Understanding the Different Compression Levels in Shapewear Fabrics

If you’re a shapewear fan, you may notice that different styles have their compression levels. Lower-level garments are crafted with fabrics that “smooth” your curves, while higher compression pieces offer more shaping and sculpting power.

It’s important to choose the right type of garment based on your goals, says stylist Lauren Messiah. Avoid sizing down in the hope of extra slimming, she advises.


Light Compression


The lightest level of shaping, this compression level is designed to slim and smooth out bumps and curves without being restrictive. This is ideal for everyday wear and worn underneath a shirt or dress. This type of shapewear can be a good place to start if you’re new to wearing compression garments.

Light compression shapewear is made from various fabrics, including spandex and nylon. The fabric type is important because it will determine how much support the shapewear will provide. For example, stretchy nylon fabric is the best fabric for shapewear because it allows for a high degree of body-smoothing control while being lightweight and comfortable.

Another popular option is a soft, cotton blend fabric that’s both comfortable and soothing to the skin. This fabric is typically easy to care for as it can be machine-washed.

Medium compression shapewear is designed to offer more shaping than the lighter options but still provide a good amount of comfort for daily wear. This level of shapewear can be used under various clothing and is often worn with a full-coverage bra.

Medical-grade shapewear, or fajitas as they’re also known, is recommended for post-surgical and post-op wear following lipo, tummy tuck, breast lift and other surgical procedures. Surgeons often recommend these shapewear garments, and they can be a great way to help speed up the recovery process while providing the necessary body-smoothing support.

Traditional and medical-grade shapewear are great at helping to smooth out bumps, lumps and curves, but there are some key differences. For one, medical-grade shapewear is usually made from a thicker material and is more structured than standard shapewear. This is because medical-grade shapewear garments are designed for specific purposes, such as relieving swelling, reducing lactic acid build-up after intense workouts or assisting in post-surgery recovery.


Medium Compression


Often made from breathable fabrics like microfiber, this compression level provides subtle shaping and smoothing for everyday comfortable wear. It’s great for those who want to improve their posture or add extra support and control under their clothing. This shapewear level is also typically designed to withstand frequent washing and drying, meaning you can wear it repeatedly without it losing its elasticity or sagging.

You’ll typically find this type of shapewear undergarments that you can slip into, like a bodysuit or skirt slip, or wear underneath your favorite dress to give it the finishing touch. This fabric type can offer a more significant slimming effect for those with a bit of extra weight to lose, reducing the appearance of a muffin top or taking care of that pesky belly pooch that seems to show up when you wear certain clothing styles.

Medical compression garments are typically a much more specialized product than shapewear. While they may have a similar appearance, their primary function is to assist with the healing process of surgical wounds and aid in postoperative recovery from vascular disorders like lymphedema and phlebitis. Medical-grade shapewear is constructed from solid, durable fabrics to withstand regular, long-term wear.

Tummy control shapewear, on the other hand, is a fashion product that’s designed to boost confidence in tight or figure-hugging outfits. This type of shapewear can help to sculpt and slim the midsection while also helping to lift the buttocks and thin out the thighs for a more sculpted look that’s perfect for those with smaller frames who want to achieve that hourglass silhouette. While this type of shapewear can’t make you lose weight, it can help you look and feel slightly slimmer under your clothes while motivating you to eat healthier and exercise more.


Firm Compression


Unlike medical compression garments, shapewear is designed to enhance the appearance of your silhouette under clothing for a short period. Whether you want to smooth a few lumps and bumps, lift your butt, or smooth the back of your thighs and waistline for a slinky dress, shapewear is the foundation undergarment that can solve these problems, as well as helping to control your appetite and speed up your weight loss journey by making you more aware of when you are full.

Many fabrics in shaping undergarments are breathable, making them suitable for everyday wear, even during strenuous workouts. Typically, these fabric types also include some stretch to make them flexible and comfortable. They also feature anti-chafing materials at the thighs and rear to reduce the risk of chafing.

You can opt for shapewear with a medium compression level if you need more shaping and control. Some of the more popular shapewear brands, including Spanx, offer this type of undergarment that offers light shaping and smoothing without restricting movement or feeling constricting.

Firm compression shapewear is ideal for special occasions when you want to look your best. Made from stronger and more resilient fabric, this type of shapewear provides moderate shaping for a slimming effect under fitted clothes. The fabric is also sturdy enough to prevent shapewear from rolling under your body and exposing your undergarments.

While it may feel restrictive initially, your body will adapt to wearing shapewear if you choose the right size and fit. A good tip is to opt for a garment with straps like a bodysuit or girdle to secure it to your skin rather than leaving it unfastened around your neck and back.

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