To shape or not to shape. That is the question.
Let’s be real. If you’re a bigger girl in theatre it’s most likely that at some point you will be thrown some kind of shape wear and you want to know the truth?
That is, of course, my humble opinion. It also does not suck. There’s two sides to every coin. For me its very much part of my everyday work life. Costume design is a fine art in itself. There is a history and integrity to it and so it’s important that you’re able to adapt to the importance of whatever part costumes play in a production.
Most designers and their supervisors are very particular on how something should look and sit. No offence to them, and it’s very much to do with the fact that it’s the more ‘socially accepted’ idea of a body, but most designers work with a very slim and petite figure.
It’s seen as the ideal figure to work with in order for their masterpieces to look just right. So they’re definitely not going to be imagining a body that might be all sorts of wonderful lumps and curves and shapes. That’s when the shape wear comes at you like a ton of bricks.
The first time I was handed shape wear I looked at it with some amount of confusion. The item up until then was somewhat foreign to me. I’d seen it in stores, I’d laughed about it watching Bridget Jones and I’d maybe even seen some old shape wear in my mum’s closet, but truthfully? I had never owned any myself. So here I was, 26 years old and I was suddenly being handed this article of clothing that said, ‘listen you’ve got an existing shape, but it needs some help being a different shape’.
Despite my initial feelings of “I don’t think so!”, I pushed back any objections, doubts and confusion and slipped it on. In this case, I was and needed to be professional. Being body positive and seeing no need for shape wear in my everyday life / seeing no need for it on plus size women at all, there was obviously an amount of reconciling that needed to be done between my own ideas of my body and the overall task that was placed in front of me.
Also when I say slipped it on, I actually mean wildly grappled with it as if I was wrestling a 6 foot long crocodile. I wobbled and sweated and cursed under my breath. How the hell did women put this thing on everyday let alone wear it all day? Once on, I looked down at myself and blinked. Wait….what? I still looked the same! I thought this must magically transform me into a unicorn for the amount of effort it was to get on.
Thankfully, I was still the same fabulous me! However, now I had to learn how to move around in this added piece of show underwear. So instead of thinking about it as this thing that was ultimately meant to change my body into something other than it already was, I looked at it as just another piece of the costume.
It wasn’t about projecting my own opinion about my body or my hitherto lack of knowledge about shape wear into the situation. It was about embracing this opportunity to venture into the unknown and make it known, whilst owning who I am and still loving myself unconditionally.
Whether you’re for shape wear or against it, at some point you may encounter it, but it doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. Unless like me, it’s for your job and you have no choice…