The Spanx empire of stomach-flattening, thigh-slimming, jiggle-reducing foundation garments has expanded to include what the brand promises is the mother of all body-shaping miracles: Spanx jeans.
The jeans, which went on sale on the company's US website last week and will go on sale in the UK in October, come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and are priced at $148 (£90). They promise "thigh-trimming construction" and stretch technology meant to smooth the tummy.
Spanx's founder, Sara Blakely, who was crowned the youngest self-made female billionaire at the age of 41 by Forbes magazine, began developing Spanx in the late-nineties. Living in Florida and working in sales, Blakely hated wearing tights in the steamy heat but liked the way they made her body look in her clothes. She snipped the legs off her hosiery but kept the figure-slimming bit. Voila! The girdle was reinvented as a billion-dollar idea. Women, it seemed, hated muffin tops more than they disliked wearing a sausage casing.
Over time, Spanx branched out from its original business model into a broader assortment of lingerie, men's undergarments and, last year, leggings. The brand has a high profile and devoted customer base that has not been shy about singing the praises of Spanx in public. It may well be the only undergarment that has received joyful shout-outs from the red carpet and backstage at award shows. "I'm triple Spanx-ed tonight!" yelped Octavia Spencer at the 2012 Golden Globes.
But even with all that affection, one has to wonder if women would be willing to wear dungarees with the Spanx name emblazoned on the waist band. After all, it's one thing to make a charming, self-deprecating joke using Spanx as the punchline. It's another to put the name on a billboard as prominent and personal as one's derriere. But that concern has been rendered, if not moot, at least not so fraught, thanks to the company's decision to have, as the brand's only identifying marker, a bright red Spanx rivet on the back pocket.
The Spanx jeans – specifically the Slim-X, straight-leg style in an indigo wash – are soft to the touch, without any of the dry crispness typically associated with denim. "We used the most premium fabrics combined with special wash treatments to create the softest jeans ever," explains Blakely.
The degree of stretch is generous. The slimming effects are negligible. And the fit is confusing. If the Spanx brand uses compression to smooth and shrink, doesn't that mean that Spanx jeans must fit snugly in order to accomplish those same wonders? And if the jeans fit that close to the body, are they still jeans? Haven't they shrunk down into jeggings, which Spanx already has in its line?
And if they are not form-fitting and transformative, then aren't they just jeans – with none of the fabled hocus-pocus of Spanx? And if they are just jeans, then what distinguishes them in a market already flooded with styles that promise all manner of figure-changing miracles: thigh-slimming, tush-lifting, stomach-camouflaging, leg-lengthening and so on. I sought clarification from the Spanx PR team. The emailed response was as follows: "What makes Spanx denim stand out is our Triple Thread Technology and patent-pending hidden shaping features that create a perky rear and all-around slimming fit without compromising on-trend style for comfort."
Still confused, I turned the jeans inside out for a close examination. The Spanx jeans are constructed so that not only the waistband stretches, but so do the stitches that attach it to the body of the pants. The front panel has a black stretchy lining that is incorporated into the interior of the front pockets. So does this mean the waist should fit close and corset-tight?
Blakely elucidates: "The magic of Spanx does not come in the tightness of the jean, but in the Spanx magic tummy panel hidden inside the Slim-X jean and in a uniquely designed wide, shaping waistband on The Signature style. So, all the results are achieved through hidden panels and Triple Thread Technology."
Spanx jeans did not make anyone shout "Hallelujah!" They are merely another option in a sea of options. Women reportedly try on an average of 15 pairs of jeans before either finding a pair that fits or simply giving up. For someone out there, maybe Spanx jeans – inscrutable, problematic – will be lucky number 16.