A parent's guide to buying femme shapewear for your child
Maybe your child has come out to you as trans or non-binary, or maybe they've simply shared that they wish to wear different undergarments or are curious about tucking. If you're a parent or guardian who is unfamiliar with what femme shapewear/tucking gaffs are or what to do next, you're in the right place.
What is femme shapewear/a gaff?
Femme shapewear, also commonly called a "gaff," is a pair of specially-designed compression underwear that can help trans femme folks (or anyone else with a penis) achieve a flatter, more gender-affirmed silhouette.
Some people may choose to also tuck while wearing these garments. Tucking is the way in which someones can hide the penis and testes, such as moving the penis and scrotum between the buttocks, or moving the testes up into the inguinal canals.
While anyone of any gender may choose to wear femme shapewear (regardless of whether or not they choose to tuck), for many trans and non-binary individuals, it is a vital tool in alleviating gender dysphoria: the feeling of distress that may occur for people whose internal sense of gender is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. In short, wearing a gaff helps many trans youth and adults feel more at ease, confident, and safer when in public.
For young individuals who are exploring their gender identity or experimenting with their presentation, wearing femme shapewear can be a valuable means of self-discovery. Even if they do not ultimately identify as transgender, these undergarments offer an opportunity to delve into and better understand their own feelings and preferences.
For youth and adults who are presenting as femme in public—through makeup or gendered clothing like dresses and swimsuits, for example—wearing femme shapewear can be extremely affirming. It can also help with safety and mitigating the risk of anti-queer harassment.
At Point of Pride, we regularly hear from youth and adults about how wearing a gaff positively transforms their mental health and their overall ability to show up more authentically and confidently, whether that's in the classroom, the workplace, or everyday life.
"My gaff helps me feel super comfortable wearing the clothing I want to, without worrying as much that I'll be clocked as trans when in public. This has reduced my social anxiety so, so much."
"I'm so grateful to have femme shapewear, to feel pretty and feminine... but most importantly, to not have to worry about my dysphoria. I can just focus on the things that I want to."
"Wearing femme shapewear boosts my confidence and helps me feel at ease with my body and my spirit."
Health considerations: putting safety first
Wearing femme shapewear is not without some risk. Because it does compress an area of our body where we tend to sweat a lot, it's important to watch out for chafing and skin irritation. In order to ensure your child's comfort, we always recommend paying close attention to:
- garment size. It's not uncommon for some people to try to wear a garment that is a size smaller than what their measurements indicate in the hopes it produces a flatter result. Not only is this ineffective, but it can be extremely uncomfortable or impossible to put on. It's important to measure following your retailer/manufacturer's instructions on how to measure properly.
- garment materials and construction. Spandex/microfiber blends tend to offer the best mix of breathability, comfort, and compression. Materials like cotton are great for breathability and price, though they will lose shape over time and need to be replaced. Natural fibers, on the other hand, should be avoided: silk and other "slippery" materials can cause movement and discomfort.
- the amount of time your child wears one. Some healthcare experts have shared that wearing compression underwear can raise body temperature by more than 5 degrees, which can lead to sweating, chafing, rashes, and skin issues. You may choose to talk with your child about days where wearing shapewear and/or tucking is less important and times they can go without wearing it (i.e. on the weekend, when around the house) and what to check for in terms of skin irritation or physical signs that a break is needed. Additionally, we always recommend taking femme shapewear off before going to sleep as a way to give your body an extended rest period.
If the garment is ever painful or uncomfortable to wear, we recommend to stop wearing it right away. Additionally, when it comes to tucking, some experts have cautioned about the potential effects on fertility, now or in the future. Always talk to your child's healthcare providers if you have questions regarding compression underwear and/or tucking.
Choosing the right femme shapewear garment
Finding the right garment is essential for comfort and effectiveness.
- Follow sizing charts: Different brands may have their own sizing charts, so be sure to check the specific measurements they provide for each size. Compare your child's measurements to the brand's sizing recommendations to determine the right size.
- Consider material and style: As mentioned above, pay attention to the types of fabrics used and ensure they provide compression and stability as well as breathability.
- Brand reputation and reviews: Well-established brands that specialize in gender-affirming clothing may offer more reliable and comfortable products Look for reviews and recommendations from other folks in the community before you purchase.
- Speak with an affirming healthcare professional: If you have specific medical or physical concerns related to wearing shapewear or tucking, consult with a knowledgeable healthcare professional or gender-affirming specialist. They can offer guidance on safe tucking practices and recommend appropriate products.
Many folks use substitute garments for a variety of reasons: price, access, ease. Before buying shapewear, your child might choose to try a swimsuit bottom as an alternative for a gaff. Panties made of tightly-woven Spandex or a microfiber blend also work well, too.
Or, some folks skip a garment altogether and use a product like KT tape, which is designed to stick on skin and provide compression and stability. Then, your child can wear whatever clothing they choose.
Some brands to consider as you research:
There may be local retailers or boutique shops that carry products from these manufacturers and more. Deciding where to purchase a gaff depends on your child's preferences, your level of access, and your level of comfort.
Pros: Online retailers often have a broader range of options in terms of sizes, styles, and colors, allowing your child to find a garment that suits their preferences more easily. You can also easily read reviews and comparison shop across different retailers to find the best deal.
Cons: When shopping online, you can't evaluate the shapewear materials or construction in-person. Depending on your location and the retailer, shipping times may be significant, and returns or exchanges may also take some time.
Pros: In-store staff can provide assistance with sizing, fitting, and guidance based on your child's preferences. You may have more confidence that the garment is the right choice before making a purchase, often in a supportive and affirming environment.
Cons: In-store options are often limited in terms of sizes, styles, and colors. Most importantly, your ability to access a brick-and-mortar store that sells gaffs may be limited, depending on where you live.
Femme shapewear donation programs
Not everyone is able to afford or easily obtain femme shapewear. Point of Pride operates one of the largest free femme shapewear donation program of its kind, serving thousands of people in all 50+ states and around the world. The garment and all shipping expenses are 100% free for recipients, and we operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Our only requirements would be that your child identify as trans and they/your family have financial need or other barriers that make it difficult to obtain femme shapewear.
Some GSAs, community organizations, and trans support groups have their own smaller, localized donation programs. We recommend reaching out to LGBTQ+ organizations in your area to see if one such program might be available near your family. If you live in the U.S., CenterLink's Community Center Directory is a great tool to start your search.
Trans and gender-diverse young people who are supported by their parents and guardians are 2x more likely to report life satisfaction, 5x more likely to report high self-esteem, and 4.5x more likely to describe their mental health as “Very Good” or “Excellent.”
Allowing your child to have femme shapewear—and having open conversations about safer tucking techniques, as well as other areas of their journey—is just one way you can approach them with love, compassion, and a willingness to learn. Thank you for being here!
Related reading & resources
Written by Point of Pride
Point of Pride provides financial aid and direct support to trans folks in need of health and wellness care.