Most brides arrive at their big day in the best shape ever, thanks to strict diets and fierce pre-wedding workouts. But with today's more revealing fashions and the realization that, well, no one's perfect, having the proper underpinnings for that gorgeous gown has become even more important -- and much easier, as new shapewear offerings promise to wrestle figure flaws into submission.
We've come a long way from the bloomers, girdles and suit-of-armor corsets and brassieres of great-grandma's day. Brides -- and their moms and bridesmaids -- can now find scanties made with fabrics similar to those used in athletic gear. They're lightweight, but strong, and some wick away moisture so you won't feel like you're about to pass out (unless it's from the overwhelming emotions). They tame ripples and bumps, enhance what you wish you had more of and batten down what you'd like to fuhgeddabout.
Some are even pretty enough to compete with what's on the outside.
But with so many options, choosing the right stuff can be daunting. Terri Nylund of Blum's Swimwear and Intimate Apparel in Patchogue says her shop offers a huge range of extended sizes in strapless or convertible-strap longline bras that drop to the waist or hip, as well as bra cups meant to be sewn into the gown itself. For below the waist, Blum's stocks shapers, thigh-high stockings and open-toe pantyhose. There's even an anti-
cellulite, long-leg shaper.
Spanx, the 10-year-old company that is practically synonymous with shapewear, is among those leading the way. The line, which began with footless pantyhose, has spawned everything from the lower-budget Assets collection (available at Target) to Hide & Sleek (intended for clingy clothing), Skinny Britches (lightweight gear that provides powerful compression for tummy, hips, thighs and rears) and the lacy, higher-end Haute Contour collection. The pieces can accommodate budgets ranging from the bride's (once in a lifetime) to the attendants', moms' and grandmothers' (who may want to save a few dollars but still look spectacular). There are even lace-topped thongs (for the bride who wants to be sexy) and Patterned Tight End Tights in a Bloom Lace pattern (check out the frost tint if you're looking for something blue).
Spanx spokeswoman Callie DeVore points to two of the company's newest bride-worthy creations: the vintage-lace-trimmed Chic Peek line, from bargain-priced Assets, which debuted in May, and Bra Cha Cha, Spanx's first strapless bra, which DeVore says "is designed to stay put" so brides in shoulder-baring gowns aren't constantly adjusting as they party.
Another spring debut: Victoria's Secret's Sexy Little Bride collection, with its "Bridal So Curvaceous Push Up Shaping Slip with Panty," which promises firm control and an hourglass silhouette from torso to thigh while enhancing bust and derrière.
Brides planning to wear a revealing dress may want to try the self-adhesive Very Bare Bra, a microfiber wonder from Sassybax that can accommodate a broad range of sizes -- from AA to DD cups -- and works under anything strapless, backless or deeply plunging. Sassybax also offers the Strapless Torso Trim, a longline underwire bra intended to slim you down to your hipbone.
But today's shapewear isn't solely about function over form. When Yummie Tummie founder Heather Thomson jumped into the market in 2008, she didn't think a lot of offerings provided the sexiness that dainties had back in the '40s and '50s -- an issue particularly important for brides, who want to feel as beautiful in their underwear as they do in their gowns. On a day when all eyes are on her, says the designer, a bride wants her foundations to boost her confidence and make her feel gorgeous and comfortable: "Think wow, not ow. . . . It's meant to be seen and be beautiful."
While Yummie Tummie has a litany of tank tops, briefs and camisoles, Thomson says that, for brides, "it's all about the slip." But these aren't the sheer, silky wisps we remember Elizabeth Taylor wearing in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Rather, these body-hugging styles provide a long, clean line. Yummie Tummie's offerings: Slippie, a high-waisted, lace-bottomed garment that rises from mid-thigh to just under the bra; the Strapless Slip, which covers the bust, and the Lavonne Bustless Slip, cut out in front so you can wear a figure-enhancing bra while still smoothing out any back bulge.
So how do you decide on the perfect shapewear? Nylund of Blum's suggests that a bride choose her gown first, then shop for undergarments well before the first fitting. "Bring someone who knows the dress," she advises. A bride should also "bring a picture of her dress, know the material it's made of, the color, whether it has any beadwork or boning, and the style of the back of the dress."
But in your eagerness to sleek out, don't forget that even the best shapewear can have a few bumps. RoseLynn Fiumara, general manager of Bridal Reflections, with outlets in Massapequa, Carle Place and Manhattan, says you should be aware of undergarments' textures. "Brides have to be careful that they're not picking something that's lacy or with embroidery that might show through the gown."
Remember, too, that white undies don't work under a white dress, especially with sheer fabrics. If you don't want a visible panty line, Fiumara recommends nude or ivory foundations.
And after all that work getting the perfect dress, the perfect hair and the perfect makeup, don't wreck it by slipping into your shapewear the wrong way. Manufacturers suggest pulling the garment on from your feet -- even camisoles and other upper-body slimmers. Most underpinnings are so lightweight and stretchy that they can be gathered up like tights, stepped into and stretched northward to where they need to sit on the body.
Finally, there's this: While most brides focus on how they're going to look for the ceremony and reception, Thomson says you shouldn't have to hide from your husband at the end of the day because your shapewear's ugly and utilitarian. "You don't want him saying, 'What the hell is that?'"