Spanx – WTF?

First, I know that I’m treading on dangerous ground here as I have friends who swear by their Spanx.  As always this blog is all about me in general, and today it’s specifically about my experience with Spanx.  I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live.  If you wear Spanx, that is awesome and I fully support you.  Are we good?  Excellent, let’s continue:

I don’t really wear shapewear. I think my body’s shape is fine, and  I highly value the ability to have full range of motion, and to take full deep breaths. When I am dancing, I sometimes wear shapewear-esque stuff because I have a very long torso and my shirt will rise up and bare midriff is a penalty. The things I wear for this are purposefully a size larger than I normally wear and offer coverage only – no compression.

For a routine that my cabaret group did this weekend, we wore skin-tight cropped pants and our leader asked us to wear shapewear. Thus began my first date with Spanx. I went by the height/weight chart on the back panel and selected something called Higher Power.

First of all, I broke a sweat trying to get them on, and think I pulled something I’ll need in later life. At first they felt like jeans that are out of the dryer and I was just waiting for them to stretch out. One of the girls on my team burst that bubble. So, with my range of motion and ability to breathe compromised I went off to the show.

Today as I was cleaning up I found the package that my medievil torture device Spanx came in. And I got irritated all over again.

It says “Spanx started with $5000 and a dream – to make the world a better place…one butt at a time!”

Big fat fail over here- my world is a better place when I can freaking breathe. My world is a better place when someone is not trying to convince me that making myself into a human sausage will make the world a better place.

Then I saw the picture on the back:

Are you kidding me with this crap?

Cook a meal:  If you happen to be cooking me a meal in the hopes that it will get you laid…congratulations you’ve got an excellent strategy there.  If after that meal we find ourselves naked, and your body is suddenly a different size and shape than it was a minute ago, I’m going to think that’s weird and it will probably kill the mood.  Just sayin’.

Put Out a Fire:  First of all, I hate to nitpick (ok, no I don’t) but the girl in the high heels and compression undergarments is not putting out a fire – she is defying gravity and any modicum of ladder safety in her snazzy underpants, leaving the fire raging behind her.  Second,  I have to wonder how female firefighters feel about this portrayal.  Third, I think I might rather fend for myself than deal with a rescue attempt by someone whose attention is on whether or not she has a muffin top.

Win a Race:  This one really kills me (and not just because this woman appears to be running in high heels without a bra on, beating people with the wost running form I’ve ever seen, and has been awarded her medal WHILE breaking the tape at the finish line):  it turns out that doctors are having to tell teen athletes to stop wearing Spanx because tight garments can cause pain and numbness in the thigh if they squeeze the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which runs down the abdomen just below the hipbone.   This article is from “Shots” which is the health blog for NPR.

Unfortunately the last line says “Shot’s Advice:  Kids, leave the Spandex to us middle-aged women, who really need it.”  I’m calling bullshit. First because we all have a lateral femoral cutaneous nerve – it doesn’t go away after our teen years so adult women are at the same risk.  More importantly,  I’m going to say that nobody NEEDS Spanx, and I think that a health blog telling middle-aged women that they need Spanx is disgusting.  And the fact that the author included herself doesn’t make that better. I’m curious if they got paid for that endorsement. (For a really interesting ancillary article about the differences between uniforms of male and female athletes, check this out.)

If you want to wear Spanx, then awesome – rock those bitches.  But don’t try to make it an issue of my self-esteem by attempting to convince me that I will somehow be better or, even more ludicrously, make the WORLD a better place if I use super-tight underwear to temporarily change the size and shape of my body. You can sell a false sense of self-esteem somewhere else, I’m all stocked up with the real stuff here.

41 thoughts on “Spanx – WTF?

  1. I’m with you, Ragen, I want to breathe and move freely.

    Last summer I saw a woman at target. I thought, “oh she looks adorable!” she was wearing a cute dem skirt that caught my eye.

    Then she bent down to pick something up and I was appalled. She had on spanx and the view from behind was really unpleasant where her skirt slit was. I can’t imagine she was comfortable!

    That only reinforced my decision to be spanx-less!

    Xo Susie

  2. Love it! You are so right on about the pictures. What the hell? Yeah, I’m surprised they don’t have brain surgery and rocket science on there too. And pole dancing. You can be a pole-dancing brain surgeon rocket scientist and wear Spanx! That is, if you haven’t passed out on the floor already. Ooops! Moving on….

    Love your blog and your voice. I posted a funny blog post last week called “When Fashion Magazines Attack.” I’d love to hear what you think of it! Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights. I look forward to reading more.

    Kimber Simpkins

  3. Okay, this might be my ignorance showing, but why can’t you bare your midriff, especially in a cabaret dance troupe? What’s wrong with baring the belly? I do it almost all the time as a plus-sized belly dancer.
    I say almost because this year I’m wearing a lovely blue beledi dress that covers my belly…and that’s where my Spanx story begins. Since the dress is of some Lycra-esque fabric I definitely need to wear underthings of some sort and I don’t want panty lines…so I got the Higher Power Spanx according to the size chart. I didn’t have trouble breathing, yeah I felt like a sausage…and the top rolled. Ugh. I think the bottom layer of the Spanx is coming apart because I man-handled them to get them on in the first place. I think I’m going back to my less controlling mid-thigh underthings for the costume.
    I still think you all should bare your bellies, but I’m biased and think you and the rest of the gals I’ve seen in pictures of your troupe are magnificent.

  4. You just rocked my world, sister, with this glorious post. I wouldn’t think of wearing Spanx and I’m 54. I’ve got a bit of a muffin top, and I still won’t wear Spanx.

  5. How much do I love this blog post? Let me count the ways…

    Ugh, Spanx! I understand the desire to lock down your wobbly bits–I mean, I have a really extraordinarily large butt, and if I don’t wear undies at all (as I am wont to do), I’m liable to cause a traffic jam.

    But shapewear that causes the flop sweats and strained abdominal muscles (both experiences ever so familiar to me) is bogus. End of story. Seriously, let yourself live–and breathe–a little. Because on your deathbed you are unlikely to wish that you’d done a better job concealing your belly.

  6. The one time I ever wore shapewear, a friend’s husband asked me to dance at his daughter’s bat mitzvah. As he put his hand on my hip for a salsa, he was so surprised by the rock hard flesh he found there that he looked at me like: WTH? I shrugged. We danced. I never wore shapewear again. It’s lame. My bottom line: I wear clothing that looks good on the size 12 body I’ve got – if I want to wear spandex or even leggings, it’s time to exercise more. Thanks for this post. I loved it.

  7. Thanks for this posts and for all your posts. I am a person people would call thin and I sometimes hate my body. I admire and envy how much you love yours. You inspire me. Thank you.

  8. OMG, Spanx! I bought some to wear to my daughter’s wedding. I, too, felt like I had to wrestle myself into them and then when I had them on, I couldn’t breathe. So I took them off and haven’t worn them since. That was $50 bucks down the drain! And I like my shape the way it is!

  9. Sometimes I think we have returned to the 50s. I was seduced by some Spanx (or the downscale version they sell at Target, which is put out by the same company) when I had some slinky dress I didn’t want VPL showing through (visible panty lines). I’m somewhere between a size 10 and 12, but I bought the 2X in the hopes that it would, like Ragen, just have a concealing but not compressing effect. Well, I could barely get one leg into the waste. I bravely wore them for the night, unable to breath or bend at waste, but never, never again.

    A girdle is a girdle is a girdle. My Mom, who was a teenager in the 50s, wore the damn things religiously, even to bed, and still didn’t like her body any better. They really should call them Fat Displacement Systems, since the fat around my tummy gets shoved up to be my second set of boobs. What the hell? Giving them a sexy name doesn’t make the loss of circulation in my torso any less unsexy.

    As always, you hit the nail on the head with this post!

  10. I am a nurse aide who is also going to nursing school. I’m on my feet a lot. I wear light compression socks and a high support sports bra while working. That’s compression enough for me, thanks very much! I can’t wait to get the torture devices off when I get home!
    I still haven’t entirely made peace with my 5’6″ 260 pound body, but if we can create a world where we can like ourselves at every size, there will be no need for compression shapewear!

  11. OMG, I had no idea spanx were that tight! I am not a person who likes the feeling of flopping around (I wear a firm support bra, for example) but I would never wear anything that made it hard for me to breathe!

  12. I think you have taken spanx way too seriously. It’s your blog and your opinion. Whether it’s spanx or playtex, I always choose a size larger so that I won’t feel like a sausage. I already know the crap on the package is bullsheet. I know from the control top panty hose era that i can’t do many things in them except keep my thighs from rubbing together.

  13. Great post!

    I tried on a girdle once, while preparing to attend my first formal dance. It was bloody uncomfortable. I emerged from its grip and swore never to wear anything uncomfortable ever again. They are sexist garments, as well as body fascist.

    1. Girdles aren’t necessary “sexist garments”. I wear one every day because I have a belly button hernia that, if I didn’t wear a girdle, would cause me great distress and pain and would swell to the point where I’d need surgery over and over again. The girdle allows me to be able to bend down, lift heavy objects, and do other things that would be dangerous for me were I not to wear a girdle.

      Spanx appear about a billion times more uncomfortable than girdles, however. With my girdle, I get to move around as per normal. I can run, speed walk, do chores, etc. I could even take a nap with one on, if I’m tired to the point where I need to nap right then and there. OTOH, I have never heard a single person say they can do the same with Spanx. Walk? Sure. But only a slower, more modified walk than the kind that is my default. But certainly not run, do chores, take naps, etc.

      BTW, you can get very accustomed to wearing girdles. I have, and whenever I’m getting dressed for the day, I have to put my girdle on. But at home, when I change into my night wear, the girdle comes off.

  14. Foundation garments have been around for years. They enhance certain “Looks” considered beautiful at the time. Being in theatre and a Costumer in my younger days I have worn a lot of different styles of foundation wear. I must say a corset was the easiest to adjust to and certainly corrected my posture.
    When I was young my mother ALWAYS wore a girdle and she was not overweight. Back in the day women were considered “loose” if they jiggled when they walked. Ohhh my momma was a good baptist girl and there would be no jiggling. Course now she is 80 and I’m doing good to get a bra on her – she doesn’t like to be BOUND UP! Ha!
    I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s…we didn’t have MUFFIN TOPS. you know why? because we didn’t wear tight low riding jeans that forced our insides up and over the belt line. I’ve seen muffin tops on size 6 and 8 girls. Restrictive clothing alters the anatomy of the human body.Just as Corsets did in the past. 18″ waistlines were the norm since they had been cinched for years with corsets. Baby not now!
    Fashion, Fashion, fashion…it’s been contorting women for years!

  15. I used to wear corsets on stage (because of wearing eighteenth century costume) and I loved them! They were like this wall to work your abdominal muscles against. They were a real help in voice production, believe it or not.

    Body shaping stuff is torture. And expensive. I bought some once, thinking it would fix my shape and all that happened was that it aggravated my gastric reflux noticeably. Also, it’s hard to go to the loo if you’re dressed up! You have to take off stockings and undies and then wrangle the horrible shapewear.

  16. Ok, I love your Blog, Ragen, and reading it regularly has given me more self confidence (and the giggles) as a fat woman who loves herself navigating a world of fat haters.
    I have to say, I must respectfully agree to disagree with you (and the other commenters here) on this one. I LOVE my Spanx!
    Like one of the other commenters, I am also a plus size belly dancer, and I choose not to bare my midriff while dancing, which is how I was first introduced to Spanx. I wore the higher power panties in nude under my costume to give the illusion that my midriff was bare, while still being comfortable.
    Not only was I able to move and breathe in them comfortably, but you could really see the definition in my abdominal undulations, and I could definitely still jiggle (a must for belly dancing).

    From that point on, I wear them a lot, especially with skirts or dresses (because of the phenomenon referred to as chub rub), which has saved me probably millions in not having to buy baby powder or diaper rash cream for my inner thighs AND has opened up a new wardrobe for me. I wear dresses ALL the time now that I can be comfortable in them. Yes, it smooths out a few things, but I really wear them for their chub-rub fighting prowess.
    I get that many women find them uncomfortable, and so I totally understand why they wouldn’t want to wear them. I mean, the whole reason I DO wear them is because they make me MORE comfortable. Maybe it is the size I get, or the shape of my body, but to me they feel like a big, supportive continuous hug when I wear them, which is sooooooo much better than the girdles and other shapewear I have tried that just end up pushing all of my fat to some random spot on my body and squeezing me like a deadly constrictor snake, leaving angry red lines when I finally get to take them off!
    They do smooth my torso a bit, but not so drastically that they noticably alter it in a way that would be weird if someone hugged me or if I suddenly removed them to be (ahem) intimate with someone. I guess maybe I am wearing them a little bigger than other women? I don’t know, but I just wanted to put a word in for Spanx. Thanks for listening! And thanks for your awesome blog and all of the confidence it has given me since I started reading! You rock!

  17. Fantastic post. I tried a Spanx-like device a few years back for a wedding–never again! The marks it left on my body alone were enough to turn my stomach. And as a marathon runner, the idea of running in Spanx literally makes me nauseous!

  18. I bought a pair of these years ago and only wore them once. I’d gotten them because even though I like my body just fine my lower back doesn’t always. I have a large apron stomach that pulls on my lower back and I was told that a support garment(shape wear) could help with this. The only thing I got from the Spanx was acid reflux and chafing from sweating in the very unnatural fibers. I finally found a wonderful non-constrictive compression garment that’s made by Marena instead of Spanx and would never consider touching most shapewear compression garments ever again.

  19. … is it me or are those women ‘doing anything in spanx’ not wearing anything other than their Spanx? I’m not sure how safe it would be to ‘put out a fire’ with only your Spanx… why aren’t they wearing tops or at least bra’s? Who wins a race with their boobs out?

  20. Anyone who can fit into SPANX deserves my accolades; I bought the “right” size and could not physically get it on. And this wasn’t a case where I was borderline to the next size up, my weight was comfortably in the middle of the recommended range. I guess maybe I have less muscle mass than I should or something? IDK. I do have one pair that I occasionally wear if I need a bit of compression to fit into something form-fitting, or if I want some overall smoothing under a skintight top.

    Otherwise, I stick with (like you, a one-size-up) lower body shapewear from Fashion Bug when I wear skirts, not a fan of the chafing. They’re higher quality and (seem) more durable, anyway.

  21. I’ve worn Spanx exactly once. To a military ball that I had to attend with my husband. After dinner, I went to the bathroom, but could not, with any amount of exertion or prayer or effort get the Spanx pulled back up under my dress afterward. Thirty minutes later, my husband is sending women in to the bathroom to check on me and I ended up throwing the bastard away in the bathroom trash.


  22. Oh man, Spanx are hilarious. So I’m an Official Thin Person (I know this intellectually through the body-checking thing you discussed in another post, although I never actually /feel/ thin if that makes sense) and I totally, totally rely on Spanx.

    Which is stupid! Here is my stupid tale:

    I have body dysmorphic disorder which leads me to buy things I can’t try on in wayyy too big sizes: I own a freaking drawer full of useless XL thongs because, even though I know I’m almost always an S, I look at a pair of underwear and go nope, no way, that’s not the size my butt is, my butt is this XL size! So I figured I needed spanx in a size L, but bought the M so that they’d be extra slimming. Needless to say, they were barely slimming at all, but I started wearing them around whenever I thought I could get away with it, because I believed in my big idiot heart that it made me look thinner.

    One day I was trying to decide whether I should wear my beloved Spanx to take the GRE (I know, right?) and I had a moment of clarity induced, I believe, by pure adrenaline: I looked in the mirror and actually saw myself and realized that I looked no different with my Spanx on vs off. My measuring tape and tightest dress confirmed it: I’d worn my slightly-large Spanx so much that I’d worn out the stretch or something, and they did absolutely nothing except create weird lines on my ribcage and thighs. I was just prancing around in ugly, uncomfortable underwear for absolutely no reason.

    So yeah, to hell with Spanx, and also, someone let me know if there’s any way to safely try on thongs before you buy them.

  23. I am with you here except for

    “If after that meal we find ourselves naked, and your body is suddenly a different size and shape than it was a minute ago, I’m going to think that’s weird and it will probably kill the mood. Just sayin’.”

    Nobody looks the same shape naked as they do in clothes, man. Nobody. Part of the /point/ of clothing, when thoughtfully chosen, is to enhance/disguise/manipulate the appearance of our body shape. I recently got in an argument with a friend who claimed women in pushup bras were “dishonest,” so I may be a bit extra-touchy about this, but I wouldn’t kick a girl out of bed if it turned out she’d been wearing a pushup bra, or had some bulges she’d dressed to play down, or had dyed hair. Or, you know, if she was wearing Spanx.

    Now, if you’d said sleeping with someone who’d worn Spanx was a pain because they’re impossible to get out of, that would make sense and I would have laughed. But I can’t really get behind the implication here that women who wear shapewear are being deceptive and merit an automatic rejection.

    1. I don’t agree with you that the point of clothing is necessarily to enhance/disguise/manipulate the appearance of the body. While people are welcome to do that if they choose, but I get to decide if it bothers/seems deceptive to me, just like you get to decide for you. There are plenty of people who are happy with their bodies and aren’t trying to manipulate them by squishing some parts and padding others and while it might not be a dating deal killer for me it would certainly be disconcerting to me the first time it happened.


      1. Actually she said it was PART of the point, which implies that there are other parts such as comfort, laundry day or “dang I just like it” depending on which part you want to express that day.

        Not everybody feels hunky dory about their bodies at all times. And Sometimes people have “bad hair” days and sometimes they have “bad hip” days. It’s part of being human. And when those days occur, SOME people dress to diminish what they perceive as a flaw.

        I’m not sure how that is deceptive but, hey, it’s your thing.

  24. Okay. I’m late. But I’m gonna say it anyway.

    I spent 2 and a half months with my in England with my boyfriend (who lives there) this summer. I brought a few dresses and a few pairs of leggings to wear on colder days. However, I wanted a pair of bike shorts to wear under my sun dress and stop the chub rub on my thighs which makes for some serious discomfort.

    I searched and searched and searched for some bike shorts but couldn’t find any. (Do they not sell those anymore?!) So I bought some Spanx with the nice ladies at the store going on and on about how great they are. I wanted to get a size bigger than I am, but realized that I’m in the largest size group (the sizing is redonkulous). Anyway, when I got to England and decided to wear my dress, I struggled with them for about 20 minutes and never worked them fully up and decided to just go with it.

    They are so uncomfortable and so much of a hassle. I do not feel empowered at all when I wear them. I feel trapped, and forcefully shaped into something I am definitely not.

    Spanx sux.

  25. LOL I wear knock off spanx because I’m too cheap to buy on-period and off-period clothes. If I’m bloated, I wear the k.o. spanx. loved this post

  26. I found this post googling “most comfortable shapewear Spanx too tight” Your insights made me laugh out loud.
    I too hate the spanx – I refuse to be uncomfortable – but find at 53 i’m getting a funny line/bulge where my panties end on my thighs. making my thighs look bigger than my hips. I am a small woman with not weight issues just built with heavier legs. Have always had the rub issue and I too, like the last poster rely on bike shorts under dresses. But need something for under pants that wont leave the tell tale line mid thigh,. I will definitely check out the marena brand another poster mentioned.
    If someone would truly make comfortable shapewear for us bgger thigh women they would make a fortune!

  27. I totally agree with “If after that meal we find ourselves naked, and your body is suddenly a different size and shape than it was a minute ago, I’m going to think that’s weird and it will probably kill the mood. Just sayin’.”

  28. I’ve read several comments here about thigh chafing or “chub rub” as one of the reasons they might wear spanx or bike shorts. I’ve worn the Comfort Choice Snip-to-Fit Culotte Underliner, currently available from, for two decades under pants, dresses and skirts – comfortable year round, comes in 3 colors and up to 5X. I literally wear them every day and they last for years.

  29. I just found this and I LOVE it! It feels like every piece of styling advice I see for people who don’t have super flat, toned bodies says “SPANX!!” (or similar). I hate Spanx (etc) for all the reasons you mentioned. I think they do nothing to improve the world, because they tell us we all need to be the same shape and that our bodies are wrong as they are. That is bullshit, and you are hilarious. Thank you!

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