Control underwear, or “shapewear”, is an area of fashion in which technology is making quite an impact.
Nivara Xaykao, who oversees underwear for the trend forecasting company Stylesight, says: “At every trade show I go to, shapewear becomes an even bigger focus. It has gone from something worn under special-occasion clothing to an everyday thing.”
In hosiery, for example, innovative fabrics offer more than just good looks and durability. Laura Godsal, founder of the online hosiery retailer MyTights, is particularly excited about fabrics such as Emana, a new fibre that claims to help reduce cellulite as it is worn.
“The yarn has built-in properties to help anti-cellulite activity,” explains John Roskalns, managing director of the Melas Group, the owners of Charnos, which is introducing a line of semi-opaque tights using the material this month (£10). “Wearing the product should create friction and heat, which is proven to help reduce cellulite.” Charnos is also launching support tights this month (from £4) that release sea kelp (to stimulate blood flow), moisturising shea butter and antioxidants as you wear them.
Kaitlin Moughty, director of marketing at American online underwear retailer Freshpair, says that there is shapewear for both men and women that claims to simultaneously slim, lift, and – as she says euphemistically – “profile-enhance”.
The American brand Yummie Tummie is planning to introduce a selection of women’s sleeveless tank undershirts, Seamlessly Shaped Comfort Control (£34), that uses material developed for Nasa astronauts to keep the wearer from overheating – a common complaint of traditional shapewear.
“It works by absorbing heat as it’s emitted from the body,” says Yummie Tummie founder Heather Thomson. “The fibre releases the heat back as the body cools down.”
Similarly, Marks and Spencer is using new textiles with an internal cooling structure – an invisible mesh built into the fabric – which is well-suited to bras; see their new Light As Air line, on sale in May, and a non-wire version of the retailer’s Perfect Fit bra, available now (both £19.50).
“Up until now the methods of mould fabrics have been quite crude,” says Paschal Little, head of lingerie innovation at Marks and Spencer. “There’s been a development in what we call ‘3D mould technology’, which allows us to mould a non-padded bra into the same shape as a padded bra.”
“Fabrics are becoming softer, more breathable but still functional,” says Stylesight’s Xaykao. “It’s about feeling natural.” Even if it takes a laboratory – or two – to achieve it.