By Marcy Montgomery Jones
When trying to imagine the perfect item of intimate apparel you might envision something that controls or supports, while being comfortable, smooth, and seamless. But when considering buying seamless shapewear or seamless bras, be careful. Seams are the backbones of these types of garments.
Seams can be thought of as making up the skeleton of certain intimate apparel. They enable shapewear and bras to work in specific ways. For example, seams allow for the combination of rigid and stretchy fabrics that creates control and support in certain areas. Seams also help stretchy fabrics reach their ultimate potential by allowing them to stretch in different directions within a single garment. Seams and fabrics thus work in concert to allow shapewear and bras to control, shape, and support in targeted ways, fit properly, and be more easily put on and taken off of the body.
Seams and fabric working together to create maximum performance is perhaps best exemplified by diet shapewear. This is a specialized group of garments that allows for an exceptional amount of fit adjustability as one loses weight before, during, and after dieting, and when losing weight after pregnancy. Diet shapewear provides great value because instead of buying two or more garments, a woman can buy one and let the garment adjust to changes in her shape over time.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when looking at a piece of shapewear or a bra is this – the more seams you see, the more performance the garment will deliver.
Extra Firm control shapewear, for example, provides maximum control and shaping and usually has many seams. Light control shapewear, however, that offers mostly smoothing and some control, has a minimal amount of seams.
No doubt you have been solicited to purchase seamless shapewear – its everywhere! It shows up in morning news programs, afternoon talk shows, newspapers, gossip magazines, and chances are that if you’re sleepless at 3 AM someone on expanded cable is smiling at you while twirling around in a seamless girdle.
Seamless shapewear consists of smooth and uniform-looking compression garments that seem to lack any stitching or seams. They’re created on circular knitting machines similar to those that make pantyhose and socks (which also appear seamless). But here’s an informed-consumer fact: although “seamless” shapewear appears to be seamless, when you look closely you’ll see that it too has seams. Typically, the back of the crotch is seamed and, depending on the garment, there are often other seams used to close and finish it.
Unfortunately, there are multiple problems with seamless shapewear. These garments can’t combine stretch and rigidity as effectively as seamed garments so your problem spots can’t be addressed by the total arsenal of weapons available. At best, seamless garments only provide low levels of spot control. For example, they can only employ stretch in one direction. This means that an entire garment will have a similar amount of compression all over your body. If you aren’t built like the model on which the garment was designed, it can function in an unbalanced way. It can leave you with a flat butt, a saggy belly, or a squished chest. Thus, the constraints of making seamless garments inevitability lead to inferior fit. Seamless garments also cannot combine different fabrics or yarns together in a single garment, so they lack all the advantages that employing multiple fabrics affords. Seamless garments attempt to use knitting differentials – that is, more or less knitting in certain areas to create varying degrees of stretch – to create their functionality, but machinery restrictions prevent these garments from having the power to control or shape to the same degree that seamed garments can.
Seams are also supremely important for proper bra fit and function. They enable bras to sculpt and support the bust, and are most critical to the design of full-figure or plus-size bras. If you have a full chest, and put on a poorly designed bra that lacks adequate seaming, you will notice its inferior support and comfort immediately.
Of course, seamless cups, like seamless shapewear, are everywhere. Foam molded cups are extremely popular and can be found in virtually every intimates retailer in the United States. And seamless cups made from bullet molds are used in camis and bodysuits. Both of these types of cups have little to no stretch. Your bust has to fit into the cups; the cups won’t adjust to fit your bust. You lose the fine tailoring fit adjustments that seamed garments provide. The bottom line is this – molded cups offer smoothness, but not adequate support, for a full-busted woman.
Next time you go bra shopping, try to be honest with yourself. Realize that, though the sultry, 34B model on the tag wearing that tiny lace cup with an adorable 1/8” braided strap looks amazing, that bra is not going to function in the same way for your size 40DD form. The delicate bottom band will ride up in the back, your cups will dump in the front (yes, dump is actually a technical term), and the shoulder straps will leave you red, raw, and really resentful. A properly-made plus-size bra will use powerful stretch fabrics and wide elastics to ensure your bottom band stays in place in front and in back so that your shoulders won’t have to bear the brunt of the weight of your breasts.
Designing cups to accommodate a heavy bust is similar to designing shapewear; it’s all about controlling and restricting stretch. To achieve the optimum cup fit seams must be used. Seams in cups allow for complex patterns to be joined together so that the resulting cup formation and fit is finely tailored to support and sculpt the weight and shape of the breast.
When you need proper all-day fit and function, look for seams! When you don’t purchase bras that function properly, your body and health pay the price. Back pain, poor posture, loss of breast firmness, and painful shoulder-strap digging and irritation can be caused by wearing a poorly-designed bra. The best fitting bras for plus-size breasts use multiple seams and fabrics. Seams mean shaping. Seams mean support. Seams mean comfort.
I understand – seams seem like a problem. Seams show thorough tightly-fitting clothing. Seams are bulky. Seams aren’t smooth. Don’t fret. The intimates industry understands your disappointment. New breakthroughs in the shapewear and bra categories have conquered this problem. You can get the best of both worlds – a smooth seamless look with the performance of a seamed garment. This is achieved with a combination of ultrasonic welding processes and the use of adhesives that delivers the same function that only a needle and thread could formerly provide. A flat seam is created by bonding fabric together using sound waves, leaving a smooth, clean edge. A thin tape with a layer of adhesive is fused into the seam creating a seam so smooth it doesn’t show through most form-fitting clothing. The same ultrasonic technology is used to create the swimsuits worn by Olympians. So, make sure to look for shapewear and bras made with welded seams. They’re on the cutting edge of apparel technology.CC Image courtesy of keithbsmiley on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithbsmiley/ / CC BY 2.0 CC Image courtesy of kevinspencer on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/vek/ / CC BY 2.0