The use of a corset to create a desirable shape has existed since the 16th century. But unlike these often painful and restrictive items, the shapewear of today has evolved to be both functional and comfortable and appears in a number of different guises from corsets to bodysuits, knickers, bras, waist cinchers, slips, leggings and even tights.

Most shapewear pieces include a combination of Spandex (also known as Elastane or Lycra), nylon or polyester fabric with moisture wicking or microfibre materials, meshed together to give support to the stomach, waistline, buttocks, chest or thighs. There are also different levels of support from light, which can can worn as daywear, to medium and full for extra hold.

British fashion designer Nichole de Carlewho is hailed in the industry for her structured lingerie and swimwear, tells IndyBest: "Women can really choose what they wear, how they style themselves and get an instant fix to make them feel fabulous in their own skin. By defining your waist, lifting your bust and smoothing the hips, you can create the illusion of a slimmer body and define the areas that you like the best.

Using practical garments made with innovative fabrics means you can work with your body rather than against it to create a more defined, better proportioned effect whatever your size. If you feel better you are instantly more confident and stand with better posture; it has a knock on effect."

Remember to buy your exact size as wearing a piece that's too small can risk putting stress on organs and nerves, and if you do feel numbness, it is best to go for a size bigger. These shapewear items were tested on women aged 30 to 60, of different sizes and shapes. The results showed there was a definitive improvement in shape.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 


NEXT Firm Control Wear Your Own Bra Body: £20, Next 

This body piece from Next delivers in both support and price. Holding in the stomach, bottom and thighs using a mixture of nylon and elastane, this product offers medium support, slimming the thighs and creating a more flattering waistline all day without any discomfort.

Available in nude or black, it has the added benefit of being able to be worn with your own bra, so you’re not having to worry about selecting the right cup size. Compared to similar pieces on the market, it is value for money. We would wear with tight-fitted outfits and reserve for occasions where you feel it necessary, as lavatory breaks can end up being a bit of a chore.

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Aubade Paris Onde Sensuelle Body: £97, Aubade Paris


This leotard from French lingerie makers Aubade Paris is one of the pricer items on this list, however with good reason. Offering light support for everyday wear, it shapes while being a beautiful item to show off in or out of clothes. There are so many features of this piece that women will love, from the seamless cups to the tummy panels that lengthen the torso and the crystal diamante jewel for that chic touch.

Cleverly there is no VPL thanks to the use of soft polyamide and elastane fabric around the knicker line and there are poppers at the gusset for ease of use. Available in black or nude, this is the piece for anyone after an everyday item and doesn’t need firm support.

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Triumph Infinite Sensation underwired bra in kaluha, £42, Triumph

This German underwear manufacturer, founded in 1886 and still going strong, has designed Infinite Sensation using their patented Magic Wire technology, which is essentially a flexible, non-metal wire sewn into the bra pad, offering unparalleled comfort. The racer back, as a design feature, actually provides more lift and support through weight distribution for those with larger breasts.

But the most comfortable feature are the cups, made of spacer material, knitted to create air pockets and allowing air to pass through. The spongy texture really feel like you’re not wearing anything at all, and the diamond mesh and lace detail, available in this flattering plum shade or pinky nude, both look great against the skin.

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Debenhams The Collection Nude Firm Control High Waisted Thigh Slimmers: £25, Debenhams

We’ve all worn a pair of ill-fitted cycling shorts in our time, but these super soft shorts are just what we all need under certain outfits for that extra bit of support. Made of polyamide and elastane with a cotton gusset, this high-waisted thigh slimmers pull in the waist through a clever use of panelling. Cleverly the shorts, which only come in nude, are seamless so really are invisible under an outfit, which is great because they’re not the most attractive of items, but at such a good price point they are value for money.

With firm control, just be aware of how many hours of wear you’re getting from the piece as we found towards the end of a whole day, wearing for around ten hours, they can feel a little tight around the waist. 

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Maidenform Endlessly Smooth Plunge Bodybriefer: £49, Figleaves

Maidenform has been around since 1922 and famously opposed the idea of flat-chested undergarments. As a result the pieces they create are an ode to the bosom. This leotard’s distinctive feature is its plunging neckline, incredibly sexy and ideal for low-cut tops or dresses. Made of predominantly of nylon and spandex, this piece holds in the tummy and the clever, hi-tech fabric ensures there is no VPL.

Available in nude too, black is our preference as it looks sleek and sexy in our out of clothes. After a day’s wear, even though the piece offers medium support, it does not get uncomfortable but with no poppers at the gusset be aware your bathroom breaks may take twice as long.

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Wacoal Sexy Shaping Rouge Dress: £64, Wacoal


It's difficult to make shapewear sexy, however Wacoal has managed it. The Sexy Shaping dress, made from nylon and Spandex and available in black or red, is a particular favourite. Not only are they cut into flattering shapes, the bra has a plunging neckline and flexible underwire, suitable for large and small breasts, which sits flat under clothes. The briefs are the star of the show.

High-waisted and cut off just on the butt cheek with flat seam edges, the shape cannot get more flattering. Then there is the controlling tummy panel and hip panels that shape and smooth the waist. This set doesn’t provide intense, full coverage, but for everyday use, the pieces are so surprisingly comfortable considering the enhanced shape they provide.

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Spanx Spotlight on Lace Bodysuit: £64, Figleaves


Spanx has become synonymous within the realm of shapewear, and for good reason. Founded in the US in 2000, their range includes everything from bodysuits to cami tops, knickers and slips. While many of these pieces are, arguably, not the most attractive, their Lace Bodysuit solves this problem. Made of lace, nylon and Spandex, with a cotton gusset, this is another piece to be paraded in and out of clothes.

Quite difficult to get on is a good sign, because once it’s on, you’re fully supported. Available in black, rose and moss, the central panel holds the belly in for a smooth finish, and the side panelling does cinch in the waist.

The whole look is finished off with strategically placed lace for the cups with no underwire, which are extremely comfortable, and the bottom for extra prettiness. Spanx refer to this piece as having the hold of a “firm hug” and we agree. Comfortable enough for day or evening outings, and although it’s not cheap, it gets the job done.

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Miraclesuit Shapewear Cool Choice Hi-Waist Brief: £47, Figleaves

The specialist shapewear brand has developed a pair of knickers that are not only extra supportive, but has a genius feature of a double-panelled fabric of nylon and elastane. It is treated with a cooling agent that cools skin down by two degrees, lasting 25 washes, so ideal for warmer months.

This pair of knickers are for those people who really do need extra support and constantly feel self-conscious. Choose between black or nude, depending on outfits, these can be worn under anything from trousers to dresses and skirts. They feel more breathable than other knickers that were tested, and that may be because of the mesh inserts. Overall, this is an ideal occasionwear piece, as even after a few hours, you will probably feel the tightness start to feel a little constrictive.  

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M&S Collection Firm Control Smoothlines Wear Your Own Bra Slip: £38, M&S

There are some people who will prefer a slip to a pair of shorts, knicker or bodysuit and for them, there is this slip from M&S. The slip seems to fit well under dresses while enhancing the shape of your natural curves. A great feature is it didn’t ride up when walking, nor was there and rolling or sagging of material and kept its smoothness.

Made of elastane and polyamide, the patented Smoothlines technology is probably to thank for this as it flattens the tummy and shapes the waist all this no VPL. Being able to wear your own bra underneath is handy for women with difficult sizes or who just prefer to wear a particular style. For a piece that is so supportive, it’s surprisingly light, and available in either nude or black, can be tailored to your outfit colour. One of the easiest pieces to wear of the selection as it can be worn all day with no discomfort, and not too expensive either, wear at any event – morning or evening.

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LIVY Leather Waist Belt: £715, Livy

Undoubtedly one of the most expensive pieces of shapewear you’ll find, brand new to the UK, and only one-year-old, French lingerie brand LIVY is offering an alternative to the Spandex and synthetic shapewear pieces. This 100 per cent soft leather belt is multifunctional, acting as a shapewear but also a belt to be worn over clothes. The beauty of this piece is that over or under clothes, it allows the waist to be pulled in, creating a more accentuated hourglass curve.

The zip features means it is easy to get on and off. Definitely not a piece for everyone, but for lovers of the corset, this is a great alternative with a modern twist. Probably best reserved for special occasions.

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THE Verdict: Best shapewear 

For a shapewear piece that ticks most boxes (tummy, thighs and waist) and value for money it has to be NEXT Firm Control Wear Your Own Bra Body. However, if you’re after something both attractive and supportive, and you have the money to spend, we would recommend Wacoal Sexy Shaping dress. In fact their whole Sexy Shaping range is worth a try, including the Sexy Shaping briefs.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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