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Is it worth it? Poseur or hosier?

A Rolls-Royce for your legs... We road-test Fogal tights, pounds 37.50 a pair
Fogal doesn't go in for pretty pictures of short-skirted, long- legged women to sell their tights. Instead, they use plain, sensible, photo-less packaging. This, you might think, is not a flimsy fashion item but serious hosiery handed down from a long line of lederhosen experts (Fogal hails from Switzerland). Well, think again.

The Murano Slimline control-top tights cost pounds 37.50, come in small, medium and long and an assortment of colours. They are made from 83 per cent nylon, 16 per cent lycra and one per cent silk. These are the Rolls-Royce of tights, favoured by fashion editors in the fast lane.

Less of a hosiery corset and more of an optical illusion, the control- top is made from alternate strips of thick and fine denier so you look like you're wearing a particularly flattering pair of shorts. However, they don't make a perceivable difference to your silhouette - they just feel like they do.

These ultra-luxurious tights are superbly made, from the hand-stitched waistband with its little zigzag of red cotton which tells you back from front, to the comfortable flat-stitched toe seam. They are made from 80 denier but feel as light as a feather.

However, there is a snag. Mine laddered the first time I wore them. Admittedly, I may have tugged one of the sheer denier strips a little too hard, but after taking extra care a second time, they laddered on the other side. By the end of a week, I had three ladders working their way competently down my legs. Not a good sign, especially when the tights are robustly semi-opaque.

Why are they so expensive then? "We use a most expensive micro-yarn," explains Walter Stangl, Fogal's director and product manager. "It's made from 65 fibres and is knitted together with a very high-class Lycra then double covered with polyamide." But why did it ladder? "I can't understand it," he says. "We have 100 ladies who test our products. Maybe some needle wasn't working properly, but if I could see them I could tell you immediately what when wrong." Unfortunately, Mr Stangl lives in Switzerland.

At Marks & Spencer, a pair of semi-opaque, 60-denier, Body Shaper tights, complete with cotton gusset, costs pounds 4.50. The control-top is made from plain, heavy-duty denier with no fancy stitching. "They are made from 84 per cent nylon, 15 per cent lycra and one per cent cotton and have no special yarns," explains M&S spokeswoman Lisa Pevovar. "They are just like our usual semi-opaques, except they have got the control-top."

Meanwhile, at Aristoc, Uplift are the latest control-top tights from its Body Toner range, made from 93 per cent nylon, six per cent lycra and one per cent cotton. "The lycra content is much higher than it says on the packet," explains brand director Sue Clague, "because the opaque product weighs a lot in relation to the lycra. There is a huge amount of lycra sewn into the body and on the leg, but the percentages are measured by the weight rather than the content.

"The tights are made from micro-fibres and the control top is hand-stitched to the 60-denier legs. They also have a cotton gusset and flat-locked, hand-stitched seams."

Sounds familiar? I doubt they match Fogal for comfort, but they're up there with the finer details. They cost pounds 6 and couldn't ladder any faster than their luxurious counterparts.