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Ever since the days of Jane Austen, women have been faking their figures with undergarments.

This story first appeared in the July 23, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

And while the category has obviously progressed since the days of whale-bone constructions, modern slimwear still remains a carefully concealed item. Yet the latest wave of tummy-tuckers is begging to be shared.

“A lot of companies are doing this new ‘shapewear you can show,’ and I think it’s great,” said Mia Holtzman, sales and marketing manager at Julie France. “You can’t always dress in a way to hide everything from your neck to your ankles. Sometimes, something is going to show.”


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Panties Plus, parent company of the Kathy Ireland and Lady Princess brands, has added decorative designs to its garments, as opposed to the basic micro-fabrics predominantly used in the past. “Shapewear is worn as underwear today, so people want to feel good about their shapewear the same way that they do about the lingerie that they wear,” said chief executive officer Abe Hanan.

With the resounding sentiment, “This is not your grandmother’s girdle,” shapewear firms are noting a rise in sales across all ages, with clientele including high school prom-goers, brides-to-be and yes, even grandmothers. Current best-selling trends, they report, include lace detailing, thinner fabrics and camisoles and leggings that can be worn as clothes.

Still, as demand grows, some companies are struggling to balance the fashion and function elements of design.

“We have to make sure that it’s sexy so that when you take off your clothing you feel comfortable and confident wearing it,” said Ranu Mukherjee, brand marketing manager at Dreamwear Inc., which controls Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl Solutions. “But you really have to be careful about adding hardware or details that you can actually see through clothes.”

The ultimate goal for Skinnygirl? “To be sexy, supportive, flirty and figure-flattering.”