A foundation garment (also known as shapewear or shaping underwear) is an undergarment designed to temporarily alter the wearer's body shape, to achieve a more fashionable figure. The function of a foundation garment is not to enhance a bodily feature (as would, for example, a padded bra) but to smooth or control the display of one.
Garments may be categorised according to level or shape control offered - for instance, light, medium or firm. The simplest foundation is a body-liner or bodysuit, which are an ultra-light-weight leotards, and offers a light touch of smoothing. These are available in a unitard style (shortened legs) or a camisole-leotard style. The leotard offers greater control from a body-liner, and is available in boy-leg and capri-leg lengths, with spaghetti straps, low cut necklines, and even scoop backs, to cater for the outer wear under which the garments will be worn. These softly smooth the figure and provide light support. Micro-fiber camisoles and boy-leg briefs or "hot pants" are also available. Girdles are often called "body shapers" or "contour garments". These garments are made with much more Lycra spandex than the 10% lycra / 90% cotton blend of most leotards, and they offer the highest level of shaping and support.
In recent years sales of foundation garments have increased considerably. A survey of 500 American women carried out by Kelton Research for Jockey International in 2008 showed that 44% wore shapewear regularly or occasionally. In the UK they are mainly worn by older women: of one hundred and forty reviews of a best-selling Marks and Spencer control brief, 52% of respondents were over 55.
Women have worn foundation garments, such as corsets and brassieres, for a very long time. Some have been essential to the fashion trends of the time. Others have been born out of the need for women to feel more secure. Better known today as “shapewear,” these garments include body briefs, bodysuits, bras, control panty hose, control panties, corsets, garter belts, and girdles. Specialist retailers include Frederick’s of Hollywood and Victoria’s Secret. Specialist online retailers include Bodyshapewear, Classic Shapewear, Bare Necessities and Her Room. The industry continues to grow each year. Factors contributing to this include: fashions that emphasize body shape; technological advances in garment design and light-weight fabrics; re-branding of pantie girdles as panties; media items about celebrities wearing shapewear; recommendations in fashion makeover television programmes. Prominent brand names include Hanes, Fruit of the Loom, Spanx, Maidenform and Just My Size.
Types of foundation garments
Foundation garments include:
- Control panties
- Garter belts
- Control Slips
- Control Camisoles
- Camisole Leotards
A foundation garment may be worn for a specific outfit. Being underwear, the foundation garment should not be visible under the outer wear, unless the exposure is intended. A general purpose "all the way" shaper with clear straps that starts at the bust and ends at the knee or mid-calf is also available.
Foundation garments may come with a built in strapless bra for dresses and halters and are made in a range of different colours.
- Valerie Steele, The Corset: a cultural history, Yale University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-300-09071-4.
- Yummie Tummie
- Hanesbrands Inc.
- Victoria's Secret
- Classic Shapewear
- Frederick's of Hollywood