How Are Shapewear & Body Positivity Connected?

Think back to twenty years ago: the ideal woman had a very specific image. At the time peek-a-book thongs, bodycon dresses and low-rise jeans were all the rage. The public was bombarded with ads of beautiful women with smooth, toned, taut, silhouettes that exuded sexuality. Those who couldn’t live up to the ideal — just about everyone — were presented with the perfect solution: shapewear.

The world has evolved since that time, yet many body image issues from the era have stuck around. The body positivity movement may have taken leaps and bounds in a bid to change the narrative women have surrounding their own bodies, but more work is arguably needed. Even the most self-assured people still sometimes struggle when facing their reflection in a mirror. Shapewear has always been marketed as an instant fix to any body issues. There’s no denying that the marketing approached helped to generate billions of dollars for brands in the industry such as Spanx and Elle Courbee.

What items are categorised as shapewear these days anyway? Model Precious Lee believes that shoulder pads and push-up bras are just as much shapewear pieces as spandex bodysuits. The model, who was a big part of Kim Kardashian’s SKIMS campaign launch, told us that “bullshit” is the best word she can think of to describe beauty standards and that she’s sick of paying any attention to them. The majority believe that shapewear is any type of undergarment that changes your body shape.

People often get hung up on physical comfort, but it means nothing if a person is mentally uncomfortable. Shapewear presents a real conundrum in many people’s lives. Even Kim Kardashian decided to call her new line of SKIMS shapewear “solutionwear”. Can one embrace both body positivity and stylish shapewear pieces?

Shapewear allows you do not have to worry about that slinky number annoyingly clinging to your belly fat, but how many of us have ever tried just ditching the undergarments altogether? Lee revealed that she’s gone bra-free in public more than once and that it felt amazingly freeing. She explained that she didn’t feel more or less beautiful with or without the item. The reality is that undergarment choices don’t have to be all or nothing decisions. It all comes down to individual preferences, which can change on the daily.

Empowering women to wear whatever clothes they want without having to compact any backlash for their choices may seem like a big task. How would the eradication of shame work in practice? Will those who choose to wear shapewear be accused of perpetuating unrealistic standards of beauty for women?

Huntsman made it clear that she sincerely believes that they are no “wrong” bodies, but admitted that sometimes it can be hard to hold onto her belief when there are constant reminders of “unacceptable” flaws everywhere. It seems that all attempts to get rid of ideal beauty standards seek only to constrict woman’s free choices more.