Thanks, but No Spanx

"Shapers"? "Slimmers"? I needed something like a wetsuit.

by Mel Miskimen • Guest Writer { View Profile }
Even this would have been easier to manage than the stuff she tried on that day.
Photograph: Photo by iStockPhoto

I bought a dress that requires a specifically engineered undergarment – one that sucks flab in and pushes it up or down or back or somewhere where it will look better than where it currently languishes, and where might that be? I don’t know, but, Oprah swears by these kinds of things, and well . . . you know, I am a believer.

So, off I went with my, I’m-going-to-wow-my-husband-in-this-dress dress, to the intimate apparel department. I felt a little bit defeated. Me? A size 14? When did that happen? And, since when have I required any kind of foundation garment other than a nice bra and some control-top pantyhose? Huh?

I tried to convince myself that this is what happens to women of a certain age, and no, I don’t look at all like my cousin Kiki who needs a scooter to get around because she is so grossly overweight. No. I’m just 54 and judging from their stock in the foundations department – I would say that 40% was devoted to these shapers as they are called – I am not alone.

I must give credit to NASA because, I’m sure that all that money we spent on all those missions is what gave us this hyper-stretchy fabric. Gone are the stays, the pulleys, the rods, the clips that were on the contraptions that my grandmother wore. I used to see her long-line bras and girdles on her wash line in the basement and think to myself, “No! Never! Not me!” But, there I was, in the midst of corsets and girdles cleverly disguised as “slimmers.”

These shapers, slimmers, contour enhancers came in nude, black or white and were presented as “systems” that a woman could put together to address her specific problem areas – high-waisted, gut-sucking-in panties that might be coupled with a tank top style bra designed to give shape to a shapeless torso, or, thigh slimming waist cinching shorts that look like those compression shorts that you see sticking out from underneath basketball player’s baggy uniforms, but on them they look good, or a tubular bra-slip that hugs your body like a sheep intestine casing hugs a home made sausage mixture. I needed something like a wetsuit.

Have you ever tried to get into one of these things? I must have looked like a woman possessed by Satan. I lost my balance a couple of times, because the rubberized hem pinned my legs one behind the other, and then came the struggle to get the thing up and over my breasts, which you would think would have been easy, but I lacked the leverage. I took a break, caught my breath, brushed the hair out of my sweat-stung eyes and like those mothers who find the strength to lift the pick up truck off their baby, I got the damn thing up and over. Maybe my mistake was stepping into it and pulling instead of using gravity as my friend. I expect the security video to be posted on YouTube.

Okay. It was on. I was compressed. Walking up stairs would be an issue, but I’d manage. I got the dress out and slipped it on. I looked in the mirror. Yes, the fabric skimmed. Yes, the lumps and bumps were smoothed out. Yes, I could definitely go out in public, but . . . still. I had doubts. Maybe, after I lost a few pounds? Okay more than a few, several? I promised myself that next year . . . Valentine’s Day? I’d get into the dress. That was my plan, but just in case, I made the purchase. It’s in my closet, in the bag. The tags are still on it. I can’t bring myself to wear it. I simply can’t.

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