In Gone With the Wind, they were called “corsets.” Our mothers called them “girdles.” Our generation knows them as “Spanx.” Tiny pieces of tight spandex designed to lift, tighten, squish, shove, and compress evidence of our age, our expired gym memberships from 2007, and our post-menopausal passion for Girl Scout Thin Mints and red wine (yes, together).
Spanx come in a dizzying variety of options, depending upon which particular body part(s) you’re attempting to bind into submission. There are literally dozens of styles to visually blur bumps, lumps, and flaws found anywhere between your shoulders and your ankles.
But I’ve reached the conclusion that Spanx work best on women who don’t need them.
My Spanx catalog arrived last week, and I sat down to flip through it, happily envisioning the new me, all toned and tightened without having to sweat it up on a Tread Climber or replace my Marie Callendar’s freezer stash with boxes of Jenny Craig. Seriously, people?? Every girl in the catalog would look fabulous in dental floss and nipple pasties. They all appeared to be 17 and six feet tall, with mile-long legs and zero percent body fat, and had obviously never given birth or experienced the guilty pleasure of cheesefries at the county fair. Where were the 5’3″, 58-year-old grandmothers, who have two jobs and can only work out at 4:00 a.m. (meaning, they don’t), and who have an unfortunate love of food?
It was then that I got the Big Idea. I’d send the Spanx people a few full-length selfies in several styles, for “real advertising.” My mind was whirling with visuals that could never be unseen.
In an effort to not preempt this brilliant advertising concept (It’s only been six months. They could still call, right?), I’m not including the pics I sent to the Spanx team. But here are some observations I noted during my walks down the runway/my hallway wearing nothing but Spanx and a smile.
Generally speaking, the entire concept is based on stuffing a generous size-X body into a teensy size-Y stretchy toothpaste tube. To be effective, you must break a sweat getting into it. If it slips on like granny panties, you need the next size down. And remember, that fat or loose skin you’re compressing doesn’t just go away. More often than not, it squishes out over the top, around the back, or below your buttocks. The part of you under the fabric will appear fabulously toned and tightened, but what oozes out from the top and bottom can make you look like a super-stuffed burrito.
1. The Slimmer & Shine Open Bust, Mid-Thigh Body Shaper. Basically shorts that go from thighs to waist, with spaghetti strap suspenders. I looked like Alfalfa from the Little Rascals, but in spandex. Includes “butt pockets” to boost the hiney up and out. While the side shoulder straps helped prevent my boobs from flopping over and becoming back fat whenever I laid down, the thigh bands resulted in unfortunate reverse muffin tops, with rippley thigh skin migrating out from the bottom of each pantie leg. And after spending the last several decades battling a big-butt gene pool, I’m inherently resistant to paying a hundred bucks for something that pads my ass. Next.
2. Super Higher Power Shaper. A tight shaper that runs from the mid-thigh to just under the boobs. Compresses the entire general area, including thighs, waist, and rear. Again with the butt lifter. Apparently I’m not grasping the big-butt trend, started by J. Lo, evolving into a nationwide pursuit by Kim Kardashian. While I appreciate any fashion trend that honors women who eat, whenever I think of butt pads, my mind sees spandex fanny packs. Can’t do it.
3. Open Bust Camisole. Essentially just the top half of #1. Could work, but the bottom of the cami persisted in riding up towards my waist, necessitating repeated efforts to reach up and pull it back down. And it seems my boobs aren’t exactly the same size (who knew?), because the left cami strap kept traveling over to the middle of that breast. If the point of wearing a human Scrunchie is to look better, constantly sticking your hands up your shirt all day to readjust your underwear is not going to get you there. Moving on.
4. Lingerie-Strap Slip. I tried this one under Hubs’ favorite LBD on Date Night. It felt a bit like a sausage casing, but I did look smoother. All good until we got home and, feeling sparky, Hubs unzipped my dress. As it slid to the floor, and I stood wearing nothing but a mortified expression and what Hubs later described as a giant, vacuum-sealed Food Saver bag, he burst into unrestrained laughter (instantly killing the mood, quite possibly for all time), choking out “What the hell are you wearing woman??” Hubs slept in the guest room, and I mailed that one to my sister the next morning. Good luck with that, Sissy.
5. Lust-Have Slimming Teddy. Surprisingly sexy little bodysuit, with lace and demi-cup bra. Fun, if you’re young and your boobs are non-existent or purchased, and your butt is still perky. In other words, if you look good in a bikini. In daylight. After 20 minutes of struggling to get into it and get all my body parts properly stuffed into position, the pantie part insisted on riding up on my butt, creating four cheeks instead of two. And when I leaned over in my sultriest “Hey, Big Guy” pose, my boobs fell out, looking like sad sock puppets dangling over the top of my teddy. Gave that one to my DIL.
6. Power Mama. A big ol’ spandex pantie with a maternity panel. No need to try this one, because…well, 58. But I gained 65 lbs when I was pregnant, and my only question is, Where the hell was this in 1989??
I now have a drawer full of slimmers and shapers, that I admit I rarely wear. But I did hear that Spanx is finally considering a long-sleeved, full-length, turtleneck version. I’m getting one in every color.