I'm immediately entranced by any product that includes the word 'magic' in its brand name. That and 'instant'. So when the Marks & Spencer Magic Secret Support slip promised that it would melt away pounds instantly, I was already half-way to the dressing room, lost in a reverie of me seducing men. And that's where the problems started. Claustrophobia is a frightening feeling, but when it's brought on by a tight piece of fabric which refuses to budge from the neck area, it's near terrifying. The piece slipped over my head alright, but it just couldn't be coaxed any further. I calmed myself down with long, deep breaths. I counted slowly to ten. I considered calling for help. And then I caught sight of myself in the mirror. The image that stared back at me -- a tangle of limb, fabric and fat -- was enough to spur on one final tug. With a good degree of wriggling, writhing and praying, it was finally on.
My capacity for delusion is as large as my desire to look slim. I thought this piece would make me look like a Herve Leger model; I looked more like an ageing brothel owner.
Sensible people always ask where the excess weight goes with body-shaping underwear. I used to think it just magically poofed away, at least according to Gok Wan.
Not the case. Some of the excess weight oozed out over the bra line while the rest was collected in a paunch around my mid-section. The hem of the slip cut into my thighs to showcase just how many layers of adipose tissue I have accumulated, while my breasts spilled forth like something from a Botticelli painting.
The dressing room assistant suggested I pick up a size bigger, but pride got the better of me (it only cut off my breathing for two minutes, after all) and I headed to the counter. Besides, this is not about the underwear, rather how the underwear wears the clothes.
I plumped for two outfits -- a black dress and that most unflattering of pairings: jeggings and a tight white T-shirt. While I felt considerably neater and more compact while wearing the body-shaping underwear, what I saw in the mirror was a different story.
Perhaps it's just my body shape, but the garment seemed to enhance rather than hide my wobbly bits. It accentuates the waistline alright... by pushing everything towards the tum.
The photographer thought I looked slimmer without it. I'd be inclined to agree. It was uncomfortable, too. I was constantly aware of the superhero-like reinforced fabric clinging to my body and the need to stand rather than sit. I felt like I was waiting to exhale.
The pluses, though, are many: it's breathable, so the heavy fabric and proximity to the skin won't cause clamminess. M&S also offers the piece in cup sizes DD-G, which is unusual with body-shaping underwear.
It's good for postural alignment: the corset-like feel of the underwear made me stand straighter and carry my body in a more feminine way.
It's also a highly effective contraceptive, as is most body-shaping underwear, thanks to the universally unappealing designs. The Magic Secret Support slip is different. It's actually quite a sexy-looking piece. The problem is getting it off again should a gentleman caller come calling.
It raises the question: would you sacrifice comfort, mobility and dignity in a bid to look slimmer? The obvious answer is yes, of course I would. Had this hidden even a scintilla of excess weight, I'd wear it every day. Unfortunately it didn't.
Ultimate Magic Secret Support Firm Control slip, €52 @ Marks & Spencer