The Control Levels of Shapewear

20 Oct

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By Marcy Montgomery Jones
Cupid Intimates

You have a special occasion coming up. Perhaps you’re a bridesmaid. Maybe you’re giving a presentation. Possibly, you decided to introduce yourself to that cute, mysterious neighbor who’s always walking his dog. You have the perfect outfit and now you want the perfect body.  You go to the shapewear section of your most beloved department store and you see that there are so many choices! “What is all this stuff, I just want to look hot,” you think to yourself. You’d like some help with the many questions coming to mind.

OK, we have to start somewhere, so let’s talk about control.

There’s a whole spectrum of control levels from which to choose.

extra-firm1Extra Firm – this level delivers. Some wearers believe that they really have to feel their shapewear working; Extra Firm control is made for them.  Any hang tag that says, “Look 10 pounds lighter in 10 seconds®” means business. These garments can literally take inches off and re-sculpt your body. Extra Firm control garments give maximum results. Unfortunately, the concession is typically comfort. Extra Firm garments traditionally use up to three plies of fabric in strategic locations and have large amounts of visible stitching.

You may have heard about Extra Firm control shapewear made with a new construction technology.  Instead of employing traditional panels sewn in place with thread, these garments have panels attached with adhesives.  They’re strategically placed to both restrict stretch and add fit adjustability.  Unlike those that are stitched, panels attached with these adhesives don’t have to be placed into the seams of a garment.  This freedom allows for the creation of stride-, waist-, and leg-adjustability.  These garments fit more people comfortably than any other Extra Firm control garments, and actually take off the same amount of inches as traditionally-constructed ones.

Extra Firm control is a great choice for all special occasions. Wear it under wedding dresses, evening gowns, cocktail dresses, or prom gowns.  Basically, anytime you want to look breathtaking.


Firm – this level sets the standard. Firm control has been producing wonderful results for decades. It has traditionally used two plies of fabric, with large amounts of stitching, to create targeted control. Generally, the body fabric is a mixture of stretchy and rigid fabrics that often overlap one another. Firm control garments often feature plain or printed satin panels, and typically offer multiply-targeted shaping solutions for the tummy, hip, and thigh areas. The Firm control level bridges the construction properties of Extra Firm and Comfortable Firm® (see below) control.  For example, in Firm control garments you may see the wide elastics, boning, or hook-and-eyes of the former, made with fabrics as soft as those of the latter.

Firm control is a great choice to wear under Sunday dresses, skirt and pant suits, party and tea dresses, form fitting slacks, or blouses.

comfortable-firm-1Comfortable Firm® – this level represents the new generation of shapewear. Within the last few years shapewear companies have been using new, supple and adjustable fabrics that have changed the face of the industry. Comfortable Firm® control garments are single-ply, high-stretch, high-modulus apparel that provide dramatic results. Until Comfortable Firm® control was developed, such performance could only be approximated by adding stitching and layers of fabric to a garment. Comfortable Firm® control designers eliminated that bulk and obtrusion, and created balanced, high-performance shapewear. The soft, single-ply fabrics move in tandem with the body, in every direction, without creating the restriction imposed by more traditional, Firm control garments. Comfortable Firm® control shapewear has slightly less control than Firm control garments but can be worn much more comfortably, for longer periods of time.

I recommend using Comfortable Firm® control with all types of clothing – anytime you want significant results for hours on end.


Light – this is the level of control in which you can live. Light control offers maximum comfort with less obvious results. It creates a layer of smoothing and wrapping, and tones the parts of your body that you don’t want to be “mobile.” Light control garments are usually made with a single ply of soft, gently-knit fabric and have very little stitching.

You may have recently seen an amazing new group of Light control garments that combine a sumptuous, multi-directional, high-stretch fabric with adhesives that melt right into it. This innovative group uses multiple grain lines to create unseen fit adjustability, while maintaining a light cohesiveness for the wearer. They’re lightweight and silky-feeling, and are ideal for those with hard-to-fit bodies – whether tall or petite.  They create what I best describe as a loving hug. Their smooth, adjustable construction creates unbelievable twelve-hour-plus comfort.

Light control is the perfect complement to everyday clothing like sweaters, blouses, slacks, or skirts, and light control camis can even be worn by themselves, under jackets.

Think of shapewear control as a teeter-totter. Selecting a level is about getting the right balance of comfort and results for you and your particular situation.  For special occasions and getting the maximum “wow” response, think Extra Firm. You might be a bit uncomfortable, but keep in mind that you’ll only be wearing it for a few hours.  And you’ll remember the night forever! For sensational slimming results with moderate discomfort, think Firm. When your day is done that Firm control shapewear will come off, but you’ll have looked great and felt confident. Think of Comfortable Firm® control as the new face of shapewear.  It’s undisputedly the best balance of the worlds of comfort and performance.  And think Light control for smoothing and light toning all day long.  It’s sometimes so comfortable you can sleep in it!

If you haven’t been to the shapewear section of your favorite store in a few years, trust me – now is the time to go!  New comfort barriers have been broken, and the entire category has been transformed, by the development of new fabrics and elastics, the use of adhesives, and the creation of new construction techniques. With a little knowledge, you’ll surely find the perfect shapewear pieces for you.

Remember, these aren’t your grandma’s girdles!

Which level of control do you most prefer your shapewear to have?

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CC Image courtesy on flickr CC BY 2.0
CC Image courtesy Mark Ramsay on flickr CC BY 2.0
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