A girl's guide to 'magic' underwear

You've found a perfect little black dress for the Christmas party – but what are you going to wear under it? Control underwear will help smooth out any lumps and bumps, whatever your size, and ensure a flattering fit. Whether you want to appear slimmer or just smooth your shape, here are a few of the 'magic' lingerie products available...

Debenhams control lingerie

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Forget Bridget Jones granny pants, control underwear has come a long way in recent years and even the celebs wear Spanx these days.

Slimming underwear comes in all shapes and sizes and can help firm and shape every area of your body. Although they may seem expensive, they're a worthwhile investment and buying a quality garment should ensure it lasts.

Some products are designed to flatten the stomach area, while others come with tummy, bust and thigh support. Try on garments in different control levels – from light to firm control, and don't be tempted to buy a size too small – you don't want to be uncomfortable all night.

What dress are you wearing?
Those that extend beyond the bottom tend to look best if you're squeezing into a slinky number for the party season as there will be no sign of the dreaded VPL. But many of the big shapewear brands now offer strapless slips, full body suits and high-waisted products so there's control for every occasion.

Spanx are the magic knickers of choice for the stars and they offer a variety of shapes - the Super Higher Power variety (£30) extend to just below the bust and smooth out hips, thighs and behind whilst giving you a slimmer silhouette around the middle. According to the makers these enable you to "drop a dress size" in an instant.

You won't be impressing anyone in the bedroom with these but they are comfortable and offer a good all-round slimming effect.

Similarly the Ultimo Extreme Makeover Control Short (£25) is excellent for smoothing your contours and flattening the mid-section without the tell-tale muffin top.

Muffin top and other unsightly bulges can be a problem with the M&S Ultimate Magic Body Define knickers (£20) but they do offer an all-in-one which avoids such troubles and they provide plenty of comfort.

If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, the Aldi Skin To Skin Body Shaping Briefs (£2.99) deliver a decidedly smoother result from waist to thigh.

For slimming that doesn't leave your chest hanging, the Debenhams' control body shaper (£32) does the trick for the middle but can leave a noticeable knicker line if you're donning a figure-hugging dress this year. It does have the advantage of straps, of course, so you won't experience any embarrassing roll-down.

However, Gok Wan's Super Slicker Knicker (£30) does a wonderful of job of cinching in the waist as well as holding in the belly bulge - but be warned... while effective, the Super Slicker Knicker does contain boning in the waist area and you could end up feeling the pinch if you're out for a sit-down do.

Whatever your budget, invest in some 'magic undies' and you'll look even more fantastic in that fabulous party dress.