The fashion industry continues to perpetuate the sizing myth about plus-size men and women. Updated statistics reveal the “average” U.S. woman is a size 16-18. “At size 8…plus-size models are considerably smaller than average American women, and if that isn’t indicative of how delusional we are about what the majority of women’s bodies look like, I don’t know what is,” says writer Laura Beck.

Shapewear is Nothing New

Remember beautiful Scarlett O’Hara being stuffed tightly into a corset? You may feel “society” disapproves of too-tall or too-wide women, but we might have done some of this to ourselves.

Today, girls and women are told to be proud of our bodies, whatever shape they’re in. Which begs the question, “If our bodies are fine just the way they are, why do we need plus-size shapewear to help us look skinnier?”

Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

It’s not about skinny. It’s about smooth. Petite, thin women you see are often wearing the same shapewear you’re wearing. Something about tightening up baggy skin folds makes us walk taller, prouder, and…sexier. Shapewear helps us feel good about ourselves.

Online Shopping for Plus-Size Shapewear

Reputable plus-size shapewear manufacturers and distributors genuinely care about helping you look and feel better. Before you buy, check the company’s return policy. Let’s reiterate here: Especially when purchasing lingerie, undergarments, or shapewear of any kind online, be sure to read the company’s return and refund policy.

For example, Frederick’s of Hollywood accepts shapewear returns for online purchases within 30 days of the delivery date for a full return (with tags still attached) and 60 days from delivery date for a partial refund. Clearance items are not returnable. With apologies, the company says no return for refund for any purchase is accepted after 60 days.

Pretty Girl Curves does not encourage returns or refunds (unless your shapewear is defective, and even then the refund should be “management approved”). They will charge a 10% restocking fee. There is a one-time exchange per customer “if requirements are met.” And to exchange a plus-size garment, additional fees may apply.

American Shapewear.com says to contact them immediately if your garment is defective or damaged. Otherwise, returns should be clean, unworn, unwashed, and with original tags intact. No returns are accepted after 30 days.

Doctors’ Concerns Are Valid

“If you know how to choose and use your shapewear…As long as you wear it properly, shapewear should be relatively comfortable,” says WebMD. Otherwise, you are faced with a host of shapewear related health issues.

If you’re like a lot of women, you have to deal with the occasional UTI (urinary tract infection). And it’s a double-edged sword: As we age, our bodies begin to sag and bag a bit more, so shapewear helps us maintain a confident body image. Women “of a certain age” also tend to get more UTIs, so managing our plus-size shapewear is more of a challenge.

Knowing how to choose shapewear that fits comfortably is important. But if you have chronic medical issues like UTIs or abdominal problems, your shapewear needs to minimize discomfort to those areas. Too-tight plus-size shapewear crotches or tummy panels worn for too long can cause health issues for some.

A common plus-size shapewear mistake many men and women make is to buy the size we want to be rather than the size we are. Remember, the goal is smooth, not skinny, and certainly not miserable.

Milena Joy, a Denver image consultant says, “You don’t have to wear something that will totally change your shape. There are different levels. It can be ultra or light slimming. You can choose what spots; to target just your thighs, butt, stomach, or multiple areas.”

What Fabrics Are Used in Shapewear?

Traditionally, nylon and spandex are the main ingredients for modern shapewear. The first known undergarment shapewear was a corset, introduced to the French court by Catherine de Medici of Italy.

Comfort was not a factor, and for centuries women crammed their bodies into girdles and corsets made from every type of restrictive material available, including iron. While nylon and spandex continue to dominate shapewear fabrics, technology has helped develop microfibers to enhance comfort and breathability.

Types of Plus-Size Shapewear

You can wear plus-size shapewear anytime, anyplace. For the office, you may want a light- to medium-control that smooths bra and panty lines. Firm control is good for about 8 hours max; save it for dinner dates and dancing.

Then there’s the take-no-prisoners extra firm plus-size shapewear. You’ll only want to wear it a few hours while strutting that favorite body-hugging white evening dress.

‘Test’ Your Shapewear for Comfort

Today a majority of us are online shoppers. Even with so many clothing purchases made online, it’s not always possible to take yourself into a virtual dressing room to see how a garment fits. Read this article about challenges of buying shapewear online. As soon as possible, test your shapewear by putting it on. Yes, you may look fabulous as you stare at yourself in the mirror without moving.

But that’s not how we live. We move. Your shapewear should move with you.

Bend, flex, stretch. If it feels too stiff or pinches any part of your body, that’s a red flag. Then sit down for several minutes. If it rolls up or rolls down, pinches or rubs, it’s not for you. Never, ever compromise comfort.

You have many plus-size shapewear choices, so don’t allow yourself to feel pressured to buy one you think “you can live with.” Within just a few hours, you’ll be miserable.

Your Appearance Matters…To YOU

When it comes to your body shape, do you need plus-size shapewear? No.

But when it comes to your confidence and feeling attractive, do you need shapewear? Most of us do. When you select the right size and configuration for your body, the best plus-size shapewear can help you show the world the best possible you.

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Remember…You can be more beautiful! We welcome your questions and comments.