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Secret weapons fire the confidence

As body-conscious fashions hit the rails, Sarah Murray's customers put their faith in slimming pants

After a summer of smock dresses, my new autumn deliveries are arriving and a lot of them are figure-huggingly fabulous. As silhouettes become more cinched in and body-conscious dressing is here to stay, we sometimes struggle to sell these fashion-forward looks to women with real figures.

In the past at Jane Davidson, we used to rely on a box of tricks to assist us in clinching sales. These helpful selling tools ranged from bra cups, which can be invisibly sewn into evening gowns to add support, bra strap holders to tidy up a shoulder line, and ingenious hooks that turn normal bras into low, backless ones.

In addition to this we rely on the tailors' shop next door, which can perform near miracles with alterations and provides an incredible one-hour turnaround service.

But suddenly, what goes on beneath our designer dresses seems to have got a lot more sophisticated. We started off by stocking Spanx, apparently the celebrity slimming secret of the moment. Katie Holmes et al have been sporting these quite unattractive shorts and slips, which offer a sleeker, smoother line. These undergarments have now been joined in-store by several products from a company called Fashion First Aid. We now stock Tapeits (double-sided tape to hold your clothes in place), Concealits (nipple covers), invisible thongs and boy shorts with laser-cut seams, and Liftits and Supportits (I'll leave it to your imagination to work out what they do).

We have found it incredible how an appropriately placed piece of adhesive and some power panties can help to sell an expensive designer gown. These figure fixers can give customers the confidence to wear more body-conscious fashions than they would normally feel comfortable with. Larger women are suddenly able to wear more unforgiving fabrics, or a gown under which a traditional bra could not be concealed.

There is, however, one difficulty about these cheeky little add-on sales. At what point in the transaction does one suggest the use of these products? When is it appropriate for a member of my sales team to drop into conversation that the customer may benefit from large slimming pants or an uplift in the bosom area?

There is obviously an extremely fine line between being helpful and being downright insulting. Thankfully, I have experienced sales staff who are skilled at picking the correct moment.

We would usually leave it to the customer to suggest there is room for improvement in a particular area. More often than not, clients have seen some sort of celebrity endorsement of the products and so are willing to give it a try.

I still find it amazing how a pair of Bridget Jones-style pants and some double-sided tape can transform a very ordinary figure into a sexy Scarlett Johansson-esque hourglass. Fashion can so often be cruel, so it's nice for once to be able to cheat a little.

- Sarah Murray is the owner of designer womenswear retailer Jane Davidson in Edinburgh.

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