This is awards season in Hollywood or, as I like to call it, shapewear season. There’s so much shaping, sculpting and squishing happening on red carpets today that I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Lycra is named the official sponsor of the Oscars.
And no one watches award shows more closely, or critically, than Greg Gimble. While other people just want to get a glimpse of their favorite celebs, he’s looking for problems to solve.
“When our team watches the award shows, we’re looking for trends in dresses — how are the backs shaped, what kinds of straps are popular this year,” says Gimble, the vice-president of shapewear pioneer Va Bien. “When we see an especially challenging dress we’ll look at that and say, ‘How can we do that?’ or ‘How can we make a more full-figured woman wear that?'”
The New York-based Va Bien has been supporting celebrities of all shapes and star power for more than 30 years and is a fixture on red carpets everywhere — although, if they’ve done their job right, you won’t see the results of their labors. The company’s reputation has made Va Bien pieces a favorite among celebrity fashion stylists trying to dress their clients for red carpets, press junkets and other high-visibility appearances.
And this time of year, especially with shapely figures like Kim Kardashian and even Marilyn Monroe commanding so much attention, is Va Bien‘s busiest.
“It’s definitely a big season for us,” Gimble says.”We work with different stylists to keep celebrities looking their best. The calls come in at the last minute (saying) they need it yesterday. It gets quite hectic.”
Va Bien is also a go-to source for wardrobing departments in film, TV, music and even dance companies, and the label has helped dress a long list of celebrity figures ranging from Nicki Minaj to Sandra Bullock and even Laura Bush.
For reasons related to confidentiality and privacy, the company is careful not to boast too loudly about its celeb tie-ins — understandable, given that most would prefer to let fans think their sleek, smooth silhouette is all-natural.
But we can say that Va Bien has played a “supporting role” in recent appearances by stars such as Kelli (Pan Am) Garner, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Alicia Silverstone, Joely Richardson and more.
“It’s an interesting and varied group of women, ranging from the risqué to the conservative,” Gimble says. “All of these women, when they prepare for special events, they look to Va Bien.”
“We’re a good fit for stage performers and celebrities for two reasons,” he adds. “First, we make products that are beautiful and comfortable. And second, every garment is created with a solution in mind.”
From plunging backs and necklines to any number of cleavage challenges and, of course, all those strapless gowns on women of every imaginable shape, Va Bien probably has a foundation piece that will make it work.
You can see that emphasis on solutions in the images below, in which VB shows a celebrity appearance alongside a garment that can make such a look achievable both for stars and typical consumers.
The family-run Va Bien is among the rarest of fashion hybrids, a heritage shapewear brand. Founded in 1979 — back when shapewear was new (and horribly uncomfortable) — the company was one of several American labels that pioneered advances in stitching, cup shape and body-hugging styles that made shaping garments a wardrobe staple.
In fact, one of their perennial bestsellers, the classic soft cup bodysuit (above), still provides the same sleek look today that it did three decades ago. In a market driven by relentless innovation, the fact that someone still sells a 30-year foundation piece is itself quite an achievement.
The recent popularity of TV retro-themed shows like Pan Am and Mad Men has also given a boost to Va Bien, which offers many styles that have a distinct vintage look and feel.
But regardless of what trends might come and go during red carpet season, Gimble says there will always be a demand for Va Bien‘s products.
“Trends tend to be cyclical,” he says. “But our expertise is in special occasions solutions. There are always going to be weddings and there are always going to be holiday parties. And those kinds of foundations are always going to be in demand.”
Here’s a gallery showing some red-carpet moments, and the Va Bien foundation piece that can help you achieve a comparable look.