high-waist girdles worn by older women. (They concealed the ridge of the girdle and the bulge above it.) Longlines sales held steady through 1966—but that meant their share of the bra market declined, because overall bra sales were rising. This indirectly supports the view that the increase in girdle sales in that period was not due to women who regularly wore girdles adding to their girdle wardrobes as a result of rising prosperity, but rather to younger women wearing girdles more often, and starting at a younger age.
Sales of regular bras over the next nine years, from 1966 to 1975, declined by about 25%, but sales of longlines fell more than twice as sharply, by 55%. This was only a bit more than the roughly 50% rate of decline in sales of girdles and other foundations during those same years. Because longlines were a girdle accessory and were primarily worn by women over 35, this suggests that it was primarily girdles that were being “burned” during this period, not bras.
The stabilization of longline sales at the six million level after 1978 was probably due to the arrival of waist-length “posture bras.” (It’s a pity the Census Bureau figures didn’t split them out, because they aren’t really figure-forming items, or “foundations.”)
US Girdle Sales Statistics, 1960 - 1982 by Roger K
Postscript on False Claims of the Girdle’s Demise in or by the Sixties
The common impression that “American women began getting rid of their girdles in large numbers roughly the mid-1960s” is contradicted by the annual sales statistics collected by the Dept. of Commerce and published in their “Current Industrial Reports” pamphlets each year, under the title “Brassieres, Corsets, and Allied Garments.” I don’t have the complete run of these pamphlets, but here are the figures from ones I do have. (Sales were originally given in thousands of dozens; I’ve converted this to thousands. I.e., 60,240 below stands for 60,240,000.)
This periodical is no longer published; it fell victim to David Stockman’s budget-cutting axe in 1983.
2. Girdles. The Census Bureau collected statistics on sales in price ranges for both zippered and roll-on girdles, but unfortunately failed to collect data on two subdivisions of much more interest to fashion historians: Open Bottom Girdles vs. panty-girdles, and High-Waist vs. Normal Waist;
3. Corselets: These are the swimsuit-like items with open bottoms or legs. The latter are sometimes referred to as all-in-ones (AIOs).
4. Corsets (the Census Bureau’s outdated term for the mild, 20th century foundations with flexible busks or no busks at all—so a better term would be Laced Foundation or Non-Elastic Foundation);
5. Total of columns 2–4 (Girdles, Corsets, and Corselets). The items in these three columns were “everyday shapewear,” so they’re more important than the last two items.
6. Garter Belts: These hardly count as shapewear, except for “deep” garter belts.
7. Torsolettes. These were special occasion items, worn to dances and parties. They were commonly known as Merry Widows, a trade name that the Census Bureau avoided with the neutral term, “bra-lettes,” defined as “hip-length with garters.” “Torsolettes” would have been a better choice, being the generic term used by other manufacturers. (Note: in 1974 the Census Bureau added the words, “including briefers,” which caused an immediate 80% jump in this category, and began a strong upward trend. That explains a puzzle, because previously “torsolettes” had to have the by-then unpopular garters.)
The figures include imports, which rose from .3% of shipments in 1960 to 14% in 1980. In all cases except 1982 I have used the revised figures that appeared in the next year’s report. E.g., the 1961 figures were taken from the 1962 report.
Table 1: Annual US Foundation Sales in Thousands
Discussion of Trends
1. Sales of girdles and garter belts rose each year during the 60's until 1968
E.g., girdle sales rose by over 10% from 1960 to 1961, and rose 36% from 1960 to 1968. This increase involved a large number, 24 million additional items, suggesting that more women were wearing a girdle more of the time. (Especially since these girdles were lasting longer, due to their being made of Lycra / Spandex, not latex / rubber.) Sales in 1970 of these longer-lasting girdles were 118% those of 1960, so it’s highly inaccurate to say that the girdle died in the sixties.
2 The transition away from the girdle was not an overnight affair
In 1974 girdle sales were still 48% of the high-water mark six years earlier, in 1968. Furthermore, in the next six years girdle sales fell only 3% (by 1980), refuting the common notion that a reified group called “women” trash-canned their girdles en bloc as soon as they could. Only half of them did so. And even that is an overstatement. What the figures more likely suggest is that a minority of women (say 40%) abandoned them for everyday wear, some of them continuing to buy girdles occasionally for special events, others wearing panty-girdles regularly to help hold up saggy early pantyhose.
By 1980 the steep decline resumed, with sales falling in the next two years by 14%, from 43,992 to 37,740 (in thousands). The likely explanation, as one wearer (“SusanQ”) testified, is that “Once they made good control-top pantyhose (1975–80 I’m guessing) I abandoned my girdles.”
The gradual resurgence in light-control garments (control briefs, shapers, and Spanx) that started in the 1990s is likely due to their being more comfortable. (Their use of seamless construction and “microfibers” is the probable explanation.) As evidence, the same wearer added, “Maybe ten years ago [i.e., 1998] I tried a control brief and really liked how it felt, so I kept wearing those, usually with pantyhose also. The advantage of the control brief was that I no longer felt like I needed to wear panties under it.”
3 Sales of garter belts rose and fell more swiftly than those of girdle, and peaked earlier
The peak year for garter belt sales was 1966; the high year for girdle sales was 1968. Sales of garter belts rose 89% from 1960 to 1966, whereas sales of girdles rose only 50%. On the down-slope, sales of garter belts in 1970 fell by 68% from 1966 levels, whereas sales of girdles at that point fell only 22%. Over the next six years sales of garter belts continued to fall about twice as fast as those of girdles: In 1976, garter belt sales were only 30% of 1970 levels, compared to 63% for girdles.
Taken together, and bearing in mind that garter belts were primarily worn by the young, these figures support the contention that many high school girls switched from wearing knee socks and bobbie socks to garter belts and stockings at the start of the sixties, then started to switch to panty-girdles in the mid-sixties (since pantyhose sales didn’t take off until late 1967), then defected en masse to pantyhose in the late sixties. Probably only two-thirds (??) of women over 35 had abandoned girdles for daily wear by 1980. What women were abandoning, much more than their girdles, which they retained for evening wear, etc., were stockings. Again, this is contrary to the message conveyed by many impressionistic histories of the period.
However, the girdles that were sold in the mid-seventies and after came without garters attached, were rarely open bottom type (because those required stockings), and were rarely zippered (see item 4 below)—and hence were likely less firm on the average than earlier girdles. (There are no Census Bureau statistics on OBG vs. PG sales, because the dumbkopfs there didn’t realize we’d be curious about it.)
4. Sales of zippered girdles declined steadily as a percentage of girdle sales from 1962 onwards
Zippered girdles were typically worn by those needing support (older women), This suggests that the surge in girdle wear up to 1968 was primarily due to younger women, especially students, adopting girdles, not to all segments of the girdle-wearing population increasing their girdle wardrobe due to greater prosperity.
It also indicates a trend away from firm girdles and the ultra-fashionable flat-tummy look of the 50s and early 60s in subsequent years. The only departure from the gradual descent was the sharp drop-off from 1970 to 1972, indicating that the high-fashion, grin-and-bear-it ethos lost ground faster than everyday girdling.
(Note: Prior to 1962 it’s not possible to make an apples-to-apples comparison, because prior to 1962 a third category that was subsequently merged with the other two, Latex Girdles, didn’t differentiate between zipped and unzipped items.)
Table 2: Zippered girdle sales as a percent of all girdle sales
5. Sales of corselets rose by only 2% from 1960 to 1968
These were typically worn as an alternative to the combination of longline bra and high-waist girdle by those needing support or wanting fashionable smoothness (older women). This further buttresses the proposition that the much larger surge (36%) in girdle wear in that time frame was primarily due to younger women adopting girdles, rather than to all segments of the girdle-wearing population increasing their foundation wardrobe due to greater prosperity.
6. Anomalies (surges and dips) in corselet sales
There was a recovery in the sales of corselets in the years 1968 & 1969, which was odd in light of the declining sales of all other foundations in those years. It was followed by a peculiar sharp drop in 1970 (perhaps due to a bankrupt company not reporting sales at the end of the year), and then by a pronounced upward spike in 1972-1978. Probably this was due to a surge in popularity of garterless body briefers. (The suddenness of these jumps and dips may also have been the result of certain manufacturers re-categorizing items in their product lines, or realizing that they had either been failing to record sales in this category, or had been recording sales of corselets as both corselets and girdles.)
Again, since younger women were overwhelmingly the purchasers of these lightweight items, this indicates that there was no complete rejection of figure firming and feminine fripperies per se, although histories of the period sometimes imply or assert that that was the case, based on the attitudes of progressive types. E.g., see Ellen Melinkoff’s What We Wore: An Offbeat Social History of Women’s Clothing, 1950 to 1980, p. 125: “By the end of the sixties … all girdles were viewed with suspicion.” Rather, for most, the shift was based more on fashion and technological changes than on an anti-undie mindset (although that too existed to some extent).
7. Anomaly: sharp drop in sales of laced foundations ("corsets") in 1971
In 1971 sales were only 57% of the 1970 level. This is another probable statistical artifact, possibly due to a bankruptcy. However, it was only a blip in the overall long-term downward trend.
Comment on the term “Corset”
Although the Census Bureau called them “corsets,” most of them lack a busk, which is a key element of a true corset. And yet they can’t be called girdles, even if they have a lot of elastic. They’re in a sort of grey area—“laced (or “rigid”) foundations” is probably the best term for them.)
8. Sales of torsolettes
The sales of this item declined slightly in 1961 & 1962, and then declined steeply in 1963–73. Its heyday was the mid- to late-fifties, when it was mostly worn for special events in conjunction with a petticoat. It was too elaborate and formal for the sixties. (Still, over a million were sold in 1964.) The uptrend in sales from 1974–81 can only be accounted for by some vendors classifying a different garment as a “bra-lette.” The long garters and bones of the real thing wouldn’t have sold well at that point.
on False Claims of the Girdle’s Demise in or by the Sixties
1. Sociologist Erich Goode was incautious enough to write: “The girdle … was worn until about 1960." Goode was writing about women generally, so any defense that college girls were abandoning the girdle by the mid-sixties is beside the point. And Goode wasn’t talking about the date when “these trends began to aggregate in a serious way.” He was talking about when they ENDED—in the date when the girdle was no longer worn (i.e., by the generality). For that, even 1975 would be too early, since sales were only down 50% from their peak—1980 (or still better 1985) would more on-target. So he’s not off by just five years, he’s off by 20 or 25—if one wants to be a stickler for accuracy. (And accuracy is what sociologists pride themselves on, supposedly.)
2. A similarly uninformed statement on the Girdles and More site was that “By 1966 or so, the girdle was large[ly] passé among college women.” That is highly exaggerated. Cheap pantyhose didn’t arrive, or at least catch on among more than a tiny percent of women, until 1968. Until then a girdle (or sometimes garter-belt) was needed if stockings were worn—and even beatnik girls often wore stockings (black) (usually tights, though). My guess is that 10-20% of “leading edge” coeds had by then turned against the girdle—but not a majority, except at a few avant garde colleges.
The fact that many girdle ads ran in magazines aimed at young women until the 1970’s undermines the “passé” assertion. If such ads hadn’t gotten a response from their audience for over a year, they’d have been dropped—and they weren’t. Finally, I doubt the recollections of a representative sample of women would support this claim. Most that I’ve read (and they also include recollections of what their friends were wearing) didn’t indicate an abandonment of the girdle until years later. Girdles were still worn to hold up saggy early pantyhose until well into the 70s.
3. Another flat-wrong statement made by the same G&M poster was that “Newspapers of the late 1950s were filled with advertisements for girdles. These ads were rare by the mid-1960s.” Although I don’t have the statistics to prove it (perhaps undie trade journals or newspapers themselves published stats on advertising expenditures that could settle the matter), the fact that his impressions about women’s girdle habits from that period are so badly wrong suggests that his impressions about newspaper ads are similarly skewed.
I was recently browsing a girdle site that republishes old girdle ads a couple of months ago. Its webmaster said that the mid-to-late sixties were the high point of girdle advertising, with color being used much more extensively than before to show off the new pastel-colored girdles of the late sixties. My impression (from living thru the period and (for ad-impressions) from buying the Sunday NY Times throughout it) is that ads in the fifties (at any rate until 1958 or so) were usually small and somewhat embarrassed. In the sixties ads became much larger, more colorful, more numerous, and more exuberant. A comparison of the space devoted to such ads in randomly chosen issues of the Sunday NY Times Magazine from each year of those two decades would easily prove my point.
Shapewear Revival Editors, “The Seventeen Book of Fashion & Beauty,” 1970, p. 202:
Editors, “The Seventeen Book of Fashion & Beauty,” 1970, p. 202:
Figure-shapers follow current fashions. The easy semi-fitted silhouettes, the knits, the fluid crepes and chiffons of the past few years all play up the natural figure. As do pants. [Hence] Contemporary bras and girdles are the softest and lightest ever, constructed to control and support without forcing or binding. But when the fashion pendulum swings back, as it certainly will, to figure-defining clothes, underpinnings will again include waist-smoothing, high-rise girdles, and bras with more emphasis on uplift. The trend, in fact, has already begun. For instance, under the new wide belts, you may want to add a waist smoother. If too many hot fudge sundaes have settled around your midsection, an all-in-one foundation will be the most effective choice for smoothing out bulges above and below your belts and waistlines.
Adrien Arpel, “How to Look 10 Years Younger,” 1979 or 1980:
The word ‘girdle’ is becoming obsolete, and so is the type of garment it refers to: a multi-zippered steel-boned contraption complete with built-in garters that is so stiff it stands firmly at attention even when you’re not wearing it.
Most women abandoned the girdle back in the 1960s and have worn no controllers since. But the opposite extreme, the let-it-all-hang-out look, is not only unflattering to most of us who are now less than completely firm …, it is also unnecessary….
Most every woman over the age of 30 could use a little control for a sleeker look. You can have a terrific figure and still be plagued by a slight pot belly, dimpled outer thighs, drooping derriere (all problems unknown to the 16-year-old) ….
If you have a flat or sagging derriere (the behind submits to gravity as much as the bustline …) there are excellent controllers that also lift your bottom…. Look for a seam or shirring (i.e., a puckered seam) going up the center of the back from the crotch to the waist…. Still other styles have a panel at the bottom that works like two hands to cup and lift your rear….
Waist afflicted with ‘love handles’ (that extra inch or so of flesh that hangs around your middle)? Look for a slimmer with a collar, a wide band designed to cinch in your waistline.
Ibid., p. 138: The one underwear color you can safely eliminate from your wardrobe is white. Manufacturers say that the nude tones now sell equally with or better than white—with good reason. Not only does white turn grey and lifeless after repeated washings (and you remember what mother said about wearing clean underwear in case you’re in an accident … how come mothers never suggest nice underwear in case you have a spur-of-the-moment chance for a brief encounter?), it also shows through under thin or lightweight fabrics.
Of course, women cannot buy underthings for practicality alone. The sensible nude I’ve just touted … probably won’t set his pulse racing. If you want to make a dramatic statement when you take your clothes off, wear lace-trimmed red.
Rosemary Hawthorne, “Stockings
and Suspenders: A Quick Flash,”
1990?, pp. 102-03:
Some of the most ingenious, brilliant and sexy corsetry ever designed comes from the fruitful years between 1947 and 1964. Foundation garments, as they were called, created the outline on which a smart woman’s clothes could blossom; from teens to nineties, a woman could be shaped. Bosoms were out front: thrusting, whirlpool-stitched bras placed them prominently in view, especially in the evening when dresses were décolleté in a way that hadn’t been seen since the 1890’s. The waist, of necessity, was handspan small, cinched down by a ‘waspie’ that might well be worn over the satin and elastic girdle, a garment that now, to add flourish to the shape of the skirt, often had ‘hip springs’—extra padding or width at the sides—completed by long, strong suspenders which yanked the stockings to attention….
Corsetieres still made up bespoke girdles .... Teenage girls or very slim women relied on ‘just a suspender belt’ …, but for millions of women, the girdle they felt happiest wearing, a friend through thick and thin, was the ‘roll-on’.
This cherished second skin of lastex yarn, in white or pink … was first manufactured in the late 1920’s. It was top of the class for ordinary women ….
Ibid., p. 112-15:
It was with good reason that researchers for Du Pont in the mid-Seventies asked, ‘What has happened to the girdle?’….
The evidence they brought back showed that ‘rejection’ was the key word—in all age groups, but particularly between 15 and 35 years. These women said, quite rightly [?], that pantie-hose eliminated the girdle because you didn’t have to hold up stockings any more. What was more, they claimed that women didn’t like girdles and never had, and only wore them because they had been nothing else available. Wearing a girdle had been ‘almost a legal requirement’—you had to, everyone did…. But now, oh wonderful, there was choice…. What the heck, they had decided to go ‘natural’….
Girdles came in for strong feminist flack, too. They were remnants of male domination (controlling your body to please his eye), they were cheaters … a way of pretending you were something you were not. Young women thought that elastic girdles turned men off and were as unacceptable as false teeth. However, some women, more realistically, admitted that they weren’t all built like a Venus and, for dress-up occasions, preferred to have ‘a bit of help’ around the tummy and hips.
What they all hated and detested were the names: corsets, foundations, girdles, roll-ons—the whole darn lot.
Armed with this information corsetry manufacturers set to work and tried a host of new names: body fashions, body garments, bodysuits, smoothers, shapers, innerwear, outerwear enhancers…. Coordinates came in, and ‘sets’….
The men who hankered for a bit of suspender-stretched-over-naked-thigh treatment were having a pretty lean time … unless they happened to pass a small window in Bond Street, where Janet Reger was incredibly busy in displaying her latest lingerie designs—gorgeous trifles in satin and lace. This was the stuff that dreams are made of….
Ibid., p. 122-23:
[In the eighties there] was a more divergent look, with eerie sado-masochistic vibrations—exposing under as outer wear. Models wearing nothing (much) else but sensational pointed bras, shiny black girdles, and French-farce suspendered black stockings … strutted, thighs aflashing, in front of the international buyers and media pack…. ‘Wannabe’s’ wanted corsets like crazy….
Everywhere the external girdle was blossoming at prices from 18 to 200 pounds for a really posh bottom. Those that ‘dared’ wear it in the street said it made them feel ‘safe’ as well as ‘sexy’.
Anne-Marie Schiro, “Silk, Satin
and Lace,” NY Times, May 12, 1981,
A few years ago ready-to-wear boutiques were opening so fast that even the most inveterate shopper could not keep track of them. Now it’s lingerie shops….
Half a dozen have appeared around town in the last year alone, joining the [pre-existing] dozen or so….
[Quoting the owner of one of the early stores:] ‘By 1977 sales of garter belts tripled. Then came the corselets. Prima made the first really beautiful one in 1978. It was $105, and everyone gulped at the price, then bought it.’…
The shop owners seem to agree on one thing: women in executive jobs are among their best customers….
‘Now women have proved themselves and can be feminine. The hippies of the 60’s who never wore underwear now wear satin and lace underneath their corduroy pants.’…
Barbara Wagh suggests another reason the shops are proliferating: men. ‘At least half our customers are men,’ she said. ‘They tell us they were never comfortable in department stores. Here it’s more intimate…. And a lot of couples come in together to shop.’
Susan Parker, “Smarty Pants,” Harper’s Bazaar, Sept. 1985, p. 322:
People derive a certain perverse satisfaction from the clothing they wear that almost no one else gets to see. Underwear gives everyone a secret. The man sitting across from you at dinner in a conservative pinstripe suit could be sporting hearts and flowers underneath, the bag lady on the subway could be hiding a leopard-spotted teddy and the sex bomb in the office could have on a simple hairshirt. Who knows? ....
Like anything that is hidden, underwear inspires great curiosity. There used to be bags in which to put it before hanging it out on the line to dry, so the neighbors wouldn’t see….
Little lingerie shops have sprung up in cities all over the country…. About 35% of their sales are intended as gifts, and quite a few men make up that percentage…. Contrary to the popular notion that men become inhibited and embarrassed when faced with buying women’s undergarments, Cook says the majority like to browse and are quite relaxed.
Another large new clientele for lingerie is women who grew up in the 60’s when interest in underwear was in decline. Cook states, ‘Quite a few women come in who are around 33 or 35 and say they have never worn a bra but want to buy one now. And women who wear T-shirts to bed are getting tired of the same old thing.’
Self magazine, “The A List,” March 1989:
In minutes, it seemed, the Japanese fashion invasion came and went. Designer jeans and down coats gave way, by the late eighties, to designers’ killer scents … and to latex skirts so body-molding they inspired a revival of the girdle.
Brownstein, “A Thigh of Relief,” Slate magazine,
When I was working in a conservative Washington office. I walked two miles to and from work every day, and before leaving the house, I would put biking shorts on under my dress for the trek. With my stomach, butt and thighs tucked in neatly and comfortably, I was on my way. No chafing, no irritating red skin rash. And the added bonus: no jiggle. Unlike oppressive control-top stockings, my Lycra shorts kept me cool through the nauseatingly sticky Washington summers. I kept my flesh collected without having to suffocate my entire leg in hose. I decreed my shorts my Chafe Protectors, since that's exactly what they were. Pretty soon I stopped taking them off when I got to the office….
When I told my mother about my discovery, she said, "Oh, so you're essentially wearing a girdle." A girdle? No no no no no. I wasn't a girdle wearer. I was too sporty, too modern, too cool. I was not reverting back to the oppressive fashions of yesteryear. I was not strapping myself into a veritable harness. My thighs weren't silenced, they could speak! My Chafe Protectors were liberating. They freed me from a lifelong bodily irritation.
When my biker shorts started getting gnarly I went to the lingerie department at Bloomingdale's to investigate the more official, uh, chafe protector offerings. And in fact there were dozens to choose from. They came in staple lingerie colors -- beige, white and black -- and had names like "Body Hugger" and "Second Skin" and "Slenderizer." (Not "girdle," mind you -- never "girdle"! "Body Hugger" has a nice ring to it. Almost as good as "Chafe Protector.") I liked these fancier versions, the ones made of nylon with a dash of Lycra. They felt like a cross between a slip and a wet suit. I tried on a black pair and stared at myself in a three-way mirror. My ripples were smoothed, my silhouette sleek. Who cared if I looked as if I had waded into an oil slick?
A few of my friends have been utterly horrified when I've lifted my dress to show them my Protectors…. But a couple of them -- those who understand the sensation of cottage cheese flesh clashing together like cymbals -- have been converted.
“Move Over Girdle, There's A Power Panty In Town--Company Wants To Make Behinds Look Better--Get ready for the ‘power panty.’" Feb 6, 2002
And what's a power panty?
Pantyhose mogul Sara Blakely won't say -- but she's got a lot of people interested. Her Atlanta area company, Spanx, is already taking orders for the product, sight unseen.
Blakely has made a killing with her control top, fishnet pantyhose, which makes the wearer look one size smaller. Blakely said she has a simple business philosophy -- "It's all about making women's butts look better."
The company is also known for its footless stockings [visit site to see a picture] that reportedly make women look one size smaller.
Larkworthy, “Body of Work: Cinching In,” from a recent “W”
When diet and exercise fail (or when you fail to diet and exercise), don't discount the wonders of that old standby, the girdle—the modern, high-tech version, of course. Disdained by a generation that associated them with a bygone era that was restrictive in more ways than one, foundation garments—now more comfortable, better-looking and with hipper names—are making a comeback. Warnaco's Bodyslimmers Nancy Ganz has recently introduced the Belly Band, a wide swath of firming fabric that tightens around the tummy and has comfortable panties attached. The company also makes the Unitard, a torso-length bodysuit that, according to vice president of sales Marc Kimmelman, "attacks the abdomen, slaughters the thighs and cups in the tush."
Dea Birkett, "All of me:" In the first of an eight-part series on body image.
Birkett takes a close, if doleful, look at her 'sticky-out' belly,”
The Guardian, Thursday June 20, 2002, http://www.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,3605,740504,00.html
It arrived without an invitation. One day I was reasonably trim and proud in a crop top. Then the next there was this bit of spare flesh in front of me, protruding more than it ought. I would look down at it and think - who does that belong to? It wobbled with a life of its own, fell in neat little rolls and was wrinkled with wear, as if it were second-hand.
Whether a woman has been pregnant or not, her stomach is her sorest point…. Kathryn Freeland from Absolute Fitness turns up on my doorstep just after breakfast to take my belly away from me. "It's disgusting, isn't it?" she says, daring to say out loud what every magazine fashion shoot, every portrait of a high-profile female, every pair of trousers from Mango or Zara, quietly suggests.
Lauren Hutton (former
supermodel), article about, “Vanity Fair”,
May 1989, p. 207:
At 130 pounds, … Hutton is about fifteen pounds heavier than her previous posing weight. ‘I think I single-handedly put the girdle industry out of business—now I’d like to bring it back,’ she cracked recently.
Cartner-Morley, “Wonder women:
What you see is what you get? Not any more.
Cartner-Morley uncovers the hidden helpers,” The Guardian,
November 26, 1999,
Scary-looking, hold-it-in, hoik-em-up contraptions are lurking underneath Earl jeans all over the country. What started with the Wonderbra explosion of a few years ago has expanded into a Wonderwear empire, expanding (or rather shrinking) to cinch waists, lift bottoms and slim thighs.
Below the belt, the new generation of super-strength Lycra is a demon at waist-whittling and bottom-sculpting, but is as easy to get into (and out of) as a wetsuit with no zips. Hardly striptease material.
However, interested onlookers may see your sudden change in shape differently. I recently overheard a girl in a club loo remarking on some contraption a friend was wearing underneath her dress and asking how she was going to explain away the difference when she got home with the man she'd pulled. The friend replied that since she'd been intending to seduce, she'd left the heating off and the windows open so she could suggest getting undressed in bed. "They always fall for it," she added breezily.
Timmi Toler, “A big issue in my life is now all behind me—literally,” Jacksonville, FL Daily News, March 19, 2006
I’ve decided that I am no longer going to worry about how I look from behind. I’ve been on this earth for almost 40 years now and frankly I’ve wasted too much time being concerned about this.
When I get dressed in the morning, I will no longer stand in front of my full length mirror, turn completely around and take a good look at what’s going on back there. Because when I do, I get really concerned about what I see. There are bulges, ridges and even a few craters in places I would rather not mention. When I see these issues, I see problems—problems that I try to camouflage with different outfits. Problems that I try to deflect attention away from with flashy shoes or interesting hairstyles. Problems that I never had in my 20s.
Well, no more.
From now on, there is no problem. There is only the way things are and whatever is going on back there is really none of my business. I am no longer concerned about it. It is now the sole burden of those traveling behind me. Whatever their perspective or view might be on the “down” side of Timmi, they need to keep it to themselves. I no longer have any interest.
I’m over it.
This isn’t to say I am going to “let myself go.” I quite enjoy keeping myself here. But this is to say that I am letting go of all of the fears and judgments that may be lurking behind me. Chunky parts, rolling parts, jiggling parts — I have them all and most of them are located in the nether regions of my backside. I am a quivering mass (and on occasion, a quivering mess). I am older now. Gravity has taken over. Things are falling and sagging and sloping in places that no amount of Lycra or Spandex from the best designed girdle is going to change.
But I will wear the girdle because it does help the situation a little. It does at least cover my multitude of sins.
I will just no longer mind how the girdle looks on me. I will no longer care about VPLs and their effects on others. I may even get a T-shirt that says “I have visible panty lines,” just to warn people of what’s coming. There they are and they’re not pretty. But they’re necessary. If they bother you, don’t look at them. But don’t look at me either. I could care less. I have now adopted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy with my living end. The liberation has begun.
Yes, if you look behind me, there are all kinds of proof of what’s going on in my life. I am aging and I wear undergarments to safeguard against this process. I think this evidence should not only be reassuring to others, but even commendable on my part. There are far too many people walking around out there without that safeguard — fast and loose, hanging freely. I don’t know why. It’s really quite unnerving for the rest of us.
When did undergarments become such a source of shame? Why is it so important to look like you aren’t wearing them when you really are? When did this happen?
That small barrier between the real us and the clothes covering us is pretty important, folks. There are parts of our bodies, particularly female bodies, that need a little extra love and support, a little extra security and validation.
I’m going to give my body what it needs. I am going to embrace my aging rear view and my visible undergarments and be proud of whatever impression they may leave behind.
I’m just not going to look at that behind anymore.
“Hip Girdles” by Alison Fass, Forbes magazine, Oct.16, 2006
Among bridesmaids the latest chatter these days is not the anxious bride or the cutest groomsman. It's a new-age girdle that spruces up the butt, reins in the tummy and does not have the unwanted side effect of creating "muffin top": the inch (or more) of skin that pours over a tight waistband.
The reason: Sara Blakely, who started a footless (for sandals), control-top (for a smooth tush in tight pants) hosiery business called Spanx in 2000. Last year she hit upon another pertinent phenomenon: a high-waisted control-top girdle that shapes women all the way up to the bra line. "It makes me feel more confident!" exclaims Robyn Polansky, 28, a New York City investment analyst. She can thank the combination of nylon and spandex that makes it tauter than typical athletic clothing.
Bloomingdale's says sales of Spanx shapewear skyrocketed 250% after it was offered in spring 2005. The biggest seller: the $68 Slim Cognito, a seamless midthigh bodysuit. It appeals to buxom and trim women alike. "Everyone has a little bulge they're not thrilled about," says Elizabeth Hospodar, Bloomingdale's divisional merchandise manager for intimate apparel.
Indeed, the celeb magazine In Touch Weekly plans to feature Spanx as "Hollywood's Big Secret" in an October issue and to highlight girdle fans from Oprah to Jessica Alba. The Spanx name is so synonymous with body-shaping boosts that women who choose another option, from, say, Wacoal, still refer to it as Spanx.
Blakely's business is plus size. Retail sales are expected to surpass $100 million this year, at least half to Spanx. That compares to a gross of $1.6 million in 2001, when FORBES first wrote about Spanx. What was then 3 employees is now 45, including Chief Executive Laurie Ann Goldman, a former licensing director for Coca-Cola.
“Shape Shifters” by Constance Harris, (Irish) Sunday Independent, 1 October 2006
With the advent of the Sixties and the sexual revolution came the release of women from the strictures of foundation garments and corsetry. The following 30 years ranged from letting it all hang out (in the Seventies) to acquiring the perfect gym body for "support" (the Nineties until now).
Me, I have never wanted a gym body. I don't think gym bodies are particularly feminine, although, like many women, I worry that modern men's sexuality has been influenced by the gym body, as well as by the prevalence of prepubescent female models and anorexic-looking celebs such as Posh Spice.
The fact that Marilyn Monroe is still voted the sexiest woman in the world offers hope to us normal, curvy women. But no matter how much you believe in your curves, there are definitely occasions when you wish you had fewer of them, or that you could at least shape them into looking a little more... conventional, shall we say? You want to look like Marilyn, but how can you?
Well, the same way she did, of course: great lingerie. You see, another downside to the sexual revolution for women born into that free-love, anti-lingerie (unless it's for sex's sake) era is that they've no idea how to use lingerie to improve their figure, their posture and their comfort.
We've become a nation of fast shoppers, and we don't give ourselves time to learn how to make the most of our assets. Instead we dash in and buy the same size bra we bought five years ago, without thinking that maybe our backs have got narrower and our boobs bigger, that our ill-fitting lingerie could be the reason why we have neck and shoulder problems; and that there's no need to walk around with your tummy sucked in — there are knickers to do that,
As we kick off an exciting new season where structure is the mot du jour, lingerie becomes the most important issue of all. The collections abound in cellulite-revealing jersey dresses, saddlebag-exposing skinny jeans and untoned-leg-flashing mini skirts. Now more than ever, you need to know about lingerie. Brown Thomas, our market leader when it comes to international fashion, is dedicating the month of October in its lingerie departments in Dublin, Cork and Limerick to teaching women about undergarments to maximise shape and style, and make you feel comfortable.
With its Shape Your Silhouette campaign, Brown Thomas has expert fitters available to teach you about bras and support shorts, tights and briefs, when to wear a basque, when to go strapless, and all that jazz.
So this month, girls, I beg of you, give yourself time. Love yourself a little. Make it a point to get yourself properly measured and learn about this stuff. You will be amazed how fabulous and confident.
ABC News Internet Ventures Oct. 28, 2006
They've been around for centuries, but for a long time, young women shunned them. Now, the girdle's back. Some very sexy women who are wearing so-called support undergarments these days. "Personally as a stylist, I have been using undergarments on my celebrities for over a decade now," said Philip Bloch, a designer and celebrity stylist. "It just helps them feel better -- everybody from Sandy Bullock to Meg Ryan, to Halle Berry, Salma Hayek." Even supermodels are jumping on the bandwagon. "Well, I got a lot of cellulite on my booty," said model and talk show host Tyra Banks. "I wear Spanx on 80 percent of the shows." Banks isn't alone in her devotion to Spanx, a popular brand of support undergarments. One of "Fantastic Four's" superheroes relies on the girdle's super-stretchy powers: Jessica Alba thanks Spanx for hiding her lumps and bumps. They work for mere mortals as well. "When you walk, it's all like a 25 year old -- firm and compact," said one fan of modern girdles. "Definitely takes off the five pounds," affirmed another. It's not necessarily grannies in these panties. "Who doesn't want to look good -- especially the actresses," Bloch said. "So why not look that good even when you're going to the PTA?"
Bodyshapers - Suck it in, in style by Kim Crow, Newhouse News Service April 8, 2007
So you have the cute clingy dress, the knockout shoes and cherry-red lip gloss.
Now if you could only lose that tummy pouch and thigh bulge by the weekend.
It is time to break out the foundation garments. But is that cute, clingy dress worth the discomfort of a girdle?
"We don't use the G-word anymore," says Leilani Matthews, an intimate-apparel fit expert. "Bodyshapers are one of the fastest-growing segments on our floor. These are not your grandma's girdle. Really, these things are amazing. They can be virtually weightless but still can shape and stretch."
Due to advances in fabric technology and manufacturing, modern bodyshapers bear little resemblance to the girdle Granny may have worn. The popularity of the bulky, laced and steel-bound garments fell dramatically after the 1970s, as women liberated themselves from hourglass silhouettes to letting it all hang out.
"When I burned my bra, I burned the girdle, too," jokes Betsy Mueller, 55, of North Royalton, Ohio. "My mother wore a girdle every day of her life. She had actual grooves on her rib cage some days. I always said, 'Nuh-uh, I'm not going to do that.' "
Yet in the last decade, as clothing styles became more body-conscious among women of all ages, retailers have seen interest rise in this new generation of body slimmers. According to market-research firm NPD Group, sales of shapewear jumped 26 percent from 2005 to 2006, with sales reaching nearly $740 million last year.
"Yes, we're the generation that burned our bras, but — I don't know if you've read the last chapter — gravity wins," deadpans Matthews. "No matter how fit a woman is, as she gets older, her tissue softens. But hey, she works out, she works hard, she wants to wear what's fashionable. That's where a light shaper comes in."
Much of the shapewear world's resurgence in popularity is because of Spanx, an enterprise created when its founder couldn't find footless control-top pantyhose to wear under trousers and with open-toed shoes.
Spanx founder Sara Blakely parlayed her $5,000 savings account into $100 million in sales in six years. Her hosiery and shapewear have been touted by the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé Knowles and Tyra Banks, who actually lifted her skirt on television to show off her Spanx.
"Everyone from a size 2 to 22 can benefit from a smooth, flawless foundation," says Maggie Adams, public-relations coordinator for Spanx.
With the shapewear industry in such a growth mode, there's seemingly a slimmer out there for everyone. Here's a quick look at some of what's available:
Shaper thong: For women who have a softening lower abdomen but don't want rear coverage. Offers lightweight control.
Shaper briefs: These come in a variety of styles with the option of tummy control and booty booster in the rear. Lightweight to moderately slimming.
Hip slip: One piece with built-in bra and panties under a skirt slip, often with silicone grippers at the hem to keep it in place. Best under short dresses and skirts, but remember, this garment will keep your legs bound together. Tends to ride up with a lot of movement.
Shaper camisole: For lightweight midriff and muffin-top control, often with a shelf bra or molded-bra cups built right in. Many versions have silicone grippers along the bottom hem that keep the cami in place.
Biker pant: A longer leg that stops right above the knee. Again, high-waist versions are available. Moderate to extra firming in the thigh saddlebag, tummy and rear areas. Creates an hourglass shape.
All-in-one: These look like bathing suits that go all the way to the knee or lower. Moderate to lightweight firming, but can be hard to fit on many body types.
Long pant: Often worn by women who've undergone liposuction or vascular surgery; lightweight to firm control.
Boy shorts: A panty-line-free option that offers moderate tummy and bottom control. Best for those with athletic upper thighs.
Panty leg: These come to midthigh, and versions feature a high waist meant to come right under the bra line. Moderate to firm control in the tummy, midriff, rear and saddlebag areas. Great for clingy knits, but warning — the thigh seam can be seen through pants, depending on the fabric. Often has silicone grippers on the bottom hem.
Waist cincher: The most medieval-looking of the bunch, cinchers have stays to keep them in place. Some have hook-and-eye closures, as well. They offer firm to extra-firm control and lower-back support.
Getting yourself in shapers
Try them on. Shapewear sizes are based on averages. If you have a short waist, slim hips or a generous bottom, you may have to go up and down in size accordingly. Bottom sizes are generally based on waist sizes, but if your hips are 13 inches or greater than your waist size, your hip measurement may be a more accurate fitting guide.
Ask for help. Bra fitters should have some training in fitting foundation garments.
Check out the seams. To see how much control a shaper will give, turn it inside out and check the seaming. The more seams, the more shape it will give you. Another trick — put your forearms inside the garment and give it a horizontal tug. The more resistance, the more firming the garment will be.
Bottoms up. If you want to give a boost to your bottom, look for versions with seams and gussets on the rear. If you want to flatten your bottom, look for seamless versions.
Placement counts. Identify your problem areas, and look for models that offer double- or even triple-knit control panels where you want them.
Comfort counts. If a garment is really uncomfortable, make sure you have it on correctly. A high-waisted version should rest right under the bottom of your bra. If it's cutting into your rib cage, you're not wearing it high enough, or it's the wrong size.
Easy does it. For the bike-short models, it's easier to roll them on like pantyhose than to step into them as you would with pants.
Consider a combo. Because of differences in body types, it's very difficult to find a full-body slimmer that does everything you want it to do. Consider a combination of garments. Your own bra, a waist cincher and bike shorts may be a better-fitting combination for a long-waisted gal than an all-in-one model.
Have realistic expectations. An extra-firming garment may well take you down a size, but bodyshapers are at their best — and most comfortable — when they're used to create a slimmer, bump-free line under the clothing size you generally wear.
By Judith Spitzer
Today was the perfect summer day in Portland. Sunny, but not too hot … just perfect.
You know what they say – It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.
OK then. So I had to visit the park in the Pearl District as I was driving by because all those kids are so very cute wading and jumping through the water spurting up through the rocks and laughing, laughing, laughing.
The two adorable girls in the photo are Eden, 2, and her sister Sofie Miller, 5, who are in town from Michigan visiting their grandmother. Ahh, they’re oh so cute yes?
Do you remember where you were when you heard about Spanx? (Wasn't that a smooth transition?) Spanx are the intimate undies that banish panty lines, allow you to wear any shoe and instantly make you look 10 lbs. thinner even though you still haven’t called Jenny?
Yes, it was a groundbreaking moment in my life when Oprah introduced us to Sara Blakely in 2000 … the woman who, in 1998, cut the feet out of her pantyhose to look smashing in her cream colored pants and then proceeded to develop and market the incredible body shapers.
If you don’t know what I mean when I say “cottage cheese thighs” you’re probably blessed with French anti-cellulite genes. Spanx are a cross between a girdle (don’t you hate that word?) and pantyhose and are very popular with the Hollywood set (Jennifer Garner, Gywneth and Oprah). The footless pantyhose provide excellent control and smooth your body without crushing your ribs.
So when I was at Target getting last minute vacation goodies, I bought the last pair of footless pantyhose in the store. Luckily they were in my size. The brand name caught my eye … Assets … could there be a better name for footless hose?
Then, lo and behold I looked up the name online and discovered the Spanx company just launched Assets -- the budget friendly version of the shappers -- exclusively at Target.
Assets, the budget version, features three different types of shapers--underwear, footless, and full pantyhose. The retail price of the shapers are $10-$15 and a portion of the sales goes to help educational projects in South Africa according to the web site.
And their philosophy is refreshing.
"We are the original, we patented (Patent Number: US 6,276,176) the concept and we are women designing products for women. We found that in all of these years, men have been designing pantyhose for women and they don't wear them (at least they don't admit to it). Sara started as a frustrated consumer and quickly turned into a pantyhose guru.”
I’m telling you I love the feel and look of these. You have to try them. They’re very soft … yet firm. Kind of like the way we want our men to be. Oh but that’s another column.
Modern girdles get the glamour treatment by Maxine Mendelssohn Freelance, The Gazette (Montreal) 2006
Saturday, May 27, 2006
From the "everything old is new again" file, out comes the girdle for the modern woman. Perhaps inspired by stick-figure-thin stars like Nicole Richie and Teri Hatcher, girdle makers are spreading the news that it's not nerdy or passé to wear a tamer or a power panty, the modern description for the good old girdle.
They're the new generation of slimming undergarments, but they still carry old promises of flattening bulging tummies, lifting flaccid butts and taming that dreadful visible panty line (VPL).
And the target market for newfangled girdles isn't women with middle-age spread, it's younger women - even those who are slim.
"We get a lot of younger, smaller women, who really might not even need it, but sometimes it's psychological. It just makes them comfortable with their bodies," explains Vanessa Nagley, manager at Westmount's Sox Box, which has a whole section devoted to shapers.
Red-carpet habitués Oprah, Gwen Stefani and even style goddess Sarah Jessica Parker have confessed their love of spandex tamers from Sassybax, Cass And Co. and Spanx. But since it's pretty much a given we won't be strutting our suburban selves down a red rug anytime soon, why bother with a girdle?
Simply put, today's fashions are anything but baggy and the slim fits may require a little curve taming. Case in point; trendy Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses are VPL disasters waiting to happen. Even flimsy tees from James Perse can show back fat ripples, and designer denim from Citizens of Humanity can leave your thighs looking like Christmas hams.
"Slinky dresses are very in now," said Claire Dahan, owner of Miss Swiss boutiques on Mont Royal Ave. and St. Denis St., where they stock clingy viscose wrap dresses. "They're snug, but at the same time they don't hold you in at all, so you're essentially hanging out there."
According to Dahan, there's nothing wrong with wearing a girdle, especially if it's seen as young and hip.
Fashion Television host Jeanne Beker has also praised body slimmers in her Globe and Mail column. She reminded readers that "back in the '60s, even the hippest, skinniest women wore girdles," and she tells us to think of body slimmers as "New Age versions of old-fashioned panty girdles."
That's just what the folks at La Senza would like us to think. After 15 years in the lingerie business, the Canadian retailer is set to launch a line of girdles next month. La Senza's clientele is between 18 and 35 years of age. Still, it claims to have introduced the girdles due to "customer demand."
According to executive vice-president, Caroline Sacchetti, "the Shapewear is absolutely being marketed as sexy and young. These aren't the girdles of the past. Everything is seam-free, low-waisted spandex and it's not heavy or body-restricting."
The girdle revival is bulging with such claims.
"We've tested internally and more full-figured women tend to drop a dress size. That's almost an inch in hip measurement," said Miriam Freibauer, chief marketing officer at Phantom Industries, makers of the Silks Shaper. "They have a tighter weave under and between the bum cheeks so they lift, separate and support your bum."
Achieving a smooth body line using a girdle is like plopping in colour contact lenses or gluing on acrylic nails; it's a quick fix that many will try but few will admit to.
"I'm not embarrassed; I just don't want the world to know I wear a girdle," said Claudia, who didn't want to give her real name. The 23-year-old nursing student often wears tamers when she's not in hospital scrubs. "Girdles give me a very flat stomach and make my butt higher. Clothes just fit better." Still, Claudia does concede one hazard: "So what if they sometimes cut my circulation above the knee?"
I decided to investigate the trade-offs myself, experimenting with Spanks and Silks Shaper girdles for a week. I wore a thigh tamer, a full slip (with under-wire bra) and a high-waisted tummy tamer - on different days, of course.
Yes, they gave me a nicer silhouette, but I couldn't help but feel like my trunk and legs were encased like sausages.
The girdles are perfect for standing around looking skinnier than you actually are, and they also help with the rear view, the one you give everyone when you walk out of a room. To this end, I wore a tamer to the gym, and found that when I was pounding the treadmill I felt less self-conscious about my "badonka donk donk" as rapper Missy Elliott affectionately calls it.
Inserting and extracting myself from the girdles was a workout in itself.
In fact, a colleague caught me pulling my girdle up in the bathroom and remarked from the next stall that it sounded like I was "trying to saddle a wild mare."
So after lunging and squatting to get the girdle over my kneecaps and (gasp!) my thighs, I emerged looking sleek, spandexy and flushed. And despite that slightly vacuum-packed sensation, I felt a little more like Nicole Richie, quite a feat for a 5-foot-3, 120-pound chick.
I'm slim, but I'll definitely be wearing a girdle under my slinky dress to avoid giving a less-than-stellar rear view. I'm not taking any chances.
So how does Katie look so good? A trim Katie Holmes makes a surprise appearance by Valentine Low, Evening Standard 05.05.06
Talk about Mission Impossible... it has been a mere 17 days - count 'em - since Katie Holmes gave birth to daughter Suri, but Tom Cruise has not wasted any time in wheeling out his fiancée to help publicise his new movie.
And yes, it has to be admitted that she is looking pretty good. But the question celeb-watchers will no doubt be asking is: has she gone for a Gwynnie Girdle? For, let's face it, most new mothers would not feel brave enough to face the world's flashbulbs only a fortnight after giving birth.
We all know now how Gwyneth Paltrow does it. Following the birth of Moses - a brother for her daughter Apple - she has been using a postpregnancy girdle recommended by her London obstetrician, Dr Gowri Motha: or, to be strictly accurate, two.
What about Katie, though? In this picture she is looking remarkably trim. All the weight she put on during pregnancy seems to have disappeared - or has it?
Does that black dress hide rather more than it reveals? It is rather loose fitting, is it not? Could there possibly be a girdle under there?
Her presence at the screening certainly came as a surprise to the fans gathered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. When a 2006 Bugatti Veyron rolled up to the red carpet, onlookers only expected Cruise to get out of the vehicle, the fastest road car on the market. But there were whoops and cheers as he walked round to the passenger side and opened the door to let out Holmes, 27.
If she has opted for a girdle, she would be reflecting current trends. Most of us probably thought the girdle was something our grandmothers wore, but according to a new report it is having something of a comeback.
A survey by Mintel says British women are spending almost £50 million a year on underwear to control or improve their figures, particularly after having children.
Even Agent Provocateur, better known for its flimsy, glamorous lingerie, includes a girdle or "post-natal knickers", in its new maternity collection and claims it is selling "really well".
Sales of Marks & Spencer's Magic firming range have doubled in the past year. "It is the Bridget Jones phenomenon," said a spokeswoman. "Women saw her in big knickers. And it's stars such as Trinny and Susannah coming out and saying, 'Big knickers rock'."
Lingerie booms with return of the girdle: A-listers wanting to squeeze into this season's unforgiving fashions are leading a £135m stampede for shape-control underwear
by Susie Mesure Independent 4th November 2007
Gwyneth Paltrow likes it doubled up. Jessica Alba swears by it. And Mel B is using it in her quest to compete with her size zero singing rivals on the Spice Girls tour.
The "it" is shapewear – the 21st century's take on the old-fashioned girdle that has burst on to the lingerie scene with annual sales of £135m in the UK alone. Millions of British women know that it's their only salvation when squeezing into this season's waist-centric fashions. New figures show demand for shapewear, which includes Trinny & Susannah's best-selling magic knickers and control pants from Marks & Spencer, has surged by a fifth in the past four years. Lingerie experts estimate that up to 80 per cent of British women seek help from nylon-spandex undergarments to smooth out unwanted lumps.
Spanx, the US brand started by Sara Blakely with the help of Oprah Winfrey in 2000, is a best-seller for lingerie specialists such as Figleaves.com because it is so popular with Hollywood A-listers. Gwyneth Paltrow wore two of Spanx's girdles to fit back into her Seven jeans after giving birth to her daughter Apple. Spanx, which has annual sales of $150m (£75m), saw its UK sales double between 2005 and 2006. Other celebrity advocates of body-shaping underwear, either to appear impossibly svelte or to give to them curves in the right places, include Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson and Cate Blanchett.
In the UK, Kylie Minogue thanked her dress for its support at the recent Q Awards, prompting Grazia magazine to crow: "We suspected she, like us and every curvy-conscious A-lister on the planet, is using fashion's latest – and gloriously invisible – secret weapon: control pants."
Denise Fraser, Figleaves.com's lingerie buyer, said: "In the past, shapewear was something your mother wore but now there is no longer that barrier." The return of the waist via nipped-in suits and high-waisted trousers and pencil skirts means many women need to define where their hips end and their chest begins. Figleaves.com said sales of Rago Waist Cinchers have soared by more than 200 per cent from last year.
Like most body-conscious trends, the female love affair with shapewear was rekindled in the US, where the sector is worth $735m a year and growing at 6 per cent, according to the NPD research group. The lingerie helps women to drop up to two dress sizes without going near a gym or on a diet.
Fearing a loss to their earnings, even plastic surgeons are muscling in on the market. Dr Robert Rey, the Beverly Hills-based surgeon to the stars, launched a new range last month with the Australian lingerie designer Bruno Schiavi.
And in the UK, even the most unlikely companies now sell shapewear. Avon, the cosmetics giant, has sold 31,000 pairs of control briefs in seven weeks. That pales, however, compared with sales at M&S, which sold five pairs of control pants each minute in the three months from April to June. That's 7,670 pairs a day. John Lewis, which runs special shapewear consultations via its lingerie advice service, has seen sales of its brands soar by 75 per cent over the past two years. It is launching an own-brand version next month in time for the Christmas party season.
Susannah Constantine explained why she and Trinny Woodall launched their knicker line: "The right underwear really is the secret behind a great outfit. These will suck you in and hoick you up quicker than any diet or exercise regime."
But it is not all good news for women. Charles Nduka, a consultant plastic surgeon at the McIdnoe Surgical Centre in East Grinstead, warned that if taken to extremes, girdles could cause deep vein thrombosis by restricting the supply of blood around the legs and compress certain nerves, leading to a loss of feeling. "Varicose veins could also be exacerbated," he added
In this we truss by Zoe Williams
The Guardian, Monday November 26, 2007
Sales of support underwear have rocketed as women rush to buy the elasticated pants that promise the silhouette of their dreams. But Zoe Williams is worried. Can they ever be sexy? Are feminists allowed to wear them - and once you start, can you ever stop?
As I write, I'm wearing a pair of Not Your Daughter's Jeans. No, I'm just openly lying, I'm actually in my pyjamas, but I do own a pair of the "tummy tuck" jeans, and when the time comes to get dressed, that is what I shall be donning. Maybe tomorrow. I want to explain how these work because I do know, and it is relevant, but it's also very boring - it's all about weave and panelling and yik-yak-yik-yak, and the upshot is that you don't look as fat as you are. Your arse looks more pert, your thighs look longer and your tummy looks tucked. They are very high-waisted, so you have the pleasing feeling that you're not spilling out of your too-small clothes the whole time. You suddenly feel like you could afford the odd carb. Goodbye muffin-top. Hello muffin!
All this comes at a price, of course - or rather, a number of prices, the firstt fiscal (they are quite dear), the second that they have a tag coming out of the back saying "for real women with real curves" (I didn't know this until the weekend, when my boyfriend, walking behind me, started reading me out loud ... for goodness sake! How much of a passion killer is that, to have a slogan saying "I'm lardy" poking out of your stupid clothes?) The third and most obvious downside is that there's no getting away from it, this is a support garment. I am wearing support clothes. What's the deal with elasticated support? Once you start, do you ever stop? Can it ever be sexy? And most importantly, have I accidentally done something unfeminist?
Now tummy-tuck jeans ain't the half of it - the big market is in support pants. You want trendy, you go for Spanx, beloved of Oprah and all A-listers including, apparently, Reese Witherspoon and Gwyneth Paltrow. Weird - I didn't think they made a support garment that small. Paltrow could very easily mistake a pair of her support pants for an elderly person's wrist bandage. Imagine the rollicking farce that would ensue.
Spanx prove that with the right branding and endorsement, even the least cool thing on Earth can garner a certain cred. Oprah is simply queen of product. She could make denture glue desirable and in good time no doubt will. Over here, we are not quite as daft, nor as slender, as we look. Spanx might be fashionable, but predating Gwyneth and even Oprah is Marks and Spencer. They are the giant of supportive undercrackers. They've been making chubby women look, er, slightly short of breath since before our mothers were born.
Sorry, that is misleading. It sounds like I think these things don't work, when they must or we would have stopped buying them. The bottom simply never falls out of this market. At the moment, girdling is at an all-time high, and I mean that in real terms, not just as something journalists make up. Commentators (and yes, there is such a thing as an underwear commentator, thank you very much) attribute this to the current vogue for a cinched waist, which gives flab no quarter. But that look alone cannot account for the sheer volume of sales: M&S shifted five pairs of control pants each minute in the three months from April to June. That is 7,670 pairs a day. John Lewis reports its shapewear sales rising by 75% over two years, and is now launching an own-brand version to cash in.
The funny thing is, we have never had more options for changing our shape: there have never been more new and exciting diets, more gyms, more funny exercises where you aerobisize on vibrating plates inside a heated tent. There has never been more plastic surgery, more gastric bands and liposuction, more vitamin injections and appetite suppressants. Probably half the finest and/or most persuasive minds in the globe are engaged, in some way or other, with the business of improving our silhouettes. Yet what do we all fall back on, from the red carpet to the office Christmas party? Good old-fashioned girdles. The kind that some of our mothers used to call a "roll-on", and others of our mothers would have burned way before they waged fire-war on their bras.
Before we get on to the feminism, though, let's just deal quickly with aesthetics, as I run you through my support wardrobe. Jeans, we've covered: in the M&S Magic body range, there is a kind of full-body wetsuit-style garment that ends at mid-thigh ("Look slimmer in seconds" it says. Ha! You will look more like a sausage in seconds. I'm not sure that's the same thing); there's a corset thingy, which I've got; there are regular pants which just deal with a sticky-out, probably-post-childbirth tummy; and there are some things that look a lot like cycling shorts, which I've also got. I bought them when I had to go to a wedding while lightly pregnant and I was depressed about how fat I had already got. They were so tight I thought I was going to have a miscarriage (though I should point out for legal reasons that this would never happen). I have to say, I don't think you could drop a dress size - the fat has to go somewhere. Where does it go, though? Does it bulge out at the apertures? Or just become more compacted? Or does it magically redistribute to your neck or your knees? I haven't polled this extensively, but from my own experience and my instinct, I don't think it actually makes your silhouette smaller, so much as better managed; you don't have the sight of pinching bra straps or a visible panty line. Depending on your magic-wear (go for the wetsuit, the wetsuit!) it tidies you up to the extent that it creates the illusion of slimness, because in normal life, only very slim people have such well-fitted underwear (the rest of us kid ourselves by buying too small).
But the downside, as adumbrated memorably in Bridget Jones (book and film) is what happens when you take your clothes off. In white, these items make you look like a grandma. In black, they make you look like a kinky grandma from a kinky grandma porn film. In flesh-tones, they look like a surgical truss. They are about as sexy as herpes. Magic pants? You can say that again, not only are they slimming, they are also an amazing contraceptive. You won't want to take your clothes off, and if you ever did, only an inveterate drunk would shag you.
There is something wrong with this picture - when did we become a civilisation that dressed for the crowd and not for the individual? That's not about sex - that's about looking sexy to get attention. Where's the fun - not to mention the honour, the honesty, the vigour - in that?
So I think in some skewed way, the girdle is a feminist statement, if only in so far as we are not dressing to please men, we are dressing, if not to please ourselves, at least to taunt one another. Your original, first-wave feminist did not dress for the easy access of promiscuous men. So arguably, that makes anyone dressing for zero-access a de facto feminist. But it just doesn't work, does it? True feminism is not about batting men off as irrelevant gnats in the greater endgame of competing with other women. It's about being able to make sexual choices on an equal footing with men, and if internecine rivalry surrounding body shape has become so feverish that we've forgotten that sex was ever even the point of it, then that's not feminism at all. That's craziness.
Besides which, anything that gets in between a woman and her ability to breathe falls short in the equality department. Think of history, girls - the two ways in which our subjugation is spelled out, in books and period drama and such, are always: one, we couldn't own property and two, we couldn't receive bad news without passing out because our corsets were so tight that we were always on the verge of unconsciousness anyway. However devoutly one seeks the clean lines of a corseted profile, for one's own "self-esteem" and all that blarney, the fact remains that if half the world is finding it hard to sit down or talk or eat or breathe and the other half isn't, it doesn't take a genius to figure out which half has the power. Cause and effect is hard to determine, of course - do we wear corsets because we are powerless, or do we give away our power in the wearing of corsets? But the easiest way to solve it is to stop wearing the bloody things, and see how powerful we feel and look afterwards, which is exactly the logic behind bra-burning.
And can we just return for a second to the fiction of "self-esteem", which lurks behind all these questions with vanity at the centre, from corseting to plastic surgery. The argument runs: these adjustments improve my self-esteem. I, a woman, am taking my sense of self-worth into my own hands, identifying the interferences and dealing directly with them. As I no longer have to simply surrender to the hand I've been dealt, I am empowered. And since I enjoy more power, that must be a step forward for feminism.
The reasoning behind all this is rickety, and too-tight undergarments highlight this quite well. Let's say that you do feel fat, because you are fat, and feeling fat makes you feel bad because you think society is looking down upon you, which indeed it is. Any move made to counter the fatness will improve your standing in society, but it will not alter the entrenched misogyny that makes your appearance such a major factor in the way you are perceived and the respect in which you are held. Indeed, with any attempt to address the fatness, from dieting to girdling to surgery, you are simply shoring up the attitudes that measure out your worth in pounds and ounces.
In short, just because you're a woman, and something makes you feel good, that doesn't necessarily add up to feminism - like pretty much every ideological structure apart from hedonism, feminism is slightly harder work than that. And you have to consider, while we're here, whether it really does improve your sense of self-worth to be wearing something so tight that every waking moment is just another reminder of how inadequate you are. Apart from my tummy tuck jeans, which are as soft as butter. Curses. Now I feel like I've betrayed the sisterhood with my jeans, my cycling-alike too-tight shorts and my bra. I'm going to end up going out with no support at all. It ain't gonna be pretty.
Get it under control: Imogen Fox picks the most popular pants
The celebrity-endorsed ones
Spanx Power Panties
Invented by Sara Blakely, an American door-to-door saleswoman, in 1998 when she cut off the legs of a pair of tights in an attempt to find some underwear that would work with white trousers. By 2000, Oprah Winfrey was championing them and since then anyone who has ever lost weight or given birth in Los Angeles has paid tribute to the Power Panties. By 2003 the Spanx slogan "No more grid butt" was the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question. In typical OTT Hollywood style, Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly wore two pairs under her jeans to appear svelte after Apple was born. The Power Panty faithful say one pair is sufficient.
£21, Spanx, from figleaves.com
The 'sexy' ones
Agent Provocateur waist-cinching briefs
You're a new mum, but that is no reason not to dress in sexy underwear. That is the basic philosophy behind Agent Provocateur's post-natal collection. The range is a collaboration with Gowri Motha, maternity doctor to the stars. Motha believes that the briefs are the modern answer to the historical post-partum practice of rib and womb-binding methods. Tradition with a garter belt: every new mother's dream.
£60, Agent Provocateur, agentprovocateur.com
The traditional one
Rago waist cincher
With its classic black styling and back to basics hook and eye fastenings, this is one for the traditionalists. Rago has been around for more than 55 years, but notice how it has brought this piece bang up to date with the term "waist-cincher" - girdles are just sooo 1950s. Despite its traditional appeal, this one offers some styling opportunities. Worn over a white shirt it is an instant homage to Victoria Beckham.
The extreme one
Flexees bodysuit with shorts
The all-in-one unitard leaves nothing to chance. It's meant to squash in stomach and thighs, lift bum and boobs and even boasts multi-way bra straps. Worried about the inevitable bladder issues? Panic not. Flexees are keen on practicality and have created an elasticated envelope detail at the crotch. Chuck on a sponsor's logo and you're good to go for the Tour de France, but it's unlikely that Lance Armstrong has any useful advice on how to deal with the redistributed fat bulge at mid thigh.
£34, Flexees, from John Lewis, 08456 049049
The TV one
Trinny & Susannah Magic high-waist thong
The packaging alone on Trinny & Susannah's Magic range is fear inducing - featuring the former's naked bottom and the latter's bare stomach. The magnanimous pair claim to have dedicated a decade to researching "shape-wear" before launching their Magic range. Much more research is clearly needed to figure out why anyone would want to accentuate a saggy bum with a super taut stomach.
£35, Trinny & Susannah, from John Lewis, 08456 049049.
The fast-selling one
M&S Magic firm-control trouser knickers
These are basic but popular. Launched three years ago, these knickers now sell over a million pairs each year. Offering "power where you need it" without VPL, they claim the average measurement reduction from the knickers is 4cm. As befits the catch-all from Lily Cole to Twiggy mentality, they come in a range of leg heights. Magic knickers don't stand still though: new, exciting lacy designs are expected soon.
£16, Marks & Spencer, 0845 3021234