When we last met, I was grabbing my wallet, gritting my teeth, and shoving aside a lifetime of feminist conditioning to shop for — of all things — shapewear. The enemy? Annoying rolls of back fat, as well as the lumps & bumps formed by visible bra straps and bra strap adjuster thingies. The objective? To find camisoles that are specially designed to act as smoothers, slimmers, and shapers. And away we go!
Day 1. Destination: Macy’s
Like many department stores, Macy’s has a modest array of shapewear, most of it made by “Flexees,” a familiar name in body-shaping circles. With the help of an extraordinarily sweet young saleswoman, I trudged to the fitting room with several Flexees items that were all in the $35-50 range. These included:
Shaper 1: “The bridesmaid.” (Actual model name forgotten). This was a heavy, stiff, long shaper that extended from a high neckline down to the top of the hips. It was formidable. It was unyielding. And it had approximately 25 bra-type hooks going all the way down the back. It went into the dressing room with me……. and it never left the hanger. Who the hell am I kidding? 25 little bitty hooks? In the back? Have we met? I’m the woman who barely makes it out the door in the morning with properly fastened shoes. This shit ain’t happening. Next!
Shaper 2: “The body condom.” You think I’m joking, but honestly — this would be a very effective means of birth control. Once on, it’s not coming off without a lot of decidedly un-sexy bodily contortions. Like “the bridesmaid,” this was one was labeled as a “firm support” model. Yeah, well, duh. All I could think about while wearing it was: “I wonder how long it will take for my internal organs to return to their original, God-given positions?”
Just for the hell of it, I took a look in the mirror, to see how my little back rolls were doing, and things did seem a bit smoother and neater back there. But were they enough smoother? It wasn’t a miraculous, night-and-day sort of difference. My love handles were not rendered invisible. Angels didn’t sing. The bra strap bumps were still there. So the organ-squishing thing? Not so much worth it.
I decided it was time to move on to the “light support” models. This was not entirely a cop-out on my part. It was becoming clear that many of these hardcore shapers were designed for formal wear, whereas I need something a little more versatile for regular, everyday clothes.
Shaper 3: “The I-Can-Breathe-Again.” Aaah, much better. This light support model, also by Flexees, was thinner and more comfy, though still tight. It was low-cut in the front, making it more wearable with different necklines. When I looked at the back view, I saw a slight to marginal improvement in the lumpiness back there. Things looked a little smoother and less sloppy….. until I noticed a very prominent line where the top seam of the camisole was. So I would essentially be trading ugly bra strap lines for an ugly neckline that makes me look like I’m wearing a child’s undershirt or training bra.
End of shopping day one.
Day 2. Destination: Upscale Tourist Town (3 different stores).
Fancy Boutique #1:
Shaper 1: The “Yummie Tummie” (Not a made up name. Really). At almost $60, this was the most expensive shaper so far. It was tight, uncomfortable, and — astonishingly — didn’t seem to smooth as well as some of the ones I’d already tried. Apparently it was made more to shape tummies than backs. Next!
Old School Lingerie Store:
Shaper 2: Slimming camisole by Bali. This one wasn’t bad. It had moderate smoothing action — probably slightly better than the lightest of the Flexees models. Better yet, there was no unsightly neck line in the back. It wasn’t even as horribly tight as the body condom model. However, after I’d had it on for a couple of minutes, I began to feel uncomfortably warm. This baby just did not breathe. I’m probably crazy for expecting these things to breathe, at all, but there you go. The price was reasonable ($32), but with that level of discomfort, I just wasn’t ready to take the leap.
Fancy Boutique 2:
Shaper 3: The Spanx “Hide & Sleek” Camisole. Maybe I was blinded by the fancy Spanx name, invoked in awestruck tones in my last post. But oh, did I like this one. Lightweight. Comfortable. Breathable. No visible lines, anywhere. And — I was shocked to see — possibly the best smoothing action seen so far. And it was only $38! And it was the very last one! And it was a size too large! And they will not be getting any more! (heavy sigh).
There was only one bit of good news — the saleswoman gave me the name of another store that carries an excellent collection of Spanx. This store happens to be a very popular, very upscale department store. One that people swoon over. One that only very recently came to my state.
That’s right, baby. We’re talking about Nordstrom! (cue heavenly chorus)
Day 3. Destination: Nordstrom
Although I have visited “Nordies” once or twice, I never had a specific shopping objective. With no goal, I’m lost in a higher-end store like that. Much of the inventory is out of my usual price range, anyway, so I just wander around in a daze with my eyes pinwheeling away. I don’t even know where to begin!
On this day, though, I was lean, mean and focused. To lingerie! The shaper area was easy to find and, while the selection wasn’t huge, it was certainly respectable. They had Yummie Tummies, plus another interesting looking model (no clearly defined brand name that I could see). But I was pretty much making a beeline for the Spanx. The model I had tried before is no longer in stock — I expected this — but they did have something very similar.
A fabulously pleasant, professional saleswoman swooped to my side, instantly, and spirited my choices away into the dressing room. The dressing room itself was plush and pleasant, with impeccable decor. Trendy but not pretentious! Luxurious but not stodgy! Honest to God, I could have spent a few days in there. I wasn’t alone — my well-appointed room was flanked on one side by a bride-to-be and her friends and on the other by an older lady who talked just like Katherine Hepburn. And everybody was having such a wonderful time! I almost expected drinks to be passed on a little silver tray. (A damn fine idea, now that I think of it).
But I didn’t have to stay long. I tried on a couple of different options, but once I wiggled into the Spanx, that was pretty much it. Believe me when I tell you: these Spanx are pretty amazing. I tried the “Slimplicity” v-neck camisole, seen here:
Talk about a well-made item! It smoothes everything out nicely. It hides the bumpy lumpy bra straps. It makes the rolls less noticeable. And there is not a single seam or line that shows through. The straps also have sheer edging so that, even if they occasionally peek out of a large, open neckline (which they do, I checked), it really doesn’t look bad at all. You hardly even notice!
So I was sold. I plopped down my $46 and left the store with it. Probably the most I’ve ever spent on lingerie…. and nobody will ever see it! But I did it, all the same.
Will I wear it? That remains to be seen. What feels comfortable for a few minutes might not feel so good all day long. I can definitely see myself deciding, eventually, that my back rolls really aren’t a big deal and I should just be comfortable. But when I want a little help, I now have a new secret weapon.
Besides, as a bonus, I got to walk around for the rest of the day with a fancy Nordstrom shopping bag and a silly grin on my face.
And I may have also stopped off in the Nordstrom restaurant for a glass of wine and a gourmet appetizer.
Pretty much a perfect day, actually.