En español | Nothing beats shapewear for a quick confidence boost. The compression material really does flatten bellies, firm up thigh jiggles, perk up saggy bottoms and delete extra pounds. It's kind of magical. There's one little problem: It hurts, it's hot, it binds, constricts, flips up or rolls down and we can't wait to take it off. But don't give up yet because my surprising insider secrets will turn your whines to wows. Listen up:
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PHOTO BY: John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images
1. Opt for comfortable, light-to-medium control for everyday life. Let's be honest. Celebs or not, we all wear shapewear but it's not a replacement for exercise and a healthy diet. If it squeezes, smushes and feels uncomfortable, if you make faces and really struggle to get it on and off that's way too much compression. Unless you're in a dress-up crisis (see No. 10) there's no reason to bind up your curves like Scarlett O'Hara. Hopefully we've all got a more body-positive attitude by now! So, lower your expectations to just-enough-smoothing-to-do-the-job.
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PHOTO BY: Walmart, Target
2. A bike short is the most useful shaper. Below-the-waist bumps are inevitable whether you're a size 6 or 16, M or XXL. We all complain to some degree about bulges, sag and wiggly flesh. A lightweight seamless bike short with medium compression, like Assets by Spanx Women's Remarkable Results Mid-Thigh Shaper ($28, target.com) or Radiant by Vanity Fair Women's Invisible Edge Smoothing Slip-Short, Style 12385 ($7, walmart.com), is what you want. It'll make clothes look better but also let you breathe, work, socialize and eat in comfort. Size up rather than down. If you go too small (thinking tighter is better) you'll create ridges and overhang at the waist and thigh borders.
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PHOTO BY: gie Knaeps/Getty Images, Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images, Kevin Mazur/WireImage
3. Skip the high-rise shapers. Yes, high-waist bike shorts and waist cinchers that extend nearly up to your bra (and in some cases they do!) are everywhere now — avoid them! Take it from me: They all roll down or flip over sooner or later, usually when you're wearing a dress and can't do anything about it. Ignore the stay-put silicone strips at the top that claim to keep the band stuck to your skin. Just like the thigh-high stockings with no garters (remember those?) they are better in theory than life. Leave the corsets to Scarlett and Madonna.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Walmart, Target
4. Let a bodysuit deal with your middle. Don't say no until you try these grownup onesies. A medium compression bodysuit like Assets by Spanx Women's Shaping Micro Low Back Cupped Bodysuit Shapewear ($38, target.com), Maidenform Self Expressions Women's Suddenly Skinny Romper 51007 ($25, target.com) or Hanes Perfect Bodywear Seamless Bodysuit HST009 ($16 to $18, walmart.com) gives your entire body — breasts to backside — a confident hug of spandex and an hourglass shape. It works very much like a one-piece swimsuit. You'll forget it's on.
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PHOTO BY: Kohl's (2), Target
5. Wear-your-own-bra bodysuits really do work. Bodysuits with an open top (also called a torsette) like Assets by Spanx Women's Remarkable Results All-in-One Body Slimmer ($38, target.com), Maidenform Shapewear Ultimate Slimmer Torsette Body Shaper 2656 ($59, kohls.com) or Plus-Size Maidenform Shapewear Curvy Firm Wear Your Own Bra Body Shaper DM1025 ($61, kohls.com) leave space for your own favorite support bra. The shoulder straps keep the compression sleek and you'll get the same waist benefits as in No. 4 but with more lift, and specific shaping for generous breasts. It's a win-win for your body.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Walmart, Target
6. Let a shaper tank calm bra bulge and midriff ripples. Here's another surprise: Wide-strap microfiber tanks like the Jockey Generation Women's Slimming Tank Undershirt ($16, target.com), Maidenform Self-Expressions Women's Tame Your Tummy Tank ($19, target.com) or Radiant by Vanity Fair Women's Smoothing 2-in-1 Spin Tank, Style 17672 ($7, walmart.com) do a better job than skinny-strap camisoles. They hide bra straps, won't slip and are fashion friendly so even if your tank shows under layers it's OK. Look for a flattering wide scoop or V-neck front and back and that crucial 6 to 16 percent spandex blend for smoothing power. Buy black to wear under dark clothes and beige or white for under light clothes all year long, day or night.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Amazon, Kohl's
7. Upgrade to shapewear leggings for extra hold. Since we're clearly not giving up on black leggings, switch to a multitasking pair. Those with built-in smoothing panels and a higher level of spandex or elastane (these are one and the same thing) like the Red Hot by Spanx Ponte Leggings 20171R ($38, kohls.com), Maidenform Flexes Women's Shapewear Leggings ($20 to $35, amazon.com) or C9 Champion Black Women's Plus-Size Urban Mid-Rise Leggings ($42, target.com) mean you won't have to suck in your stomach or worry about your thighs when hitting the supermarket, gym or couch.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Kohl's (2)
8. Wear control slips as liners. Hate the taut feeling of shapewear but need a little controlled smoothing under dresses and skirts? Full slips like Red Hot by Spanx Sleek Slimmer's 2-in-1 Reversible Neckline Tank Slip 1649 ($50, kohls.com), Jockey Generation Women's Full Slip ( $18, target.com), Assets by Spanx Women's Shaping Tank Slip ($34, target.com) and Women's Maidenform Cover Your Bases Smoothing Slip DM0049 ($48, kohls.com) have been dragged out of retirement and updated with a seamless design and a gentle low dose of spandex microfiber to do double-duty under thin, light, clingy, knit or itchy fabrics. They skim across curves so clothes don't cling to bulges, belly, thighs or derriere. An above-the-knee slip works under all lengths — from above the knees to midis — so you're good to go.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Walmart (2)
9. Shaper panties are all you need under jeans. Jeans do a great job of holding us in, thanks to firm stretch denim and the design, but getting them to close is another story. Medium-control waist-high girl briefs like Blissful Benefits by Warner's No Muffin Top Brief Panties (3-pack, $16, walmart.com), Radiant by Vanity Fair Women's Seamless Smoothing Brief Panty, Style 13274 (2- pack, $8, walmart.com) or girl shorts like Assets by Spanx Women's All-Around Smoothers Seamless Shaping Girl Shorts ($20, target.com) let you zip or button up with ease. Rear coverage is essential so do yourself a favor and skip thong panty shapers.
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PHOTO BY: JC Penny, Spanx, JC Penny (2)
10. Buy a super shaper for big parties or events. Mature models and celebrities know fitting into a specific dress, jumpsuit or pantsuit for a big-deal event or party sometimes requires extreme measures. Three power-compression options work: a supercontrol bodysuit with built-in bra like Bali Passion for Comfort Minimizer Firm Control Body Shaper ($62, jcpenney.com) to reduce overall volume through the bust and torso; a mid-thigh, open-bust bodysuit like Maidenform Sleek Smoothers Wear Your Own Bra Firm Control Thigh Slimmers 2555j ( $55, jcpenney.com) to press curves into a neat line; or a strapless bodysuit like Spanx Suit Your Fancy Strapless Cupped Mid-Thigh Bodysuit ($148, spanx.com) for off-shoulder, one shoulder, skinny strap anything. Pull all on slowly to prevent snags from long nails or jewelry and remember extra-compression shapers are not for those with circulation issues or sensitive skin.
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your Look at Any Age by Lois Joy Johnson and Sandy Linter.