Foundational Support Proves Painful (or These Undies Are a Pain in the Ribs)

The pain in my rib cage jabbed with startling ferocity. I squirmed in my seat in the crowded auditorium, trying to get comfortable.

I was learning a painfully expensive lesson about the high cost of vanity.

You see, there comes a time in every woman’s life when she feels the need for more support – and by support I mean foundational garments. (Male readers feel free to stop here.)

This perceived need for figurative assistance spans the generations. My great grandmother wore a corset. My grandmother wore a girdle. My mother wore a panty girdle. Today’s generation has “shapewear” most commonly found in the brand name Spanx.

Somehow, I’d reached my late 40s without becoming familiar with the misleadingly silky garments that provide an iron-fisted hold on unsightly bumps and bulges.

But recently I bought a new dress – a fitted sheath that looked fabulous – as long as I’m holding my breath.

Have you ever tried to hold your breath for an entire evening whilst simultaneously engaging in lively conversation? At the first wearing of my new dress I was reduced to breathy Marilyn Monroe-ish whispers, and had a stunning headache at the end of the night due to lack of oxygen.

When I confessed my dilemma to a group of friends they expressed shock that I hadn’t yet acquainted myself with Spanx. “Even 20-year-olds should wear Spanx,” asserted one fashion savvy friend.

So, off to the store I went. Combing through the shapewear racks left me reeling with sticker shock. It costs a lot of money to instantly slim and tone. After much dithering I came home with three items guaranteed to give me the sleek silhouette I desired. I could tell these were the real deal, serious grown up undergarments, because my color choice was limited to black or beige. No flirty fuchsia or pretty pink. I purchased a camisole, a pair of panties and something called a high-waisted girl short. I believe in covering all my bases.

This weekend I decided to give my dress another outing. I laid my shapewear purchases on my bed, trying to decide which item would provide the support I needed while still making breathing possible.

In the end I decided to go all out – the high-waisted girl short topped by the camisole. It turns out deciding what to wear was the easy part. Getting dressed? Not so much.

I started with the girl short. The garment slid on with ease until it reached my knees. From there on up it was an epic struggle. For once I was thankful I no longer have time for manicures. If I’d had one it would have been ruined.

Feeling confident the worst was over, I reached for the camisole. I won’t elaborate on the battle. Let’s just say at one point, I had both arms pinned over my head and the danger of suffocation via spandex was very real.

When at last the camisole reached the top of my thighs, I collapsed on the bed. The fact that I’d gotten an aerobic workout and a strength training workout without leaving my house comforted me.

After I recovered, I finished dressing and surveyed the result in the mirror. Not bad. My fitted dress fell smoothly to my knees with no unsightly lumps, and no breath holding needed.

However, once I got into my car I realized I hadn’t tried sitting in Spanx. That edge of that high-waisted girl short began digging into my ribs. Its rubberized edging meant it wouldn’t roll or slide down through the evening, but it also meant I couldn’t adjust the parts that pinched.

I could stand and walk and talk with ease, but sitting proved miserable, and I was in for a night of sitting.

As the evening progressed, so did the pain in my ribs. I tried to adjust the girl short through my dress, but I couldn’t budge it. The snug camisole prevented me from getting a grip on the edge of the offending garment. My “more must mean better” philosophy proved painfully inaccurate when applied to shapewear.

Finally, the discomfort outstripped my vanity. I slid out of my seat and made my way to the restroom where I peeled off the girl short and tucked it into my purse.

I felt like a new woman when I returned to my seat. Shapewear may be all the rage, but I think I’ll stick with the shape the good Lord gave me. Lumps, bumps and all.

This column originally appeared in the Spokesman Review. Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

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