I’m a little bit obsessed with shapewear* and have tried a few over the years. I’ve mostly stuck with corsets and Rago’s waist cinchers because they have worked well for my body type and the shape I want from shapewear.
* If you are of those thinking shapewear is for “old and fat ladies”, purge this notion from your mind and remember that not so many years ago every woman wore some manner of shapewear just like every women wears a bra today. Every woman can benefit from wearing the proper shapewear.
Before I go on with the review, I want to take a bit of time to write about shapewear in general and the fashion of the female figure. I think being aware of some basic history on the female figure can help in understanding how to choose the best shapewear to suit our needs.
Sidenote on the fashion of the female form
Throughout history, the desired female form has constantly changed. For example, we are now just coming out of a (dark) era of low-rise jeans and tight t-shirts and finally rediscovering the natural waist (note on the previous link: jeans = low waist, measuring tape = natural waist).
To give you a better idea of how much it changed, I drew a figure timeline (please excuse my lack of illustrating talent ^^; ).
As you can see, the torso went through all sorts of shapes (conical, hourglass/corolle, “S” shape, rectangular, etc.) in the last few hundred years. The full, rounded bust and long, flat stomach being the latest.
Consequently, foundation garments are designed to reflect those fashions and mould the torso into the latest fashionable shape.
That said, most shapewear available today is made to give a smooth and flat shape to the torso as to not show under thin t-shirts, while flattening the stomach, reducing the “muffin-top” from wearing low-waist jeans and, sometimes, squeezing the breasts together for extra cleavage.
Personally, I prefer the corolle figure (similar to the 19th century hourglass shape but with a more natural breast shape – see timeline at 1860, 1880 and 1950). It is therefore slightly harder to find everyday shapewear which aims to reproduce that figure.
Rago is an older brand which first started out in the middle of the 20th century, when the Corolle figure was all the rage. While they adapted their products to new materials and technology, Rago has stayed with the same ideal female figure throughout the years.
Rago offers a confusing range of cinchers with various model number and little obvious differences. There is the Rago 21, 721, 821, 825 and 2107 (they seem to have a thing for the number 21) to name a few, that, from the product pictures, look identical save for minor differences in fabric choices and colours.
Even reseller websites offer conflicting information on what the differences are, if any. I own most of the cinchers mentionned above and see no difference whatsoever other than fabric and colour. According to Rago’s website 824, 825 and 826 are medium control, which implies that they offer less shaping than the others but 825 looks an awful lot like the other extra firm control cinchers to me…
The Extra Firm Cinchers
The 21-line cinchers are extra firm, boned and come with removable garters. The boning used is spring steel, but the washing instructions state that the item can be fully submerged, hand washed and air dried. The cinchers close at the front with a series of hook and eye closures. It may seem daunting to put on, but it took me surprisingly little time before I got used to doing it quickly.
The cinchers have 4 waist elastics to help take in the waist (which you can sort of see on the picture on the right).
- I don’t know if it’s the boning, the mesh, the waist elastics or all of these, but the cinchers work amazingly well at taking in the waist… at first. I measured about a 3 cm difference with the cincher on and, if worn everyday, it can act like a corset and permanently reduce the waist by 1~3 cm.
- Improves posture
- Flattens the stomach moderately well
- Removable garters
- Can be washed entirely
- Comfortable to wear for extended periods
- Allows a great ease of movement (compared to a corset)
- Affordable (retail prices are between $36 and $46)
- Being a cincher you can wear it with any bra you like.
- Hook and eye closures show under thin or tight tops.
- Creates a tiny bulge (about as big as your average bra waistband bulge) at the top.
- It might just be because my hips are too big for the size I’m wearing (I used my waist measurement for sizing), but if I’m not using the garters the bottom rolls up about 4 cm at the back (where the boning stops). However, I can’t really feel it and it doesn’t show under clothing.
- After wearing it several days per week, every week, it stretches out fairly fast and needs to be replaced several times a year (for full time wear). When stretched out, it still retains some shaping but it is rather light and it doesn’t take the waist in very much.
Rago cinchers are an affordable way to get started with shapewear, with no complicated or strenuous method of putting them on, comfortable and creates a noticeable difference in shape. If you are into the hourglass shape or retro fashion then it is definitely a must in your wardrobe.