Just as with makeup, where a patchy foundation can easily ruin a perfect bold lip or a statement eye, the wrong underwear can destroy the line and look of an outfit. It's why the best shapewear pieces have propelled companies like SPANX into such big businesses.
Enter the best plus size shapewear; flattering your natural shape, enhancing your beautiful curves and smoothing out any parts of your body that you’re insecure about. The right shapewear creates the ultimate canvas for your clothing. Get this base layer wrong though and it can cause more issues than it solves – whether that be uncomfortable pinching, loose rolls or unseemly bulging.
Luckily, the days of limited shapewear choices are over. Thanks to the growing body positivity movement, inclusive, comfortable and confidence-boosting lingerie choices are the norm rather than the exception.
SPANX, long a trailblazer in the size department and our recommended go-to, has now been joined by a roster of exciting new shapewear brands. There's Heist, whose brand mission is to liberate women from disappointing underwear, and Shapermint, who aim to empower women and celebrate all body types.
To help you shop smarter, we’ve put together a guide to the very best plus-size shapewear, no matter your body type, concerns or lingerie tastes.
How to choose the best plus-size shapewear for you
We understand your trepidation – shopping for the best plus size shapewear can be a minefield. Like any other body type, not all plus-size women are built the same way; some who have gorgeous big bums and thighs may also have slim waists, others with bigger busts may have narrow hips. Likewise, there’s also no one hero product that will tick all your shapewear boxes.
A simple way to work out which shapewear is right for you is to first determine your body type and which body parts you want to highlight. For example, do you only want support around your middle? A shaping waist trainer will create an hourglass silhouette. Want to smooth some cellulite or lift your bum? There are plenty of shapewear options for your lower half, whether you fancy a brief, seamless leggings or shorts.
The best plus size shapewear you can buy right now
For everyday wear, you can’t beat Pour Moi’s Definitions High Waist Shaping Brief. This ultra-high waist and seamless design skims the body effortlessly, cinches the waist, fits just under the bust (so there’s no need to worry about any rolling at the top) and is made from lightweight material, so it can easily be worn all day. Whilst wearing ours, no one was any the wiser and we were easily able to wear it for a full day at work (9am to 6pm). We'd consider this a step up from your usual knicker choice, just with an added oomph for your curves – a win for those with hourglass figures.
It is important to note that these briefs offer waist support only, and are rated as medium control. If you’re looking for a higher level of control – perhaps to wear under structured garments and evening-wear – or for more overall body support (such as tummy, upper thigh or back support), we suggest a bodysuit or thigh slimmer with a firm level of compression. Additionally, sizes of the Definitions High Waist Shaping Brief do not correlate to usual underwear sizes, so we'd also recommend ordering a size or two bigger for the most comfortable fit.
See our full Pour Moi Definitions High Waist Shaping Brief review
Want to feel confident in your favourite skinny jeans? Miraclesuit’s Comfort Leg Waistline Briefs not only target the tummy with firm-control compression and a double-layered tummy panel, but are designed with a low waist and flexible leg openings that move with the body. The silky soft fabric glides under clothes, while Wonderful Edge® silicone lining works to prevent VPL. This also means you don’t need to worry about the briefs rolling down around the waist or riding up at the legs or crotch - ideal for wearing under slim-fit trousers.
Firm compression pieces like this will cost you a little more; at £34, Miraclesuit’s Comfort Leg Waistline Briefs are at the pricier end of the market. Likewise, for shapewear newbies, firm compression can feel tight and take a little while to get used to. We advise buying in a bigger size if you are an in-between size for two reasons: you may find them difficult to wear for long periods of time, and a size too small could lead to unattractive bulging at the top or bottom of the briefs.
For complete shapewear novices looking for the best overall, everyday support, we suggest SPANX’s Power Series Higher Power Short. Comfort is the order of the day here. With a lightweight compression, this design smoothes rather than slims the body, enhancing your very best silhouette – from waist to thighs – under your clothes.
Design wise, a no-slip strip at the waistband keeps the shorts from rolling down, while ruching at the rear subtly lifts and flatters your bum and the high waist eliminates muffin-top fears. The seamless, lightweight yarn moves with your body rather than working against it and offers a super comfortable fit. Although a word of warning - the material (a similar weight to high-denier tights) can prove a ripping hazard if not treated delicately.
Claiming to shave 5 cm off your waist and support your posture, Heist’s The Outer Body is the shapewear bodysuit taking the fashion industry by storm. And understandably so; Heist is the brand behind the comfiest tights on the market and so it knows a thing or two about creating wearable shapewear. The Outer Body has everything you could possibly need from an everyday bodysuit. There's lightweight microfibre fabric that feels like a second skin, seam-free bonded edges and clever, sculpted HeroPanels™ that target the breast, lower back, waist and tummy with strong, even compression.
If that wasn't enough, the perforated material lets the body breathe, while thermally moulded cups shape and support, so you can wear the suit with or without a bra.
While it’ll remain undetectable under your clothes, the sleek, minimalist design makes The Outer Body as stylish as it is practical. In fact, as its name hints, when styled right this is a piece that can work as outerwear as much as shapewear. We wore mine ours with high-waisted jeans and a blazer for a date night and didn’t feel overly exposed. Worried about toilet trips? No need; The Outer Body has an easy-to-use fastening at the gusset which is a lifesaver, especially in a toilet stall during Happy Hour.
All those smoothing and supportive features do cost you extra though. The closest design from another brand, SPANX’s Thinstincts® Thong Bodysuit, is almost £42 cheaper, but we think that The Outer Body is worth it, especially in the long run.
We felt streamlined and supported without being squeezed or squashed. Unless you’re looking for a particular shapewear piece or to target a very specific area, this would be the piece we would recommend to the first-time shapewear buyer.
Shapewear doesn’t just have to be for daywear, nor does practicality rule out sexiness. Admittedly, M&S Boutique’s Mosaic Lace Body does pride appearance over body support, but with its beautiful mosaic-lace detail, sheer fabric, sparkling waistband and plunging neckline, we think it would be the perfect choice for date night. Designed with a non-padded, non-wired bust, it can also be worn alone or over a bra if you want some extra oomph.
We should also note that the Mosaic Lace Body has a thong knicker, which isn’t advertised in the description on the M&S site, and which we found we needed to rearrange several times for comfort. Also, there is no fastening at the gusset, which made toilet trips tricky.
Thousands of five-star reviews for these shapewear leggings stand as testament to their wearability and fit. Made from a medium-compression, moisture-wicking and breathable material that feels silky-soft and as light as tights on the skin, these leggings offer enough control to lift and sculpt, but are comfortable enough for a movie marathon or yoga session. There’s also no need to worry about common leggings issues – such as VPL, fading or baggy knees and bums – as these leggings are fully opaque and a shaping high waist keeps them snugly in place.
If you’re looking for full-leg support, they may not be the right choice for you. The sculpting compression in these leggings is focussed solely around the waist area. As such, they are somewhat lacking in the bum-lifting department. Also, at £47 they are a rather pricey choice. Given that leggings are one of our wardrobe staples, and this pair has seen us from the gym to a Sunday afternoon on the sofa, we'd support these as a worthy investment.
Don’t let the name ‘waist cincher’ scare you; Pour Moi? Definitions Hook & Eye Waist Cincher offers comfort and support in equal parts. This piece is an important tool in any shapewear arsenal, particularly for wearing under shaped eveningwear or pieces with structured bodices – think wedding dresses or ball gowns. We love Pour Moi?’s cincher in particular because it offers both front- and back-fastening to suit your outfit. Plus, the hook-and-eye close has three adjustable fittings to suit fluctuating body shapes; a life saver for brides-to-be with months of fittings ahead.
The fit of this cincher is gentle, making it an attractive buy for newbies. For seasoned shapewear buyers who want a more sculpted fit, consider a firm or extra firm compression design.
Carrying the tagline ‘Look 10lbs Lighter in 10 Seconds’, Miraclesuit Shapewear has a lot to live up to. Made from inner panels of Tactel® fabric and Wonderful Edge® silicone ribbing on the hemlines, the Flexible Fit Plus Hi-Waist Thigh Slimmer promises to mould to your body and move with you, targeting the tummy, lower back, waist, bum and thigh with it’s slimming technology. With an extra-firm compression, this is perfect for those looking for a tighter feel and more contoured look. Its success is in its butt-lifting powers, back compression, all-day comfort and high-waist to mid-thigh cover.
One downside to this particular Thigh Slimmer is that it doesn’t have an opening at the gusset, which might make bathroom trips a little tricky.
Costing almost £60, Miraclesuit Shapewear’s Flexible Fit Plus Hi-Waist Thigh Slimmer is a pricy investment, but treat it well (hand-wash only, handle with care) and it will serve you well for years.
Shapewear bodysuits can sometimes provoke restrictive choices, especially if you need a different size bra or level of compression for your breast area. That’s why we love wear-your-own-bra (or WYOB) shapewear pieces, such as Maidenform’s Wear Your Own Bra Black BodyBriefer. While the firm-control compression body gets to work smoothing and supporting your waist, tummy and back, the high-back design smoothes bra lines and comfort cuffs under the arms to ensure a comfortable wear (and stops underarm bulges). Meanwhile, obviously, you’re free to wear whichever bra you wish alongside it.
Our only issue with the WYOB BodyBriefer is that the gusset fastening is like a bra fastening rather than a popper, which takes some time to get accustomed to.
Tank tops are already a wardrobe essential, so why not choose one with extra support?
If you’re looking for more ‘hold’ then SPANX Thinstincts® Tank isn’t the right option for you. Rather, this is simply a step up from the typical stretch jersey cami top. It's super lightweight (SPANX rates its compression level as ‘smooth’, like ‘a light hug’), is made of breathable microfibre fabric, has bonded armholes and hem for extra comfort and a seamless wear, and is elastic-free, which means no annoying pinching. We also love that it is designed with a non-compression bust, so you won’t feel uncomfortably smooshed.
At £45, it is a costly alternative to your usual vests. But if you’re looking for a simple and easy everyday shapewear piece, then we love its versatility.
Would you spend £35 on a bra? For Shapermint’s Truekind® Daily Comfort Wireless Shaper Bra we would. It’s made from a breathable nylon-elastane fabric, has extra-wide straps for extra comfort, foam cups for a fully covered feel and a medium shaping compression for support. Plus, with sizes ranging from 36B to 46DD and Shapermint’s Good Fit Guarantee (60 days to ask for another size free of charge), you can be confident shopping, even if you make the wrong size choice. We're planning to get one in each colour.
Frequently asked questions about plus-size shapewear
Should I size up in plus-size shapewear?
It's vital to make sure you know your size and to buy accordingly. Many women tend to buy shapewear in a smaller size, thinking that this will make them appear slimmer. In fact, it does just the opposite, creating those unattractive bulges and rolls. For the most seamless look, you need to buy shapewear in your size or the one above.
Likewise, don’t assume that you’ll be buying shapewear in the same size as you do your regular lingerie – shapewear sizes don’t strictly correlate to underwear or dress sizes, rather your measurements: bust, waist and hips. To find your correct fit, it’s important that you measure yourself carefully and check each brand’s sizing charts and FAQ pages (many have detailed advice on their websites).
What are the key types of shapewear compression?
Once you’ve nailed your sizing and choice of shapewear type, then you can consider what type of support you want. All shapewear is made from stretchy, supple fabrics such as nylon and Spandex, but there are three, key types of compression to choose between:
Light compression or light control
This term covers everyday pieces that can be worn comfortably for long periods of time. This is the right option for you if you’re shopping for shapewear to wear under your work clothes or have specific body parts that you want to smooth out regularly.
Medium compression (also known as medium to high control)
This is the right option for you if your priority is accentuating your curves, as shapewear with medium compression is designed to hug your body and move with you. These pieces will offer you hours of comfort so can be worn day-to-day.
Firm and extra firm compression (high control)
This type of shapewear is more about contouring your body than just smoothing it. If you choose the right size, these pieces should help you feel toned and sturdy without feeling constricting or uncomfortable. These pieces are best worn under formal, structured outfits, such as wedding and prom dresses, evening gowns and cocktail dresses.