Second Helping Putting Shapewear to a New Use: Loose Skin Minimizer

March 27, 2009 – Loose skin following a weight loss doesn’t have easy solutions, but then nothing’s easy with weight loss in the first place. So you find creative solutions: for their part, some stylists are finding use out of products not typically geared toward weight loss success stories, such as shapewear. Working Under Cover.

The shape clothing industry was born in 2000 with Spanx released body-slimmer undergarments that curried Oprah and other celebrities’ favor. A modern-day version of the corset, these flexible garments were meant to wear under clothes to smooth out. A wonderbra for the entire upper body, if you will.

Depending on either the amount of weight someone’s lost or the speed with which they lose it, the skin does not always shrink alongside someone’s new, smaller frame. Past a certain weight, your skin can be stretched so far that it loses its elasticity. The options are few: it’s pretty much surgery to have it removed, or dealing with it.

While shapewear isn’t intentionally marketed as a remedy for loose skin followed by a weight loss, stylists working with women following a significant weight loss (which can include post-pregnancy, traditional weight loss methods or gastric bypass surgery) recommend slim shaperas a quick-fix compared to surgery.

Jenna Doughton, a Las-Vegas-based personal stylist, is among the stylists who feel body slimmer can help women in transition between two different bodies. In addition to her clients, she also collaborates with the Gastric Band Institute to provide post-bariatric patients some advice in re-envisioning their wardrobe.

“I understand they have for so long bought clothes just because they needed to fit their body, and they are going through this transition,” Doughton says. “The best body shapers are seamless, and size [them] up, not size down. It’s there to create a sleek line, it’s not going to make everything go away, but it’ll make it more streamlined.”

One brand that meets Doughton’s criteria is Slimpressions, a product released last year. Available in multiple sizes and bust sizes, the Slimpressions line is a U.S.-made microfiber sleeve – more akin to panty hose than corsets – to allow for full range of motion without sliding. The product smooths out the entire upper body, including the arms and back and are lightweight enough for full-time use. Traditionally, mostshapewear is geared toward special events.

Co-owner Amy Pedersen remembers one of their first clients after they released Slimpressions to market last year, a woman who had completed gastric-bypass surgery.

“She had lost over 100 pounds as a result. She loved having lost the weight of course, but she was self-conscious about all of her excess skin (particularly on her arms),” Pedersen says. “To make matters worse, one young boy on the subway had actually grabbed on to her ‘angel wing’ and used it as a handle the day we met. Needless to say, she was totally embarrassed.”

The Batwings Got to Go
Slimpressions co-owner Jennifer Daniels recalls while she and her sister-in-law, Amy Pedersen, searched for a business idea, Pedersen waved to a friend outside the gym. Wouldn’t you know Pedersen’s arm went one way and the skin under her arm went the other.

Inspiration struck, or rather, flapped. The three-year testing process resulted in a shapewear design that earned Daniels and Pedersen was nominated for Best Technically Innovative Product Category at the Contours International Lingerie Awards, appeared on Liftetime Television’s “The Balancing Act.”

Because shapewear products can fulfill such different needs in women, Daniels says she and Pedersen struggle with how to market a versatile product.

This is compounded by surprising sales figures – their smallest size is among its bestsellers, even when they expected their larger sizes to be the prime seller. Moreover, they were surprised to find younger women bought more than their expected baby-boomer market.

They began shortly before the shapewear market began a two-year sales slump, according to data from New-York marketing analysts NPD group. As sales began to decline, more companies are looking for innovative products to perk up the market. Some companies, such as MMK Brands are releasing fashion-forward shapewear that can be worn on its own. Others are incorporating arm coverage similar to Daniels and Pedersen’s design.

Given the overall industry slump, the need for new markets, and the growing number of weight loss success stories (be it through surgical or other methods), it will be interesting to see if more overt marketing for post-weight skin issues begins to appear.

Flap, flap 
You can read my experiences with loose skin on a guest blog at Assume – I jokingly refer to it as “Loose Skin and the City,” but “It’s the Way I Look Now, Isn’t it?” is a better title.

Given my experience, products like shapewear make me uneasy. Not because of the care and thought that went into designing Slimpressions, which is obvious to me. And in talking with both Daniels and Pedersen, it’s clear they’re a pair of very smart moms finding a way to continue in the business world and be parents. They made their lives work on their terms, and that always merits respect.

What bothers me with shapewear has nothing to do with the product, I realized. I’m deeply bothered by the idea it’s even needed for post-weight men and women.

People who’ve successfully lost weight to then need products to cover up loose skin strikes me as some cruel cosmic joke. Shapewear bothers me because needing them after losing so much weight just isn’t fair.

But after a lot of thought I posted this story today, and recommendSlimpressions to women because no product should ever be blamed for life not being fair.

Particularly in weight loss – with all its conflicting messages, moralism, fear, confusion and condescension – nothing is about being fair. It’s meeting your goals regardless of how fair anything is or isn’t, and taking pride in finding creative solutions when so much of the world would rather give up.

I know the anxiety and fear my loose skin used to cause me; if a product like this can help someone immediately after weight loss, then go for it. But the opposite is also true – if you have loose skin and it doesn’t bother you, don’t assume articles such as these imply that it should.

Whatever tools you use in your life, whether its shapewear or anything else, it’s important they exist because they empower you, not make you even more self-conscious. Like everything else with the Second Helping philosophy: life life on your terms.

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