Shape shifters

By Andrea Kennedy

She can fit a figure from a single glance, tame a tummy from three racks away, and make a derriere defy gravity in a dash. She is… The Shape Whisperer.

“She’ll see a tiny little bump under a dress and within minutes it’s gone. You’re completely comfortable and the look is fixed,” says Betsy Gould, merchandise manager for Neiman Marcus at The Westchester in White Plains.

She’s Liza Dedvukaj, Neiman Marcus’ intimates manager and shapewear guru, smoothing silhouettes for years with a discerning eye and endearing attitude.

“Women are beautiful just the way we are,” Dedvukaj says. “We just play with what they have.”

Truly, women’s bodies are beautiful, sensual, strong and resilient. Yet, there may come a time in even the most confident woman’s life when she wished for a little tuck here or some extra oomph there. Enter shapewear, a subtle smoother and asset enhancer that gets the job done with nary a knife in sight.

“It’s kind of like fitting a man’s suit. It’s an art form,” Gould says.

The art form, meant to enhance a woman’s figure, has roots as far back as the ancient world, where wide waist-cinching belts, the ancestors to the girdle, indicated fertility and even mythical power. (Take that, shoulder pads.) The Victorian era introduced modern corsets that evolved into looser-fit girdles in the early 20th century, which dwindled during women’s liberation in the 1960s. Today, Dedvukaj says, a new generation of shapewear lovers has emerged.

“Now everyone wears shapewear. It’s not just for someone who’s heavy or of a certain age. We have teenagers wearing shapewear.”

If that strikes a chord, just remember this is not grandma’s garb from the good ol’ girdle days. Dedvukaj draws the eye to the Marilyn Full Slip by Result Wear, a veritable body-shaping miracle that’s also her sexiest design. No surprise she can barely keep it on shelves.

“If you were 18 and gutsy and loved to party, you could take it out with a pair of stiletto heels,” she says. “It’s that sexy.”

Think of a traditional slip, but make it form fitting with fetching seams and a peek-a-boo back zipper. Dedvukaj says this shapewear not only targets problem areas like the tummy and tush, it’s also meant to be shown off. Just imagine strutting in your favorite frock knowing the fun underneath.

Of course, no body-shaping conversation is complete without a mention of Spanx, a brand that today is practically interchangeable with the word “shapewear” itself. Dedvukaj says Spanx Slimplicity (just one of the cheeky line names) gets the gold star from clients for everyday staples ranging from luxurious camisoles to gravity-defying shorts.

“It uses a kind of mesh that has a great way of sucking it all in, yet it’s all very breathable and comfortable,” she says of the top sellers.

Open-bust pieces like Spanx Haute Contour one-up the corset by tightening more than just the waist, leaving room for your own lacy bra and letting go of those million and one hooks that are all too conspicuous under that skin-hugging ensemble.

“The price point is high,” she says of this $178 number, “but once the customer puts it on, she doesn’t even think about the price.”

Dedvukaj emphasizes the importance of investing in quality shapewear for any wardrobe – especially ones including designer apparel – as even tailor-made or couture wear may leave a few problems, well, behind.

“I’ve seen a woman wearing (designer) pants, but it looks like she’s got four butt cheeks,” Dedvukaj laments. “What a tragedy. There’s such a simple solution.”

To get to the, um, bottom of the matter, Dedvukaj suggests a few standouts. Try a different breed of the iPad and iPod – the iPant – a Wacoal design that claims shaping power as well as firming ingredients to fight fat and cellulite. To take a token from Dedvukaj’s own closet, test a look from Spanx’s Slim Cognito line.

“They literally lift your butt,” she says. “I’m not 20 years old, but I can look like I am every once in a while.”

And since a woman and her body-huggers should be a match made in heaven, take these potential suitors to the dressing room, where even the most independent shopper can benefit from expert Shape Whisperer advice and a quick measurement.

“A lot of women that are shy pick out their own styles thinking they are in the right size bra, and for the most part it’s not,” Dedvukaj says. “Once you’re able to put them in the right garments, they really love you from the bottom of their hearts.”


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