It’s still all about showing your body to its best advantage. But as we cruise into the over-40 stage, many of us find that flimsy straps, lacy frills and peek-a-boo cutouts are no longer the way to go (if, in fact, they ever were). Suddenly, we can appreciate the power of well-made garments that do some heavy lifting — in more ways than one — in the figure flattery department.
I started down this path at 30, when I gave up “feels like no bra” bras and moved to underwires for every day. At around 35, I added molded cups for shaping and started fiddling with the straps, realizing that I needed to try a little harder to hoist those babies up!
But now, I have reached a new frontier. After years of denial, hoping the problem would go away, the time has come for a Back Flab Intervention. That’s right, ladies. We’re talking about shapewear. (Cue horror movie soundtrack).
Unfortunately, I hate the very idea of shapewear. I’m almost old enough to remember when women wore girdles. Well, at least I remember the “I can’t believe it’s a girdle!” commercials on TV. And I know they lied. These were torture devices, by all accounts, eerily echoing the bad old days of corsets in the pre-feminist age, constricting women both literally and figuratively.
Or so I’ve been told.
But things have changed! Shapewear is sexy now! This is not your mother’s girdle! One of the top-selling brands even has a nudge-wink sexy name, Spanx. And Spanx are practically a status symbol — just ask the gals on Sex and the City, or look to see how many times Spanx are mentioned in hoity-toity trendy fashion circles.
Of course I find it very un-sexy that I don’t need Spanx to reign in voluptuous hips and an ample, womanly behind. Oh no, not me. I could actually use a little more jiggle in those areas. What do I get instead? Back flab. Nothing womanly about that.
At least I’m not alone. Apparently my body type is common enough that it actually has a name. They call me a reverse triangle — marked by big shoulders, a broad back and substantial torso that tapers downward to small hips, butt, and thighs. My body type is not exactly new to me, and neither is the back flab. I love-handled many a knit top even in my teen years. But like many physical and personality traits, I think it has become more pronounced with age.
Avoiding tight knits and thin fabrics is no longer enough, it seems, because I suddenly have seemingly normal shirts in my closet that act as Back Flab Magnifiers. To say nothing of the Lumpy Bumpy Visible Bra Straps.
It makes me feel sloppy. Unkempt. In a word, frumpy.
I’m not going to jump on the self-hating, poor-body-image bandwagon. I don’t have to be a teeny-tiny supermodel. I don’t want to look like a wisp of a girl. I like my broad shoulders, thank you very much! I might even be willing to accept my (strong! unyielding!) back, which cascades gently downward in little rolls that start right below the bra strap and end somewhere near the hips. But does everybody have to see every single roll?
Suddenly, after years of not really paying attention, I’ve learned that we can buy shapewear to address this issue. Upper body Spanx exist! (Well, ok, they are not all manufactured by the Spanx company, but you get my drift).
I’d read that one could buy such things, a year or so back, in one of my favorite fashion publications. But I dismissed it, thinking, “Ah, that’s too much of a specialty item; I won’t find it in the stores around here. And besides, shapewear is too expensive!”
Whenever I had seen shapewear in the lingerie department, the emphasis always seemed to be on girdle-type, lower-body focused garments or — even worse — long underwear-type things that covered the whole body from boob to knee. And they cost more than I like to spend on clothes that the world will actually see. Who wants to spend a lot on underwear? The un-sexy kind?
However, more recently, in the dim murk of my peripheral vision, I’ve been noticing garments that look like upper body shapewear. I don’t know what they’re called, but I’ve seen them hanging on various racks, here and there.
They even seem to be available at a variety of price points. For example, the last time I was in the lingerie department at Kohl’s, I saw some camisoles that looked….. well, more substantial than camisoles. I kept walking (denial, you know), but it registered.
A couple of weeks later, I was in a fancy boutique, and I saw some undershirty looking things hanging right next to the trendy, fun clothes! Hmmmm, I thought. Could that be an upper body shaper? I felt the fabric. It felt quite substantial, yet soft. It might actually work! But I was afraid to look at the price tag. I didn’t want to try it on. Plus, it was a beautiful, early summer day. I wanted to look at sunny, flowing, feminine clothes that put a spring in your step and a gleam in your eye. I sure as hell didn’t want to think about my back flab, let alone address it.
Then, about a month ago, in another boutique, I saw another one. My God, they’re following me! Are you trying to tell me something?
The time has come. I am ready. Right now, the knit top that is the worst offender in the back flab department is sitting in my car. It is waiting to accompany me on a shapewear shopping trip.
But I am just so much dreading it! That’s probably why it’s been in my car for 3 days now, and no shopping has occurred. But my intentions are good. Really, they are. So if I post this, right now, I will be forced to post again with an update in a week’s time, right? Or maybe in a couple of weeks? How about sometime within the next fiscal year?
In the meantime, maybe some kind readers will send a little inspiration my way. Was your life changed by shapewear? Tell your story. If you get involved in my intervention, maybe recovery is in sight!