Lingerie at the Oscars: What Should You Wear Underneath an Evening Gown?

February 27th, 2011 was the night of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, and while the fashion industry was all aflutter over the couture gowns by the likes of Valentino, Rodarte, Givenchy, I found myself wondering what America’s favorite starlets were wearing beneath their dresses.  And, perhaps even more importantly, I wanted to know how us “regular folks” could use this kind of lingerie information for our own special occasions.

That’s where Jenny Altman, Style Director at Bare Necessities, comes in.  I had the opportunity to interview Jenny on March 1st, just a couple of days after the awards ceremony, and she volunteered to share some of her fave lingerie tips with readers of The Lingerie Addict.  So let’s get started!

Treacle: Did you notice any major lingerie mishaps on the red carpet?

Jenny: I noticed a little nipple show-through. It’s been a “nipple year,” but it never should be. A lot of celebs go braless, and of course they can, but a little nipple concealer is so easy.  A lot of celebrities were also pulling up their strapless dresses all night which is so unattractive when there are so many strapless bras. When going all out for a dress this glamorous (like evening wear or wedding dresses) it’s best to sew your bra in.  Or bring your shapewear with you when trying on dresses so you know how it will actually look when put on.  When I was a stylist, we always sewed the bra in. Seamstresses won’t mind.

Treacle: Let’s talk about a few of my fave dresses from that night, and the kind of lingerie you should wear to give the best silhouette.  This bright red strapless Valentino dress on Anne Hathaway took my breath away. If one of my readers wanted to wear a dress in a similar style, what would go underneath?

Jenny: With this kind of dress, you definitely want a strapless bra.  But you don’t want your bra popping over the top of the dress either, so get one a little on the low side.  And you don’t need major silicone to keep the bra up; just make sure it fits nice and tight.  Donna Karan and Felina both make great strapless bras.  And with any gown, start with a really good seamless panty (like Commando) because who needs panty lines?  If she were a regular woman who needed shapewear, a nice highwaisted shaper with no lines (like the Spanx Super Higher Power) is great.

Treacle: Great suggestions, Jenny! Let’s move onto Camilla Alves’ gorgeous deep plunge gown.  I’m not sure if there’s even a bra that goes that low.
Jenny: This Kaufman Franco gown is all about the plunge, but the good thing is you don’t have to worry about your bottom half.  Even if you’re not proud of your butt and thighs, this dress conceals all that.  But you must have good shoulders, a good chest, and good boobs.  There’s not even room in there to add lifters, so your boobs must be even-shaped.  A dress like this works better if you’re a little on the smaller side, but you have to be honest with yourself and ask if your boobs could handle this.  Camilla looks great here, and she doesn’t look like she’s falling out.  If you wear this style, you want to use nipple concealers and fashion tape (to hold the dress in place), and a nice little waist cincher like this one from Cass.
Treacle: Nice!  I’m sure we can all agree that a very pregnant Natalie Portman looked radiant in her magenta Rodarte gown. Do pregnant women need shapewear? Is it even safe for them to wear? 
Jenny: Pregnant women need to feel comfortable and supported while being “held in.”  Maternity shapewear is great for that. It’s not “slimming,” but it gives extra support and lift at the tummy area.  As pregnant women get bigger, their tummy can weigh them down and so many pregnant women like shapewear because it supports their belly.  If you look at the Spanx Power Mama Panties and Footless Pantyhose, for example, you can see there’s no compression around the tummy…just a lifting band.  As for her bra, they may have just sewn it in.  Women with a fuller busts (whether through pregnancy or otherwise) should aim for a strapless bra from a company like Panache to get better support.
Treacle: Let’s move on to what to wear under the classic, slinky, bias-cut gowns. I’m thinking of Gwyneth Paltrow’s plunge-front column dress in particular.
Jenny: This is a tough one because the fabric is not that forgiving. Someone like Gwyneth is probably going braless. If she wanted a little perkiness, I’d recommend breast tape to lift her up a little.  If you can go braless in a dress like this, go with a really nice thigh shaper or something that ends at the calf so we never see it.  T.C. Fine makes a great capri body shaper.  It gives a little butt lift, a little thigh smoothing, and a little compression but is very, very sheer.  So long as it ends just above the waist line, you should be good.  If you need full support where a bra should be, Va Bien makes a nice, super-low, plunge bodysuit that gives really nice tummy control.  But column dresses are not really the best option for most women.  You have to be tall and thin–almost boyish shaped. Any curve will make the dress look out of proportion.
Treacle: For the last dress, let’s discuss Shaun Robinson’s blue Christiane Kane gown.  So many formal dresses are asymmetrical now, and I definitely want to talk about the best lingerie to wear under a garment like that.
Jenny: With a dress like this, the strap is actually very, very thin…it’s hard to match up the strap with the dress and have it not be seen.  So I would go with a strapless bra.  Because the fabric and color is very unforgiving (you can see a little bit of pulling on her hip and she’s not a big girl), you could also go with a shaping slip.  Body Wrap does a sheer, iridescent piece that’s really nice because it’s a bra and shaping slip in one.  Flexees also makes an all in one, strapless, full slip.  She doesn’t need super compression; she just needs to make sure everything is nice and smooth. And you want to avoid a separate bra and shaper because then you have to worry about the lines and where it ends. 
Treacle: Any other general lingerie comments or tips for evening wear? 
Jenny: I love the way there was no visible hosiery at the Oscars, and I think that’s a great thing.  Everyone wants to wear a gorgeous shoe, everyone has a pedicure, and who wants to see nylon webbing over that?  Footless hosiery are really great for brides and regular women too because you get the option of control top hosiery, but you don’t have to cover your feet.
I always recommend nude shapewear unless you’re wearing a black or navy dress.  Never wear white; it’s too bright. But nude shapewear works under so many different colors.
Treacle: What about nude options for darker skin tones like Shaun’s?
Jenny: Even on Shaun’s skintone, a regular nude shade is fine.  You’re just looking for it to blend in and be less noticeable.
Last thing…investing in a few good shaping pieces is always really useful.  Even if you don’t wear it now, if you go to a wedding a year from now, you have a piece to wear again and again. And don’t buy shapewear that’s too small because then it has the opposite effect.  Go with the right size so it can slim you instead of you bulging over it. No one has to know it’s the larger size.  And you want to be able to breathe, eat, and have fun so look at going with moderate compression instead of super compression so you can wear the garment all night.
Treacle: Thanks so much for your time, Jenny, and for your excellent lingerie advice.  I have a feeling this will be a piece my readers can refer to again and again.


  1. Panty Buns
    03/03/11 at 13:29

    I love your interview with Jenny from Bare Necessities. It was very enlightening. I hadn't realized there was such a variety of excellent figure flattering lingerie available. I will be referring back to this post and probably do some shopping since I can't imagine doing my intended next photoshoot without wearing some kind of corsetry or shapewear.

    I noted recently that an ad on Maidenform's site advertised "Oscar 2011 Top Picks for shapewear and intimate apparel" "Maidenform was in Beverly Hills to provide our latest intimate apparel offerings to the stars". Clicking on the advertisement took me to Maidenform shapewear.

    I note that Jenny did mention the "all-in-one, strapless , full slip" made by Maidenform's Flexees in your interview with her.

    I really shouldn't be plugging Maidenform so much since they still have me blocked on their YouTube channel (I just messaged them asking to please be unblocked).

    I think plus sized actresses have generally been way under-represented in film, but loved seeing Oprah there at the Oscars, wondered what she might have been wearing underneath, whether she had might have anything from Hips & Curves in her wardrobe and what she was wearing underneath her outfit.

    Now that I've checked the Bare Necessities "Ask Jenny" page I see that in fact she has helped style Oprah and was fashion market Editor at Oprah's O Magazine. I found and just watched the video "Meet Jenny!" on YouTube.

    This was a wonderful informative post. Thank you, Treacle!!!

  2. Lisa Norman
    03/03/11 at 13:45

    Fantastic post, and it's so interesting how many different options there are to handle cleavage.

    I ran right over to read this because I was hoping you'd discuss Oprah's lingerie. I had to stop and tweet about it during the ceremony, because I think the lingerie she was wearing threw her waist out of proportion to her boobs. What do you think she was wearing?

  3. Tights Lover
    03/03/11 at 15:44

    Very enjoyable read…I loved this interview! So much thought has to go into what goes underneath when wearing some of these dresses. Jenny's knowledge on the subject is very impressive.

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