Shapewear: do women (over 40) need it?

by Sylvia

Shape wear: Do women over 40 need it - Spanx, and shapewear advantages

I know shapewear for women can be a controversial topic to discuss but I would like to give my point of view on this.

Let’s face it, after 40 we gain fat in all the wrong places and our skin becomes less elastic. You may feel that I’m the wrong person to discuss this, as I’m still quite slim, but believe me, even I have fat bubbles and loose skin in all the wrong places. And yes, sometimes I wear shape wear under some of my clothes, especially when I wear tight skirts and dresses like those you see below.


Why I choose to wear shape wear on some occasions

Quite a few of you will think that we should not submit ourselves to any constrictive wear of any kind and that we should accept ourselves as we are. I agree with this. But I also believe that when we step outside or go to a special occasion, we want to look our best so we can feel our best.

Here are some of the reasons why I choose to wear shape wear:

  • Tight and thin dresses simple don’t look so good when you can see the saddlebags on my thighs and flabby fat on my buttocks.
  • It streamlines your figure in a nice way. Love handles are controlled and legs look smooth.
  • You can accentuate your waist more.
  • And yes, if being overweight is an issue, they do slim you as well.

how shapewear can help you look taller and slimmer |

Shapewear can also be one of the tools in your toolbox on looking taller and slimmer.

Shape wear comes in all different shapes, sizes and comfort levels

It’s also important to note that many shape wear pieces are actually not that uncomfortable. Many shops offer shape wear in different comfort levels, from light support to full support. Here are just some examples of Spanx shapewear below.

Shape wear do woman over 40 need it

1. Mid-thigh shaper: my upper thighs are my main problem area, so this is one of my favorite styles. I usually opt for a light to medium support in a light fabric. In most cases I would say to opt for skin color shape wear as that is the most invisible.

2. If you want more streamlining and get a more defined waist, you can opt for the Hi-waist mid-thigh shaper.

3. The Spanx simplicity half slip is a good choice to wear under skirts and dresses.

You can find many more styles here from Spanx . For many more options at Nordstrom click here  and more options from Amazon below.

Shapewear for women can, of course, be confusing. Here’s a quick rundown of 7 types of shapewear and what they actually do.

Control camis

These are handy if you want to streamline your belly, but you’re not keen on wearing control pants. They can also help to streamline your silhouette across your breasts too, helping to prevent any lumps and bumps around your bra.

Control tights

Of course, not all control wear is meant to be worn underneath your clothes. When colder weather comes around, control tights can be handy for sucking in your tummy as well as shaping your legs.


Not the Medieval torture devices they once were, corsets, or waist cinchers, can be helpful if you just want to target your waist without also wearing control pants or a cami.

Body suits

Helpful when you want control across your bust area and tummy, you can also find longer bodyshapers or body suits which provide coverage over your thighs too.


Singlets, or open bust body shapers, allow you to wear your own bra under your shapewear – helpful if you struggle to find a bra which fits perfectly.

Control pants

An easy introduction to shape wear if you don’t want anything too constrictive. Helpful for controlling both tummies and your waist.

Half slips

Slips are a good option to wear under skirts or partywear if you want to avoid VPL and you also want some form of tummy control. You can find half slips, which fit like a skirt, or slips which also provide some upper body coverage, while allowing you to wear your own bra.

I certainly don’t wear shape wear all the time. And I don’t wear it to appear thinner. My main reason for wearing shape wear is to streamline my upper legs and buttocks. I just feel so much better in my tight skirts and dresses wearing it!

Where do you stand on shapewear for women? Do you wear shape wear or do you prefer not to go anywhere near it?

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1 Suzanne

I think a good foundation is the basis of any outfit regardless of age, size, or shape. The right bra and panties/thong are the important first layer and if a shaper or slip makes your garment (dress, skirt, or slacks) feel and fit better you should enjoy how it makes you look. Women who are into fashion put a lot of thought into what they wear so why wouldn’t they do whatever they could to make each piece of clothing look its best? I have worn control top tights and like the firmness they give. I am going to look for a Spanx slip to wear under some of my slimmer skirts and dresses now that you have shared your secret. Wear what makes you happy – and pretty. 🙂 I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to tell a woman she needs a bra fitting – totally out of kindness. Undergarments make or break an outfit.

2 Sylvia

You are so right. Having the right bra is hugely important. I should write about that some time too. My shapewear tends to be on the comfortable site, not too constricting, but it still does the smoothing…

3 Suzanne

I am now the owner of two pair of size A Spanx “In Power Line Mid-Thigh Shapers” – one black and one nude. I will wear them under my holiday party outfits over the next 4 weeks and we will see if I feel they make a difference. The sales assistant said the power panties are more practical than a slip because they can also be worn under slacks. 🙂 I learn so much from my sister fashionistas.

4 Sylvia

Wow, you move quick! I think you would only need to wear them with your tighter outfits, but let me know how you go….

5 Julia

I agree the right bra and panties are essential. I especially like panties with broad lace around the hip and leg the lace giving a much softer line. I am not one for shapewear living in a humid climate and recently have bought out a range of slips that can alternate as a layering piece. The fabric is soft and fluid carressing your curves without the constraints of shapewear allowing top layers to glide over giving a smooth appearance.

6 Sylvia

Thanks for the tips Julia!

7 Cynthia

Spanx constricts my digestive system and gives me, shall we say, symptoms. It also puts pressure on my back in strange ways and seems to cause pain in my back and hips when worn regularly.

Once I figured this out I went to an alternate strategy:

1) my clothes generally fit, but to skim, not to stretch tight
2) under all my clothes are smooth silk knit camisoles and tap pants, slips or thigh length shorties (yes even in summer, silk is comfortable in the heat)
3) under that, my bras and underwear fit so they don’t make bulges

A couple of years ago when I wore Spanx under all my dresses, I felt like my body was perpetually broken in the lower abdomen area. I seriously thought I had something major and mysterious wrong with me (IBS? Cancer?). But no. It turns out that all that restriction and compression simply leads to some kind of “opposite reaction”.

8 Sylvia

Oh that is not good. If that happens then you really should stop wearing it. However, have your tried any of the really thin and more comfortable shape wear? It may have changed since the last time you tried? I have never worn anything that was too restrictive and after reading your comment will keep it that way! Your 3 step plan sounds very good. Thank you for sharing your experience. Very helpful.

9 Nanne

I also prefer to wear shapewear on certain occasions, to make my dresses fit nicer, and I totally agree that a well fitting bra is essential! However, as I understand, (sturdy) shapewear is not meant to be worn on a daily basis, as it can lead to the problems that Cynthia describes. Silk camisoles are great!

10 Sylvia

Yes in many situations silk undergarments is all you need…

11 Ana

I wear it, and I’m reasonably thin, but I feel like my clothing glides more smoothly over my body if I’ve got some light, but supportive, foundation garments under it. I actually tend to size UP in stuff like Spanx, since I find that way it gives support and smoothes things out a bit, but I don’t get that awful feeling Cynthia writes about. Some of the more fiercely constricting undergarments are just so hideously uncomfortable to wear that I wouldn’t care if they visually knocked 15 pounds off me; the pain wouldn’t be worth it.

12 Sylvia

Yes good idea. I always fit them as well and never go for anything uncomfortable…

13 Heather Fonseca

I don’t wear shapewear very often but I do have a few Spanx in my closet. When I was young I actually wore one as a skirt, but that was the 90’s when underwear became outerwear! Personally I like wearing really beautiful lingerie if possible, and I’ve invested in a few pieces that are both sexy and smoothing. For instance I have a sort of garter belt/girdle and a bustier that work like shapewear but don’t look like shapewear.
In the end I think we should do what makes us feel and look good. If shapewear makes you feel more confident then by all means wear it! If it upsets your digestion then don’t.

14 Sylvia

Thanks for your input Heather. I agree that whenever possible we should find under garments that feel good and look good at the same time!

15 Desiree

I’ve been known to wear the odd vintage girdle on the outside – hehe! But the couple of times I tried anything like in the pics above, I couldn’t get in and out of them to go to the loo – eeeep! So if I don’t want any VPL with a tight skirt or frock, I wear a full brief with a seam-free leg so no VPL.

16 Sylvia

Yes, I think I’ve seen pics of you wearing lingerie! You are extremely daring! I usually go for items a bit bigger so they are not so tight. And whenever possible go for something comfortable as you describe. Just so long as vpl’s and my figure flaws are not so obvious…

17 Robert

I think,what you wear under you clothes are just as important.. Having a well fitted bra and panties are essential. On certain occasions i prefer wearing shapewear for a better fitting dress. It’s all about feeling good about yourself…

18 Sylvia

“It’s all about feeling good about yourself…”: Absolutely!

19 Cat

I resisted shapewear because the ones I tried cut into my thighs like a knife. I finally found some panties that smooth that “mom of twins” belly beautifully without hurting. I call them my “suck it in panties” and will not wear lots of things that I wouldn’t before. So what seemed to be restrictive freed me up in a way. I still refuse to wear anything that hurts or is really uncomfortable, but shapewear has it’s place for people who want to wear it.

20 Sylvia

Hi Cat. Welcome at 40PlusStyle and thanks for your feedback. Great to hear that you found shapewear that works for you!

21 Greetje Kamminga

I live in The Netherlands, in Haarlem, three doors down from Anja. I love the shapewear I found of a Spanish make called Janira. They come with pants or without. With straps or without. As a body or a dress etc. For different clothes I wear different styles. They don’t hurt at all. I have worn them in summer as well and although Dutch summers aren’t very hot, it still is summer. Perhaps because they are a Spanish make? And… I had my waist liposucked with ultra sound. I know… There are lots of people against plastic surgery, but I am over the moon with the result. But still use the shapewear for belly, smoothness and comfort.
I will follow your blog more closely Sylvia as I like it very much.

22 Sylvia

How nice to read your comment Greetje and welcome! Thanks for the great tips on that brand. I will have to keep an eye out for it. As far as your ultrasound surgery is concerned, my motto is that if it makes YOU happy then go for it! It sounds like a great success for you! Thanks so much for the kind words of my blog. Perhaps we meet sometime when I’m in Haarlem.

23 Greetje Kamminga

Thanks. Would be nice to see you. Can I also add a photo to a comment? I don’t blog but I do have outfit photo’s. Not the best quality as taken with an iPhone 3, but still… You get the picture. I only have photos where I am decently dressed, don’t worry. No bodywear pictures.

24 Sylvia

You can add a profile picture to your comments by going to Just attach an image to the email address you are commenting with.

As for outfit pictures, I would love to see them but they cannot be attached to comments. It is best to post your outfit pictures on my facebook page I may open up a forum in future for this as well, but for now use Facebook. I look forward to seeing them!

25 Greetje Kamminga

I found the Spanish website of Janira with all the different models. This is the url:
It doesn’t seem to be a webshop. Anyone interested in opening a webshop for them?
(I did see part of the collection on a Dutch website though.)

26 Sylvia

Thanks for sharing that. Yes, sounds like a business opportunity…

27 catherine

I agree that shapewear smoothes you out, unfortunately it it makes my stomach stick out even more than usual

28 Sylvia

Ay Catherine, that is not good. However, I believe that there is also shape wear that concentrates on that area. You may want to try different brands or shapes to see if that works…

29 sarah

I am 26 years old and I wear shapewear under my clothes every day. I have 4 different full body shapers and I dont leave without them. Im not particularly overweight but after a child I have the belly sag. The shapewear tucks that in, sucks in the lovehandles, and makes all of my clothes look very smooth on me. No lumps and bumps! I know some people dont like it and I certainly dont wear it around the house or anything like that but if I want to look good when Im going out somewhere, its my go to staple. Its a great foundation to build an outfit on. I buy the extra firm control full body shapers from walmart for about $20 each and I keep a few in the closet in black and a few in nude. They work wonders.

30 Sylvia

Hi Sarah. Thank you for your feedbak. Great to read that shapewear works so well for you!

31 Jane

I am quite thin, thighs are ok but need help in stomach area. However shapewear gives me muffin top and shapewear that goes higher slips down.

32 Sylvia

You could try the spanx slip dress pictured above? Also, you may want to pick clothing that hides your belly are. More tips here:

33 Cheryl

I have never bought any shape wear as everything I have tried on so far (mostly high waisted full pants) just make me look worse! I’m not overly fat – just a bit curvy and I just need something to smooth me out a bit but most things I see are just too ‘powerful’ or they make what fat I do have ‘overflow’! One thing though that drives me mad and that you can see in the pics on your website – why do they show these garments on women that have absolutely no need for them? You can’t tell just how they would work for someone with even an eensy bit of flab! Why show them on bodies that are a size 8 ????!

34 Sylvia

Certainly shape wear is not for everyone. I only have one piece and wear it seldom. But it’s of a light fabric and if I want to make an effort (wearing a tight skirt) it does work. On the whole I choose to wear clothes flat flatter without the need for shape wear. I totally agree with you that they should use bigger size models!

35 Brenda

I have shapewear – I don’t really like any of it. I drink a lot of water & have too much trouble getting it on and off to use the restroom. I also have noticed that the lighter it all is the less “work” it does. I wish it could be more comfortable and easier to get on and off. Plus many of the bottom half shapers roll down – PITB!!! (Pain-in-the-butt)
I’m now over 50 and have more than I should have to hide. Losing weight becomes more difficult with age and trying to hide it all the time is such a chore. I mainly carry the extra weight under my arms (I know – it IS weird) and my mid-section, as so many of the over 50 crowd does. Never getting my shape back after having a child at 41, developing hypothyroidism and a sit-down job have not helped much either.

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