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can shapewear make you look fatter

Shapewear is one of those things that really makes a woman feel confident. It holds everything right where you want it and while it isn’t something I wear every day, I absolutely love wearing it under dresses and other outfits for those events when I look my best.

That being said, there has been more than once where I planned my whole outfit out in my head, only to be disappointed when I put my shapewear on and found it created unflattering bulges on my back or across my thighs.

I found myself wondering…can shapewear actually make you look fatter?

Yes, shapewear can make you look fatter. Shapewear makes you look fatter if you are wearing a size that’s smaller than you need or if it doesn’t fit your body shape well because it creates bulging. If your shapewear is old, it also might not be strong enough to hold everything in place.

Below, we’ll take a look at the different ways that shapewear can make you look fatter, so you can avoid them. I’ll also give you some tips for getting the right size, so you don’t have to worry about bulging that makes you look bigger than you are.

Can Shapewear Make You Look Fatter?

Yes, it is possible for shapewear to make you look fatter than you are, rather than helping you achieve the smooth, polished look that you’re going for. This happens for a few different reasons, including the size, fit, and age of the shapewear.

Why the Size and Style of Shapewear Matters

First, the way that shapewear squeezes your body does sometimes push fat around. This is most likely to happen if you have a size that’s smaller than you need.

The area you’re most likely to notice is at the top of the shapewear (it can create waist or back fat depending on where it sits). If the size is too small, it’s also likely to roll down at the top or roll up at the part that goes around your thighs.

Keep in mind that shapewear is not a waist trainer. It should be comfortable to wear and it shouldn’t be so tight that it feels like it’s squeezing your body.

It can also happen because the shapewear you chose just isn’t compatible with your body type. The proportions of different shapewear change between brands and while there is an average, these slight differences could change how it fits your body.

Whenever possible, you should try on shapewear before you buy it. If you can’t try it on in the store, be sure to buy it from somewhere with an easy return policy.

How Long Does Shapewear Last?

Shapewear also might not make you look as smooth as you’d expect if it’s worn out. Usually, shapewear is made from a blend of spandex and/or nylon. Cotton and microfiber are also sometimes used.

These materials start to break down over time. This is especially true for something like shapewear because there’s a lot of strain on those fibers when you wear it.

If you are wearing shapewear every day (which does have risks and is not recommended), then your shapewear might break down after 4-6 months. It will last a year or longer if you are only bringing it out for special occasions.

The best way to know if your shapewear is worn out is to try it on and see how it holds everything in place. I always recommend doing this well before any big events you have, in case your shapewear is worn out or you have gained a few pounds since last time you wore it.

Should I Size Up or Size Down in Shapewear?

Shapewear is one of those things that you want to get the most accurate size possible. Some people think that if they size down, it will result in a slimmer, smoother look. This just isn’t the case because sizing down in shapewear creates bulging that makes you look fatter.

Additionally, wearing a size that’s too small makes it more likely that your shapewear is going to roll,  kinda like the way certain types of underwear roll down from not being the right size. This is usually made worse if you’re curvy or full-figured because of the roundness of your shape.

If you size up in shapewear, it isn’t going to give you the compression you need for that finished look. There’s also more risk of it slipping and sliding around on your skin, so it doesn’t do a good job of holding everything in place either.

Since too small creates bulging and too big is ineffective, shapewear is one of those things that you want to get as close to the size you need as possible. Shapewear should hug your curves, but it should never be uncomfortable or hard to move around in.

For the most accuracy, I usually recommend using a size chart for shapewear. You’ll need to know your exact measurements for this. Depending on the shapewear, you usually need info like your hip, bust, waist, and thigh measurements. Manufacturers also use dress size or bra size sometimes.

How Do I Know Shapewear Fits?

You’ll know shapewear fits when it does smooth or sculpt your body in the way you want. It should do this without creating bulges that look like fat or being uncomfortable. Well-fitting shapewear should never impact your ability to take a full breath or make it hard to move around.

That being said, keep in mind that some brands (like SPANX) offer different levels of shapewear compression. This gives you a little more control over how much it’s going to squeeze your body.

In the SPANX brand, shapewear is sold in levels 1, 2, and 3. Level 1 is smoothing, Level 2 is shaping, and Level 3 is sculpting. The higher levels have more compression to have more of a shape-shifting effect.

What Can I Do if My Shapewear Makes Me Look Fat?

If you put on your shapewear and aren’t happy with how it looks, there are still a few things you can try to improve the fit. Start with the right size. If it’s worn out or too tight, it isn’t going to give you the smooth look that you want anyway.

If it does fit, then try using fashion tape to stop your shapewear from rolling or sliding down. Fashion tape is double-sided tape that you fasten between your garment and the skin so it doesn’t slip or slide. It really helps keep everything held in place.

For people struggling with back fat in a dress or strapless top, try using contour tape (or boob tape). You can stretch the skin at the top of your back to make it smoother and use the tape to hold it in place.

Finally, be sure that the shapewear you choose is going to look good under the outfit you have planned. When I do remember to plan ahead, I like trying my outfit and shapewear on ahead of time so I can make adjustments or buy new shapewear if I need to.

Final Word

Can shapewear make you look fatter? It absolutely can if you aren’t wearing it right. Sometimes, the issue is how the shapewear fits or the proportions compared to your body type. Other times, the shapewear might make you look fatter because it’s worn out and isn’t holding everything in place as it should.

Choosing the right size shapewear and being sure it fits your body proportions helps reduce the risk of bulging and looking fatter than you are. You can also use fashion tape and contour tape to help you perfect the look you’re going for.

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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