It might surprise you that as a professional costume designer, I almost never put the actresses I dress in shapewear of any kind unless they specifically ask for it. And when they ask for it, I don’t usually have to spend any budget dollars on it -- because they always come to the fitting already armed with their garment of choice. The horrifying full-body 'sausage casing' seems to be the most popular among my leading ladies, sadly.
How those actresses can think, act, memorize their lines and remain cheerful while wearing a torture device is beyond me. And that’s what modern shapewear is, really -- torture. At least in the medieval era, they just put your head in a crusher until your eyeballs popped out and called it a day. The current crop of popular control garments manage to keep the torture up all day long. The only relief you’ll ever get is when you frantically pry it off your body at the end of a long day.
I don't wear shapewear myself -- instead, I hit up the old lady underwear section of any el-cheapo lingerie spot and grab some adorably patterned, 1950s style high-waisted panties. They cover your bum nicely in case a gust of wind flips your skirt up over your head and also give a nice, smooth line under dresses -- with no weird, unflattering elastic waistband hitting you right across the lower stomach.
That's the only reason to ever own any type of shapewear, in my opinion -- to give a sleek, uninterrupted line under clothes. It's certainly not to 'look skinnier' or to cram yourself into a dress that's a few sizes too small -- because not only is that a fool's errand, it's what makes shapewear become pure organ-squeezing torture.
But sometimes, you really do need a good, firm undergarment to wear with something slinky. So I was pleased to find out about a brand new, rainbow-hued collection of foundation pieces that aims to put an end to the boring, flesh-toned torture of regular old control garments. The cleverly named Jewel Toned is a mini-line of true no-pain shapewear -- made with a special blend of nylon and Spandex that is prettier, softer, less constricting and far more comfortable (not to mention way cheaper) than any shapewear you've ever tried before. It's revolutionary! (Plus, you won't need to shrug it off in shame if you find yourself on a date that's gone a bit better than you expected.)
Jewel Toned's foundation garments provide a very light, gentle compression -- which in turn allows you to actually eat, breathe, think and live your life while wearing it. It's just enough support to keep everything you own from jiggling all over the place. Jewel Toned's pieces are meant for smoothing, not sizing yourself down. As a result, it's total emancipation from shapewear torture. And best of all -- while it's meant to be underwear, it's not made to be hidden! Almost every piece in the line stands on its own and can be worn solo -- even on a boring trip to the grocery store.
That's me wearing the Major Mini Dress in black while picking up ice cream. I'm certainly no stranger to rocking a slip for any and every occasion -- after all, I was a party girl in the slip-dress crazed 1990s. I wore the Major Mini all day long yesterday -- with an old cowboy shirt thrown over it for running errands and then straight out to dinner with just a blazer on top. (I actually came home and slept in it too!) It has a built in shelf-band style bra (no underwire or padding) and is crazy soft, super comfortable and didn't shift around or creep up at all. I loved it and never once felt like I wanted to rip it off my body.
The Major Mini looked comically small when I first opened it up, but the stretch factor is incredible. It really is the perfect stay-put body-con piece. It's brilliant for layering under anything thin, sheer, flimsy or unforgiving. It was also SO EASY to get in and out of -- no back breaking or contorting necessary. (I once owned a compression slip that was so hard to get on and off, my boyfriend finally had to CUT IT OFF OF MY BODY. Very sexy!) You can also remove the straps and turn it into a tube dress if needed. Versatility is the name of the Major Mini's game.
The Street Smart Bike Short is an excellent match for a skirt that's just a bit too short. Its sheer striped bands add interest and make the shorts themselves a sort of intentional style detail. (Can you imagine letting the legs of a regular old pair of shaper shorts peek out from under a skirt? Quelle horreur!)
Jewel Toned's pieces currently comes in sizes 2-16, (with an expanded range of plus sizes already in the works) and I'd say everything is very true to size. I'm a solid 6-8 in dresses always, and the medium fit perfectly. I'll see you in the ice cream aisle, my lingerie-wearing lovelies!
Alison Freer is the author of 'How to Get Dressed: A Costume Designer's Secrets for Making Your Clothes Look, Fit, and Feel Amazing'.