Expert Advice from a Shapewear Designer

Martha Stewart Weddings, Fall 2010

Sara Blakely, Shapewear Designer
Atlanta, Georgia

Known for: Reinventing the girdle and creating undergarments that smooth and tighten the body's contours

How to find her: spanx.com

Should a bride consider shapewear for her wedding? 
Absolutely. White is one of the hardest colors to wear. It shows everything that's going right or wrong beneath it. And your wedding is the only day that your rear end has a captive audience. Brides think everyone is looking at the train as they walk down the aisle, but guests are really checking out the caboose.

Did you wear Spanx on your big day? 
Of course! I wore a Bra-llelujah, which gets rid of visible bra lines, and a pair of footless, high-waisted pantyhose. Having them on made me comfortable and confident as I made my entrance. I was really thinking about the moment and not worrying about how I looked. Every bride should feel this way.

Those footless pantyhose were what started it all for you, right? 
Yes. I wanted to wear a pair of cream pants, but I didn't like how they looked. So I cut the foot part out of my pantyhose. That's when inspiration struck. I started my business out of my apartment in Atlanta. I owe a lot to Southern women. They know how to look put-together, even when just running out to lunch, so they really responded to something that gets rid of panty lines but doesn't feel like a girdle.

What shapers are most useful to brides? 
First consider the style of your dress. Then figure out the problem spot you want to fix. If you plan to wear a sheath and want some control, for instance, choose seamless shapewear with coverage from the mid-thigh to just above the waist; it will create an hourglass shape with no extra bulk. If you're wearing a short dress, look for a high-cut brief with tummy control. You'll get coverage where you need it, and you won't have to worry about your shapewear peeking out from the hem of your skirt.

Is there any flaw that shapers can't fix? 
Not that I know of. There are undergarments to handle saddlebags, rear-end imperfections, even muffin top. For the upper body, there are bras that minimize back fat.

What types of undergarments are helpful to wear when dress shopping? 
Most women are concerned about the lower body: stomach, thighs, and rear end. So I'd put on a footless shaper -- or extra-supportive hosiery -- to tackle those areas.

Do brides often make special requests? 
Yes, we get lots of orders for items in specific colors. Brides usually ask us for custom-dyed panties to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Some even want us to add blue stitching to their Spanx as their "something blue."

We're talking so much about brides -- what about all the grooms out there?
That's right, we can't forget about them! If your fiance needs help battling his love handles, think about getting him a compression undershirt. They don't look any different, and men seem to like how they feel in them.

And what about the honeymoon?
Definitely pack a swimsuit with interior support. They keep you smooth in all the right places, and they're surprisingly comfortable.

How does starting your business compare with a marriage?
Actually, they have quite a lot in common: In each instance I took a risk -- when you're marrying someone, you're inevitably jumping in and taking a chance on some level -- and, thankfully, in both cases I had a happy ending.

Top Tip 
"Gwyneth Paltrow was the first to tell me that she has worn two pairs of Spanx at a time -- now, that's total commitment. I won't do it, though, or even suggest it," says Blakely. "Getting the right fit is most important. Women make the mistake of buying a size smaller in hopes of more control. But the garments already have a lot of power, so going super tight means the shaper will only roll and be uncomfortable."

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