Look elegant in everything: Why shapewear is your secret solution

·3 min read

Watch: Where to find the best affordable dresses for wedding season

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When it comes to fashion, it doesn't get much more satisfying than slipping on a gorgeous new dress for the first time. At least, until you realise the zip is struggling and your lumps are showcasing their bumps thanks to a somewhat unforgiving cut.

And while every body is fine just as it is, it can certainly boost your confidence to arrive at the big event looking more hourglass than pint glass. But who wants to diet? 

Enter shapewear, the magical undergarments that smooth out bumps, creases and tight bits to create an elegant silhouette. You wouldn't wear them all the time - but when it's a wedding (and your ex might be there), a get-together after lockdown (and you'd rather conceal that comfort eating) or a first date and you want to be more 'stun' than ho-hum, it's time to shape up.

The only trouble is, it can be tricky to figure (see what we did there?) exactly what you need. Do you want high-waist knickers or a lycra basque? Shorts or all-in-one? And how do you avoid feeling you've been bandaged like an Egyptian mummy when you just wanted to look slightly slimmer? 

We don't know either. So we asked shapewear expert Martina Alexander, from Maidenform, to find out exactly what we need under every type of dress. Never say we don't make life easier.

1. A form-fitting dress 

Buy it: Phase Eight Violetta Tapework Lace Dress | £199 from John Lewis  

Martina says: "Bodycon dresses need a smooth, seamless silhouette to create the perfect shape." A firm control slip that holds you in all over is your best bet. There's also one other thing to look out for that you may not have thought of: The fabric. 

"When picking shapewear to wear under a dress, you can now choose specific fabric - for a form-fitting dress, look for anti-static cling, to prevent your dress sticking to your legs as you walk."

Our shapewear pick: Maidenform Full Body Slip | £45 from Very

2. A tea dress

Buy it: Floral V-Neck Puff Sleeve Midi Tea Dress | £39.50 from Marks & Spencer

Martina says: For a tea dress, a good pair of supportive shorts are your new BFF. They will give a lovely natural feeling underneath, while also allowing the fabric to drape beautifully over tummy, bottom and thighs.

Look for shorts that are soft, seam-free and more importantly, that are made from breathable fabrics.

Our shapewear pick: Firm Control Magicwear™ Geometric Thigh Slimmer | £29.50 from M&S

3. A belted frock

Buy it: Phase Eight Bree Ruched Neck Midi Dress | £120 from John Lewis

Martina says: A classic bodysuit is just the ticket for a number like this as it's the perfect solution for creating an hourglass silhouette under fluid shapes.

Go for a bodysuit designed to be worn with your favourite bra to emphasis your silhouette while keeping you looking and feeling secure and sleek. 

"This not only gives you a more comfortable underwear solution, but also recognises that women come in all shapes - and bra sizes may not reflect body sizes."

Our shapewear pick: Maidenform Bodybriefer | £30 from Amazon

4. A V-neck silhouette 

Buy it: Effie Jersey Dress | £70 from Boden

Martina says: Stuck with what shapewear to don under a V-neck? Don't fret. A good pair of supportive briefs is what you need. Light control briefs have flat seams to give the smoothest shaping.

"Even the floatiest dress looks great with a little confidence boosting tummy support to create a lovely feminine shape."

It's vital to select your true size - don’t size down for more compression; instead keep an eye out for pieces with a higher control level.

Our shapewear pick: John Lewis & Partners Tessa Bonded High Waist Briefs | £20 from John Lewis