Spanx, Skims and Shapermint say fitness clothing sales are on the rise

Angela Williams has purged her closet of high heels, underwired bras and other scraps of fashion that don’t serve the first comfort state of mind that she adopted during the pandemic. The Spanx remained, however.

With face-to-face meetings and summer weddings returning to her schedule, she expects her fitness clothing collection to grow. “I have to admit: I’m pretty excited about this,” said the 46-year-old Boston-area finance professional. “I love getting dressed, smoothing out any bumps, bumps, and rollers, and looking good.”

Sales of shapewear, which plummeted at the start of the pandemic as clothing choices became decidedly casual, are rising again as Americans once again jump into waist cinchers, jumpsuits, tank tops and slimming panties hoping to compress, lift and squeeze through their pre-pandemic. shapes.

Shapermint, an online retailer with nearly 20% of shapewear sales in the United States, says its turnover in the category doubled last month, due to demand for high-waisted shaper panties and shorts. . Kim Kardashian West’s Skims, which hit shelves at the end of 2019 shortly before the coronavirus crisis disrupted business and social life, have sold over 4 million coins and have become a $ 1.6 billion mark, catapulting the reality star on the list of Forbes billionaires. And Spanx, the industry’s biggest success story, is seeing dramatic sales spikes, especially for its maximum tread OnCore line.

“Normal life is slowly coming back and as people venture out into the world, they’re looking for a little hug,” said Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of the company.

The return to such clothing, say psychologists and fashion historians, reflects a broader shift towards dressing for others rather than for ourselves. Yet humans have been manipulating their bodies for thousands of years, with statues of Sumerian serpent goddesses sheathed in corset-shaped clothing, one of the earliest examples, said Alanna McKnight, a Toronto historian. Later iterations included belts and corsets made of whalebone, iron, and leather.

Shapewear through the ages

Stays (corset) • France

around 1750

Corset • United States

c. 1889

And although the modern shapewear – usually seamless, with a lot of stretch – is more comfortable than its predecessors, the underlying principle remains the same: “correct the body” to conform to fashion and society, has declared Denis Bruna, curator at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris and author of “Shaping the body: an intimate history of the silhouette”.

People use form-fitting clothes for “the exact same reason they wore corsets: because traditional fashion doesn’t suit real bodies,” said McKnight, the historian. “As people prepare to return to the world, it’s easier to slap a pair of Spanxes and artificially suck them off than to get into marathon shape.”

Candyce Lindsay, a health care auditor in Tempe, Ariz., Continued to wear Spanx throughout the pandemic. She’s been addicted to body shaping clothes since giving birth almost 30 years ago, she said, and has a drawer ranging “from low prices at Walmart to expensive at Nordstrom.” She bought control underwear during the pandemic and plans to wear more mid-thigh shorts as normal life resumes.

“I haven’t given up on Spanx,” said the 59-year-old. “Even though I work from home, I get a lot of calls and I like to look my best, period.”

At Spanx, the resurgence of shapewear comes after spending much of the last year playing with leggings, sportswear and pajamas, according to Blakely. Consumers still want comfort, she said, but also want to create the illusion of a slimmer waist, crisper bottom and flatter stomach.

“Women haven’t given up on fitness clothing for several centuries,” said Sucharita Kodali, retail analyst at Forrester. “Do we really think the pandemic will make a difference? It’s not as if our conception of beauty or a shapely figure has changed in a year.

The change even caught the attention of late-night TV hosts: “You know more people get vaccinated when pajama sales go down and Spanx goes up,” Jimmy Fallon joked recently.

Belt Strouse and Adler Co. • United States

around 1920

Corset Warner’s “Merry Widow” • United States

c. 1957

Spanx, which hit the market in 2000, quickly became a household name, making it on Oprah’s ‘favorite things’ list and grossing $ 4 million in the first year. Sales soared quickly – to nearly $ 250 million in 2012, making Blakely, at 41, the the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. (She dropped the Forbes billionaire list last year and now has an estimated net worth of around $ 610 million.)

Today the brand is almost synonymous with shapewear, transforming the once-dormant category in a $ 500 million-a-year industry, according to market research firm NPD Group. Spanx has also become a cultural touchpoint, with celebrities such as Padma Lakshmi, Katy Perry and Chrissy Teigen gushing out of their underwear on red carpets and social media.

The Shapewear MeMoi brand, which sells its products to hundreds of retailers including Macy’s, is seeing increased demand for wetsuits, control fishnet tights and other slimming pieces during what has been a roller coaster ride. ‘a year,’ said Karen Cohen of the company. director of sales and business development.

After a 30% drop in sales at the start of the pandemic, she said, executives were surprised to find that consumers slammed shaping sports capris and bras to wear as leisure wear The company quickly launched a line of seamless sportswear that also lifts the buttocks and reduces the appearance of back and belly fat, and has expanded its range of maternity clothing, which provides additional back support. Demand is increasing by about 35% in just about all categories of body-shaping clothing, Cohen said.

“As more and more people go back to their daily lives, maybe they are carrying a little extra baggage and looking for more fitness,” she said. “When I talk to our national retailers, each one of them says that fitness wear has increased in the last quarter.”

But a year of dressing focused on comfort, analysts say, will have a long-term effect on the industry. Many companies say they need to market their products differently, paying more attention to everyday wear. Brands are also creating more stand-alone products, such as high-control tank tops and compression leggings that can be worn while lounging around the house.

Vanity Fair bra and panty belt • United States

c. 1962

Spanx OnCore Mid-Thigh High-Rise Shorts • United States

around the 2000s

“The shapewear, in the past, was presented like something for weddings or special events, ”said Massimiliano Tirocchi, who co-founded Shapermint in 2018.“ Now we’re showing it as something you can wear even if you’re working from home.

Sales of wireless bras, which tend to be more comfortable than underwired varieties, have tripled from a year ago. The demand for compression shirts has risen sharply during the pandemic because consumers “want to feel confident and in control,” he said.

At Skims, known for their range of skin-toning sizes and shades, sales of shapewear have been in shambles since February, according to co-founder Jens Grede. Last month, the brand opened its first pop-up in Los Angeles, where it sold 12,000 pieces – or about three per minute – in its first week.

Roy Thomas bought his first Skims sneakers just before the pandemic, to wear when he went out clubbing or with friends. A few months later, he bought a second one and started wearing it pretty much everywhere: to work, to the grocery store, and out for lunch. Although Spanx and other brands, including Under Armor, sell men’s compression garments – traditionally marketed as sportswear that helps muscle recovery – Thomas says he prefers Skims because it offers a variety of fits. .

“I use it pretty much every time I leave the house,” said Thomas, 22, a singer-songwriter from Murrieta, Calif. “Now that the world is starting to open up, I want to invest more.”

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Illustrations based on images from the FIT Museum. Design by Beth Broadwater.


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