We should welcome the cold weather with open bingo-winged arms, writes Sarah Vine, because now we can all get back to wearing our big pants, Bridget Jones style...

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Autumn is my favourite time of year. It’s not just the vibrant colours and the excitement of a new pencil case; it’s the fact that for the first time in months I can dress like a grown-up again. No more flimsy summer clothes or floral prints; no more strappy sandals and exposed expanses of cottage-cheese flesh. Autumn means proper clothes, clothes that cover me up, keep me in and make me feel safe. Specifically, big pants.

Big pants in summer are impossible. The combination of sweat and Spandex never produces pleasant results, even if you can tolerate the discomfort. But now that it’s a little cooler, I can once again tuck my tummy safely away where it can’t frighten anyone.

The first thing to understand about control pants is that you shouldn’t really expect them to make you look slimmer. Whatever the promises on the box, the fact is they can only ever contain those excess pounds, not melt them away. If you want serious shaping, then you’ll have to resort to a corset.

Almost the most important thing is the fit. Too small, and your blubber will spill out, creating muffin tops in the oddest of places. Too big, and you might as well not bother. As a general rule, one size larger than your usual dress size should be about right.

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If the area you are trying to disguise is your gut, choose something that goes all the way up to your bra. Anything that bisects the stomach is likely to create an overhang. Under dresses, you may want to go for something with straps, since these will also minimise the dreaded back fat (those little pockets of bra overspill). If you’re using them to smooth your thighs, chances are you’re one of those lucky pear women, in which case you might be fine with something that stops at the waist.

Having tried pretty much all the brands, I would say that Spanx are the Volvo in this field: dull but effective. Part of this is down to the fabric, which is lovely and soft, and feels very breathable, and to the sheer amount of choice: there really is a pair of Spanx for every body type and occasion. Their tights are especially comfortable, and last for ages. M&S has a very popular range, but choose carefully: the sizing is often wrong, and the fabrics can be scratchy and hot. I particularly like Triumph’s range, which is simple and chic, and Rigby & Peller offer surprisingly good value for money.

Anyway, here are a few of my favourites. Shoehorn not included.

Best for tummy-taming

Spanx Higher Power Brief , £34. This is great for everyday wear, very long-lasting, comfortable, and available in two colours, black and nude. It’s good for creating a bit of a waist too.

Best for thighs

Triumph Cool Sensation , £36. Special breathable fabric, very pretty and comes in three great colours: black, white and grey.

Best for bottoms

Marks and Spencer Light Control Bum Lift Body , £29.50. Pretty lacy fabric, very effective and ideal for wearing under dresses, since it holds you in at the back too.

Best for boobs

Rigby & Peller PrimaDonna Belleville Underwired Body , £155. All too often the bras on these things are useless; not so with this model, which also comes in a variety of colours and patterns, all beautifully feminine.

Best for bingo wings

Marks and Spencer Light Control Cupless Armwear Crop Top , £22.50. Pretty enough to wear with sleeveless dresses, this clever little garment covers up arms in stretchy lace. No woman over 40 (apart from Madonna, naturally) should be without one.