Shapewear and I have endured a toxic and co-dependent relationship for nearly 20 years.
We break up, I swear it’s over and then, weeks later, a special occasion comes along and I go running back, sucked in by promises of a lifted bottom, flattened tummy and dropping a dress size.
These days, shapewear isn’t confined to what we wear beneath our clothes, either. The latest fashion fixation? Stretchy jeans that promise to make mincemeat of a muffin top.
During lockdown, we all happily tossed our jeans into the back of the wardrobe in favour of blissfully comfortable loungewear.
Contour jeans, £25, F&F at next.co.uk Stretch denim with a mid-rise fit. MODEL ELEANOR says: ‘The denim feels cheap and scratchy, and they flatten my bum, rather than lift
Bum Sculpt Skinny jeans, £46, riverisland.com Innovative stretch denim that sculpts. ELENAOR says: ‘I normally avoid the skinny profile but these flattered me.’
High Rise Sculpt True Skinny jeans, £54.95, gap.co.uk Stretch denim cut to sit above the hips. ELENAOR says: ‘The jeans are comfortable and slimmed my waist right down.’
But now, as life gets back to normal, we’ve been dusting them down and — if you’re anything like me — finding our old ones no longer fit.
No wonder Marks & Spencer has seen a boom in jeans sales.
The retailer has sold more than two million pairs in the past six months, with its Magic Shaping jeans selling out online and in store. These vow to lift bottoms and slim down spare tyres.
My problem with shapewear is that the flab doesn’t just disappear — it has to go somewhere. In my experience, squishing it down in one place usually makes it reappear in another.
Anyone who has tried to get the air out of a blow-up mattress knows what I mean. Even if it does knock off a few inches and give you a slim silhouette, you can’t go anywhere, as the shapewear is so tight you walk like a zombie and sitting is impossible.
High Waisted Lift & Sculpt Skinny jeans, from £75, landsend.co.uk Stretch denim with a ‘no gap’ waist. ELENAOR says: ‘These gave me a fabulous pert bottom.’
But perhaps the latest models have got a little more ‘give’ to accommodate wobbly bits?
We decided to put them to the test — by trying all the jeans on a size 16 model.
We measured her waist in normal jeans — 38.5 inches — then compared that to the measurement of each slimming pair.
And what about comfort? When I hold up a £39.50 pair of M&S Magic Shaping Straight Leg jeans (third from right) in size 16, they look so tiny that I have to double-check the label.
Never mind magic, it will surely take witchcraft to squeeze into these.
Flared jeans, £130, next.co.uk The Gut Check panel targets the tummy. ELENAOR says: ‘They definitely suck you in, but you couldn’t sit comfortably for long in them, let alone eat!
Marks & Spencer tells me the jeans are made using ‘clever technology’ and ‘shaping darts’ but, let’s be honest, it’s just super-stretchy fabric.
By some miracle, they do fit. They’re soft, comfortable and my saggy bottom looks plumped up and lifted.
And, while the waistband is Simon Cowell high, it has reduced my stomach considerably.
They easily pass the sitting down test, too. I fully expect the flab to explode over the top but it stays nicely contained.
Magic Shaping Straight Leg jeans, £39.50, marksandspencer.com Shaping darts offer an extra lift. ELENAOR says: ‘My favourites! They slim down my figure well.’
Florence Skinny Mid Rise Instasculpt jeans, £184, iris fashion.co.uk Sustainable contouring jeans. ELENAOR says: ‘These are soft and give you a good hourglass shape.’
It’s a different story when I try on other size 16 shaping jeans. A £130 pair made by Spanx, trailblazers of the shapewear world (fourth from right), may feature a delightful-sounding Gut Check panel, but they’re so tight and thin that it’s like wearing denim tights. The more affordable F&F Contour jeans (far left), costing £25, are so high-waisted that they virtually sit under my armpits, even if they do slim my thighs.
Gap is now online only, with jeans a huge part of its merchandise. I try a pair of its Sculpt jeans for £54.95 (third from left). They have ‘hidden holds-you-in front pockets that help give you a sleek, smooth look all day’.
However, I’m delighted when a size 16 is way too baggy for me. For a brief moment I wonder if my fat was pushed in so far by the M&S jeans that it’s vanished for ever. That really would be magic.
Rocket Galaxy jeans, £260, irisfashion.co.uk Uses a sculpting weaving technique. ELENAOR says: ‘These are very tight. I’d also never pay this much for jeans.’