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Under Control : Pantyhose that promise to flatten--and flatter--you are improving. We tested six versions.

March 18, 1994|CINDY LaFAVRE YORKS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Control-top pantyhose can squeeze the life out of you.Yet working women endure them, often 10 hours a day or more, because they want the payoff: a flatter-looking tummy, butt and thighs.

Thankfully, figure-altering pantyhose have gotten better over the years. New, forgiving Lycra has improved the support mechanism. And pinching waistbands and sagging crotches, to name two of the problems associated with control-tops, seem to be waning with "memory" yarns that hold their shape and improve ours.

Here are my impressions of a sampling of control-top pantyhose I recently tested for fit, longevity and "suck-in" ability.

I faithfully followed the accompanying height and weight charts, a must for proper fit, and wore each pair for a minimum of seven hours.

Round the Clock Extra Firm/Extra Control Top, $7 in department stores

The hose went on snugly but felt fine after five minutes of give. Because they're not sheer to waist, wearing a micro mini, if I owned one, was out of the question. After seven hours, I found no horizontal stretch marks in the fabric or runs of any kind. And for $7, this brand costs considerably less than others with comparable girdle capabilities.

Hanes Smooth Illusions Body Contouring Pantyhose (medium-control), $8.95.

I signed up for industrial-strength tummy control when I climbed into these babies. My stomach was impressively flatter, my less-than-rock-hard thighs looked as if they had done Thighmaster workouts. The fit was good--no bagging anywhere. And nary a hole or a run at day's end, even after a cat-claw puncture.

Anne Klein Collections Signature Sheer Contour Control Top Pantyhose (silky sheer leg with Lycra, sandalfoot), $9 in department stores.

Although I'm sure I pulled them on straight, the hose initially felt twisted, then relaxed after about 15 minutes. Moderate control, with no bagging at the knees or pinching at the waistband. As I prepared to take them off, I noticed little marks in the fabric where the hose met up with my shoes.

Donna Karan New York Sheer Satin Hosiery (control top), $11.50 in department stores.

With so many endorsements from friends as well as professional wardrobe stylists, I was eager to give this brand a go. Although I noticed two pinhead-size holes when I pulled on the DKNYs, neither got bigger nor triggered a run. The sheer look was pleasing, the control factor only moderate.

Givenchy Body Smoothers Support Pantyhose (with longer, firmer control top), $9.50 in department stores.

This pair felt as stiff as wax paper out of the package but did a remarkable job of "toning" abdomen and thighs. Fans of ultra minis need not buy them, though, as the panty part extends from waist to three inches above the knee. Surprisingly, comfort and sheerness were not sacrificed for control. Even at $9.50 a pair, I'm tempted to load up, or at least watch for sales.

Hanes Silk Reflections Silky Sheer (control-top sandalfoot pantyhose), $5.50 in department and drugstores.

The luxurious, literally silky "hand," or feel, of the fabric was as attractive as the price tag. Moderate tummy control, superior comfort. After seven hours, I noticed a dozen or so of those annoying horizontal stretch marks in the fabric, but this pair otherwise performed well.

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