THERE are some fabulous sweater dresses around at the moment which are smart and cosy, easy and comfortable to wear, and which would be ideal for wearing to the office. However, for most women with a “normal” figure, lumps and bumps that you never even knew you had seem to appear as soon as you pull on one of these dresses. I think we’re all so used to being trussed up like turkeys that even at the sight of an unstructured dress, the muscles seem to relax and go all wobbly.

The answer? Buy yourselves a neat pair of magic knickers. Spanx were the original and probably still the best, and they quite literally pack all the lumpy bits into one neat package. Once you’ve discovered these, the clingy clothing section of any shop will be opened up to you. All those dresses that you haven’t dared to even think about, let alone try on, will suddenly be accessible because Spanx help smooth out your silhouette underneath the clothing, and improve your shape.

For evenings out, I love the patterned tights that are around at the moment, from geometric to animal, to seamed. M&S and H&M also do some very pretty floral mesh tights that will instantly update that simple outfit that’s still good for the second year. Tights will also help to firm and smooth the thighs, but they also tend to generate static electricity and make an unlined dress stick inexorably to your legs. Try spraying your hair spray up your skirt to prevent this. Otherwise Spanx also do some half and full slips that will do the smoothing, stop the static and look great if you’re into hold-ups or stockings. Beware of bare legs: the blue, mottled look is not a pretty sight – a sheer covering is much more attractive. While short skirts are in fashion, get those pins looking gorgeous right up to your armpits.

Sara Hollamby is a business image consultant with WorkingVoices.com. Email sarahollamby@blueyonder.co.uk