As someone who considers herself "fashionable" and "stylish" and "having a vagina" and "possessing the nearly uncontrollable need to bind her wobbly bits into submission", I suppose I should love you. Lord knows a lot of women do. The shapewear industry is worth $812.5 billion, and annual retail sales grew 10.6 percent to $848.3 million from March 2009 to February 2010. Women are now building shapewear wardrobes of basic and specialty pieces like control camis, waist cinchers and all-in-one body shapers, much in the same way as they’ve made bras and tank tops wardrobe staples.
Spanx, your seemingly magical ability to smooth and slim is the stuff of legends. Women yank you on and feel, well, better about themselves. They speak of your power to their friends in enraptured voices, gushing over the way you make five pounds mystically disappear from their hips. It's no lie that I, too, have fallen prey to your seductive siren call of smoothing and shrinking. Frankly, I'm somewhat stunned by the way you concealed my food baby from last night's pad Thai dinner. That, my friend, is nothing short of a miracle, much like those visions of Mary people occasionally find on their toast. Sometimes I even look at my reflection in the mirror when I'm wearing you and think, "Damm, girl, you look good." (Most of the time my reflection says things like "You should really get on the treadmill today, fatty", or Maybe you shouldn't of had that second glass of wine last night, eeeehh?" because my reflection tends to be kind of condescending and bitchy.)
But here's the thing, Spanx: you hurt. Oh my God in heaven, do you hurt. You hurt like the wrath of a thousand white hot burning suns. Your godforsaken sucky-inny undergarments are no picnic to wear. Octavia Spencer, stunningly gorgeous Oscar winner and style goddess, wore THREE PAIRS of you to the SAG awards, a torture tactic I wouldn't be surprised to see at Guantanamo. Octavia told Ellen DeGeneres all about her painful experience:
"I could not party that night because I was being pinched in places that I didn't know it was possible. I ran into Melissa [and] said, "Oh my God, Melissa, I'm about to die. My Spanx are killing me." She said, "I just went to the bathroom and took mine off!""Been there, done that Melissa. Spanx, I too have heaved a sigh of relief upon peeling you off at the end of the day. And when I do, I wonder why so many women are now flocking in hordes to shapewear. Is it because more of them are struggling with obesity than ever before? Are fashion trends dictating the need for the smooth silhouettes shapewear creates? Or is vanity sizing, and a lack of sizing guidelines in the United States, the source of your success? There is definite confusion among female consumers regarding what clothing size they are, as it is nearly impossible to accurately determine what size one needs to wear to guarantee optimal fit.
So what is it, Spanx? Why are you so damm popular? You're a modern day girdle who is so mainstream that middle and high school athletes are donning you underneath their uniforms and doctors are reporting an increase in stomach and digestive trouble as a result of your medieval constriction. Women are putting themselves in pain all for the appearance of a flatter stomach and smoother hips. Personally, Spanx, when I wear you, I often feel fatter than when I leave you in the drawer. It's the truth. You are a reminder that I wish I looked differently than I do.
There's something about you, Spanx, that makes me have a lot of questions and wonder why women like me wear you despite the pinching and compression and stomach ickiness and low self-esteem. Are you really worth all that? What is the point, after all? So we can pretend to have the figures we dream of having and hold ourselves up to an unrealistic standard? That's messed up, Spanx. It really is.
Until I figure things out I'm going to just go ahead and keep you off my body. I hope you understand. It's not you, it's me. Well, actually, it is you. You're just no good for me, Spanx. No good at all.
(Do you wear Spanx or other shapewear? If so, do you find squeezing into it painful and humiliating, or does it boost your self-image? What do you think is behind the popularity of shapewear?)