Should you wear shapewear on first dates?

Looks in dating matter, but shapewear sparks debates. Is it deceptive or empowering?

Thoughtful woman holding and trying beige top (left) and close up of fictional shapewear with slimming label. (Photo: Getty Images)
Thoughtful woman holding and trying beige top (left) and close up of fictional shapewear with slimming label. (Photo: Getty Images)

Looks have always been essential when it comes to dating. However, in today's digital age, where individuals frequently connect through dating applications, the significance of one's physical appearance and the images they choose to display has never been more critical. In fact, it determines whether you land a date or not.

When it comes to actual dates, physical appearance undeniably makes a difference, too. This is why most people usually wear their best Sunday when going on first dates. Women, and indeed, myself included, often opt for makeup and hairstyling as a means to make a lasting impression. Some, go above and beyond and use things like shapewear to look as good as possible.

The shapewear dilemma

Aristocratic young couple in elegant attire.
Young couple drinking wine. (Photo: Getty Images)

However, the question of whether shapewear is suitable for initial dates often arises. On the one hand, if wearing shapewear bolsters one's confidence and poise, it is encouraged. After all, confidence is often cited as the most attractive quality a person can possess. If Spanx or a waist cincher boosts one's self-assuredness, why not use them?

On the other hand, shapewear has the potential to alter one's body's natural shape, which raises concerns about authenticity.

Recently, a male friend, *Pete, 31, found himself in a pickle when he realised that the woman he had been dating consistently wore shapewear each time they met. “I didn’t know she was wearing them until we returned home together. Her body looked different with and without it,” he admitted, slightly ashamed. “It took a few dates, but I realised it was shapewear when I felt something over her abdomen as we were dancing in a bar,” he explained.

“I’m not against girls wearing shapewear, makeup, or anything to enhance their looks. I just wish it wasn’t such a surprise. It’s like a guy lying about his height,” he revealed, feeling somewhat disconcerted about it.

Some critics argue that wearing shapewear is like presenting a false image. However, this perspective neglects the fact that using any kind of personal style or grooming product inherently alters our natural appearance. So, is wearing shapewear fundamentally different from applying makeup, or, in the case of men, styling one's hair or choosing a flattering outfit?

Deanna Cobden, an experienced dating coach, offers insight into this matter. “If the shapewear altered her body significantly, for example, increasing the volume of certain body parts several sizes. It’s understandable that he experienced feelings of being disappointed or feeling misled”, she suggested.

Online dating, she notes, can be a daunting arena, where fears of encountering dishonesty are prevalent.

“Online dating can be challenging, and many people have fears of or experiences with people not being who they say they are. If he’s had a bad experience or feels he’s been misled in the past, it could be triggering for him,” she highlighted.

In Pete's case, after several dates, though, he chose to end things with the woman he was seeing. Understandably, he confessed to feeling conflicted and even embarrassed by the situation. “I’m quite ashamed of how much this bothered me and how superficial I feel about everything. On the one hand, she was great, and we got along, but on the other, I felt really misled,” he explained. “We tried working out together, but even then, she wore shapewear underneath her clothes. It got me wondering if she would always wear this, even when it wasn’t necessary.”

However, instead of letting her know that the shapewear bothered him, Pete chose to tell her that he didn’t see a future with her. “I didn’t want to make her feel more insecure than she already was,” he shared. Unfortunately, we’ll never truly know or understand why the woman Pete was seeing chose to wear shapewear consistently.

Understanding shapewear use

A woman browses shapewear photographs
A woman browses shapewear photographs. (Photo: Getty Images)

Both Pete and I linked her reasons for wearing shapewear to insecurity and confidence issues, with which we sympathise. “I hope that if insecurity really is the reason she chooses to wear shapewear all the time, she’ll eventually let that go and feel more confident in herself and her body,” says Pete.

To be fair, it’s not always about self-esteem and looking good. As Cobden highlights, It is important to acknowledge that individuals employ shapewear for various reasons, extending beyond merely attempting to appear a certain way for others. Many people of diverse body shapes and sizes use shapewear to achieve smoother contours and improved clothing fit.

Multiple celebrities, like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Kim Kardashian have openly admitted to wearing shapewear on the red carpet so their clothes would fit better.

Shira, a 30-year-old woman, shared her journey with shapewear. She initially embraced waist trainers, similar to corsets and girdles, to attain a more defined shape.

“I was obsessed with shapewear when I first got them at 21,” says Shira, who wears a UK 12. “I was also obsessed with waist trainers that helped me get a more defined figure. I’ve always been insecure about my body shape,” she shares. For the uninitiated, waist trainers are similar to corsets and girdles that pull the midsection in to give someone the appearance of a smaller waist.

While some claim that these trainers have created a permanently cinched look and altered the appearance of their bodies, however, researchers in Sweden found that isn’t true.

She eventually recognised the unhealthy dependence she had developed on these garments and began prioritising her self-esteem and natural appearance.

“It was getting quite bad because I felt super insecure whenever I wasn’t wearing my waist trainer. That was when I realised it was unhealthy to get so caught up in wearing it daily,” she explained.

“Occasionally, I still wear shapewear, but I’ve ditched the waist trainer completely. I’m still on the road to recovery to fix my self-esteem. I have a long way to go, but I’m getting there,” she shares.

Use of shapewear is a personal decision

Ultimately, the decision of whether to wear shapewear on a date is deeply personal. It's important to feel physically and emotionally comfortable, especially on a date. If shapewear boosts and empowers one's confidence, it is a viable option. However, remember that genuine attraction transcends physical appearance. Connection, communication, shared interests, and chemistry are what ingredients that truly make a date memorable. Moreover, embracing one's natural body shape can be empowering and sends a powerful message of self-love and acceptance, qualities that are profoundly appealing in a partner.

So if find yourself wondering whether or not to don your shapewear for your next date, ask this: Does it make me feel confident and comfortable? If the answer is yes, then wear it with pride. If not, embrace your natural beauty. After all, the goal of dating isn't just to find someone who likes you for how you look, but for who you truly are.

(*Names have been changed and details have been modified upon request.)

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