Wow. Now that’s a question.
Honestly, the only reason I even knew a girdle existed was because of Gigi. I remember her using the word in that giggly girlish way she had and knew for sure that whatever she was talking about was something I would need to understand before I could ever be a grownup.
However, when it came time to be a grownup, somehow this important subject fell through the cracks.
I remember reading about Spanx and their origin story, which is genuinely interesting and empowering. But I also remember thinking “the world’s just gonna have to take me as I am.”
I was blissfully ignorant of the purpose of undergarments other than that we simply were to wear them. I would go into a store and see a nude colored bra and panties and think “how boring.” I never gave a second thought that there might be a purpose to something like that.
For 38 years. VPL was not a subject of any interest to me. Having a smooth line meant nothing to me. I didn’t get it. I loved clothes, I had clothes in lots of different sizes and when my size would fluctuate, I would move to the sizes that better fit the body I was in. It never crossed my mind that I could use artificial means to redistribute my shape to better fill my clothes.
And then I had babies.
I preferred to go through my pregnancies being followed by a midwife rather than an OBGYN. I felt that there was a measure of respect for the woman, her body and her experience with a midwife that the gynecologist (in my case, a man) could not provide. My own frequentation of gynecologists having started badly at a very young age, respect of my body and my experience was critical.
Besides. Women have been having babies for thousands of years. This is something our bodies were made for, it is perfectly natural, I reasoned. I went with a midwife.
My midwife was kind of a hippie. This was perfect for me, because I wanted as natural an experience as possible. Rather early into my first pregnancy, she impressed on me the importance of losing the baby weight between babies. Mind you, she did not say to lose it “quickly.” She just said that it was important to lose it before I had another baby, because whatever weight I would get pregnant at again would become my new baseline. (I have never been able to get back to even the between babies baseline.)
She would have been the most unlikely person in the world to bring up the subject of girdles, but she was the one who shared with me the ancient “secret” to getting my body back quickly after having a baby and it included, that’s right, a girdle.
This was not for esthetic purposes that she recommended the uses of a girdle. It had to do with providing compression to help my internal organs get back to their usual places, places that pregnancy and childbirth had dislodged them from.
I followed her instructions to the best of my ability. The idea that we can help the process of returning our body back to normal by providing compression sounded fantastic. It was also incredibly uncomfortable.
However, what I saw when I looked in the mirror, after nine months of not looking or feeling like myself was quite appealing: the girdle sucked in the belly, distributing it upwards in a most 1950s pin-up kind of way. Not to mention that I had suddenly useful and suddenly spectacular boobs and newly minted hips. I made an impressive hourglass with the help of my compression girdle.
This “loving how I looked,” even if the shape was artificially created, was exactly what I needed to start to loving the new normal.
I experimented with different types of shapewear. I have only found one that is a) comfortable enough, b) doesn’t make funny bumps and lumps where it shouldn’t and b) stays in place when it should and is easy to remove when it shouldn’t. It is also kind of pretty.
When I wear it, it isn’t for anyone but me. I wear it because it makes me feel more confident and more comfortable in my own body and in my own clothes. Honestly, I might wear it more often if I weren’t afraid of my scalawags walking in on me in the bathroom and asking me “Why are you wearing that?” as they tend to do when I wear something they don’t understand (they call bras they might see in the wild, like at a store, “boobies”, thank you very much.)
I’ve seen social media advertising for compression shorts with videos that follow women before putting on their shapewear, the process of putting it on and then showing them in the same outfit once it is in place. The difference can be really quite impressive. What is most impressive is the confidence the women exude when they feel good about how they look.
There is no magic pill for loving how we look. If even movie stars who work out six hours a day rely on shapewear to squeeze into their gowns on the red carpet, then we have to believe that we are not alone in having our lumps and bumps. But there are cheats. There are secret weapons to help us feel great when it counts.
There were a lot of things Gigi giggled about that I didn’t understand. But I totally get why Gigi giggled about girdles.