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How Shapewear Has Evolved

Many women who hear the word shapewear are inclined to think of constricting, uncomfortable underwear that sucks in your stomach but also makes it difficult to breathe. That’s how a lot of it used to be, but that’s simply not the truth anymore. Just taking a quick look on #ShopNTL proves endless options are now available with new technology and fabric that makes shapewear much more wearable and just as effective. If you choose to wear shapewear, you’ll be surprised at how much it has changed over time. Reflecting on where shapewear has come from and where it is now has brought us the inspiration to share with you just how much shapewear has changed.

Vintage corset via Wilhelmina Marquart

Vintage corset via Wilhelmina Marquart

The first “shapewear” can be attributed to the fine art of corsetry, a staple among all wardrobes tracing back to the 16th century. Some may even argue that the concept of shapewear inspired garments dating back to ancient Greece. Corsetry was stiff, strong, and was meant to create the desired shape of a woman at that time. Very strong boning was present to mould a woman’s body, and it was very hard and very uncomfortable. Animal bone or steel was often used for boning, and leather or other thick fabrics were used to make the corset.

Vintage shapewear ad via Corsetiere

Vintage shapewear ad via Corsetiere

This trend of wearing some form of shapewear or corset continued for a very long time, with a little break in the beginning of the 20th century. At that point, curves were hidden with other types of lingerie as they weren’t part of the desired shape of the time. That didn’t last long though, and shapewear became part of a fashion statement in a sense with designs highlighting the art of corsetry and boning. Shapewear became a little bit more flexible, and was meant to smooth out curves without hiding them or distorting the natural shape. With corsetry, often nylon or plastic is used in the boning for a more relaxed feel.

Shapewear designers are now able to use techniques, such as cut and sew, to really target the parts of a woman’s body to smooth out, suck in, and likewise, make others stand out. It’s truly a science to be admired. Shapewear is also a lot thinner than it used to be, with fabric combinations that are breathable, less constricting, and even – dare we say- soft and comfortable enough to wear for hours. Typical fabrics seen are nylon, elastane, lycra, and spandex of course, as they are all stretchy and easy to mould.

As the fabrics have evolved, so too have the designs. Shapewear is no longer just the nude bodysuit or the nude short that digs in at the seams and rolls down with every movement. Now, shapewear comes in various styles of panties that target different areas of the body and suit your personal taste. One can also find full body shapewear built with bust support, in bodysuit styles or with leg coverage. One can even find shapewear bras that help even out the breast shape and smooth the sides and back. Options are endless, in appealing designs and with more staying power. Some shapewear we carry on #ShopNTL is even designed with hooks to keep it attached to your bra so it doesn’t roll down!

Shapewear is no longer meant to just make women look skinnier and change the way their bodies look. It’s all about seamlessness under clothing and about helping women feel good without changing what they have been blessed with. We hope this has helped you learn to embrace shapewear for what it is now and leave the past history of shapewear in the past!

Have your thoughts on shapewear changed now that you can see how it has evolved over time? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or start a chat with us on Facebook or Twitter. Pin our shapewear and many other things we find on Pinterest by following our Pinterest page, and learn more lingerie tips and tricks from our YouTube channel.




  • Klaus

    Modern shapewear is not longer uncomfortable. Of course this may have been different 50 years ago. I wonder why so many women don´t wear shapewear. Most women wear a bra but don´t wear shapewear.

    Good fitting shapewear has not only the physical effect of feeling slim and improving one´s figure. Many years ago I was introduced to wearing shapewear by an understanding lady. Being in a girdle I feel supported and energized the whole day. It helped me a lot to keep my shape over the years.

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