Leading experts in the shapewear market speak to Lingerie Insight editor Sarah Clarke about what’s driving growth in the sector and the qualities consumers are looking for in shapewear styles before they make a purchase.
A recent report by global market intelligence publisher Euromonitor revealed that the UK lingerie market is currently valued at $3.18bn (£2.47bn), while a separate study by market research specialist Mintel said shapewear accounted for 30% of the industry in 2016.
If both reports are correct, the UK shapewear market could now be worth £741 million.
Mintel’s 2016 Underwear report also found that of the consumers who purchased lingerie for themselves in the past 12 months, 13% also purchased shapewear, demonstrating the importance of this sector.
So what is driving growth in the shapewear market and what qualities and functions will consumers look for when purchasing shapewear garments in 2017?
Lingerie Insight speaks to some of the sector’s leading experts to find out.
There is currently a huge trend for more wearable and simple shapewear styles for everyday wear that are made from softer handle, lightweight fabrics.
“Shapewear has moved on significantly from being something we would wear infrequently for a specific occasion, to now something we can wear for any occasion,” explains Wacoal Europe design director Jo West.
“We have developed collections with lighter fabrics and fantastic comfort to cater for this.”
Naturana key account manager Tanya Bulloch agrees: “Shapewear is now seen as a basic everyday item of clothing in our lingerie drawer, and not just something to be worn for special occasions only.”
This trend has been driven by a demand for less structured shapes and styles that are versatile enough to wear under any outfit.
“Consumers don’t want something which conceals and restricts, but something that lightly smoothes and shapes,” says West.
Ultimo head of Product and Design Sharon Bell comments: “This shift from heavy fabrics that restrict as opposed to sculpt means shapewear can be as stylish as it is comfortable.”
The growth of less restrictive shapewear styles made of lightweight materials means that consumers can wear them with confidence.
What’s more, garments are designed to enhance the wearer’s curves, rather than change their shape.
“The right shapewear will provide women with the best foundation garments to enhance and flatter their figure, allowing them to show off their clothes, and not their underwear underneath,” says Bulloch.
Shapewear is now trend focused and functional, to ensure the perfect foundation for a supremely sleek silhouette. Modern solutions are designed with style in mind, meaning that you aren’t rushing to the mirror every ten minutes to check it’s not on show. These fashion-forward styles can be shown without embarrassment,” adds Bell.
“Smoothing and sculpting your own body contours instead of compressing and changing the body into a different shape altogether will enhance the wearer’s assets and give them body confidence.”
So what are some of the new product innovations that are fulfilling the demand for versatile, lightweight shapewear garments that can be worn every day?
Miraclesuit, a US shapewear brand distributed by Patricia Eve in the UK, has recently launched a new collection designed to adapt to the changing shape of women’s bodies.
The new Flexible Fit range, comprised of a body, a high waist brief and a high waist thigh slimmer, features flexible fabric to adjust to fluctuating body weight while continuing to deliver extra firm control.
These garments incorporate ‘Wonderful Panel’ construction, which places flexible, stitch-free, no-show panels – of various sizes and shapes – at strategic places on each shaper, independent of any seams.
The spacing between the panels and the garment seams, as well as the panels’ flexibility, is designed to give each style greater overall stretch, fit adjustability and comfort.
“Our Flexible Fit group is proving to be a real hit. The garments all feature a release panelling to offer the wearer far more flexibility as they lose or perhaps gain weight,” says Patricia Eve director Chris Eve.
“Another great innovation has been Back Magic, a group designed with flexible stays in the backs of the garments to promote extra comfort, no slip and even back support.”
Meanwhile, Wacoal has introduced Beyond Naked, a collection of shapewear that offers super smooth and ultra-flat styles.
“Each piece offers the perfect silhouette to suit your outerwear whatever the occasion,” explains West.
“All edges are free cut and super soft against the skin, creating a completely no-show finish under an outfit. We launched this collection under Reshape, our shapewear concept for AW16, which has had a great reaction.”
Brands are also crafting shapewear for a consumer who longs for styles that are as sexy as they are smoothing.
Magic Bodyfashion has worked with lightweight materials to create seamless styles, with added sex appeal, including the Super Control Brief, featuring luxury lace.
“The Super Control Brief shapes the entire upper body, slims the hips and lifts the buttocks. It is also a sexy product that looks like lingerie,” says Magic Bodyfashion CEO Linda Leestemaker.
The Dutch brand has also developed the IUve Body, featuring fabric to shape the tummy and an adhesive backless bra with a plunging neckline.
Meanwhile, Ultimo has crafted a soft pink ‘Contour’ collection made up of a slip, half slip and super high Brazilian brief featuring floral lace panels.
And Miraclesuit’s Sexy Sheer collection featuring a high-waist brief, waist cincher, bodysuit and rear lifting boy short, combines soft stretch microfiber with mesh inserts.
But while brands are keen to make their shapewear designs visually appealing, simplicity is key, and functionality is what matters most to the consumer.
“If they are doing the job and function they were purchased for, they do not need fancy gimmicks, colours or prints etc,” explains Eve. “The products sell themselves and keep selling.”