The Number One Reason To Throw Out Your Spanx

by Hannah Baxter

There have been times, and we’re sure our fellow BUSTies will back us up, when we wish a small roll or bump beneath a sweet new dress would just chill out and lay flat. But at the end of the day, we know we look hot as hell and strut out into the world with little regard toward that so-called imperfection. Many companies are tuning into this collective confidence and are tailoring their products to suit the measurements of a modern woman’s body. Others, like the infamous Spanx, are having a harder time revamping their image.

Sara Blakely, the self-made billionaire and founder of Spanx, is currently making changes to the advertising campaign of her line of body-shaping bras, bodysuits and underwear. Switching the focus from compression and shrinking to more smoothing and a comfier fit, the company wants to all but erase the memory of its previous, arguably fat-shaming tactics. Beginning this month, each purchased Spanx product will contain a signed card from Blakely with a feminist message: “Don’t take yourself or the ‘rules’ too seriously!” The back of the packaging will read, “Re-shape the way you get dressed, so you can shape the world!”

Now correct us if we’re wrong, but the reason women have traditionally bought these figurative sausage casings is to squeeze and mold their bodies into something that is deemed “acceptable” by certain social constructs. No one actually WANTS to put them on. Seriously, show us a woman who doesn’t exhale in relief by taking off her thigh squishers at the end of the day, and we’ll show you a company that isn’t trying to disguise its products as comfortable.

A complete overhaul on what has been recently relegated to a punch-line of a, hopefully, female-dominated comedy, a la Mindy Kaling or Lena Dunham, will be a significant challenge for Spanx. With numerous clothing labels, like Lane Bryant, already embracing a body-positive message, and the fashion industry making strides to ban overly thin models, it is difficult to imagine how the company will fit into the new cultural landscape.


While obesity rates are unfortunately rising, it is obvious that mainstream measurements must similarly expand. More people are embracing body diversity, and this attitude is reflected in the marketing and production of the retailers where they shop. Spanx is not known for promoting the reality of a woman’s body, but rather offering an obtainable disguise for as long as one can stand wearing it. Making this prerogative into something that endorses a woman’s actual size is in opposition of everything the brand has built.

As shapewear continues to merge with activewear, with the former falling 3 percent last year and the latter rising 8 percent, to create athleisure, more companies are stressing comfort and ease in their textiles. NYDJ Apparel chief executive Bob Skinner told The New York Times that much of their brand’s customer feedback included things like, “Young mothers [who wanted to be] in the playground with their kids, and being able to bend over.” Almost everyone knows the struggle to prevent a crack flash during daily life, so it’s refreshing to see companies finally acknowledge that unfortunate phenomenon while designing our jeans.

The new chief executive of Spanx, Jan Singer, formerly worked for Nike, a company that obviously stresses utility in its products. Her strategy is to promote comfort and offer more options for Spanx merchandise than just shrinking or tucking. Bras now promote “ultrasoft pillow cups” and panties for “everyday” shaping (instead of shapes that are only for special occasions?). The thought-process behind the rebranding is admirable, if a bit transparent, but anyone who has ever stretched the edge of Spanx bodysuit up to her boobs knows that we’re not wearing them to veg out on the couch. No slick marketing campaign will convince us otherwise.

The conversation about body size and fat shaming has thankfully found a foothold in mainstream media, and it is vital to major corporations’ survival that they evolve with those discussions. As Tracee Ellis Ross commented to The New York Times Magazine, “I just really strongly promote pushing against this culture of perfection.” We couldn’t agree more. As for Spanx, while an impressive rise for its female founder, it seems likely they will do little more than lurk in the backs of our closets for days and dresses that we decide need a little something extra. And those days are, luckily, becoming few and far between.


 Images c/o: The New York Times and TheFeministWire




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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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