Responding to a lack of suitable foundation garments that could “provide a smooth look” under clothing, entrepreneur Sara Blakely founded Spanx in 2000. Her initial offering resembled a pair of leggings. They flattened out bulges along the waist and hips—and were met with massive success. This original invention (called the “Power Capri”) represents one component in an expanded line of shapewear that includes underwear, loungewear, active wear, and maternity garments.
She innovated the garment by eliminating pinching at the waistline and thighs, offering a smooth contour from ribcage to knee. She achieved this by using a heavy gauge nylon/Lycra blend and incorporating a tightly knitted yarn combination extending beyond the lower ribcage. Blakely also applied this concept to the garment’s legs, knitting in leg bands that did not cut into the flesh.
Before Spanx, it was primarily men who made foundation garments, and tested them on mannequins. By positioning Spanx as garments for women by a woman, the company aims to better address women’s needs. However, the products still reinforce the pursuit of a socially-prescribed beauty via body manipulation.
Additional text from Fashion as Design online course, Coursera, 2017