The corset, an undergarment worn by women in the 15th Century to hold and train the torso to a desired shape, has made a big comeback.
In most Kenyan women's closets, you are likely to find one or three corsets as these shapewear become a must-have fashion accessory.
In most Nairobi lingerie shops, the tummy-firming, high-waisted shapewear in different designs, sizes and colours is driving sales of undergarments.
Irene Mukami, a 45-year-old, is one of the many Kenyan women obsessed with the corsets. She says she has about four, with plans to add more, which she buys from US stores during her travels or locally.
“It basically helps me look neat in clothes especially the stretchy kind that expose the fat around the back and stomach area. It is a shortcut to having a good figure.
I hate the fat lines being seen from under the clothes. It is really untidy,” Mukami says.
Wendy Waweru, who owns MyCurves Kenya, a lingerie store in Nairobi, says that demand for shapewear is rising fast as women get more interested in how they look.
“People are now more aware and are embracing their bodies more. These waist trainers were there a long time ago, so they are not really new in the fashion industry,” she says.
“Women as young as 18 are buying them because they cater across the spectra. There is no limitation in terms of age and size, what is important is getting the right size that is not uncomfortable,” she adds.
Globally, women intimates which includes bras, underwear, garder belts and now shapewear was nearly worth Sh8.7 trillion last year, according to Euromonitor International.
Shapewear alone, another research shows, was worth Sh207 billion last year and it is expected to rise to Sh664 billion in the next four years.
The high sales is attributed to the increasing popularity among plus-sized women as major fashion houses and manufacturers re-introduce them with enhanced features.
International brands like Adidas, Hanesbrands, Nike, Spanx, Triumph International, and Under Armour are now targeting lingerie consumers purchasing shapewear.
8 to 12 hours
As shapewear pretty must becomes part of a woman's wardrobe, there is the issue of buying the perfect fit.
To get the right size, Wendy says, do not pick a small size because it will be tight. Some buyers think wearing a small and tight corset gives quicker slimming results.
However, Irene says even if you buy a small size, keep wearing because after a few washes it will expand.
“Mine was constricting that I found myself skipping meals. I felt bloated for a few days while wearing it but the more I wore it, the more comfortable it became. Shapewear is addictive.
My waist looks slimmer and my posture top-notch,” says Irene who wears them for eight to 12 hours almost daily. Seamless corsets tend to be more popular because the ones with wire underneath dig at the skin. Also, there are others that enhance the hips and the butt.
The rising demand for shapewear is also driven by the notion that they will ultimately help someone lose excess fat. Corsets only compress the fat but when removed the belly fat will still be there.
“No one should lie to you that they can help you lose excess fat. I have worn them for four years and nothing has changed. When I remove it I have my ‘belly pot’ and ‘love handles’,” says Irene.
Other women wear them while exercising. Fitness trainer Jonna Tuyishime says it is only advisable to wear a corset at the gym when doing back exercises.
“It is only advisable to wear a waist trainer if you are doing a back workout because you will need that or a belt to keep the back steady. But essentially if you want to get rid of belly fat you have to watch what you eat and exercise.
The waist trainer is not a substitute to losing belly fat,” says Jonna.