Spanx vs. Kim Kardashian’s new Skims—which is better?
We pitted the tried-and-true against the hot-and-new in the ultimate battle of the shapewear
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I’ve never been much of a shapewear person, but heading into my thirties meant a slower metabolism and a dairy-induced belly. Shapewear has now entered the conversation for me. Also, I’m always down to try anything that might make me look or feel better in my clothes.
There’s no way to have any conversation about shapewear without mentioning Spanx. The brand started by Sara Blakely almost 20 years ago has become synonymous with shapewear and now includes underwear for men and some clothing. But this summer Kim Kardashian West made waves when she announced on Instagram that she’d be entering the “foundational garment” game. It wasn’t the products, but the name of the line, Kimono, that caught folks’ (negative) attention. But once the brand was renamed Skims and products were released, there seemed to be genuine excitement—if the instant inventory backorder and long waitlists is any indication.
What is Skims?
Touted as “the new, solution-focused approach to shape enhancing undergarments, created by Kim Kardashian West,” Skims Solutionwear includes the usual stretchy shapewear items, designed to provide “solutions” for tummy, butt, waist, and thighs, in different support levels (medium, high, and “super high”). These items come in an expansive size range, from XXXS/XS to 4X/5X (even broader than Spanx's offerings) and are sold in white, black, and shades of gray as well as an inclusive range of skin shades from “Sand” to “Cocoa” (though not all items come in all hues). Skims also makes bras, non-shaping underwear, waist trainers, a cotton line, and some more unique speciality items, such as a single-legged short for wearing beneath skirts with high slits.
So I wondered: How does the new kid on the block compare to the O.G.? I decided to try both brands in a “shape-off” to see which performed better at smoothing my target area—my stomach. On a recent trip to Seattle, I knew I’d be eating a ton and having a few cocktails. I’d also be sightseeing a lot—and no one would notice that I wore the same outfits (to test the two brands with the same clothing as an, um, control) two days in a row. This was a great time to put both brands and their respective products to the test, for both their shaping capabilities and their all-day comfort.
How did I test Skims vs. Spanx?
To compare like to like as much as possible, my editor at Reviewed selected comparable styles from Spanx and Skims. For my tests, I ended up with:
- Skims Sculpting Bodysuit Mid Thigh ($68) in Oxide (I’d requested Cocoa, but it was out of stock) versus Spanx OnCore Mid-thigh Bodysuit ($98) in Black
- Skims Core Control Short Mid Thigh (also $38) also in Oxide versus Spanx Higher Power short ($38) in Black
- Skims Solution Short #2 ($42) in Cocoa. This one I tested on its own, because Spanx doesn’t (yet) sell a short with only one leg, designed for wear under a dress with a side slit.
Round 1: The battle of the bodysuits
To test these full-torso garments, I wore each under a body-skimming knit dress.
Skims First up was the Skims Sculpting Bodysuit Mid Thigh. I literally laughed out loud when I took it out of the packaging (which is pretty, by the way). It was just so small, despite having been ordered in my size, or S/M, as I’d selected from the size chart. Of course I knew the material would stretch but goodness, this was teeny. I assumed its “high support” would feel suffocating.
However, I was pleased when I shimmied into the bodysuit and found it pretty comfortable. It sucked in my stomach, but instead of a bear hug, it felt like firm hug. But I can’t say I noticed a major difference in how my dress looked post-Skims. I went on about my day as usual, but when it was time to go to the restroom, that’s when I realized it would become a process. I had to totally unzip the back of my dress and take my arms out just so I could pull the bodysuit down. Nothing horrible, but annoying.
At the end of the night I removed the suit and it had left indents in my skin, at my shoulder and around my chest. Though the suit didn’t feel uncomfortable, it was tight enough to leave its mark.
Spanx Near identical to the Skims bodysuit is Spanx’s OnCore Mid-Thigh Bodysuit. This one? Despite my size medium being visually larger than the Skims version, it was tough—beyond tough—to get into. I did the usual step one leg in, then the other and pull up. But this required a lot of shimmying and shifting from one side to the next to pull it up properly. I seriously thought one of my press-on nails was going to pop off in the process. But I did notice the crotch had an opening, which could make going to the restroom less of a hassle. When I finally pulled the suit up and adjusted as necessary, it felt worth it. There was great thigh support, my butt looked great and it was seamless. The comfort level was the same as Skims.
But the crotch opening, or the “double-gusset opening,” as it’s called? It was so small that, well, I could easily see an accident happening. Like with the Skims, I just had to undo my dress and pull it down. This was a struggle, as was pulling it back on. At the restaurant that night, I had to go to the restroom again after dessert, and once I was done, I didn’t even bother pulling the Spanx all the way back up since I was just heading back to my hotel anyway.
The winner: Spanx Between the two suits, I preferred Spanx. In spite of being tough to get in and out of, once I got the hang of it, it felt worth it. Both Skims and Spanx have a similar amount of body-sculpting spandex, 22 and 20 percent, respectively. While the difference isn’t as visible in my dress, the Spanx supported my stomach more and smoothed out my hips. But it didn’t live up to the lofty claim of a “tabletop-flat stomach,” as its website states.
Round 2: The skirmish of the shorts
The knit dress made it hard for me to see any major difference between the shapewear, so this time I wore a tight shirt and leggings to better see, not just feel, how they looked.
Skims I liked the Skims Core Control Short Mid Thigh before I even tried it on. Upon unpacking, I noticed the wider band around the midsection. The shorts were easier to get into than the bodysuits (of course), and I audibly said “Whoa!” once they were on—not because they were too tight, though the brand does describe this “high support” product as running smaller for a “compressive look”—I just felt tons of support that totally sucked in my belly.
These shorts are described as “silky and invisible under everything.” Well, that last part just wasn’t true for me: You can clearly see the front seam and the bands at the hem of the shorts under my leggings. That wasn’t something that bothered me, because I was wearing this look with a blazer on top for a casual day of sightseeing. But it might be distracting for some under a form-fitting dress for a special occasion. Despite this, I really liked the shorts and thought they were extremely comfortable.
Spanx The next morning it was time for the Spanx Higher Power short. According to the site, these are intended for everyday wear and have “less squeeze.” But they felt just as supportive, if not more so in certain areas, than the so-touted firmer support Skims. This Spanx short had great tummy control for the mid and lower stomach and the wider thigh bands smoothed my legs out. Those same bands were also visible under my leggings, though more faintly than the Skims, and the side thigh seam was visible as well, which I didn’t notice until I looked at the photos. The shorts also had the double-gusset crotch opening at the Spanx bodysuit, but it was easy to get in and out of them when it was time to head to the bathroom, so the opening was useless again for me.
The winner: A tie Whereas I had a clear winner for the bodysuit, it was a toss-up for the shorts, which is just plain odd to me, considering the materials used. The Skims shorts have 79 percent nylon and 21 percent spandex (their “most supportive construction”) compared to Spanx’s 54 and 46 percent, which should be more compressive, on account of that higher spandex content. But the two felt identical, in terms of perceived support, on my body. They were also equally comfortable, and aside from the thigh bands that were more visible with Skims, my outfit looked the same with both sets of shapewear.
Round 3: The funky outlier
Finally, it was time for me to try the piece I’d been most looking forward to, the Skims Solution Short #2.
This is an interesting combo of a mid-thigh length short and the opposite leg is exposed. The design is meant to be a “solution for high-slit skirts,” according to the Skims site. I didn’t have a high-slit skirt, especially for 40-degree Seattle weather, so I just wore them with super skinny jeans and a bodysuit top, because I’d hope the same core hugging, thigh-smoothing (well, one thigh) properties work for any garment.
Stepping into these shorts was tough. The extremely tight fit, dubbed “high support,” like the other two Skims products I tested, caused me to stop midway and take a breather. While I liked the color—the Cocoa perfectly matched my skin, whereas the others were Oxide and just a bit off—I was tempted to double-check the packaging and make sure this was a size S/M like the others. It was the correct size, but for some reason it was so tight.
Once I got my second wind and everything was in place, I liked the shorts. They helped to define and smooth my waist and looked seamless under my bodysuit. But the one exposed leg? The material left was pretty tight around my crotch and took quite a bit of adjusting before it felt semi-comfortable. All told, I liked how these made my butt looked, but I also noticed you can see the panty line on the exposed right leg. And you can even see the thigh band on the left leg through my jeans if you look closely.
I went throughout my day and that cinched waist and stomach feeling started to fade. I’m sure this was because the waistband kept rolling down. I didn’t have this problem with the other Skims shorts (or the Spanx), but for some reason, this waist just kept rolling down and folding over.
You’re probably also wondering if these can be worn backwards, so you can switch up the exposed leg? Nope. I tested the Solution Short #2 but there’s also #1, where the left leg is exposed. If you wear a lot of high-slit skirts—like, really high slits—I can see this $42 item possibly being a good option. But otherwise, these were my least favorite, due to their lack of practicality in my wardrobe and the rolling-down waist.
Are Skims better than Spanx?
Both brands seemed relatively similar when it came to comfort, as I never had a “get me out of this/I can’t breathe” moment with any of the products. Though some proved a bit more challenging to maneuver in and out of, there was certainly a learning curve and by the second wear, the process was easier. The side by side comparisons were also pretty similar. I had to go back and forth to see if my clothes looked any differently in Skims versus Spanx and for the most part, the results, again, were similar.
As far as caring for the garments, both brands are machine-washable. But as I was on the road I just hand-washed them in the hotel sink and they all dried quickly. I’ve worn all the pieces again except the Short #2, so I’m interested to see if the material will still fold over or if it might even get worse after washing.
Should you try Skims?
Though the one-leg wonder was a bust for me, overall I liked Skims. The sizing was on point (and goes up to a 4X/5X, which is two sizes larger than Spanx) and I absolutely loved the nine shades to match skin tones, including one that was perfect for me.
But Spanx met the high expectations I had for the brand that’s revolutionized shapewear. The price tag, especially for the $100 bodysuit, is steep—but if I was only going to buy one piece of shapewear, of all the ones I tested, that item would probably be it.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.