Spanx founder Sara Blakely was recently included in Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for her line of body shapewear which includes anything from underwear that tuck in your tummy to leggings that give you a flawless, seamless bottom. While Blakely’s product has helped thousands of women achieve their best figures (while Blakely is receiving some serious figures $$ herself), this concept of tummy tucking and waist accentuating is no new fashion fad.
The first known “shapewear” item is the girdle. According to various studies the girdle performed several functions including waist slimmer, core strengthener, and posture corrector. Women have worn girdles since ancient Greece and they were made of bronze and leather, pictured below (which tells you that women were willing to do just about whatever to achieve a thin figure).
During the 1800’s the girdle evolved into the corset. Women wore corsets under gowns so their waists would appear smaller and their backsides more plump, very similarly to the hourglass body trends we see today. It would take several people to assist the woman in putting on her corset, which she wore everyday under her dress. Wearing corsets were associated with royalty, so any woman that wished to be as presentable as a royal would wear a corset. There were major health concerns surrounding the corset, as the women’s rib cages began cracking and pushing into their organs and their bodies were left deformed.
The corset was extremely popular with women from the 1920’s up to the 1960’s. In the early 1900’s corsets were still worn extremely tight, however, over the next few years women began wearing them a little more loosely. Corsets began to be associated more with a thin figure than helping with posture, and women began using corsets as a dieting aid.
The corsets shown above are an example of the ones worn by ladies in the 1930s. They were not only used to cinch the waist, but also to smooth out any curves and create a tall, thin figure. These are very similar to the bodyshaping products we use today. The products come in various sizes, shapes, and colors and are even available for men. There has been a lot of controversy revolved around the use of bodyshaping products because it pressures women to be as thin as they possibly can be.
To push the boundaries even further, there is now a product available called a waist trainer that you wear while working out. The waist trainer, which is endorsed by celebrities like the Kardashians (surprise), is mainly used by women who have recently given birth and are looking to reclaim their post-baby bod as soon as they can. Of course any mother doesn’t feel her thinnest after carrying a baby for nine months, but to be using a waist trainer seems a bit unnatural (and uncomfortable). There is even a website called “The Waist Gang Society” whose motto is: “For women seeking the perfect waist, shape, and look that turns heads” with a picture of Kim Kardashian wearing the device:
Women have been obsessed with the hourglass figure for hundreds of years now and will stop at nothing to have it. With our society’s dangerous obsession of being thin and achieving the perfect hourglass figure, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for waist trainers and bodyshaping devices.