Taking Up Space: The Evolution of Shapewear

Since the inception of women’s undergarments, from corsets to girdles and even the modern bra, the goals have been simple. Cover, bind and reduce. While coverage continues to be an important and deciding factor for many women when purchasing a bra, it’s the second goal we take issue with. Reduce. Reduce what is seen, and minimize the “problem areas.” In other words take up as little space as possible and look “pretty” while doing it.

It all started with the corset and has trickled down to what we now call shapewear. The earliest form of shapewear can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece. Yes ladies, we’ve been fighting this battle for much longer than you might have realized. For centuries women have been squeezing their naturally beautiful bodies into tiny constricting pieces of fabric and boning to achieve an ideal shape thrust upon them by the ideals of their societies (i.e. what they were told men found attractive).

Corsets could cause health issues ranging from fainting due to lack of oxygen, to organ damage. Steel and whale boning were used to mold women into the “perfect” shape at the expense of their physical and mental health. Many times women would have to lie on the ground while someone stood above them, foot braced on their backs while tightening their laces. The practice of the corset stayed with us almost all the way to the 1920’s. That’s hundreds of years of literal oppression by our clothing. Women could barely breathe, so speaking one’s mind wasn’t exactly an option.

In the 20’s the “fashion” shifted from tiny waists and ample bosoms to practically no shape at all. While at a glance it might look like we were given a reprieve from the constricting undergarments of our foresisters, that wasn’t exactly the case. Bindings were used to restrain and conceal every curve of the female form. Shapewear now meant shapeless, and once again women were forcing their bodies into unrealistic, uncomfortable, and unhealthy forms.

The thirties, forties, and fifties saw the return of the hourglass ideal, but the girdle had expanded the battle from our waist and chest all the way down to our hips and thighs. Women were encouraged to nip, tuck, and squeeze until the “perfect figure” stood before them in the mirror. Time and time again, with the birth of every new fashion craze, shapewear has followed suit.

These concepts and ideas of taking up as little space as possible and forcing yourself into an unnatural shape don’t just affect women when they are choosing an outfit from their closets.

This notion is harmful to women and impressionable girls in their personal lives, and in business as well. For years women weren’t welcome in the world of business and even when that began to change, the struggle to be taken seriously felt as suffocating and constricting as the girdles they were forced to wear. Our work went uncredited, our ideas were co-opted, and our suggestions were blatantly ignored.

Our founder, Amanda, reflects on the challenges she faced.

“Entrepreneurs, especially those challenging the status quo, are met with myriad obstacles and resistance, and as a woman, who dared to use my creativity and voice, I knew I was facing more than usual roadblocks. I was prepared for rejection and success by 12 years in Hollywood as a successful actor. Being persistent, which my father taught me, and strong, which my mother showed me, were vital to the success of SassyBax®. Taking no for an answer was not an option because I believed in my idea. This meant pushing the rock up the hill one day at a time until success was achieved. I was speaking my truth to powerful buyers in the fashion industry and they didn’t always get it. In the end my persistence and strength won out. I am proud I refused to stand in the corner in a bra that I was supposed to accept when I thought it was unacceptable.”

Don’t get us wrong, we celebrate all shapewear choices or the decision to forgo it. But, we want our cake and eat it too. So, we asked ourselves, “what if there was an alternative that was truly comfortable?”

Comfort doesn’t mean not attractive. Beauty should never come from a place of pain. Nor do confidence and power have to come at the expense of femininity. We say why can’t you have it all? Why can’t you have a bra that serves to smooth out your clothing and make it look better and be buttery soft? We think this new category should be called ComfortWear.

Why not have leggings and camisole tops that enhance the natural beauty of your body, giving you the self-assurance to walk out the door and change the world. We don’t think you have to choose between looking good and being comfy. In fact, we know you don’t, because that’s exactly why SassyBax® exists. We’re here for the woman who is in on the secret! Being comfortable gives you confidence, makes you feel powerful and beautiful. It’s a great relationship!

Fashion is now standing on a precipice. The body positivity movement is having its moment and we couldn’t be more excited. It feels as though the industry is finally starting to see what we have always known. What makes a person beautiful has nothing to do with the size of their clothes or the number on the scale. Beauty comes from within. There is no ideal shape for which to strive, only our own ideals.

Here at SassyBax® we like to say “You’re perfect, but your shapewear could use some work.” And we mean it. We want to encourage women everywhere to take up the space around them, speak when they have something to say and take action when they have an idea. Our founder did, and the results were groundbreaking.

Who’s to say yours won’t be too?