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Fashion | SENSE OF STYLE

A Squeeze Could Get You Going

June 26, 1997|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

The next time you see a beach volleyball player or mountain biker enjoying a post-workout latte wearing tight spandex shorts, don't write her off as a show-off intent on displaying well-defined quadriceps and a butt that defies gravity.

A five-year study conducted at the Penn State Center for Sports Medicine found that performance improved by an average of 12% when athletes wore stretchy garments that compressed their muscles. Muscle vibration, the principal cause of muscle fatigue, decreased, and strength and endurance increased, as did the accuracy and efficiency of the athletes' movements.

DuPont, which licenses the Lycra trademark, will identify sports clothes that meet standards established by the Penn State study with special Lycra Power hangtags.

Tight shorts have long been worn by bicycle racers, weightlifters and gym bunnies. Basketball players who trained in spandex started layering stretchy shorts under their baggy uniforms a few years ago, as did soccer players. Now hikers and runners have a reason to do the same. Converse makes a women's Lycra Power running tight that could be an Alpine skier's bottom layer, and cross-country enthusiasts can wear theirs under knickers.

Amateur athletes focused on achieving their personal best will appreciate looking good, being comfortable and feeling less tired. And that's something to lift a latte to.

For information on stores selling Lycra Power sports garments, call (888) 932-7294.

Road Test: Oprah Winfrey and model Lauren Hutton were trading tips on a recent fashion-themed show when Hutton suggested that Hanes Alive support hose sucked up bulges when worn under pants, so women who wanted to fool the world into believing they were natural sylphs need only cut off the feet of their pantyhose.

Lauren, you devil!

Even in a season when sheer fabrics are so plentiful that camisoles and body liners have become hot--and very necessary--items, a flash of naked ankle can be sexy. And the shoes of the season--slides, mules and ankle-strapped sandals--are meant to be worn with bare toes.

So we decided to road-test Hutton's tip.

The good news is, if you're addicted to the slimming effect of support hose, they don't suffer from being cut off. In a way, then, Hutton's suggestion worked.

But the soft brush of silk or linen trousers against the skin in summer can be as refreshing as a breeze. Why muck up that pleasure with a tight, hot layer underneath? To look a millimeter trimmer?

Hanes also makes a body-contouring nylon and spandex pantyhose meant to be worn under trousers that include panels designed to flatten the tummy and smooth jiggling thighs.

The Smooth Illusions Custom Contours feature a heavier, almost girdle-like fabric above the knee and a sheer lower leg. When cut, they had an annoying way of curling up to the knee, so unless you have piano-leg calves in need of help, it's probably best to amputate just below the lace band that separates the heavier and lighter textures.

The Smooth Illusions felt less strangulating than the Hanes Alive, but the discomfort of the pantliners was great enough to prompt a meditation on the power of inner beauty, which the no-longer-young Hutton has long credited for her success.

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