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9 best shapewear pieces that support and define your curves

From bodysuits to everyday undies, these figure-hugging styles look as good as they feel

<p>Thankfully, this bracket of the market is only getting more inclusive</p>

Thankfully, this bracket of the market is only getting more inclusive

Shapewear isn’t for everyone – and it certainly doesn’t need to be used to conform your body to any kind of silhouette if you’re uncomfortable wearing it.

However, if you’re firmly in the “pro” category and love it for its confidence-boosting capacity – or you’ve never tried shapewear before and are looking to dip a toe to see what all the fuss is about – then you’ve come to the right place. After a lot of trial and error, we’ve brought together our favourite pieces to make the search for your next (or first) style a little easier.

Despite the recent meteoric success of Kim Kardashian’s sellout Skims brand, it’s not an effortless task to find the perfect piece to suit you. There are a lot of options out there – from full bodysuits to waist cinchers and everything in between – all with a variety of features such as plunge backs or no seams. But this abundance can be more than a little intimidating, not to mention time-consuming to scroll through.

This edit aims to help you feel a little less overwhelmed. All you need to do is pinpoint what your needs are and start from there. Do you want to focus on shaping a certain part of your body, for example? Or prioritise feeling sexy while supported? Perhaps you have a specific outfit in mind, or need a more versatile piece that works under everything?

The good thing is, shapewear is an area in fashion that’s only getting more inclusive; from the wide spectrum of skin tone hues to sizes ranging up to UK30. No matter what you’re after, we hope you’ll find something here that works for you.

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How we tested

Anyone that’s ever tried to squeeze themselves into a pair of Spanx knows trying on shapewear is not an easy task. But at IndyBest we take our role as reviewers seriously. We tried on more than 30 pieces of shapewear, across 15 different brands, to decipher which pieces are worth your money.

Those that did it for us after the first try made it to our second round of trials, which meant taking these pieces out on the town and seeing how they fared after a few hours – some stayed put, some didn’t. Some we forgot we were wearing (hello Heist), and some we desperately wanted to rip off by the time we got back home (don’t worry, they didn’t make it in).

We judged based on four factors: comfort, effectiveness, price and versatility. Some excelled in different areas and we’ve highlighted which pieces we think are best for what circumstances.

The best shapewear for 2022 is:

  • Best high-waist shorts – Heist the highlight short: £65, Heist-studios.com
  • Best maternity shapewear – Spanx maternity mama shapewear shorts: £30, Next.co.uk
  • Best upper-body control – Skims essential crew neck thong bodysuit: £78, Net-a-porter.com
  • Best investment – Spanx suit your fancy low back mid-thigh smoothing bodysuit: £132, Asos.com
  • Best mid-waist briefs – Skims seamless sculpt sculpting mid waist briefs: £32, Net-a-porter.com
  • Best sexy shapewear – Dorina Bridget high waist black control brief: £14, Asos.com
  • Best waist cincher – Miraclesuit waist cincher: £42, Johnlewis.com
  • Best plus-size shapewear – Magisculpt Ella lace firm control underbust black slip: £42, Simplybe.co.uk
  • Best everyday knickers – M&S firm control sheer stripe no VPL high leg knickers: £15, Marksandspencer.com

Heist the highlight short

Best: High-waist shorts

Rating: 10/10

  • Size range: UK6-22

Let’s all agree –trying on shapewear isn’t the most fun of activities, with all that writhing and wriggling and breathing in. But discovering Heist’s new highlight shorts during our trials almost made it all worth it. These glided on (compared to others we tried, anyway), and felt extremely secure once in place. Firm but not too tight, you feel supported in all the right places while still being able to comfortably move – and breathe – which is always a plus. Body-contouring panels smooth thighs and hips, while flattening the lower stomach, cinching in the waist at the top and lifting the bottom. The second-skin material moulds to you, not the other way round, with a seamless free-cut edge for zero VPL, and certainly no thigh bulge. Plus, there’s a no-slip waistband to avoid any dreaded rolling.

There are two skintone colours as well as a useful black (which you could probably even wear as cycling shorts on the morning coffee run). Plus, they’re breathable, with 20,000 laser perforations in the fabric to stop you from getting all hot and bothered. They’re great all-rounders that you can throw on under a huge range of outfits whenever you need that extra little confidence boost.

Spanx maternity mama shapewear shorts

Best: Maternity shapewear 

Rating: 7.5/10

  • Size range: UK8-14

If you’re feeling like you need a little extra support for your bump, these Spanx maternity shapewear shorts offer just that, without any restrictive feeling. The high-rise waistline goes over and above the bump with a non-compression area at the front that grows with you, and nice firm support in the rear to help with any lower back pain. The shorts feel like a thick tights material, so there’s no sucking in needed, but they do give a great lift on the bum and smoothing support around the thighs – perfect for a pick-me-up if you’re ever feeling particularly self-conscious in an outfit.

Skims essential crew neck thong bodysuit

Best: Upper-body control

Rating: 9/10

  • Size range: XXS-5XL

Self-conscious about your arms? In need of some upper-body streamlining? There’s no one that does bodies better than Skims (thanks Kim!). Acting like a second skin that hugs you in all the right places, this thong bodysuit is very comfortable. If you have a long-sleeved crew neck dress or top, it would sit invisibly underneath it. Need less coverage? Try the strappy seamless sculpt sculpting bodysuit (£60, Net-a-porter.com) instead. While testing we also loved wearing this as outerwear with a blazer and jeans – a look approved by Kim herself.

With a hugely inclusive size range, this style works for every body, moulding to your shape and, well, just making it look better – which is what we all want from our shapewear, right? Although there’s no panelling here and the fabric is quite light, the body feels surprisingly supportive and produces great slimming results, especially on the arms. The seamless design is super flattering, and unless you’re desperate for extra lift, you shouldn’t need to wear a bra with this – that’s how supported we felt.

Spanx suit your fancy low back mid-thigh smoothing bodysuit

Best: Investment

Rating: 9/10

  • Size range: UK6-14

After shapewear that does the job, still makes you feel sexy AND doesn’t get in the way of clothes? The answer is to invest in this piece of magic. Yes, it’s expensive, but for the feel-good factor it brings, we think it’s worth it. Of course, Spanx has a reputation for being the best and there’s a reason for it. Despite new kids on the block like Skims and Heist, the original shapewear brand has been perfecting its technology for more than 20 years, so it remains hard to beat.

You’ll have to squeeze into this one, but once it’s up, it’s incredibly smoothing all over, and very comfortable as shapewear goes. Features include five-way convertible and detachable straps for halter neck and racerback options, additional clear straps and a hook-and-eye back for extra support, and a thoughtfully designed double gusset opening (not to be under-appreciated in a restaurant or bar toilet situation).

The lightly padded cups provide excellent lift and support in place of a bra although – full disclosure – our tester is only an A-cup. From delving into online reviews it sounds like the oncore mid-thigh super firm shaping bodysuit (£86, Next.co.uk) may be better suited to larger busts (D and over), while still having impressive comfort and shaping features.

Skims seamless sculpt sculpting mid waist briefs

Best: Mid-waist briefs

Rating: 8/10

  • Size range: XXS-5XL

OK, we get what all the hype is about now. We know we’ve already talked about Skims bodies, but these mid-waist briefs were so good they deserved a mention too. They’re super light, flexible and, most importantly, comfortable.

We tried these under everything during testing – from dresses to suits and jeans – and can vouch for how easily they slip into your wardrobe and make everything look just that little bit better. They’re more medium than firm control, we’d say, and are designed to enhance your shape rather than dramatically change it, but if you’re looking for a great balance of comfort and support, they get our vote.

The wide size range is a huge plus, as well as the fact that there are nine different shades to choose from. Pair with the matching bra (£52, Net-a-porter.com) of your choice for the full effect.

Dorina Bridget high waist black control brief

Best: Sexy shapewear

Rating: 8/10

  • Size range: UK8-16

Dorina first launched in 1968 and has since held onto its reputation for producing well-fitting and pretty lingerie. These simple (as shapewear goes) high-waisted black knickers are the perfect answer if you’re looking for some everyday tummy control that still passes as beautiful underwear, especially when undressed. With less restrictive fabric, and less overall coverage, they’re comfier than a lot of the firmer styles, but don’t be fooled into thinking you get less support because of this – it’s just more targeted. The lace is a pretty detail that doesn’t take away from the smoothing technology, and the high rise cinches you in nicely at the waist. The ideal style for when you want sexy knickers with a little more support.

Miraclesuit waist cincher

Best: Waist cincher

Rating: 7/10

  • Size range: S-XXL

Hate the faff of having to squeeze in and out of shapewear to go to the bathroom? If it’s a more defined silhouette you’re after, why not try a waist cincher? Miraclesuit’s version was the most effective we tried, and it was especially good under slim-fitting dresses or high-waisted trousers. The clever panelling with firm control sucks you in in all the right places (maybe size up if you like breathing), and, as a bonus, it helps with posture too. Although it’s hard work stepping into it, the seamless design is much more invisible under clothing than a hook-and-eye corset. Waist supports do have a tendency to roll down or up (one of the cons you don’t get with a bodysuit), but this style has sticky panels that help to hold it in place, especially under tight clothes.

Magisculpt Ella lace firm control underbust black slip

Best: Plus-size shapewear

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Size range: UK12-30

This pretty black slip is deceptively supportive. Despite looking effortlessly great when it’s on, the thick material and intelligent panelling mean you also get the desired streamlining effect. If you’re not a fan of shorts and bodies, it’s an excellent alternative option, with a sticky band around the bottom seam that keeps it in place. Plus it's excellent value given that it feels much more expensive when you’re wearing it.

They’re not lying when they say firm control, though. We tried a size up and even that felt very, very tight (although you get used to it after a few minutes). This is, however, the nature of the beast, and the key to its success – it seriously does the job, smoothing and defining all over. Perhaps not one for an all-day wedding, but you could probably get through a few hours of date night in comfort.

The underbust feature may seem awkward at first, but it means you can wear it with your own bra, which makes finding the right fit a lot easier. We loved how sexy it felt with the lace detailing too – perfect for impressing. Maybe just don’t let them watch you attempt to take it off…

M&S firm control sheer stripe no VPL high leg knickers

Best: Everyday knickers

Rating: 7/10

  • Size range: UK8-24

We all know how dependable M&S is for lingerie (if not, where’ve you been hiding? And what underwear have you been wearing?!), so it’s hardly a surprise that it has made our top 10. These firm control knickers are not only affordable – a great option if you’re wanting to try out the world of shapewear to see if it’s for you – but also do exactly what they say on the label.

There’s no VPL, so you can throw them on under anything, which makes them great for everyday wear. But, most importantly, the firm control panelling at the front does a great job of holding you in. They’re comfortable despite the high level of support and the high leg cut is figure-shaping enough to make them look really flattering with or without clothes on. Going up to a size 24, these make a great plus-size option and come in two skintone shades and classic black. You can always count on M&S.

The verdict: Shapewear

It’s hard to select one overall winner when everything in this list leads within its own different category. However, if we were to purchase just one piece right now, whether as an introduction to shapewear or to bolster an existing collection, it would have to be Heist’s highlight shorts. Versatile, comfortable and extremely effective at streamlining and smoothing to provide that welcome confidence boost: what’s not to like?

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