Fox Makes

On Shapewear

I talk a big game about body positivity and honouring the form I have by respecting my physical being, but sometimes – like everyone – that wavers.

I’m neck-deep in wedding planning at the moment, as I’ve discussed previously, and presently fully immersed in sorting out my outfit. I’m not saying my dress is priority number one – but I’m also not not saying that, aha. All the COVID-related wedding questions off the table, designing and constructing my outfit is occupying by far the most space in my brain. I’m extremely excited by my plan but also aware I want it to be perfect and I want to look phenomenal in the pictures we should hopefully be displaying for the rest of our lives.

And somehow, looking fabulous has meant my mind has turned to shapewear and the idea that I have to change my form in order to be polished? This doesn’t sit well at all. I’ve worked really hard to get to a place where at worst I feel neutral about my size and at best appreciate it more actively. Yet suddenly, the idea of wedding dresses means I need a corset or a girdle or a full support structure system? I don’t know how I fell into this hole but I don’t like it one bit.

All the dresses I tried on in the shop had an inbuilt structural system designed to cinch the waist and uphold the bust. Sometimes structure is necessary, like with strapless garments – you need something engineered to do the work that straps would ordinarily perform in terms of physically keeping the dress on your body. Looking at the photos of my day in the bridal salon, it’s amazing to see how tiny my waist looks and the dramatic changes in my shape brought about by these fancy dresses. Not exactly comfortable, though, and for something to be worn for multiple hours whilst everyone is looking at you and then sitting down to eat as well – far from ideal. It also causes slight alarm bells to ring that my default response is ‘oh, I look so much smaller, that’s wonderful!’ when no, that’s not the case or what I desire at this point in my life.

With sewing my own dress, in order to get the pattern right I need to have the undergarments sorted first. My bust measurement can change quite a bit depending on the bra, so for any kind of special outfit it’s really important to size it based on what you will be wearing underneath. So, understandably, I’ve been working from the ground up. I’ve talked about the corset project, and whilst I do want to make that garment (I’ve bought the coutil and the steel, and made multiple toiles already!) I’m starting to think that it’s not right for my wedding.

Since I decided that the corset project could be a longer term thing with a different deadline, I’ve ordered numerous shapewear garments – from longline full slip bodysuits through to basque style long line bras and everything in between. Every time they arrive, I try them on, I look in the mirror and I think what am I doing? All of the things I’ve tried have been perfectly fine – the two I’ve linked were the nicest, hence being happy to share them by name – but are they necessary? Do I really need to squeeze myself into a polyester sausage in order to meet some arbitrary standard ‘bridal’ appearance? What’s inherently wrong with being my natural shape, dressed in glorious silks which are beautifully cut and tailored to fit me as opposed to trying to force my squishy bits to fit them?

My body is what it is. It’s just got me through COVID, for goodness’ sake, and whilst I’m the first to admit I have some ~fun~ health issues my body nonetheless keeps me going through it all so far. I have been far smaller than I currently am, but I still had the same health problems. Being thin didn’t miraculously change my life for the better – in fact, it caused new problems too. I am alive during a pandemic, in a physical form that whilst not the kind that features in magazines is still managing perfectly well at doing everything it’s meant to whilst under immense psychological pressure.

Matt and I have done a really good job of maintaining our own vision for the wedding and doing what we choose, rather than falling into doing things because that’s what you’re supposed to or because everyone else thinks we should. Somehow, this one slipped through the cracks. Just because commercial wedding dresses are architectural wonders full of steel and scaffolding doesn’t mean mine has to be, and that’s just fine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love corsets – they’re an art form, and integral to creating historic silhouettes like I dream of constructing post-wedding. But I want to wear one when I want to, not just because there’s a societal implication that I really must cinch my fat into a more pleasant shape just because it’s a wedding and that’s what’s expected. The dress is meant for me, drafted to fit this form in its current state, made to measure. That is plenty good enough.

(So in the end I bought a silk bra set from good old M&S, and it’s really charming me to think of all the women over the years who treated themselves to new stockings from the same shop over the last century or so – it’s a classic of the British high street, and there’s something that my vintage-loving heart really appreciates about participating in this grand old tradition.)