The Skinny on Shapewear

Guest post by Tomima Edmark


vintagecorsetad-420x390Some of my recent blog entries covered lingerie style and fit tips for plus size ladies and women over 50. I touched a bit on shapewear, but thought the subject merited a post of its own (several actually).

Shapewear has a long and storied past, going even as far back as ancient Greece where women used linen fabric and leather as waist bindings. Fast forward a few thousand years to the Victorian era. Then, waist whittling called for corsets made of whale bone, canvas and steel. An extra tight fit meant lying on the ground with a foot on the back to hold the corset in place while the garment’s stays were pulled as snugly as possible. Even today, there’s a subset of ladies who’ve revived this practice and swear by it.

Modern shapewear, however, owes more to the designs that evolved during the mid-20th century. Back then, these were referred to as “foundation” pieces because they served as the foundation for getting dressed in the morning. “Girdle” was the other popular term, although the entire category fell out of vogue in the 1970s.

We started seeing a comeback of garments with similar purpose over the last several years, mainly due to the invention of the Santoni knitting machine, which makes virtually seamless hosiery-like garments that compress and smooth. This new generation is commonly known as “shapewear.”

Many women only think of Spanx shapewear, yet there are so many other manufacturers. Rago is one of the crème de la crème. Its designers have been perfecting shapewear of the cut-and-sew variety for 65 years. To me, that’s true shapewear. A lot of what’s out there only functions like a stocking. You’ll get compression but – without additional, built-in structure – no shaping and even less likelihood the garment will stay in place.

My “Mad about Structure” blog, written for Lingerie Briefs, explains why I’m a devotee of structured shapewear. If you’ve seen the show Mad Men, you know how incredible the ladies look in their clothes. Those fabulous curves are the result of structured shapewear pieces that do more than just compress tissue and hide panty lines. And, if the show’s costumes prove anything, there’s a place for shapewear in every woman’s wardrobe – whether you’re full-figured like Joan or identify more with Betty’s shape.


Tomima EdmarkTomima Edmark is an extremely successful serial entrepreneur and is the CEO of the Dallas-based Andra Group, via which she runs e-commerce ventures ( and to sell undergarments to men and women.

Tomima is also the inventor of the wildly successful Topsy Tail, a hair accessory for women, that she marketed by herself to revenues of $150 million. Along the way, she became known for her entrepreneurship and was featured on television shows and in business publications like Good Morning AmericaOprahForbes Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.

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2 Responses to The Skinny on Shapewear

  1. allison says:

    always wondered who to get answers from on shapewear. THANKS Wendy for article on Mad About Structure. Helpful and interesting.

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