Could Shapewear Become a Feminist Statement?


Everyday, social media bombards us with the latest snaps of pretty much every celebrity you can think of rocking tight-fitting dresses, suits, or even jeans, all with their waists cinched to perfection. The hourglass figure is the silhouette of the moment, and every girl online seems to have perfected it.

But these idealised figures are rarely as naturally flawless as they seem. I think it’s safe to assume that the majority of the women posing with snatched waists on Instagram have achieved their silhouette through wearing shape-wear, the Lycra-based, figure-enhancing garments currently taking the fashion world by storm.

Spanx, founded in 2000, was the original shape-wear company, but recently high street retailers have branched out to release their own slimming products. Pretty Little Thing and Missguided have both released extensive shapewear collections, making an instant hourglass shape available to everyone at an affordable price.

Even Kim Kardashian, one of the queens of the hourglass figure, has recently launched her own brand, Skims, providing a variety of shapewear. Some could see such a high-profile celebrity blatantly endorsing shapewear as damaging for women and girls who think that they can only be as attractive as her if they use restricting garments to alter their bodies.

However, the diverse sizes from XXS to 4XL, and the range of 9 different skin tones, means Skims is being widely viewed as a feminist advancement in women being able to control their own appearances without having to feel shamed for their size or skin-tone.

In the past, it was obligatory for women to wear dangerously tight corsets everyday if they were to find a husband, or even to be respected in society. But today’s shapewear – more comfortable and only worn occasionally – is a lot less oppressive, and more centred around a woman’s ownership of her own body image.

With body-confidence issues on the up due to the prolific images of stick-thin models and voluptuous curves in the media, shapewear could be the key to making ordinary women feel less inferior to their idols, and improving their self-assurance. But wouldn’t it just be best to embrace yourself as you come?

It is easy to see the idea of trying to change the fundamental shape of one’s figure as an anti-feminist societal phenomenon, designed to fuel capitalism by making women so ashamed of their natural shape that they feel the need to buy products to amend it. But maybe that’s too cynical of a view. Perhaps, ordinary women embracing shapewear is the next stage of development in female autonomy when it comes to their appearance. And surely that can only be a good thing.


Features Editor

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