November 14, 2013
Seeking a Christmas present for my wife, I recently ventured into the intimate apparel section of the Macy’s store in Southdale Center. (I was looking for a fuzzy bathrobe — I swear!)
In addition to the usual selection of bras, panties and pajamas, there was a remarkably large assortment of shapewear.
Or, as they used to call them, girdles.
How that dowdy, uncomfortable undergarment became a must-have item for everyone from twentysomethings to grandmothers to Hollywood stars is an amazing story of product improvement — and rebranding.
The impetus came from Spanx, with an assist from Oprah Winfrey. Spanx founder Sarah Blakely sent a gift basket to the Queen of All Media soon after founding her company in 2000. Oprah tried them, loved them and chose them as one of “My Favorite Things” on her annual year-end program. That boost allowed Blakely to grow the company with virtually no advertising.
At first, shapewear was something of a secret, passed on by word of mouth. But before long, even young, seemingly hard-bodied celebrities were openly acknowledging the assistance of shapewear when squeezing into designer gowns at red-carpet events, or battling the post-baby bulge.
Spanx now has dozens of competitors. And there’s even shapewear for men.
Shapewear is out of the closet. Then again: Is it really such a big jump from this…