Not Only for Special Occasions
You can wear shapewear to work, as long as it's not bothering you. "The benefit," Joy says, "is that it can help you feel more confident and it can boost your self-esteem."
If you wear shapewear every day, pay close attention to how comfortable you are. "If you're afraid to go to the bathroom because your shapewear is difficult to remove, you might be putting yourself at risk of a UTI [urinary tract infection]," Avitzur says.
If you are prone to bladder infections, yeast infections, or GI symptoms like reflux, wearing shapewear every day may not be such a good idea, Avitzur says.
Pregnancy and Shapewear
If you're pregnant, you might want to check with your doctor about whether you can use special maternity shapewear. It may actually help you feel better, says ob-gyn Laura E. Riley, MD, medical director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You and Your Baby: Pregnancy.
"Maternity shapewear is fine for women to wear daily if they are comfortable," Riley says. "It should help for women with varicose veins, which can be uncomfortable when standing, and it should provide support to lift the uterus off the cervix and ease pain [if the pelvis becomes misaligned]."
As a neurologist, Avitzur says "pregnant women are already at risk for compressing a nerve in the abdomen if their belly is large."
If you do wear shapewear while expecting, make sure getting it on and off isn't such a struggle that you put off urinating, as that can set you up for urinary tract infections.
Building a Shapewear Wardrobe
"Start with the basics like a mid-thigh shaper, a slip dress, and then add something more specialized like underwear," Joy says. "You can build your shapewear wardrobe as you would build a regular wardrobe."
For the most flexibility, look for pieces in a shade that's close to your skin tone.
Some of Joy and Banks-Coloma's favorite pieces:
Tights. This is a great place to start with shapewear, Banks-Coloma says. You can choose options that slim the whole leg, or the thighs, rear, hips, and waist. They smooth out panty lines, and there are butt-boosting styles. In the past, waste bands might have rolled over, but that shouldn't be an issue anymore, Banks-Coloma says.
Full body suit with a chest cut-out. Body suits slim the hips and hold in the stomach, but they can also flatten your chest, like a sports bra. New styles have an open bust that actually lifts your breasts. (You wear it with a separate bra.) When you try on a body suit, make sure that the overall effect is smoothing and that it doesn't create bulges in new spots, like where the seam hits your thigh, Banks-Coloma says. If you're hoping to minimize a larger chest, choose a suit that covers it.