Thanks, Spanx: New clothing range the shape of things to come
The company formed by Sarah Blakely is set on ‘changing the world one butt at a time’
Beige jacket €299 Samsoe + Samsoe, white bodysuit €125 Vince, gunmetal Moto leggings €110 Spanx, white trainers €520 Valentino, bag €390 Marc Jacobs, sunglasses €260 Tom Ford, small earring Maria Black €55, large earring Maria Black €110
We don’t call it underwear anymore, but shapewear. Forget about a simple bra and pants – a whole lexicon describes today’s control lingerie and what shapewear embodies, in every sense of the word: bodysuits, bustiers, tanks and booster shorts to leggings, thigh-shapers, waist-cinchers and thong-shapers (don’t ask).
And when it comes to body sculpting, attitudes tend to be divided into two camps: those that think it another form of body shaming – a symbol of oppression in a body-obsessed culture and nothing to do with female liberation – and those who just can’t wait to vacuum pack their flesh into a more streamlined shape on whatever part of the body they choose, be it an ample bosom or derriere.
It’s modern corsetry, and constriction is nothing new in fashion and will always be subject to contention; yet figures (sorry) speak for themselves. The shapewear business is booming, a global market valued at more than €3 billion and predicted to expand at the rate of 4 per cent a year for the next two years. Technical advances have evolved exponentially, improving quality in construction and seamless comfort in everyday wear and in sports clothing for both men and women.
She decided to cut the feet out of a pair of tights with a pair of scissors and – hey presto – the idea of Spanx was born
I knew a woman once who hated wearing tights because, she said, they made her feel “like a bifurcated sausage”. I don’t know if she wore stockings or how she dealt with that problem, but it was cutting the feet out of a pair of pantyhose that created a business that ultimately made Florida woman Sarah Blakely, creator of Spanx shapewear, the youngest self-made female billionaire tycoon in the world.
Legend has it that she was going to a party and couldn’t find underwear that wouldn’t show through her cream trousers. So she decided to cut the feet out of a pair of tights with a pair of scissors and – hey presto – the idea of Spanx was born. That was in 1999 and it changed the whole face of lingerie.
The following year she left her job selling fax machines and sank all her own savings of $5,000 into the business and wrote her own patent. The big break came when she sent samples to Oprah Winfrey, who namechecked Spanx pantyhose as one of her favourite things in 2000 on her influential TV show. The rest is history – the company has remained profitable ever since. Boasting three grades of suction for its shapewear – medium, super and super-duper, “changing the world one butt at a time” is the company mantra.
The best-known Spanx items are the control top leggings and body suits, the newest products including faux leather styles (great with big sweaters for winter) and black camo leggings, perfect for biking or mucking around with kids. Leggings in gunmetal, denim or with satin trim, along with bodysuits and even a drape collar jacket, are styled here, giving some ideas of how to shape up, in every sense, for the coming season.
A final note: This year, Blakely (whose ancestry DNA results revealed that she is 33 per cent Irish) pledged to give $5 million to support female-run small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
All clothes from Brown Thomas
Photography: Alex Hutchinson, assisted by Eoin Greally
Model: Vanessa of Not Another Agency
Stylist: Sinead Keenan assisted by Katie Grogan
Hair: Michael Leong
Makeup: Rebecca Loughlin of Charlotte Tilbury