Different Types Of Shapewear Explained


Shapewear Guide Introduction

Shapewear has evolved into a huge and lucrative market that dominates much of lingerie and fashion sales. There are so many different types of shapewear available that there is certainly something for everyone. Whether you want to smooth out your middle or streamline your thighs, you can be sure to find the perfect undergarment that will do just that.

Almost every women has at least one item of shapewear on their list of favourite underwear, and many have several different types that they can alternate depending on what style of clothing they are wearing. From full body suits to separate pants and tights, there are plenty of variants when it comes to shapewear.

This guide has 20 different types of shapewear explained, discusses what each individual garment does, and when best to wear it.

Benefits Of Shapewear

When you hear the word “Shapewear” you might instantly think about lingerie designed to make you appear slimmer. While good shapewear definitely does this well, there are many further benefits of wearing shapewear that can also benefit those looking to enhance their figure

Shapewear can make clothing more comfortable, avoiding rubbing or chaffing, and create a sheer effect that disguises visible knicker lines or bra straps. The right shapewear can also give you a huge confidence boost, as well as making you feel more attractive.

All have the ultimate effect of making you feel more confident than ever in your own skin. As any women will tell you, any underwear that makes you feel good is worth its weight in gold.

Shapewear Mistakes

A common mistake many women make when opting for shapewear is to choose the size they want to look rather than the size they are. We need to remember that shapewear is already designed to make us look different, and selecting the wrong size will only result in making you feel uncomfortable which is the opposite of what shapewear is designed to do.

When you are wearing your specialist underwear you may find that you fit into a dress that could be a size or two smaller. Some of the control panels and elasticated materials will feel a little snug if they are doing their job properly, but shapewear should still be comfortable enough to last a day without making you feel as though you can hardly move or breathe.

Types Of Shapewear

Shapewear comes in different levels of control. While some feel so light you hardly know they are there, others give you a definite sense of being pulled together neatly.

Most shapewear includes control panels made of layers of fabric including elastic like lycra or Spandex which has remarkable power at holding everything together to make you look slim. They are often made of polyester or nylon but can also include cotton, especially in the gusset where breathable materials are far more agreeable.

Coming next are 20 different types of shapewear explained fully:

1. Shaping Briefs / Pants

What It Does

Shaping briefs are effectively knickers or pants with control panels that will hold your tummy in made of lycra with some nylon or polyester fabric. The best shaping pants will include a breathable material that means you can wear them all day and still feel fresh.

Quite often, the shaping briefs will be high waisted which gives the added feature of pulling in the tummy and defining your waist at the same time. Primarily, shaping briefs will streamline your waist and make you feel confident without adding too many extra layers. Full briefs can also have control panels in the back to smooth out your bottom to look sleek and toned.

When To Wear It

You can wear shaping briefs with almost any outfit and they will help make a straight-cut skirt or dress look seamless, removing any wobbly bits from your midriff or waist. You can also wear them with trousers to give the appearance of a flat stomach and trimmer waist.

Although the control panel can feel a little tight, there is no reason not to wear shaping briefs at any time, day or night, though you might want to build up to wearing them all day as you may start to feel a little uncomfortable after several hours. Ideally, keep your shaping briefs for an evening event or a special day.

2. Control Thongs

What It Does

Control thongs are essentially briefs cut into a thong shape which don’t cover your bottom the way full briefs can. They are great at helping avoid a visible knicker line which can ruin the look of a clingy skirt or tight pair of trousers.

Control thongs have the added bonus of offering very strong control panels across the front which are great for keeping your tummy looking flat and toned. They are super discreet but also incredibly effective at pulling in any looseness in your stomach. Lots of women choose to wear control thongs when they need the support of a shaping brief but want to hide any underwear lines.

When To Wear It

You can wear your control thongs day or night with trousers or skirts. Again, they might feel a little tight at first but after you have worn them on a few occasions you will soon get used to the feeling of being held in securely and many women find the snug feeling reassuring as they know they look toned and slender.

3. Standard Shaping Shorts

What It Does

Shaping shorts are similar to briefs in the way they can pull in your tummy and waist while they extend over the tops of your thighs to help smooth out your hips and slim down your thighs. They also provide firm control of your bottom and can pull in everything for an all round shapely effect.

One of the added advantages of shorts over briefs is they are a good way of avoiding a visible knicker line, ideal for people who don’t feel comfortable with the G-string effect of thongs. As they cover the tops of your thighs, they can also offer protection against rubbing which can make the tops of your legs feel much better, especially in hot weather when chaffing can become a problem.

When To Wear It

The best time to wear shaping shorts is under a pair of tight trousers when you want your thighs to look trim and shapely or under a skirt if you are looking to avoid potentially painful rubbing. They also work well under jeans where they make you look good and can avoid the discomfort of heavy ridges in denim that can dig into your skin.

4. High Waist Shaping Shorts

High Waist Shaping Shorts available at Net-A-Porter

What It Does

Just like standard shaping shorts, these will pull in your tummy and control your thighs but shorts with a high waist will also have a powerful effect on your waist and midriff.

Some have elongated waists that can reach right up to just below your bra line to give you ultimate control and a slimming effect for your whole torso. The higher waist varieties are even more effective at giving you a flat stomach since everything is pulled in rather than redistributed to pour out over the top like a muffin.

When To Wear It

You can wear your high waist shaping all day as longs as they feel comfortable. They can be great under any outfit combination as they tuck in your thighs to suit a skirt or trousers and streamline your entire abdomen so you can wear a clingy top with total confidence.

5. Shaping Leggings

Shaping Leggings available at Harrods

What It Does

Shaping leggings are a brilliant invention that can tame your tummy and thighs right the way down to your ankles. Different varieties can stop just below the knee or can reach right down to your feet to offer support and streamline any wobbliness from your legs. They flatter your entire leg and can look great under trousers or a close-fitting skirt which clings to your outline.

They can also give support to any muscular weakness and could even help with varicose veins. Shaping leggings can come in a variety of designs including high waisted leggings that offer superior stomach slimming effects or even push up leggings designed to relocate some of the weight from your thighs to enhance your buttocks.

Perhaps the best thing about shaping leggings is there is no tight band around your thighs where some flesh can sometimes push out as they stretch everything out over your whole lower frame. They also mean there is no risk of a visible knicker line.

When To Wear It

Shaping leggings can be worn under trousers or a skirt and some women even wear them on their own to pronounce their shapely legs and buttocks.

They can be very comfortable as the support they offer can relieve pre-existing conditions that affect your thighs or legs.

6. Shaping Underskirt

Wolford Shaping Skirt available at Harrods

What It Does

A shaping underskirt fits closely against your body from waist or higher to around your knee. It creates a perfect silhouette by tucking everything down and smoothing everything out. It also means you avoid any visible lines or ripples. They are very comfortable and can come with straps to the shoulder. You can also wear your own bra.

When To Wear It

These are great for wearing under clingy material or a tight cocktail dress as they make your whole outline look slim and sleek. The length can vary so you can also wear them with short skirts and you can even pull them up higher if you have a really short hem.

7. Waist Shaper

What It Does

A waist shaper is ultimately a thick belt with cinch fastenings that you attach around your waist to reduce your inches and give you the appearance of a nipped in waistline. They function entirely on their own and you combine them with other shapewear or whatever lingerie you like. It reduces and shapes your waist and can also provide a little support to your back.Some have a variety of fastener options so you can tighten or slacken them as you desire.

When To Wear It

These are great with a dress or outfit where you want to create the perfect hourglass effect with a tiny waist at the middle. They are very easy to put on and remove so you could wear them anywhere and can easily take them off during the day if you feel uncomfortable.

Some women choose to wear a waist shaper when working out as part of a waist-training programme, and may even sleep in it to try to encourage their waists to adopt a more permanent tucked-in shape.

8. Shaping Dress

What It Does

The ultimate in full body control for a stunning silhouette, a shaping dress covers your body from you bust down to your knee and pulls everything together to create a slim outline from all angles. With a shaping dress, you won’t need a separate bra as there will be one built in.

Most shaping dresses are designed to create an hourglass figure and some include push-up features at the breast to create a fuller cleavage from the relocated flesh. They hold you in everywhere you need it for superior control with no visible lines.

When To Wear It

Ideally, you should wear a shaping dress either underneath a dress or under a skirt and top. A shaping dress can be the perfect all-round solution to all your underwear needs as it holds you in everywhere without the need for an extra bra or control briefs.

One of the best things about shaping dresses is they minimise the thighs without the tightness associated with shorts, making trips to the bathroom far more convenient. You can wear a shaping dress all day long and still feel fresh.

9. Shaping Top

What It Does

While a shaping dress is designed to pull you in from all angles, a shaping top does the same but it finishes around the waist or some stretch down to the top of the hips. A shaping top will offer complete control to your tummy and waist, offering you a flat stomach and a reduced waist, but it will also provide support for your breasts and your back.

Some shaping tops stop beneath the shoulder blades and can result in lumps or bumps at the line at the top of your back but many are designed to continue over the shoulders to avoid this. A shaping top will often enhance your breasts or make them appear firmer and more upright without the need for a bra. You can wear a bra with some shaping tops if you prefer.

When To Wear It

A shaping top can be worn most of the time although you might feel a little restricted if you want to head to the gym or engage in physical activity. It can be a great layer beneath a blouse for the office or an evening out.

10. Shaping Vest

Shaping Vest available at Lascana

What It Does

A shaping vest is a top cut like a tank-top or vest with fairly thick shoulder straps. They are ideal because they do not allow any redistributed looseness from your abdomen or bust to spill out under the shoulder blades as the thicker material can extend right up to the top of your back to keep everything smooth and sleek. You can wear a bra with most vests, or you can choose not to as the material will probably be thick enough to support most women adequately if they prefer to go without.

When To Wear It

You can wear a shaping vest when you want to control your upper body but aren’t too concerned about the lower half, so they can look great under a dress with a flowing skirt or even under a T-shirt that might cling a little around the abdomen. You can even wear a shaping vest on its own if the design is plain enough to double up as outer-wear.

11. Shaping Belt

Shaping Belt available at Leonisa

What It Does

A shaping belt is a piece of fabric with strong control panels that is designed to fit around the middle of your torso. It will pull your waist in like a waist cincher to reduce your waist measurement and can also flatten and control your tummy muscles.

It offers an immediate slimming effect and can give some support to your back. They can come in different lengths if you want the effect to continue higher up your mid-section towards your bust and even down to your hips if you want a slimmer effect throughout your mid and lower torso.

When To Wear It

A shaping belt can be worn under any clothing and combines well with any choice of bra or briefs to give control to your mid-section where you need it. Some people wear them for aerobic exercise to help train the abdominal muscles to the correct shape so they can see the impact even when they no longer wear the belt. Alternatively, it can be a good way to make your middle look slim and lithe under a close fitting top or blouse of light material that might cling.

12. Open-Bust Slip

What It Does

Similar to a shaping dress without the breast support, an open-bust slip begins beneath your bra line and continues down like a dress towards your thighs or even down to your knees if you want. As your bust is free you can choose any bra you prefer, but feel confident that your midriff, waist, stomach, and thighs all look neat and slender.

When To Wear It

You can wear an open-bust slip with any dress or skirt as it is designed to make your middle and lower body look perfectly sleek. It can also bring in your waist to create an hourglass shape.

You can wear your favourite briefs with the confidence that no lines will appear so it is perfect for a cocktail dress, especially if you have a particular bra you want to wear to enhance the neckline. They can be great if you find it difficult to find a well-fitting bra, or if your outfit has a complicated neckline.

13. Shaping Bodysuit

Shaping Bodysuit available at Net-A-Porter

What It Does

A shaping bodysuit is the ultimate in control-wear as it is designed to fit closely around your entire body from your breasts down to your briefs. Some bodysuits also turn into shorts at the bottom so the slimming effects is extended to control your thighs. Panels of elasticated material pull in your waist, flatten your stomach, and smooth out your back while supporting and enhancing your cleavage.

They fit snugly to give you overall shaping and even include your bottom so you know you look perfectly trim from all angles. Bodysuits come with built-in cups for powerful breast shaping or can offer compression if you want your breasts to look smaller. There are also some available with open-busts if you prefer to wear your own bra.

When To Wear It

You need a shaping bodysuit when you are concerned about the upper part of your body in a close-fitting dress or top. You can choose a variety of options to fit in with your outfit, including built-in cups to offer a fuller cleavage and some even have a plunge-top if your top is low cut or you want to leave a few buttons undone.

14. Shaping Slips

What It Does

Shaping slips cover your body from your breasts or even your shoulders down to your thighs or knees. They can smooth you out all over and make sure that no lines from any other underwear are visible. They will pull in your waist, flatten your tummy and can also reduce your hips and remove any wobbliness to give you a perfectly sleek outline or an hourglass figure.

When To Wear It

Shaping slips are best worn with a dress and can be great if you want to wear it all day as you will be able to visit the toilet without needing to remove your shapewear. If you find shorts uncomfortable, a shaping slip is a great way to achieve the same slimming effect for your hips and thighs without the line of shorts that can dig into your leg or make you feel overly restricted.

15. Shaping Camisoles

Shaping Camisole available at Harrods

What It Does

A shaping camisole is another type of shaping top that gives you full control of your upper body without worrying too much about the lower half. The same powerful elastic or lycra panel covers your breasts as well as your tummy and back so it is able to take inches off your entire outline. Some are designed to augment the breasts and you can wear them without a bra if you prefer as they will offer full support.

Camisoles are quite flexible and you can still choose to wear a bra underneath if you want. The helpful part of wearing a shaping camisole is that any lines or ridges from your bra will disappear and they can also help to control any wobbliness around your bra line in the back.

When To Wear It

Because a shaping camisole offers little support to your thigh area, they are great to wear when you want to draw attention to your top half. They are perfect with a dress that is shaped at the top but flows out in an A-line from the waist or hips down, and you could wear them under a shirt or blouse that has the potential to cling to you.

16. Shaping Girdle

What It Does

A shaping girdle can come in two varieties; open-bottomed to wear over your own briefs or as a panty-girdle with built-in knickers. They can be high-waisted and provide significant control for waist and abdomen, They usually reach down to your hips so can make you look really sleek from the waist down.

A panty-girdle is very similar to a shaping brief although there will be more focus on slimming down the lower abdomen. An open-bottomed girdle looks a little like a wide suspender belt as it has garter loops on the bottom to attach stockings.

When To Wear It

You should opt for a shaping girdle when you want your tummy to look really flat and your waist pulled in. They are also a great choice if you like wearing stockings and want to wear your own briefs.

If you are wearing a tight skirt and worried that the stocking loops might be visible through the fabric, you should opt for the panty girdle. They can feel quite restrictive so should be kept for evenings out or day events that have a limited time-scale. They are not ideal for engaging in any physical exercise.

17. Butt Shaper

What It Does

A butt shaper is a form of underwear that is designed to lift and mould your buttocks into the desired shape. Some look like shaping briefs as they can be fairly high waisted and can either stop at the thigh or continue like shorts.

Many contain padding to add more shape to your rear and control panels bring in your hips and flatten your tummy to enhance your buttocks. Those with shorts can also make you look sleeker at the top of the thigh to make your bottom look more pronounced.

When To Wear It

You can wear a butt shaper at any time but they are perfect for an evening out if you are planning to wear a dress that will enhance your bottom. Any form of cocktail dress or tight-fitting skirt can look fantastic with a butt shaper as it will flatten your stomach at the same time.

18. Waist Taming Corset

Waist Taming Corset available at Corset Story

What It Does

A waist taming corset is like a traditional corset and designed to take instant inches off your waist. It includes bones as well as stretch material for more efficient body shaping and can include laces to give your body a bespoke tightening effect.

They can come as over-bust where they will push up any body fat from the waist or torso to enhance your cleavage or underbust where you can choose your own bra and still be certain of the same reduction in waist inches. They are very powerful and can take as much as four inches off your waist. They may not be comfortable enough to be worn for long periods, and do not provide long lasting results when compared to waist training.

When To Wear It

You can wear a waist taming corset any time you want to make your waist look like you have lost a few inches. They are best worn under dresses rather than trousers which might be difficult to fasten over the bones. You should build up to wearing a waist taming corset over time as you might feel restricted and find it difficult to eat at first if you are not used to wearing traditional corsets.

19. Waist Training Corset

Waist Training corset available at Leonisa

What It Does

There is some ambiguity between a waist trainer and a corset as the term “waist trainer” is also used to apply to a waist cincher which is very different to a corset. You would be forgiven for thinking that a waist training corset was exactly the same as a waist taming corset but they are rather different.

Waist training involves embarking on a programme that includes exercise and corset wearing to help your waist change its shape on a more permanent basis, whereas waist taming only applies for the time the garment is worn. Some women wear their waist trainer for long hours and even sleep in it to help encourage the muscles around their waist to change form and adapt to a new, reduced shape.

They don’t look like traditional corsets as they do not have the laces and are designed to be a little more stretchy. The bones in a waist trainer will also be a little more flexible as they are made from plastic rather than steel. They are easier to put on as they include hook and eye fasteners instead of laces, although this means they can’t be adjusted as easily.

A waist cincher is usually made from a lighter material that is a blend of elastic and nylon which is designed to stretch in two directions.

When To Wear It

A waist training corset can be worn for many hours at a time and can be worn during exercise as part of a waist training programme. It is designed to be worn every day and will feel much lighter that a traditional corset.

20. Waist Cincher

Miraclesuit Waist Cincher available at John Lewis & Partners

What It Does

There is some interchange between the terms waist trainer and waist cincher but, as a rule, a waist cincher is made of very different material to a waist training corset although both have a role to play in trying to encourage your muscles to retain the reduced shape achieved by wearing a corset.

Just like a corset, a waist cincher has tight panels over the tummy to pull in any bulges and in doing so can also help improve your posture. Wearing a waist cincher can help you use more of your core muscles in every day activities which will lead to muscular changes over time. Unlike a waist trainer, a cincher is usually made of latex and fastens in the front with a zip making them very easy to put on. There are also rows of fasteners to allow for greater adjustment.

When To Wear It

A waist cincher can be worn every day and is particularly designed to be worn during exercise.

Key Take-away’s

Whatever part of your body you are looking to tweak, you can virtually guarantee there is some shapewear out there that can help you. As well as body shaping, you can even find garments that will improve the contour of your arms and legs to offer greater definition and remove the appearance of bulges or loose skin.

It is refreshing to see that wearing shapewear is more frequently being used as part of a longer term diet and exercise programme for women who want to achieve some longer lasting results. Even women who are very fit and confident in their bodies still keep some favourite pieces of shapewear to help reduce lines and be sure of a sleek outline when it counts.

One of the most important things to remember in all shapewear categories is that we need to stay realistic about the potential for actual shape shifting results. While some items like waist taming corsets can take an impressive four inches off our outline, we need to be careful not to overdo it or we could end up in pain.

As long as we balance wearing shapewear with a sensible approach, this could be the answer to achieving greater confidence, a better-looking body, and new-found energy through one piece of clothing. That is the magic of shapewear!

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