Spanx and Yummie Tummie are fighting more than fat.
The two shape wear brands are facing-off after designer Heather Thomson accused Spanx founder Sara Blakely of copying her shaping tank top. Thomson posted a letter to Blakely, along with Twitter hashtag 'shameonyouspanx' on her brand's homepage, yummielife.com.
Not one to air it's dirty laundry, Spanx responded in court, requesting declaratory judgment, a common legal strategy for patent cases.
Spanx began in 2000 after Blakely took material similar to nylon pantyhose and noticed the shaping capabilities of the fabric. Initially the product line focused more on shaping pantyhose and lower-body shape wear. The brand expanded into swimwear and lingerie, and also has had shaping tops and shaping outerwear for some time - like a shaping top layered with a tank top.
Fashion stylists have long-used the Spanx shapewear to help keep their clients looking slim and trim, and Spanx are more common now than girdles of the past. Spanx also has a price-conscious line sold at retailers like Target with more affordable shape wear options. Yummie Tummie and Spanx can be found in luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Yummie Tummie started with a concealing tank top that posed as a regular top. Its design and feature is that it can be worn as outerwear or layered. The gimmick is that the tank doesn't roll up or bind, like other too-tight shaping garments tend to to. This trend was picked up by much of young Hollywood, with reality stars and stylists like Lauren Conrad. Like Spanx, Yummie Tummie branched out into other applications of slimming, trimming, and cinching shape wear, like leggings, slips, and outerwear.
Celebrities and actresses like Jennifer Garner, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tyra Banks have all mentioned Spanx's figure flattering power. Oprah made it a favorite thing, while Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez have sung Yummie Tummie's praises.
Neither company has reinvented the wheel here, but both products are effective at squeezing you in, lifting you up, flattening things out, or smoothing and covering lumps and bumps often seen in women's close-fitting styles. The products are for all shapes and sizes to help clothes look better and women feel more confident in their clothing.
Spanx is not the first brand Thomson accused of knocking off her design and infringing on her patent for a product. Yummie Tummie successfully enforced its patent against Maidenform in 2011 for $6.75 million. Maidenform began in 1922, and is credited with one of the first designs for the modern uplift bra. Maidenform acquired Flexees, a popular shape wear brand, in the 1990s.
As long as Americans' waistlines continue to widen, shape wear companies will likely continue fattening their wallets. With fierce competition among many women's lingerie and shape wear brands, you can't blame Thomson for wanting her piece of the pie.
But with the tough economic times ahead, Thomson wanted to protect what she claims is her design on slimming so her profits don't shrink.
Both brands may have helped us hold it in - but now we watch as they let it all hang out.