In all cultures the human body has, at some point, been enhanced or artificially transformed to create a silhouette which conforms to traditions or fashions of the day. Providing an external framework to manipulate the skeleton over a period of time can be seen as extreme, but the desire to achieve perceived beauty can outweigh any health concerns created in the pursuit of the perfect appearance. 

In the past, Western cultures have used baleen (whalebone) or steel to make constricting corsets to achieve tiny waists and an hour glass figure in women. We are now able to use modern materials such as polyacetal ‘whalebone’ (1) and elastane to create structure and support in undergarments in a way that provides more gentle, temporary control to adjust the silhouette.


Elastane fibres can be stretched from four to seven times their length, reverting when the tension is relaxed, so its use is particularly useful in garments that are required to flex and stretch with body movement. Shapewear for both men and women are accepted forms of body shape control and are made from blended fibres usually containing elastane. A range of garments is available to target specific areas of the body. The Higher Power Brief (2) is designed to slim the stomach and contour the waist with levels of elastication being different across the front of the body to other areas. The Zoned Performance tank vest (3) is also designed with zones of differing levels of elastication to compress targeted areas, such as the abdominals and the chest, making for a smoother body surface.


Today’s trend for both male and female buttock enhancement can be achieved by use of a brief, incorporating strategically placed silicone or polyurethane foam inserts, as demonstrated in the Sodacoda butt enhancing pants (4).


The introduction of the structured bra in the 20th century, including the Wonderbra (5), has contributed significantly to the changing female silhouette. Using elasticated panels, padding and under-cup support, and the incorporation of elastane into the fabrics used has, at times, changed the focus from the waist to the bust line.