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CASH OR CREDIT

What Lies Beneath

Five body shapers versus post-holiday paunch. Only one can win.

January 13, 2008|Erin Weinger

Lumps, bumps and jiggle have a way of ruining a perfectly good outfit. But today's modern shape-wear aims to fix the peskiest body woes with comfort. Spanx was the first to make granny panties cool in 1998, and now a bevy of lower-priced products have flooded the market. We put five shapers to the test -- all midsection-to-thigh models, priced from $20 to $68. We went through our daily routines, to see which kept muffin top at bay without restricting blood flow. The variations were, well, massive. One even made our hips look bigger. But the best allowed us to wear items that would be banished until those New Year's resolutions actually have an effect.

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BRAND

Spanx Slim Cognito Shaping Mid Thigh Body Suit, $68. www.spanx.com

BULGE FACTOR

The Rolls-Royce of body shapers is a favorite of Oprah, and its rounded edges and seams do help keep things looking smooth. Still, the edge of the shorts dug into the thigh very slightly, causing a visible bulge underneath a tight cotton dress.

BREATHABILITY

Despite the heavy compression, from mid-chest to lower thigh, Spanx was pretty comfy during a long sit-down dinner, subsequent round of drinks and 20-minute valet stand wait. We never forgot that our bodysuit was on, but as the night wore on it became an afterthought (the drinks may have helped).

MAGIC ERASER

Our spare tire was running a bit flatter than usual, but we weren't completely devoid of the stomach pouch we'd hoped would disappear for the night.

BOTTOM LINE

The same slick fabric that made squeezing into the suit a snap caused our Spanx to roll down into a thick ring around the waist after about 20 minutes of sitting. But once a friend mentioned that we looked skinny, Spanx earned a permanent place in our lingerie lineup.

****

Assets by Sara Blakely Sensational Shaper, $20. www.loveassets.com

BULGE FACTOR

We sported this high-waisted, mid- thigh shaper under a pair of tights and were pleasantly surprised at how seamless it appeared.

BREATHABILITY

For about an hour, we were happy as a clam as we worked at our desk, unable to feel our Assets. Then, out of nowhere, the restrictiveness started to make us feel queasy.

MAGIC ERASER

Our midsection felt smooth as marble in a clingy skirt.

BOTTOM LINE

This lower-priced line from Spanx, available at Target and select Bebe stores, sticks to the design that made the original popular. The Assets lack a silky texture and some of the comfort, but they mask flab nearly as well at a fraction of the cost.

****

Skinny'z by Bordeaux Tummy Shorts, $58. www.bordx.com

BULGE FACTOR

The most highly engineered of the group, Skinny'z are designed to sculpt the flesh. But it took sweat to get them in the right position; otherwise they contoured our legs and hips like a Picasso painting.

BREATHABILITY

We barely made it out the front door without wincing in discomfort.

MAGIC ERASER

Pain before beauty -- our tight backside made us feel like a "Buns of Steel" testimonial, especially in jeans unworn since a past summer spent chained to a treadmill.

BOTTOM LINE

Lavish packaging made us excited to try these blubber busters. But getting into them nearly required the Jaws of Life. The most uncomfortable of the group, they also happened to be the most effective.

**

Sassybax Long Leg Panties, $55. www.sassybax.com

BULGE FACTOR

Our Sassybax didn't squeeze or pinch our less-than-toned areas, which left us hopeful about wearing our favorite green "skinny" dress.

BREATHABILITY

We felt free as a bird in the most comfortable pair of the crew.

MAGIC ERASER

They felt too good to be true for good reason. Sassybax did nothing to minimize the gut gained during the holidays. By falling right above our hips they even created more of an hourglass shape. The green dress got shelved in favor of an oversized top.

BOTTOM LINE

The Sassybax bras that do away with foul back fat are groundbreaking, but the company's venture into lower-body shape-wear is unexceptional.

*

Barely There Comfort Shapers Thigh Shaper in Firm Control, $20. www.barelythere.com

BULGE FACTOR

We love miniskirts and were thrilled that the length of our shorts didn't prevent showing some leg as some of the others did.

BREATHABILITY

Afternoon errands were run with ease, and we didn't feel the need to rip off our shaper the second we got home.

MAGIC ERASER

Our hipbones made a rare appearance. Success!

BOTTOM LINE

Though not as high-waisted as the others, the simple shorts still smoothed the tummy and didn't leave us gasping for air.

*****

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RATINGS: ***** A must have, **** A good addition, *** Take it or leave it, ** In a pinch, * Not even if you're desperate.

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