By Adam Welsch
If you walked into a grocery store, and asked to be directed to the ice cream, do you think any employee would have trouble understanding what you were looking for? Of course, not. Even though there are many different brands of ice cream, available in many different flavors, ice cream has a very specific definition that’s shared by everyone who makes, sells, and eats it. Unfortunately, the same sort of universal understanding isn’t always present in the world of shapewear. Sure, different companies use their own brand and style names. That’s not the issue. Rather, for some reason, different manufacturers often use different generic terms to identify the same silhouette. Since this sometimes creates confusion for those of us who work in this industry, it must be downright frustrating to you, an average consumer.
Let’s say you were interested in buying a piece of shapewear to gain some control for your tummy and thighs, two common problem areas many women like to address. Would you choose a “long leg?” Or would you think a “thigh slimmer” would be the better choice? Whether or not you own a bicycle, you’d have to consider “bike pants” and “bike shorts” as well. Never mind that “thigh smoothers” and “thigh shapers” would also be options. And if you’re lucky, exhaustion would set in before you spotted the “girl shorts.” Sound confusing? It is. Each of these silhouette names represents virtually the same type of shaping garment – one that runs from the waist to the thighs, and is usually available in both waistline and hi-waist options. But if you happened upon a store that carried only “thigh slimmers,” and your only previous experience involved wearing a “long leg,” you might be fooled into thinking that the store didn’t have what you were looking for.
Another popular shapewear silhouette that goes by many aliases provides control and support for the bust, tummy, waist, hips, and rear. Many makers have traditionally called this garment an “all-in-one” or a “bodybriefer” (we’ll ignore the fact that some also chop this word in two). But others have recently been experimenting with the terms “body shaper,” “body slimmer,” “body glove,” “bodysuit,” and even, gulp, “unitard.” If you were shopping for one of these for the first time, would you know that all of these terms referred to the same garment?
And what of the relatively new silhouette that’s become quite popular and looks like the black top worn by the St. Pauli Girl? The trendy name being used to identify it is “torsette.” But when it was first introduced, the more general term “body shaper” was employed. You can start to see why all of this double-talk is such a problem. What would happen if you walked into a store and asked to see what was available in a “body shaper” because your friends had been raving about them? In one store you might be shown the “bodybriefers” (uh, excuse me, “all-in-ones”), but in a second store you might be shown the “torsettes.” If you were looking for a “torsette,” you wouldn’t want a “bodybriefer.” The former allows you to wear your own bra, better accommodates varying torso lengths, and doesn’t become an encumbrance in the restroom. The latter is more of a one-stop solution for all-over shaping needs. Chances are 50-50 you’d end up buying the wrong piece of shapewear.
What other shapewear silhouettes have stage names? Well, if you’re looking for “pantliners,” keep in mind that “leggings” are now the same things (though don’t confuse them with those trendy, aerobics accessories so fashionable in 1983). Also, if you’re in the market for a “bra slip” – something sleek and sexy to wear under a new, beautiful dress for a special occasion – remember to check out “chemises” as well. Though the term “chemise” has traditionally been used to describe a provocative piece of lingerie, it’s been adopted by the shapewear industry. It’s hard to see any difference between a shaping “bra slip” and a shaping “chemise.” Lastly, you’d think that the term “camisole,” which has been around forever in the realm of daywear, is one silhouette name that everyone could agree upon. Nope. Though most “camisoles” are indeed called “camisoles,” others are referred to as “tanks” or “tank tops.” Although some manufacturers would try to convince you otherwise, it’s again unlikely you’d see any difference between them.
The next time you’re having trouble figuring out whether one piece of shapewear is the same as another, you might have occasion to think about those famous words spoken by Juliet from the balcony to Romeo. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Rather than agree with her that names don’t really matter, you’ll probably remind yourself that Juliet never had to shop for shapewear.CC Image courtesy of spisharam on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/spisharam/ / CC BY 2.0 CC Image courtesy of gerry.scappaticci on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/gerryscappaticci/ / CC BY 2.0