Undergarments That Make You Shape Up

Dear Fashion Police: What is a body shaper, and do you have any advice on selecting a good one? I read a little item in a magazine recently that deplored girdles and advocated body shapers instead. Are they strictly for use with dresses and skirts, or can you wear them with slacks, too? I've known women who wear pantyhose under slacks; I tried that but find that it just feels weird--and is too hot for our climate much of the year. I've never felt comfortable in knee-high nylons, either--they somehow make me feel like somebody's grandmother.



Dear Needs: We have to confess, we've never tried one of those shapers. We also try to avoid wearing pantyhose whenever we can (we prefer tights) and stay away from any item of clothing that claims to have a "control top." Not that we wouldn't like to smooth down a bulge or two, but we hate that claustrophobic, encased-in-a-plastic-bag feeling.

That's not to say this new generation of girdles isn't comfortable. Through the miracle of technology, we've evolved from bone-crunching corsets and breath-shortening girdles to stretchy shapers that can help flatten tummies and minimize rear ends and thighs. They come in panty styles, half and full slips, teddies and long-line briefs that end just above the knee. They can be worn under slacks, but with light-colored unlined pants, wear a color that matches your skin tone to avoid visible lines.

Most shapers are made of micro-fiber (usually a combination of nylon and spandex) with a cotton panel at the crotch, which allows air to circulate. Although these are an improvement from their predecessors, we can't guarantee they're painless and sweat-free. We'd love to hear from those of you who have tried them, and let us know about the good, the bad and the ugly. (Please include your name and contact information if you want your comments to be included in the column.)

If you'd like to try a shaper in the meantime, you should be able to find various styles at major department stores. Online they're available though QVC (they carry the Legacy brand), http://www.qvc.com , or call (800) 345-1515. Also check out One Hanes Place http://www.onehanesplace.com , or call (800) 671-1674), which carries a variety of styles and brands. Lingerie-Direct http://www.lingeriedirect.com , (800) 447-1082) also carries various types of shapers.


Dear Fashion Police: I enjoy swimming but hate to get my head wet. Until last year I had no problem purchasing swim caps with chin straps. After exhausting searches, the only cap I've found is a Speedo, which is uncomfortable and pops off my head with the first strokes. What is going on?



Dear In: Heck if we know! That's why we called the U.S. Olympic swim team to find out what caps they wear. Speedo is the team's sponsor, so, a spokeswoman told us, most of the athletes, who sport short hair, wear Speedo. However, they do have the option of choosing another brand, and some favor Nike.

She also gave us some overall tips on choosing a cap: How it fits and stays on varies greatly depending on the size and shape of your head, how much hair you have and the kind of swimming you do (i.e. recreational versus racing). What may work great for one swimmer might be a disaster for another, so she suggested road testing a few to find the one that works best. (Find out the store or Web site's return policy first so you don't spend a ton of dough.)

We went to the Speedo Web site and, lo and behold, we found two caps with straps! The textured latex Bubble cap ($10) is described as being heavy-duty with an anti-roll edge ($10). The Aqua Fitness cap ($10) has a smoother finish and is also "thick and durable." Both are available in one size.

Speedo's other swim caps are in the standard semicircle shape and come in latex, Lycra, latex and Lycra, and silicone. The Lycra cap has seams and feels more like fabric. The latex and Lycra cap has a three-panel construction with latex on the outside, Lycra on the inside and an elastic band around the bottom that's supposed to help it stay on (it also comes in small/medium and medium/large). The one-size silicone cap has a soft texture, is stretchy, and the company says it won't pull your hair. You can check out their site at http://www.speedo.com , or call (888) 477-3336.


Write to Fashion Police, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles CA 90012, fax to (213) 237-4888, or send e-mail to socalliving@latimes.com.

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