If there’s one person to thank for the resurgence of shapewear in the past year, it’s Kim Kardashian.
While shapewear was once seen as something to carefully hide beneath a dress at a special event, it became a visual focal point when Kim launched her own shapewear line in 2019.
Originally dubbed Kimono, the brand suffered a brief blip after Kim put production on hold in response to accusations of cultural appropriation, before returning with a star-studded campaign and selling out in minutes.
Considering the Kardashians’ reputations for curves and glam, it’s unsurprising that Kim nailed the formula so quickly. The ideal shapewear accentuates your figure, cinching you in all the right places while managing not to pinch you in the wrong ones.
Putting the Skims collection to the test, we compared it to the current top dog of shapewear, Spanx. Launched out of founder Sara Blakely’s apartment in 2000, the brand was born from her frustrations with the ill-fitting, unflattering, one-size-fits-all hosiery market.
Her efforts paid off – just months after launching, Oprah declared the brand’s shapewear one of her “favourite things”, profiling Blakely on her TV show and cementing Spanx as a Hollywood must-have. Diehard celebrity fans now include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Adele.
To see if Skims can topple Spanx in the battle of the shapewear, we tested three products in similar styles from each brand, looking for items that made us feel confident, while also allowing us to move and breathe freely.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Skims: From £25, Skims
Size range: XXS to XXXXLColours available: Nine (sand, mica, clay, ochre, sienna, umber, oxide, cocoa and onyx)Material: Nylon and spandexPrice range: £25-£80
After years of cutting, dying and customising her shapewear to suit every outfit possible, Kim Kardashian created Skims to suit, smooth and enhance every body type. Upon launching, she made one thing very clear: this was more than just “shapewear”, it was “solutionwear”, empowering customers to feel like the best version of themselves.
The collection spans over twenty different styles, including the innovative “solution short”, which crops one leg for use with high-slit skirts or dresses. It also includes the standard slips, bodysuits and shorts.
To put the highly publicised range to the test, we tried out the high-waisted briefs (£29), sculpting mid-thigh bodysuit (£55) and the core control shorts (£31). In an ideal world, these enhance and support your natural shape (without feeling like it’s at risk of cutting off your circulation) by targeting your waist, stomach, thighs, hips and bum.
Our first impressions were positive, thanks to the wide range of sizes available. Shapewear often relies on its flexibility to make a few sizes fit all but Skims offers nine different options. Ranging from XXS to XXXXL, it’s simple to find your size on the Skims website, which converts your regular American dress size or bust, waist and hips measurements.
There are also far more shades than we were used to in not only shapewear but the lingerie industry in general. Most Skims products — including the high-waisted briefs, bodysuit and shorts — are available in nine shades, but there are a few (such as the waist trainers and bonded shorts) that come in just the standard black or nude.
Looking at the fit, Skims come up true to size for the most part. Of all the items we tried, the bodysuit was the only one that felt difficult to squeeze into, but felt like a firm (not suffocating) hug once on and is adjustable at the shoulders. The high-waisted control briefs were even gentler, while it’s easy to forget that you’re even wearing the shorts. For the most part, they also stay in place throughout the day, but the briefs and shorts do require a bit of rejiggling if you’re sitting down and standing up a lot.
However, if you’re looking to work shapewear into your everyday wardrobe, we recommend sizing up so they don’t feel too restrictive as the day goes on.
The material of the high-waisted briefs and the bodysuit feels thick enough to smooth out the targeted areas, but isn’t chunky enough to stand out beneath your outfit. The shorts are silkier, but were also the only item that left a visible panty line under some clothing.
Where all the items really stand out is shape. The bodysuit in particular snatches in the waist in the exact way you would expect from a Kardashian-designed line and the shorts are the most compressive we had ever tried.
All items are reasonably priced, especially considering the quality of the material. However, do bear in mind that Skims is a US-based brand, and international shipping to the UK costs around £23, with a 10-14 day delivery time.
While some shapewear digs into your skin over time, Skims sits comfortably in place and leaves minimal marks, living up to Kim’s promise to design a line that would be the “closest thing to someone’s skin.”
Spanx: From £24, Selfridges
Size range: Small to extra largeColours available: Two (nude and black)Material: Nylon and elastanePrice range: £24-£222
Spanx has been the big name in shapewear ever since it launched in 2000. Brands had previously used the same size waistband in all shaping products, until Spanx founder Sara Blakely came up with the revolutionary idea to create different waistbands for different shapes and sizes.
In the 20 years since then, the brand has expanded out into shapewear for every part of the body, ranging from tights and leggings to corsets. To compare to the Skims, we looked at the brand’s most similar products – the high power briefs (£33), oncore body (£86), and high-rise power shorts (£30).
When it comes to size, Spanx offers a pretty standard range. Products come in four sizes from small to extra large, which roughly equates to UK size eight to size 16. Colour options are also limited to either nude or black.
Despite being fairly limited in options, the sizes are quite flexible, thanks to the trademark stretchy yet firm material. However, it is possible that some people may find themselves between sizes in the more full body products the brand offers.
The bodysuit – which covers the back, hips, stomach and upper thighs but is open at the chest so you can wear it with a range of bras or dresses - is a struggle to get into, but once on, it moulds seamlessly to your body shape and smooths out any bumps or unwanted panty lines. To make it easier to put on, it’s also adjustable at the shoulders.
Similarly, the high power briefs and shorts sit seamlessly smooth beneath most outfits. They are the more gentle options, putting less pressure on your stomach. However, we did find that the shorts can leave a visible bump under thinner materials where the seam ends on your thigh.
All options enhanced our natural body shape, but none felt so restrictive that we couldn’t bear wearing them for more than a few hours. They’re all also fairly priced, except perhaps with the exception of the bodysuit, which doesn’t make enough of an impact to justify the cost.
The verdict: Which should you buy?
Spanx has dominated shapewear for a long time, but despite launching just one year ago, Skims is hot on its tail.
Despite their comparatively limited range in products, Skims offers a much wider variety in size and shade. It’s surprising that Spanx products are still limited to the traditional nude and black when brands like Skims are diversifying the market so successfully.
Every item we tested from Skims made a noticeable difference in smoothing out our shape and boosting our confidence. They also felt more natural and underwear-like against our skin, and were more aesthetically pleasing than the sheen of Spanx products.
If you’re looking to incorporate shapewear into your wardrobe, Spanx will more than get the job done. Both brands are of equal quality - and, for the most part, will deal similar blows on your wallet. However, if you’re looking for truly powerful shapewear, Skims is our winner.
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