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SPANX vs Heist was always going to be a tricky one - these two iconic brands have both made their mark on the shapewear world.
If there is one brand to thank for sparking the shapewear renaissance, its Heist Studios. First responsible for making tights that even people who truly hate tights love (think seamless no-slip, no-pinch and no-twist hosiery), in 2018 it released The Outer Body – its first shapewear piece and truly a revolutionary addition to the market. A runaway success and, in our opinion, right up there among the best shapewear (opens in new tab)available today, this piece was soon followed up by the Highlight Short and High Waist brief.
Dispelling outdated notions of aggressively tight fits and tortuous waistlines, Heist offered the modern woman a contemporary update on shapewear; one where comfort, function and structure is valued over compression and control. Where shapewear was once something to hide carefully under wedding gowns and party dresses, and to be embarrassed about (think that ‘big pants’ moment in Bridget Jones), Heist brought it unashamedly to the forefront. Aptly named, The Outer Body is designed to be sleek and stylish enough to wear as outerwear.
But how does Heist stack up against industry heavyweight and trend leader SPANX? Launched from founder Sara Blakely’s apartment in 1998, with a budget of just $5000, SPANX was inspired by Blakely’s own frustrations with thick, bulky and unflattering shaping lingerie. The unofficial prototype came from her own habit; cutting the foot off control-top pantyhose for a seam-free look. SPANX started both a shapewear revolution and a veritable cultural movement; the brand was referenced on Sex and the City, featured on Oprah and worn by every kind of early-2000s A-lister, from Gwyneth Paltrow to J-Lo.
Today, SPANX remains the one to beat. But has Heist proven to be a worthy contender? Which brand is best for tummy control? Comfort? Maternity shapewear? We’ve answered all these questions and more below, as we pit the market’s matriarch SPANX against newcomer Heist.
- Price range: £55 - £95
- Size range: XS (UK size 6 - 8) to XL (UK size 20 - 22)
- Colours available: Black, brown, beige
- Materials used: Polyamide, elastane and cotton
- Price range: £20 to £195
- Size range: XS (UK size 6) - 3X (UK size 34)
- Colours available: White and black, and a number of variations of nude and brown tones
- Materials used: Nylon, elastane and cotton
The main difference between SPANX and Heist is the range of options that each brand offers. SPANX has a huge range of shapewear pieces, including shaping bodysuits, slips and shorts, tank tops, waist cinchers and catsuits. This is brilliant for shapewear newbies who are, perhaps, unsure what type of shapewear they need.
Heist on the other hand only offers the three key shapewear garments – The Outer Body, Highlight Short and High Waist brief. The compensation here is that you can shop safely in the knowledge that you’re buying high-quality, super-technical and comfortable pieces that will last you a long time.
Design and technology
Design-wise, SPANX’s garments are graded into three levels of compression; smoothing (level one), shaping (level two) and sculpting (level three), also described as feeling ‘a light hug’, ‘a firm hug’ and ‘a super firm hug’. This does make shopping for your perfect shapewear very straightforward. SPANX’s pieces rely on traditional shapewear technology, whereby elastic or rigid fabrics are knitted together and cut in such a way that, when worn, pieces nip the body into a certain shape.
If you’re looking for traditional waist and tummy shapewear, such as a waist cincher, thigh-control bodysuit or shaping slip dress, then SPANX is your best bet. Likewise, if you’re looking for a higher level of compression and a more slimming, sculpting feel, then we advise utilising SPANX’s shaping level feature (opens in new tab).
Heist, on the other hand, does not specify the control level of their garments. Instead, each piece is designed with the brand’s special HeroPanels™ technology – bonded shaping panels that mould to your body and that promise to slim your waist by 5cm. These HeroPanels™ are the brainchild of Fiona Fairhurst, Heist’s VP of Innovation, renowned inventor and designer of the Olympic athlete-approved Speedo FASTSKIN swimsuit. Like a membrane, they sit between the layers of fabric and mimic your fascia (your body’s natural support system, the connective tissue that stabilises your muscles). In doing so, the HeroPanels™ membrane adapts to your unique shape and movement. Wearing a Heist piece, you’ll feel the compression from the HeroPanels™ but you don’t feel the elastic-band stretch associated with some SPANX pieces.
Heist’s HeroPanels™ are also designed with 20,000 laser perforations – tiny dots all over the panels – that allow your body to breathe and stay cool. So, while SPANX are stronger on the firming and shaping front, Heist’s second-skin, breathable feel means it wins at comfort and suitability for an everyday shaping boost.
Size wise, SPANX and Heist are on equal footing – both brands go up to a UK size 22 (although remember that finding the right size isn’t as simple as going for your usual dress size).
For mums-to-be though, SPANX is the undeniable champion. Heist does not specify whether its shapewear can be worn while pregnant or not, but SPANX has a whole range of dedicated maternity shapewear. Named Mama (opens in new tab), the range includes shaping leggings, tights and shorts, each designed to support mums-to-be thanks to non-compression belly bands that grow with you and supportive ‘zones’ for the lower back.
Our verdict: which is the best shapewear brand?
Heist may have only launched their shapewear line in 2018, but they have quickly gained on longtime leaders SPANX. Both brands are similar in sizing and price, but are approaching shapewear in very distinct ways.
Despite a comparatively limited range of garments, Heist have won customers over with their technology, comfort-first approach, sleek designs and inclusive, modern take on shapewear. For those new to this kind of underwear, who are looking to incorporate control lingerie into their everyday wardrobe, then Heist is our winner.
However, if you are shopping for a particular event, want a higher level of compression or are a mum-to-be, then the sheer amount of choice offered by SPANX makes it an equally attractive option.
Esther is a features and fashion writer and stylist, who is particularly focused on the intersection between fashion and social issues and feminism. Her work has been featured in woman&home, Refinery29, ELLE, Stylist, Dazed, Grazia, HelloGiggles, and HuffPost.
She also founded The Activist, a fashion, arts, and culture magazine, dedicated to celebrating young women and non-binary people in politics and protest.
When she’s not writing and styling, Esther is an avid bookworm and usually devouring something from the latest Women’s Prize longlist, getting crafty with embroidery art, or enjoying a jaunt around the Suffolk countryside.
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