The Jiggle

I wear shapewear. Not often, but I do. I’ve got a few clingy, slinky, jersey-knit dresses that show every crinkle and dimple in my backside, and I just feel more confident wearing them after I’ve shoehorned myself into … well, let’s just call a spade a spade … my girdle.

I wear compression-based fitness clothes. I don’t actively seek them out, but my preferred brands just include that feature for most of their pants. And some tops. And mostly it just makes me feel like I’m wearing extremely tight stuff when I exercise, but it also adds a bit of welcome firmness.

I wear bras. And yeah, I know that bras are essentially a social must for many women, but here’s the thing: My boobs don’t drape. If you try that whole “tuck a pencil under ’em” test on me, my boobs and I will LAUGH at you as the pencil plummets to the floor. If I didn’t have perpetually erect nipples,* I could probably go braless and no one would be the wiser. But I like the girls to feel secure and supported. (Those are the lingerie-industry-sanctioned terms, right?)

In my opinion, looking good is essentially useless if you don’t feel good, too. If you go through the motions of getting gussied, but you feel uncomfortable or anxious or fraudulent, you’ll never look as smashing as you would if you felt comfortable, confident, and like a gloriously gussied version of yourself. And the fact is that shape wear and compression and lingerie can help make an otherwise panic-inducing dress feel natural. Gorgeous, even.

The dark side of these items is that they teach us to fear and loathe The Jiggle. There is a big, powerful, money-making industry out there based on Jiggle Fear. It gives us products that eliminate “back fat.” It gives us creams that supposedly alleviate the appearance of cellulite. It gives us Control Top Pantyhose. There are so many products out there designed to keep The Jiggle to a minimum and so many messages about how The Jiggle is shameful, disgraceful, awful.

But friends, humans jiggle. And, generally speaking, women jiggle more than men. Our anatomy has several features that are delightfully, naturally jiggly, and there’s no denying it. But regardless of sex, gender, and anatomy, we are not carved from marble, we are not made entirely from hard muscle and taut sinew, we are not meant to appear as still photographs of ourselves when we are in motion. And, perhaps most importantly, we are not all lithe teenagers and we are not all slender. Jiggle Fear is tied directly to Age Fear and Fat Fear, both of which are extremely effective tools for oppressing women, instilling the belief that diversity is undesirable and bodies should all be exactly the same.

So what do we do? Do we embrace The Jiggle with open arms, and wear our clingy, slinky, jersey-knit dresses sans shape wear even if it makes us feel afraid and miserable? Do we accept Jiggle Fear as relatively harmless and keep our personal jiggle perpetually in check? I don’t think there’s a single, sweeping answer that can be applied to every person and ever situation. I honestly don’t. Again, you must feel confident and fabulous in your clothes, and if some Jiggle mitigation furthers that goal, I can understand that. Each person must deal with The Jiggle one situation at a time, and own that process.

But the next time a new product is developed to quash The Jiggle, the next time you see your own Jiggle and feel anxiety or loathing, the next time you overhear someone kvetching about “bingo wings” or “fat rolls,” just remember: Humans jiggle. Natural, normal, nothing to be ashamed of.

*I mean, while we’re visiting TMI-ville …

Image via JennyReviews.

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  • Katharine

    Yeah, the Jiggle. The Jiggle, and the Roll. I’ve been embracing these delicious, really flattening Nike sportsbras lately, for daily wear, because I love how they smooth out my upper contours and make my clothes look sleeker. I can’t do the shapewear because the squishing makes me wanna puke and isn’t worth the smoothing.

    But mostly, here, I got this, which I just found yesterday. Wait till about :33 or so to see what I mean. So hot and awesome!

    • love! thanks! didn’t know her work and now I do.
      think of all the great divas that are zaftig — aretha, etta, adele, beth ditto, etc etc

      • Ursula in Cádiz

        Oh thank you so much for that link; fab stuff. I actually had seen her once on a TV show and managed to forget about her; wrongly!

  • …well regarding the fat-phobia…the accepted values ​​of body fat index are between 25 and 31% for women and between 18 and 25% for men. Another fact: men’s potbelly fat, is located deep within the abdominal area, around the internal organs; exercise physiologists call it visceral fat. That’s why potbellied men often have relatively hard abdomens … that’s why most men bellies don’t jiggly, cause they accumulate fat in a different way.
    haha, every day you learn something new, here in Argentina ‘bingo wings’ are called ‘bat wings’. We always make jokes with my friends saying ythat at a certain age women must waved like ‘a queen in her carriage’.

    • virago

      I love learning new slang terms!

      Here’s another one: I live in an area of the U.S. that had a lot of French-Canadian immigration in the late 19th century. “Mémère” (prounounced may mehr) is French for “grandma,” so “mémère arms” is a local term for what you would call “bat wings.”

      P.S. I’m still learning to love my own jiggling parts. It helps to watch Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot — a classic that showcases her jiggling to perfection!

  • Elin

    What a post! I love it!

    I try to use the Jiggle as a tool. Meaning when the Jiggle is getting to be too much, I know that it’s time to change the eating habits or get exercising (again). But, if you fear each jiggle, you’ll go crazy.

    Thanks for the honest admission of Jiggle Fear – when you can give it a name that shows it’s absurdity, you realize that there really is nothing to FEAR. It just is what it is. Thanks, Sal!

  • JLB

    For anyone who truly wants to embrace the jiggle – go to a Zumba fitness class. In there, first of all, nobody is watching you. Secondly, the best dancers, the people who have the most fun, are the ones who really know how to throw ALL of their jiggle around. Ever heard the song “Sexy and I Know It,” and got to the part where they say “wigglewigglewigglewigglewiggle!” and shook everything you have, even in the car while driving? THAT is what I am talking about. That is where being totally in awe of your own body can start. LOVE the jiggle.

  • two words: belly dancers

    • Anna

      I can’t say I was ever overly concerned about jiggle (I think my muffin tops have always been the thing I was horrified by), but since I started taking belly dance classes I am like…actively pursuing the jiggle. The Jiggle is a desirable asset. I shamelessly practice hip shimmies whenever I’m waiting in line anywhere (to get my shimmy-stamina up, you see) and every now and then I realize that I’m just going around jiggling up a storm on purpose and maybe this looks odd to other people? But I then I do it anyway, because I just really like shimmies and want to be good at them.

    • Angela

      Hells to the yeah! Oh how I love a big, loose, juicy Egyptian shimmy. I always feel so much joy when I just relax into that delicious shimmy, let loose, and enjoy the sensation of the meat on my bones going slack and just doing its jiggly thing.

  • Miss T

    Funny, I usually spend enormous amounts of time looking for NON-control top panty hose & tights. My usual suppliers have a tendency to discontinue them, so I am constantly searching out new sources (Hanes has them, online). The smoothing of the non-control top versions is enough for me. Besides, I hate the term “control” — control what, exactly? Actually, when I DO look for specific shape-changing undergarments, it’s because I want smoothness under clothing, not compression or size reduction. In other words, they might be selling these things based on fear of fat and jiggle, but I am buying them for my own reason – TEXTURE (smoothness). I look at these garments as optional foundations that can make a garment look better, not as essentials to get me out of the house shame-free (which is what the sellers intend, of course).

  • When I got to the line “big, powerful, money-making industry” I thought you were going to talk about the industry that IS based on jiggle. Ha.
    I think another reason for anti-jiggle sentiment is that it can be very…distracting. Both to the jiggler and the observer.

    • Becky

      Growing up, my mom told me that “ladies” control jiggle because it is so attractive to those who appreciate the female form. Wouldn’t want to give anybody ideas. Bless her. I spent my young adulthood rather uptight, but thankfully free of fat phobia.

      • Becky, your mom’s philosophy does sound less depressing than “suck it in so you don’t disgust people.”

        Any time I watch the Olympics, I’m reminded that even solid muscle jiggle-jiggle-jiggles in motion.

        So far no one’s mentioned the line from ‘Some Like It Hot’ in which Marilyn Monroe’s body was described as being “like jello on springs!”

  • Anonymous

    I’ll admit, sometimes I like the slightly compression based under clothes. I like the way my shape is a bit more contoured, partially because no matter what brand or cut of clothing I get, it doesn’t quite fit me right. (I can’t help that I’m ‘well endowed’, have a short torso and T-Rex stubby arms, resulting in shirts that are cut to the right length for my body length and arms becoming too short because of my boobs, and shirts that are the right cut for my boobs being unflatteringly long for my torso and sleeves that are inches past my fingertips.) I admit, sometimes I fear the Jiggle, too.

    You’re right, Sal. We shouldn’t have Jiggle Fear. Jiggle is natural. And according to my spouse, jiggle is sexy. He says that it means that I’m a nice, curvy, womanly woman.

  • I can not abide being squeezed into anything. Jeans, bras, spanx or hose. One of the many blessings of body acceptance (and middle age) is that if it’s gonna jiggle, it’s gonna jiggle. That doesn’t mean I bare my jiggling for the world to know! : >

    • Olivia

      Same here. I tried on Spanx once and they were so uncomfortable (for this fatty) that I decided then and there I would rather embrace my belly rolls and jiggle than be uncomfortable.

  • Loved this post! Whats so wrong with a little jiggle?
    I personally find a little jiggle to be empowering – it makes me feel like a woman and it makes me feel sexy.
    I spent some time in Italy a bit ago and I was struck by how beautiful the women were – women of all sizes and ages – and the biggest thing that stood out to me was how they didn’t all look vacuum packed. They wore less structured bras (or no bras) and, yeah, their asses jiggled when they walked, and yeah – they were beautiful!

  • Ah the jiggle, Actually I can live with the jiggle it’s my extra skin that gets under my skin to the phrase. I am the mommy to 6 children.. 6 very big babies.. can you say 11 pounds?.. that size baby stretches out mommy skin like you would not believe.. to the tune of about 6 inches on my stomach. For that reason I do indulge in the slimming garment on occasion in order to smooth that oh so wonderful flap of skin.. the kids are worth it 🙂


  • I admit to wearing shapewear on special occasions, those times where you need to wear that tight little dress to show off. The problem I have? I have the shapewear second from the left, which is ok, but as the night goes on, it slips down and I end up with a really high muffin top. Has anyone tried shapewear slips, like this one from Victoria’s Secret? I’d love to hear from someone who’s tried it before I drop $80 on one.

    • Katharine

      Yes, I wore a leopard-print one for a theatre show once (oo, almost like that one, except with black lace cups; it was also Victoria’s Secret, from a thrift shop). It rolled up my thighs if I didn’t pay close attention to it at all times.

  • Marie

    I understand what you mean when you talk about what is visible beneath slinky jersey dresses. I once bought some spanx-y type bicycle shorts to wear under a dress like that. But the waistband and leg bands just pushed the skin/fat around, creating bumps elsewhere. Also, I was uncomfortable. Never wore anything like that again and now I really try to look for clothes made of thicker fabrics. I wear slips. camisoles (because of your tips!) and undies that aren’t too tight so they don’t create lines and bumps. I even like my tights a bit big. Jiggle-licious! But yes, I wear a bra to the office.

  • Anne

    Oh yeah, I know all about the jiggle. Not long after my second son was born I had my 20th reunion. While I was shopping for something to wear a sales person suggested shape wear (not unkindly). I told her to just bring the next size up; I wasn’t ready to go there yet. Since then I have thought about buying one of those shaping slips (not sure why I find those less threatening). I guess I agree with you Sally, if it makes you feel better and more confident do it. But I certainly don’t think any of us should feel obligated batten down our jiggly bits.

    One little trick I use is to play Bootylicous in my mind when ever I have to wear a swimsuit or anything else revealing. If it’s okay for Beyonce to celebrate her jelly, I should certainly be able to accept mine.

  • So far, I’m tolerating my “jiggle,” newly-acquired since I quit my fitness job six months ago. I don’t like it, but until I find a new way to eat and exercise in my new “lifestyle,” I have to put up with it.

    On the other hand, I’d like to point out that our bodies are made up of mostly water, something like 80% (no, I didn’t check that fact, I took my husband’s word for it, he used to be a personal trainer), and as such, will jiggle. Why fight it?

  • Interesting! I’ve always been a very thin person, but until last year I never exercised (why would I exercise when I was already thin? stupid I know). Therefore, despite being thin, there were clothes I simply did not feel comfortable wearing because of jiggle, like shorts or bikinis. I definitely didn’t think about it too much though, because the occasions for wearing either in my life were pretty rare, but it just goes to show that fear of jiggle is completely separate from size. In general, I think fitted, but not tight clothing pretty much eliminates the appearance of jiggle in daily life for most people. For those special occasions of tight and slinky, bust out the shapewear so you don’t have to give it another thought.

  • Stephani

    There’s never been a time in my life when I didn’t jiggle. There are plenty of times I love it! Sometimes, though … not so much. I do wear shapewear–but as someone else commented, it’s because I want a smooth contour under my clothes, not to compress me to make me look thinner. I purposely buy my shapewear in a size up. So I get the smoothing effect (no bisected belly), but don’t have to deal with indigestion and pressure marks from compression. Sometimes shapewear is just more trouble than it’s worth though. Like, when it just won’t stay put and rolls up or down around the area it’s supposed to be smoothing. I own a lot of shapewear. Some of it works really well, some of it really sucks. And I own a range from very light to heavy duty. All for different purposes and to solve different annoying shapewear issues I’ve encountered over the years. But at the moment, I’m wearing a lightly-laced Victorian corset under my sheath dress, with my high-waisted tights pulled over it to hide the corset’s edge, and I’m so comfortable. (Why am I wearing it? Seriously: posture. I slouch way too much at work and my chiropractor is really upset with me. I can’t slouch in this thing! Nice side effect of it is that my dress fits precisely and doesn’t get stuck in my belly crease.) All this newfangled shapewear doesn’t work nearly as well as my corset. Sometimes the old ways are the best.
    Anyway, jiggle exists, jiggle happens, we’re women and it’s part of what makes us different from men and so attractive. How can jiggle not be sexy? Jiggle is a hallmark of certain dances for a reason. Note, it’s called Belly dance–not Bony dance.
    Mostly I embrace my jiggle, but every once in a while I want to control it so it doesn’t get in my way.

    • Treadle27

      Corsets are making a modern comeback. They even have tactical corsets, which makes me giggle madly. I haven’t surfed the site enough to figure out exactly how the armored ones work though, or even what they’re armored with.

      Doubt these would work for smoothing purposes though, too many bumps. Pockets sound useful though.

  • Lisa W.

    Sometimes you wanna jiggle and sometimes you don’t!
    I will laugh all day to myself at the term “bingo wings”! Round here we call them “Hijanes” because when you wave to your neighbor, Jane, 2 doors down, you get that arm jiggle flappin’. Love it!

  • Love this post. I was recently visiting my younger cousin who’s even younger friend was over. She had to be about 21, slender, youthful, gorgeous, and she was complaining to me about cellulite. While my natural instinct was to want to strangle her and yell “Are you seriously complaining to ME a much LARGER woman who’s older and damn well has more cellulite than you?!” But instead, I reminded myself of how self-conscious I was at 21 and how it wasn’t about other people, just about hating my “flaws” and obsessing about them. So, instead I told her. “Girl, every woman on this planet has cellulite. Models have cellulite. It’s natural. And I guarantee you are the only one who notices it on your own body.” So anyway… that’s my little normalizing example, which is why I love this. Because being jiggly IS normal. And I gotta remind myself this too!

    Also… I do don some shapewear with more fitted skirts and dresses because it does make me feel more comfortable… and I’m okay with that! And a secret perk of that stuff? Hides pantylines. Yes!

  • I agree with Stephani that some jiggle is kind of sexy. I used to have a six-pack, when I ran track in college and it was… nice, I guess. But, now that I have a little bit of a tummy, I actually like it. I do still wear shape wear at times because I’m not always comfortable with my jiggle, especially in my thighs, but usually I just let it be.

  • Pencil tuck test? Never heard of it, but now I have images of pointless exercises that are supposed to provide some kind of body type information, but end up just making people feel weird.

    I don’t mind jiggle; I rarely think about it. I do, however, want to appear smooth under my clothes, so I certainly pay attention to how my underclothes look once I’m dressed and I can see how some sort of shape wear could help smooth out the artificial bumps created by underwear. Natural bumps? No problem. I’m a sumptuous woman. Bumps created by clothing? I change clothes.

  • lauren

    i wear a yummie tummie every day and have for several years. i like the way it smooths everything out and makes me feel more compact.

  • I’ve had one try with shapewear and never touched it again 😉 Many years ago, when the concept of shapewear was largely unknown to me and I was a bit overweight, I bought two satin corsets at H&M. They were pretty and cheap. I bought one in my actual size and the other one a size smaller. I figured I could use it as shapewear should I want or need to. Turns out, doing it like I had in mind led to being unable to breathe ^^ So I gave up, and suddenly it was today! Now and then I think I should give it another spin, there’s some (quite some) jiggle here and there… These days, I mostly don’t do it because comfort has its price in the land of shapewear 🙁

    Another thing about the jiggle… I once (quite innocently) spent a night in the arms of a man who was nothing but muscles. He was kinda hyperactive in general and had about zero body fat (if that is possible), all muscles (while being a lawyer, to my defense ^^). It was like sleeping next to a stone. I never knew a human being could be so uncomfortable. So jiggle is not only natural, it is NEEDED! 🙂

  • Ah, I’m right with you on the lack-of-flap (i tend to refer to it as a ‘crease’ though) on the boobs. I do occasionally forgo the bra because of this. I usually make sure it’s under a lined shirt or thick enough fabric where I won’t “show”, but I’m actually not really concerned. I don’t understand the whole nipples okay/not okay thing.

    As someone who had cellulite and massive stretch marks at size 0 and 5 ft nothing, I’m actually happy to now have a little ‘jiggle’ to balance out my frame.

  • Laura

    I love the way my newly-grown boobs wobble up & down when I walk, but goddamn can it get painful after a while. I wear bras out in public where I’m likely to be doing a lot of moving because otherwise it HURTS. & often at home, because otherwise my nude self is doing stupid things like catching my nipples on the edge of doors.

  • You want to know something funny. I made a dress last summer that looks worse with shape wear then without. I can’t explain why exactly but I did model pictures in my nice fitted shapewear and wanted to cry then we did more with skimpy little nothing panties and it looked so much better. It was like the shape wear was accentuating my tummy in an undesirable at least to me way.

  • Jen

    I think I’ve commented on this before, but I HATE spanx, and just about any shapewear. I fear The Jiggle as well, but I fear discomfort even more. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I basically only wear soft sports bras and either leggings sans undies, or special, loose cotton bloomers that I have made by an Etsy seller. Most of my dresses and skirts are quite flowy, so it tends to work well. The reason why I gave up on tights, thongs, spanx, and underwires is because I can’t stand the feeling of anything binding on my skin. It all has to be loose.

    However, I’ve also started developing allergies to certain fabrics and soaps/detergents, so there’s the great possibility that it’s related.

    I envy your ability to tolerate tights!!!

  • Erika A

    The pencil test! I could hold an entire package of 12 under mine, sigh, and I’m only 30. I don’t fear the jiggle, I fear the sag, so I wear super controlling bras. However, anywhere else on my body I cannot abide being “held in” or squeezed so I forgo shapewear. It squeezes my insides all around and upsets my digestion terribly (gas, anyone?).

    If a dress gives me bulges or weird hips I usually just skip undies and pantyhose and wear elastic-top thigh-highs instead. I buy them one size bigger than normal and pull them all the way up to the top of my leg so they’re up near the junction of leg and crotch. Much more comfortable than having them hang out mid-thigh where they might peek out. Mostly, though, I skip thin fabrics.

  • I have always been on the thin side but I am not very muscular/toned; I have fat on my bottom half (thighs and butt) and it jiggles. I was terribly self-conscious about how my thighs would spread when I sat down in shorts. Eventually I just got over it. Then my husband commented just last week that he likes watching the female runners go by in the park because “their butts jiggle”. He had a happy smile on his face as he said it. It never ceases to amaze me how men often LOVE things about women that women are always trying to get rid of.

    As for shapewear, I’ve always heard that if you just want to smooth things out a bit, get your shapewear a size or two bigger and it will still smooth without making you completely unable to breathe. I have some two sizes too big that I wear when I don’t want underwear lines because I hate thongs and boyshorts never fit my jiggly butt properly. 🙂

    • Love this comment. This is how I learned to embrace The Jiggle. I don’t want to admit I pinned some happiness on how men feel…but it’s true. They like The Jiggle! At least the ones I’ve been with.

  • rb

    I love the “held in” feeling of shapewear. It is just comforting to me & I don’t feel dressed without it. I realize this places me in the minority, but hey – everyone has their thing, and that’s mine.

  • Eleanorjane

    Preach it sister! A great message that we need to be reminded of! Most grown woman shouldn’t be expected to look like teenage boys (unless that’s your natural body type, in which case, rock it!) Generally woman are a bit squishy in places and that’s all part of our charm! 🙂

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  • As a young woman, I was very big breasted and in spite of a bra, I jiggled. I didn’t feel shame about it, but it drew the attention of men (even strangers) in a way I disliked. I nursed all of my daughters and nowadays, the girls are a friendlier size. Don’t worry about it at all these days, but very rarely go braless.

  • Michelle

    Too funny! I just bought my first “shapewear” tonight and I’m having a hard time identifying why I felt this was a necessary purchase. At 44, I’m still a 34DD and have a bit of waist and hip definition. I do not want to conform to what society says I should be, embrace my body shape and dress the way I want to. I wanted something to make me feel a bit more “smooth” under more clingy/fitted things . I’m planning on wearing my shape shorts (longer than boy shorts) under skirts. I think shapewear is intended to shape/smooth not reduce a person in size. So the results of trying to make yourself look skinnier by packing yourself into a smaller size set of nylon/spandex ain’t gonna cut it.

  • A somewhat astringent comment to Best Beloved (whilst wiping his drool up) was that most women watch Nigella Lawson for the food. Not the 98% of men…. She was whisking and the jiggle was lovely to watch (nope, I don’t have enough for that, but himself loves them anyway)

  • Kenzie

    my jiggle represents gorgonzola cream gnocchi, penne mango, goat cheese bruschetta, pepper jack polenta, red velvet cake with eggnog frosting, vanilla lattes, waffles with rasberry compote, grilled cheese with tomato and bacon, portland food cart adventures, anything with nutella, 3 am finals week Top Ramen, pie from the 24 hour diner, fried calamari, ribs slathered with coffee barbecue sauce, hollandaise sauce, and many, many other things.

    Slinky dresses be damned. I regret nothing.

  • I can’t believe nobody has said this yet…There’s a wonderful part in the movie Bridget Jones 2 where Bridget is trying to sneak out of bed, completely covering herself in a sheet (or blanket?) so her boyfriend (Colin Firth) doesn’t see her “wobbly bits”. He makes the most adorable face when she admits this and says that he loves her wobbly bits. Bridget throws off the sheet to show her body in its full glory.

    That’s how I feel about The Jiggle 🙂 And I hate Spanx anyway.

  • honeybee

    To all girls who think they’re fat because they’re not a size 0, you’re the beautiful one, its society who’s ugly.” ― Marilyn Monroe

  • Kylara7

    My male partner once endeared himself to a carload of my female friends as we were en route to a wedding and the subject of The Jiggle came up (as we were talking about our outfits and how we chose them and our undergarments). As several women bemoaned their own Jiggle and wished for it to go away, he exclaimed “No, no. no…squishy girl parts are what it’s all about. Don’t wish them away!” To this day, we talk about “squishy girl parts” as a term of affection. Women generally have more body fat than men…it’s variable, but it’s there and it’s not a flaw! 🙂

  • I jiggle. Men love jiggle. Don’t ask me how I know.

  • I personally really don’t like back fat. On myself or others. I bought a shapewear one piece, that had legs that went half way to the knee from Penney’s don’t remember the brand that was very comfortable and I wore it almost everyday. I have been unable to find it again or anything that compares. The ones I have tried are so uncomfortable I go without. I know it isn’t going to work out when I put on a piece and I can’t hear or see as well : ) (that really happens to me, wierd?)

  • The Jiggler

    Yeah, guys really seem to like the jiggle. One of the reasons I usually don’t go braless is the rapt attention I’d get from the handsomer sex. As long as guys aren’t pigs or otherwise hostile, their fascination is OK, it’s just not quite the kind of thing I want in my everyday life. But I’m still surprised at how strong their reaction usually is – me and every woman I know was taught the jiggle is something like total turn-off to men.

  • I love my jiggle, because it enabled the system that conceived and gave birth to my two children. That said, recently, in a silk jersey dress with t-shirt styling, I wore shapewear:).