As you will have guessed from my many other
rants articles, I am passionate about redesigning shapewear to fit real needs not thought of by men. Like:
- How do you get in and out of it when you need to pee?
- The same goes for inconvenient times of the month.
- How it fastens and where. Can you reach the closures? Are they in a comfortable location or does it shove a load of hooks in the most ridiculous of places?
- Does it sit smoothly under your clothes and not roll down, ride up?
- How to make this sexy – because currently it is a choice between unsexy sausage tubes which totally ruins the illusion that this is the real you.
I have been playing with the concept of playsuits and body shapewear for a while. I started out with soft supportive cups in the Kate line of babydolls and progressed with redesigning knickers with the Jane panties. So part way there!
I have always felt that the best way to learn good design was to look at bad design. Hooboy! Not currently at a loss for choice with the offerings in the general market! Ok. So keeping in mind the above list, I sat down and looked at the engineering stresses of conventional shapewear and asked what part of these contraptions were necessary and which were psychological.
Shapewear is there to give you a smoother profile, take out all the lumps and bumps. In some aspects slim waist and flatten abdomen. Some also lift and shape your bum. The lovely Matilda above shows how I started with the most problem areas. I was looking at how to use the grain of fabrics and cut in the first image to flatten, in the second to lift the bum and flatten the upper back and in the final image sooth the hips to create a waist and support the bust. What I noticed was that unless you are intentionally cinching the waist, any excess material in the back and you get uncomfortable bunching and worse it makes whatever you are wearing look really amateurishly made and cheap (but not in a good way). This is one of the main reason to avoid dresses with zippers down the back.
The next stage was to drape. But Matilda is a cold herd hearted woman with no softness in her and is unforgiving. Off to the phone tree to friends and clients who volunteer as fitting models. They are a courageous group of women who will happily (or with a little grumbling) will stand in weird positions near naked in my workroom gossiping while I stick pins in them. The result of that first attempt was a powermesh playsuit called the Elizabet (after the Countess of Bathroy because of the deep red colour chosen. Almost decided to do the photo shoot in the bath…;) The fit is lovely, but it is a playsuit as opposed to shapewear.
With what I had learned from the Elizabet, I began to draft what I hoped would be something you could wear under a business suit – The Melanie, for the working girl in all of us.
The basis for any pattern when working with stretch materials is the fabric choice. So long before I even started drawing I had been trawling the world for excellent lycra and elasticine based Chantilly and levers lace in black. It had to stretch, be strong and durable and gorgeous. Lace on its own isn’t strong enough to shape your body and and be uncomfortable having a pattern imprinted on your skin! So mounting the lace onto a super soft, super strong powermesh is an ideal solution.
For this iteration a lot of consideration and experimentation went into the details. I wanted it to be sexy, but more than that I want to be able to wear it under a dress OR a pair of trousers and not have to get undressed whenever I needed the loo. Traditional bodies will have hooks or spans in the centre of the crotch.
WHY?!!!!! Who the hell ever thought that would be a good idea?!! The gymnastics to grab both ends alone are just unbelievable! And then put it WHERE?
Again, taking a page from Victorian lingerie, my thought was to create an overlapping open gusset to provide modesty and comfort. The back sections of the pantie hook together in the centre providing lift and smoothing the hips. To go to the loo, simply unhook the back and open the gusset. The added benefit is the ability to take this from the office to playsuit… not necessarily changing location.