Shapers not always a cinch

Summer is in full swing, and in the Carolinas, it will be time to show off some skin in tiny tank tops and spaghetti-strap slip dresses for a while.

Full-body slimming suits – miraculous under jeans or a slinky skirt – feel hot and binding when the temperature rises. Luckily, a slew of new sleeveless shaping tops promises to minimize, tighten and lift torsos, love handles, breasts and backs – no crunches or lipo required.

I strapped myself into five modern-day corsets to see which could best mold floppy flesh into a beach body. Two actually created new bulges and left stomach rolls. But the best created a washboard-flat stomach and, more important, enough confidence to last year-round.

By Erin Weinger, Los Angeles Times

1. Yummie Tummie Freedom T

Visibility: This seamless cotton tank top has a shiny spandex midsection so it looks funny worn alone. But it can protect against embarrassment if what you're wearing over it rides up and exposes your slimming secret.

Wiggle Room: My morning routine was unhampered by the comfy, breathable tank. I cooked breakfast, tidied the kitchen, checked e-mail and even lounged in bed without giving the Yummie Tummie a second thought.

Taming the Beast: My stomach was somewhat compressed but the pesky belly was left. The built-in shelf bra lifted and supported very well.

Final Verdict: Not quite the body-shaping miracle touted on “Oprah,” but the most comfortable style tested. $72,

2. Spanx Slim Cognito

Visibility: The extra-wide, adjustable straps kept peeking out of the tank I wore to work — which wouldn't be the worst thing if the fleshy color didn't remind me of grandma's girdle. The bottom also crept up considerably on a 30-second walk from restroom to desk, creating a massive hip and back bulge. Ick.

Wiggle Room: I nearly poked an eye out trying to contort into the terribly tight top. Once on, it felt more like a medical compression device than an aesthetic tummy trimmer.

Taming the Beast: I was so uncomfortable, I thought it had to be doing something. And it was. Rolling up, it created pooches of hip and back fat.

Final Verdict: Many successful outfits are owed to Spanx's beloved body-shaping shorts. But Spanx misses the mark in upper-body sculpting. $74,

3. Instant Shape by Dr. Robert Rey Convertible Strap Corset

Visibility: Removable bra straps made this heavy-duty shaper a cinch to wear underneath a black cotton tank top. Vertical support spines cemented the top firmly in place and kept it from riding up after an hour of sitting. Unlike other corsets, these spines curved when I sat but bounced back into their original shape as soon as I stood up. The plain black style is sexy and doesn't look like a standard body shaper. Perfect under an open blazer or, for the daring, alone as a top.

Wiggle Room: A Playmate-style padded bra and three rows of hook-and-eye closures make this style appear foreboding. But don't judge a corset by its cover. Despite its heavy structure, the shaper is surprisingly comfortable and easy to get on and off.

Taming the Beast: A dramatic transformation. Dr. Rey's corset trimmed my waist, banished back fat and created an hourglass silhouette under an otherwise frumpy cotton top.

Final Verdict: The plastic surgeon-turned-E! reality show star knows a thing or two about reworking bodies. Dr. Rey's shaper lived up to its tag line and really did provide instant shape. For a mere $60, it's the winner, by a belly flop. $60,

4. Shape fx Secret Sculptor Cami

Visibility: It wasn't a sin when this camisole's adjustable bra straps peeked out of a shirt. A worse offense came when the seamless bodice – yep, you guessed it – rolled up and left a lumpy-looking gut.

Wiggle Room: Tight without being unbearable.

Taming the Beast: I felt cinched in, but couldn't actually see a difference in the love levers above the hips.

Final Verdict: The built-in lace underwire bra is pretty but doesn't do much for bigger-than-B-cups. And, uncomfortable though it may be, the bodice doesn't minimize problem areas enough to become a body-shaping staple. $29,

5. Assets by Sara Blakely Fantastic Firmers Tank

Visibility: Smooth as silk, this wide-strap tank didn't pinch problem areas or create extra fat pockets. It doesn't look like a stodgy shaper and can be worn for everyday.

Wiggle Room: I could have lasted longer than the five hours spent in the tank. But after sitting a bit, the top rolled up.

Taming the Beast: Assets didn't tame much. But the tank did reduce one spot: the bust line.

Final Verdict: It's a fine layering piece but not reliable for any tummy reduction. $20-$22,