A foundation garment (also known as shapewear or shaping underwear) is an undergarment designed to temporarily alter the wearer’s body shape, to achieve a more fashionable figure. The function of a foundation garment is not to enhance a bodily feature (as would, for example, a padded bra) but to smooth or control the display of one.
Specific styles of foundation garments have been essential to some fashion movements, and required in some social situations in various fashion periods, particularly but not exclusively for women.
Garments may be categorised according to level or shape control offered – for instance, light, medium or firm. The simplest foundation is a body-liner or bodysuit, which are an ultra-light-weight leotards, and offers a light touch of smoothing. These are available in a unitard style (shortened legs) or a camisole-leotard style. The leotard offers greater control from a body-liner, and is available in boy-leg and capri-leg lengths, with spaghetti straps, low cut necklines, and even scoop backs, to cater for the outerwear under which the garments will be worn. These softly smooth the figure and provide light support. Micro-fiber camisoles and boy-leg briefs or “hot pants” are also available. Girdles are often called “body shapers” or “contour garments”. These garments are made with much more Lycra spandex than the 10% lycra / 90% cotton blend of most leotards, and they offer the highest level of shaping and support.
In recent years sales of foundation garments have increased considerably. A claim by Sarah Rainey in the Daily Mail in June 2016 that seven out of ten British women admitted to owning a pair of Spanx was unsourced and probably exaggerated, but a survey of 500 American women carried out by Kelton Research for Jockey International in 2008 showed that 44% wore shapewear regularly or occasionally. It appears that the more traditional brands are mainly worn by older women: of two hundred and seventy reviews of best-selling Marks and Spencer control briefs, 73% of respondents were over 55. Similarly, in the USA only thirteen reviews of out of two hundred and thirty for two control briefs stocked by HerRoom were from women under fifty. But this proportion increased to over one third in the case of a firm long leg girdle. And of seventy UK reviews for two high waisted garments, 60% were from those under 55.
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