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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Up for debate: Spanx

I adjusted my pattern and cut out Vogue 8804, the CS jacket yesterday, and will be posting about that this weekend.

In the meantime I came across this article this morning and I would be interested to know what you think.

Are Spanx a step backward for women?

Let's face it. We're talking girdles.

I remember girdles.

I remember as a child watching my mother contort herself into a girdle and stockings with garters for special events - like her famous stand-up-straight-hold-your-stomach-in photo shoot pose.

I even remember a very old grandmother from Scotland visiting one of the neighbours and hearing rumours down the street that the old man had to lace her in every morning to a corset, pulling really hard and using both hands.

At the root of it of course is the female need/expectation that we all look slimmer than we are.

Is this part of a whole pile of things women do that reflects trying to measure up, as if the original is flawed?

Is the natural woman flawed? Is it just because we are women we feel we need improving before we go public?

It's hard to draw the line between contorting yourself and respecting yourself, because the ultimate alternative, the notorious "letting yourself go" shows even less self respect.

I am trying to figure this out.

Where I am now is that things I do because I feel good about myself are one thing, and things I would do for other people are another.

I wear make-up everyday, yes I have my nails done (thanks for the good advice on that), I iron my clothes, and I spend probably far more time than I should thinking about what I wear.

But I don't wear Spanx.

It's back to my hairdresser.

When I was eight I was taken to a hair salon called Mona's where I was told, before I was given my first "perm" despite the fact my hair already was curly, that I had to learn "a woman has to suffer to be beautiful."

My hair is now natural and I like it. It is my hair.

So I guess I am interested in enhancing (like clothes, make-up and accessories) but not suffering.

Now I know lots of women wear Spanx and feel just fine. I have a sister who tells me she wears it to do housework. Caroline, my favourite sewing fanatic, has posted a picture of her foundation garments here  and says she wore it all day no problem.

This has not been my experience.

My midriff high number rolls down, the thighs cut in, but most of all I just feel trussed.

I feel back at Mona's. If I am eight or fifty-eight this is who I am. Deal with it.

I remember once wearing Spanx to a wedding and going into the bathroom to take mine off because I felt it was inhibiting my dance style.

I ran into another woman doing the exact same thing. 

Listen it's no small feat to fix a full set of Spanx into an evening clutch.

Now don't get me wrong.

I wish as much as you do that those folks you sometimes see in the Walmart check-out had more pride. I have thought to myself "Oh my dear that's just too tight for you." A lot of times a better fit would take care of things.

And I would certainly defend the right of any woman to wear Spanx if she wants to for herself. And if it doesn't hurt her.

But I don't want her to feel she has to. Or to feel that what's she's got isn't good enough.

The question is do I want Miss Scarlett and Heidi to grow up and wear Spanx, or do I hope that by then they will just be happy enough with what they've got? 

Which they better take care of.

What do you think?


HolleSE said...

Hi. I wear Spanx only to smooth my lumps, not to adjust my size. Because of that, i actually buy my spanx a size bigger so they are comfortable. The only time i did wear them for size, i made it for about an hour then took them off.

As for the girls, i think if they take an interest in fasion and style, you could teach them about foundation garments and what they do, but that its important they feel comfotable with themselves Leave the choice to them.

Jodie said...

Hi Barbara:
I so enjoy sitting down at my computer to read your posts.
I'm more of a "do what makes you happy" kind of person...although that being said, I've been blessed with good genetics and am a short, thin twiggy type person - so Spanx aren't on my horizon.
But I do wear padded bras 'cause they make me happy. And I usually wear make up (although I have a Saturday/errand running version that's pretty light).
Interesting post - good luck with your chanel jacket and have a good weekend,

Scenic Route said...

I attend several formals a year--most in Mongolia of all places--and my Spanx did not end up in my clutch but rather the trash! Yuk! I enjoying dressing, but dancing even more. Plus, if one has been sitting 3 hours at a Russian-style 7-course dinner, it is a recipe for major indigestion. A few days ago I gave my adult daughter my new (and awesome) heels as I discovered they made my toes numb. Life is too long for stuff like that, you know? Keep being you as I love looking forward to my morning knee slapping laugh reading your blog!

Bunny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bunny said...

I remember getting my first one or two periods. My mom came home with this girdle/garter contraption and said, "Wear this. It will help with your cramps." They were severe cramps and I really think it did help a bit. But from the day I left home for college till today you cannot pay me to put some sort of constriction on my body. While I am at the proper weight for age and height I have the same saggy aging butt and baby tummy business as everyone else. Hubby likes my soft tummy. Personally, hubby, and I agree with him, think a women looks better with a bit of jiggle, no matter what her weight. It's tight clothing that gives jiggle a bad name. The sausage look can give on an unapproachable look in my opinion. I know many won't agree but I am with you, Barb. Anyone who wants to constrict a women is not my friend. I also have always had visions of a romantic interlude, pulling off the spanx, and it all comes tumbling out and reality bites, if you get my visual.

Go jiggly sisters. You are showing your beauty!

June 9, 2012 10:37 AM

Cherry said...

I'm with you. Although i do pay $$$ for a supportive bra nowadays, I ca't get along with Spanx. They roll up or roll down, and the roll is the worst part. I'm just old enough to have worn a girdle and stockings for a year or so before tights, miniskirts and bra-burners made life more comfortable. An actual girdle, being more structured, really wasnt so bad.
The best thing you can do for your daughters is feed them sensible potions of nutritious food, make sure they get plenty of exercise, and let them enjoy their fit, toned bodies.

Margy said...

I'm with you, Barb...I gave girdles and pantyhose up in the 60's, never more to return. I remember my mother, terminally ill with cancer, wearing a girdle under her "dress-up" robe, unable to accept a jiggle...and she was slender!

Rebecca Clayton said...

I'm with HolleSE--if those "foundation garments" are uncomfortable or restrict your movements, they're the wrong size or style for you.

Also, they are fairly simple things to make yourself. Of course, this lets you make fitting adjustments and have them in whatever color or amusing print you like.

Mary said...

Spanx, no thanx.

annie said...

Well seven pregnancies have left me w/ a bit of a jelly belly. But I am very weight appropriate for my height so we're not talking major cinch. I do it only in certain instances w/ certain dresses. Not even once a month.

Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed to say I had to google "spanx". I had no idea what it was. Ahh yes I have seen similar products in lingerie stores over here but have never been tempted - I am what I am.
Jo in NZ

BeckyMc said...

I find a foundation garment helpful under clingy knit dresses. It helps give a smooth outline. I don't try to squeeze into a smaller size. It is really just helping the untoned jiggly bits behave. I, like Caroline, am comfortable and feel more put together in those clingy outfits that "need" the foundation garment. But most of the time I don't bother. It's just those clingy ITY knits.

Karin said...

I can't use any of that stuff. It always gives me indigestion.

Lena Merrin said...

I wore "foundation garment" after birth of my son, because I couldn't stand all the extra flesh that suddenly appeared. I still think they can make huge difference to one's appearance and fit of the clothes. But I do not think one should wear them every day or in any way depend on them. they are more like "special occasion" clothes or high heels.

Karen in VA said...

I wear them only to keep my thighs from rubbing together and chaffing in the summer when I'm wearing dresses/skirts w/o panty hose...although I have found that a pair of my exercise shorts work better and are less expensive...

Martha said...

I hope I never feel the need to wear spanx. Ever wonder where they came up with that name? Hmmm....

kbenco said...

The ideal figure is such a pervasive concept. Do you think it is restricted to women these days? Or maybe it is only women who are more prepared to alter their figures by uncomfortable external devices, where men are more inclined to gym junkiness,built up shoes and toupees?
Personally I regard Spanx as a torture device, but feel the same way about stiletto heels - perfectly fine on other people if that is their thing, but not worth it to me. However, I am not likely to stop wearing a bra any time soon, so I am certainly guilty of not accepting my natural state.
A very slim and fit friend of mine was advised to wear Spanx when she tried on a formal dress - she was too small for the size 8 and too big for the size 6, (Australian sizes, about 0 and 2 in US I think)and the saleslady told her Spanx were cheaper and quicker than alterations. Maybe people who don't sew need Spanx more than those who can make clothes that actually fit?

Vibeke in Oslo said...

I hate wearing Spanx - terribly uncomfortable - and figure I am plenty beautiful enough without. I have gotten better at wearing a tiny bit of makeup recently and the ladies at work often compliment my clothes and dress sense. That makes it more fun to get dressed. All of my former lovers are desperate to have me back as well, (sounds grand, doesn't it? That's all of two people during the last twenty years) so why would I constrict myself in girdles? A good supportive bra, on the other hand, is comfortable!

LRShimer said...

I am suspiscious of any kind of girdle having long term impact on my inner organs. I dont know if they do but my mother didnt wear a girdle because she told me that medical students at Univ of Chicago where she was a student during WW2 told her rhere were associated health problems Figured it could be the case and I just deal with myself as I am and work to appreciate my body Yes I like my curly hair even the parts somebody else calls frizzy Of course I go to the hairdresser and have it RESTORED to its original color!

Weaverbec said...

I think Spanx are the devil! I tried them and I too, got indegestion. I decided those clingy knit dresses are for young firm bodies. I'll stick with comfort! Besides, when you are comfortable, you're in a better mood!

Erika said...

Here's the thing. We have a hard time thinking something is beautiful until we see someone beautiful wearing it. It's hard for us to think that a normal older body (or grey hair, or wrinkles) COULD look beautiful until we see it on someone - lord knows every magazine we see tells us it's ugly. It's actually really IMPORTANT for younger women/girls to see beautiful, elegant older women manifesting their natural beauty. If we don't see that, we'll never know that it CAN be beautiful.

That's why I'm anti-spanx for myself (and anti-dyeing my hair as well, although I'm cringing as the grey comes in!! but determined.) My beautiful grandmother never compressed her body to fit into tight clothes. And she never stopped being beautiful.

I like to decorate myself (ears pierced, wear makeup, wear heels sometimes) and I can see getting myself into some spanx. But not doing it is a really powerful move.

love you older sisters out there, in all your natural beauty.
Erika (41)

LinB said...

Originally, a "loose" woman was one who did not do up her corset strings. I suppose you'll have to put me in the "loose woman" category, as even pantyhose are anathema to me. (Why is it that the Queen size panty part has to be too small for my upper thigh, much less for my waist? And I am not a giantess.)

Janine said...

No way to Spanx .Ever.

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