How to wear shapewear if you're new to control lingerie

Our expert guide to how to wear shapewear included everything you need to get the most from your control lingerie

How to wear shapewear: Woman taking off dress and revealing her shapewear
(Image credit: Yummie)

Not sure how to wear shapewear? You've come to the right place. We've got answers to the most commonly asked control conundrums to help you find the most suitable shapewear for you.

Shapewear is having quite the moment right now, with a myriad of celebrity fans and even the royal seal of approval from the Duchess of Cambridge. Since launching in 2019, Kim Kardashian West’s brand Skims, which takes a ‘solution-focused approach to shape-enhancing undergarments’, has gone from strength to strength, marking its place among new wonder brands such as Heist and Item M6 as one of the best shapewear brands on the market right now. 

With new labels popping up left and right, traditional names like Spanx, Wolford and Triumph are rising to the challenge, with increasingly innovative designs. The market is booming, with global fashion search platform, Lyst reporting that searches for shapewear have risen by 22%. 

Unfortunately, all this choice can make shopping for shapewear feel overwhelming. Between compression types, colour choices and fabric formulas, even a well-seasoned pro can be left feeling lost. So, with that in mind, we’ve pulled together the ultimate guide to how to wear shapewear – from picking out the correct size to which shapewear pieces work best under each garment type. 

How do I find my shapewear size?

Shapewear sizes are directly related to measurements – bust, waist and hip – rather than dress sizes. This is because each body is shaped differently; one size 12 may have a big bust and narrow hips, while another may be equally curvy top and bottom. As such, your best bet is to measure yourself carefully and to cross-reference your measurements with each brand’s size guidelines.

Can you wear shapewear while pregnant?

Yes, you can wear shapewear while pregant, but this comes with a few important caveats. It depends the type of shapewear worn, when you wear it and for how long. As with anything, moderation is key. 

Shapewear that is too tight or worn for too long is a no-go as it'll not only put too much pressure on the body, but feel horribly uncomfortable too. Shop for your correct size and avoid shapewear that squeezes and compresses your internal organs, ribs or abdominal muscles – such as waist trainers or cinchers. If you're in any doubt, double check with your doctor or midwife.

If you have been given the go-ahead look for maternity specific shapewear. SPANX has its own Mama range, including sheer, supportive Mid-Thigh Shapers and Seamless Leggings, whilst Skims’ (Kim Kardasian's shapewear label) maternity collection features everything from a nursing bra to a sculpting bodysuit.

What colour shapewear should I wear?

Colour is often a choice affected by what you plan to wear your shapewear with. Should your wardrobe be dominated by lighter shades, then shapewear in a nude or light shade would work best. If you’re shopping for evening or date-night shapewear, black or bright colours can prove more exciting choices. If the latter is true, Triumph is our go to for colourful, sexy shapewear with lace, embroidery or sheer detailing. 

Thankfully the shapewear industry is growing increasingly more diverse as brands such as Heist, Skims and Commando push for a range of inclusive 'nude' colour choices. For example, Skims offers fifteen shades (twelve being skin tones), from a pale, milky hue called Sand to a deep cocoa brown, while Commando offers four shades (Beige, Caramel, Mocha and Black).

Should I wear underwear under my shapewear?

Typically, the answer to this is no. The purpose of shapewear is to create a smooth, streamlined and seam-free silhouette under your clothes. Wearing underwear underneath will cause the opposite effect, lumps, bumps and rolls.

Also, many types of shapewear – briefs, thongs, shorts, thigh shapers and bodysuits – include a gusset in their design and support you fully without the need for an extra layer. For gusset-free shapewear like shaping slips and skirts, shapewear tank tops and camis or wear-your-own-bra torsettes though, it is expected (though not necessary) that you will wear your own underwear or bra underneath. 

How should I wash and dry my shapewear?

Shapewear pieces are delicate and, much like your other lingerie, should be treated carefully. Always check the label first. Most shapewear manufacturers suggest that you hand-wash your shapewear in cold water with a mild detergent or baby shampoo. Hand-washing will ensure your shapewear lasts for longer but, sometimes, you can get away with a machine wash – only on a gentle cycle though (think those usually used for cashmere or silk).

If you are popping your shapewear in the machine, we suggest you put it in a protective delicates bag first. Make sure you're not washing it with bras too – their hooks and clasps could get caught and cause tears.

Also, whatever you do, don’t put your shapewear into the dryer; air dry it to preserve the fabric’s elasticity.

When should I wear shapewear?

Whenever you want! Some women wear shapewear everyday, others only for special events. It often depends on the type of shapewear and its compression or control level. For example, lightweight control shapewear’s purpose is to smooth rather than control, which means it’s good for day-to-day wear. Medium-control shapewear can also be worn everyday, offers a little more support and is all about emphasising your curves. Lastly, firm control is for your most structured garments (evening gowns, wedding and cocktail dresses) and helps you feel sturdy and contoured. 

The best shapewear to wear under….

Fitted t-shirts or blouses

How to wear shapewear: Model wearing Heist The Outer Body shapewear

Heist The Outer Body, £95

(Image credit: Heist)

A shaped bodysuit is perfect under your most fitted tops because there’s no need to worry about layers coming untucked or unseemly bunching. We’ve found Heist’s The Outer Body is the best on the market for comfort and function, but Maidenform’s Endlessly Smooth Plunge Bodybriefer is a great, budget-friendly alternative.

Skinny jeans

Commando Classic Control Thong

Commando Classic Control Thong, £30

(Image credit: Commando)

Control thongs are your best friends when it comes to skinny or slim fitting jeans and trousers. Commando’s Classic Control Thong provides a completely invisible look, second-skin feel and is light enough to wear all day.

Bodycon and fitted dresses

Maidenform Slip with Cool Comfort

Maidenform Slip with Cool Comfort, £38

(Image credit: Maidenform)

Shaping slips are perfect for tight, bodycon dresses. At the top of the market, Wolford’s Opaque Naturel Forming Dress is completely seamless, has a moulded bust and removable straps, and offers a firm control. At the lower end is Maidenform’s Slip With Cool Comfort®, which is designed to keep you cool and stay put without rolling up at the hem.


Spanx High Power Shorts

Spanx High Power Shorts, £35, John Lewis

(Image credit: Spanx )

Under skirts, shaping shorts create a smooth silhouette from waist to thigh. SPANX’s Higher Power Shorts are classics for a reason: a shaping zone targets the tummy, the high waist eliminates muffin tops and a no-slip strip at the waistband stops slips.