Blame my love of knee-grazing, form-fitting pencil skirts, but I swear by wearing Spanx. Sure, the sucking in and smoothing conjures up wearing girdles from a time that can be traced as far back as Ancient Crete, but shapewear gives me that extra confidence when I’m really showing off my figure. And depending on my mood, that can be up to three or four times a week.
During a recent meeting with fellow InStyle editors, my enthusiasm for Spanx came through when I said: "I wear them with everything." (I happened to be wearing a finely knit, rust-colored Zara dress—a no-brainer for shapewear.) This statement was met with astonishment ("No!," "What?!") and rabid curiosity: "What do you wear them with?," "How do you know which to wear?," "I don't even know my size?," and so forth.
Now, my vast knowledge of Spanx comes from my own trial and error and most directly correlates to shorts, underwear, tights, and slips, but considering that these women worked in fashion, I was surprised they had such limited experience. All of this made me realize I needed to impart my wisdom and share my knowledge. Thus, ahead, a frequently-asked-question guide to wearing shapewear, based on my personal experience as a self-proclaimed addict.
How do I find my size?
When it comes to the shaper shorts and underwear, which I find to be the most popular styles, finding your size is directly related to your waist and hips size. I would pick something that mimics your regular pant size, so if your denim size is 28, I would pick a size small shaper. A more clinical approach is actually measuring your waist and fullest part of your hips to get an exact size. For hosiery, take into account your height, like any other tights. Selecting a size that is smaller is not going to make you appear slimmer—if anything, it will make you bulge and make you more uncomfortable and irritable. Trust me!
How should I wash my shapewear?
I don't follow this rule much, but you should hand-wash your shapewear in cold water and lay it flat to dry (it's just like any delicate lingerie). Do not twist or wring; it will lose its shape. If you're lazy like me, machine wash in cold, but do not, I repeat, do not use the dryer. If you do, you will be left with too-small Spanx and an unfortunate bulging issue.
Do you need to wear underwear underneath a shaper short or underwear?
No way. The whole point of slimming shapewear is to create a seamless line underneath. Excess fabric will lead to excess bulk.
Are they sweaty?
There is a certain amount of sweat associated with shapewear, for sure—there is nothing worse than wearing them to an outdoor summer wedding, but miraculously, sweat won’t seep through your clothes. The durable material seems to act as a buffer against visible wet patches.
What should I wear my Spanx with?
You can’t go wrong with a shaper short under a fitted pencil skirt. The long biker-length style creates a lean line from your waist to the top of your knee. If you aren't as worried about your thighs (lucky!), try a high-waisted panty that focuses on lifting your butt. Tank slips work well under sheath dresses, but if you still need to wear a bra, try an open-bust slip that let's you have support and still slims.
What color should I buy?
It's smart to invest in nudes to go under pale shades, like white or pink, and black for darker clothing. Some shapewear comes in more interesting colors like oxblood and navy, which are fun, but I don't find them to be as wearable.
Can I wear Spanx as outerwear?
Because of the sheer and shiny materials that Spanx comes in, I wouldn’t recommend doing this (though certain Kardashians would disagree). But shaper leggings and jeans do exist—they're meant to look like regular clothing, but with the added benefit of a super stretchy, comfy fit.
What should I do if I’m wearing shapewear on a date, but don’t plan on going home alone?
Ah yes, the Bridget Jones conundrum. Honestly, if you are wearing a shaper short, I would go to the bathroom at the bar or restaurant you are at and take them off. There is nothing sexy about unflattering undergarments, so put them in your bag or throw them out. You'll thank me later.