• Chris T

Rediscovering a Shortcut to an Hourglass Figure

"Blanca Murillo’s morning routine, for the most part, would seem unremarkable to any woman: she washes her face, brushes her teeth, runs a comb through her hair and daubs on makeup. Then, as she has for the past seven years, she tugs on her girdle.

Known as a faja, from the Spanish word for wrap, it was imported from Colombia, one of the world’s cosmetic surgery centers, where until recently it was used mostly for postoperative wear by recovering liposuction patients to keep swelling to a minimum and ensure that the skin tightens properly. But it has been embraced by young Latinas — and increasingly by other women — as a shortcut to a curvaceous body.

“You see the love handles?” asked Ms. Murillo, 33, a trim hairdresser who stands a doll-like 4 feet 3 inches tall, as she pinched a small fold of flesh at her midsection and lifted her shirt to reveal a well-worn faja. “With this, you hide it.”

For over 50 years, women in America have largely cast off such constrictive undergarments, which feminists criticized as symbols of repression. The nylon and Lycra underwear brand Spanx has been credited with reintroducing, and reacclimating, women to the concept of extra help for figure problems, but it may have also opened the door to a new generation of young women embracing the faja, which is far closer to the real thing — in all its organ-shifting, curve-exaggerating strength.

Such girdles are a resurgent fashion phenomenon to a growing number of women who wriggle into them each day without a thought of what Gloria Steinem might say. Their newfound popularity is very much in evidence — or at least, the results are — on the streets of Corona, Queens, where Reggaeton music accompanies the rumble of the elevated subway, and where many immigrants from Colombia live.

The faja, from the Spanish word for wrap, is a popular body shaper at Weightloss R'Us.

The fajas comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, from full-body jumpsuits to tight belly bands, for women as well as men. The effects depend on the fabric heft of the fajas; they come in Lycra, cotton, nylon and latex. The less forgiving the material, the more flattering the effect. Prices typically run from $40 to over $140, depending on the fabric and how much of the body it covers.

“There is a Spanish saying, you want to look ‘like a Coke bottle,’ ” said Lilliana Rios, 33, who reflects on the faja on her blog ThingsLatinosLoveorHate.com. “A lot of Spanish songs talk about women with shapes like a guitar, so that’s the curved look that Latina women want."

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