Meet the Woman Who's Reinventing Shapewear, One Body at a Time

Nora Crotty
Photo: Project Gravitas
Photo: Project Gravitas

It’s an indisputable fact: Shapewear has come a long, long way from the restrictive and sometimes painful corsets, girdles, and compression garments once worn by our grandmothers and their mothers. In comparison, the stretchy, modern-day version — as exemplified by Spanx — feels radically innovative in its simplicity and relative comfort. Debuting in the early aughts, women were quick to embrace it — turning Spanx’s inventor, Sara Blakely, into a billionaire, and making the brand’s name as synonymous with “shapewear” as Kleenex is to facial tissues.

That’s not to say that today’s shapewear doesn’t have some lumps and bumps of its own. Despite their general obsession with all things slimming, wearers of the figure-perfecting underthings do have some complaints, including (but not limited to): pieces that ride up, a difficulty with layering, and an overall discomfort that makes them feel like more of a special occasion situation than something you’d want to wear to in your everyday life (that is, unless your last name is Kardashian).

But one brand is trying to change all that. Enter Project Gravitas, a new line of womenswear designed to be both flattering and functional — and even self-esteem-boosting, with its unique ability to give wearers a “confidence hug.” In other words, it has shapewear built right inside — which means there’s no bunching, no tugging, no possibility of visible seams or lines, and no desire to tear them off halfway through the day.

Founder Lisa Sun launched the company in 2013 as a response to a not-so-terrific professional review she’d had 13 years earlier. The feedback that affected her? Being told that she “comes across as young and overly enthusiastic at times” and “should seek to have more gravitas.” With those words in mind, Sun — who spent more than a decade advising luxury and beauty brands while at consulting firm McKinsey & Company — filed for a global patent to build shapewear directly into dresses. Just like that, Project Gravitas was born.

Project Gravitas founder Lisa Sun. (Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Sun)
Project Gravitas founder Lisa Sun. (Photo: Courtesy of Lisa Sun)

“We believe that women should stop trying to fit into clothes, and instead, find clothes that finally fit them,” Sun tells Yahoo Style. “We hope to be those clothes: the ones that remind you that you are beautiful and help you channel your inner confidence.”

Sun describes Project Gravitas’s design process as being “body-back”: Instead of creating clothing for a sample size and then adjusting it accordingly, pieces are made with multiple body types in mind, sizes 0 through 16. This range of sizes was particularly important to Sun, who has, herself, gone from a size 22 to an 8, eventually finding herself most happy being a size 12. “I understand how hard it is to find clothes that actually fit and flatter your best features, and we want every woman to feel her best self in her clothes, at whatever size and life stage,” says Sun. “Every body is beautiful.”

The backbone of Project Gravitas is its dresses: 21 classic styles, each designed to be figure-flattering and worn at least 30 different ways, from the boardroom to the bar. The line also includes skirts and jackets.

We like to think of our products as ‘Beautiful Frankensteins’ — like the original Cole Haan comfy stiletto with Nike Air technology built in, or your favorite BB cream,” Sun explains. “We’re all about building more functionality into traditional ready-to-wear, building self-confidence [by designing] innovative features that will flatter a woman’s figure and provide a real problem-solution for her active life.”

(Image: Project Gravitas)
(Image: Project Gravitas)

And that problem solving goes beyond looking (and feeling) amazing at the office. Sun notes that, since all of Project Gravitas’s curve-friendly designs are one piece, the wearer never has to worry about having a Bridget Jones moment if things get hot and heavy. As Sun puts it, “It’s truly a secret — your gentleman caller never has to know.” No granny panties here!

Next up? The line plans to add dress pants to its repertoire — complete with its patent-pending, hidden shapewear, of course. Think slimming, tailored pants that feel more like leggings or yoga pants than stuffy slacks. And what better time to introduce them than just before the holidays? Says Sun, “These are the pants I’m going to rock on Thanksgiving Day — so I look polished, feel beautiful, and can eat a full meal!”

A tummy full of turkey and no sweatpants in sight? Now that’s something to be thankful for.

What do you get when you combine perfect style with perfect fit? Perfect confidence — and an outfit that’s your #PowerLook. Find yours with Yahoo Style’s complete guide to fashion that makes you feel invincible, and post your #PowerLook to be featured in our feed!