- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lee Ann Stevenson is hoping to do for arms what Spanx undergarments did for thighs. The truth is, women’s anxiety zones know no boundaries. That’s why Ms. Stevenson, who lives in Columbia, Md., invented and patented FLABuLESS, support garments that aim to reduce the size and create a toned look for the upper arm the same way Spanx and its many spinoffs and imitators work on the legs and midsection.

“It seems no matter how much you work out, arms are always a concern,” says Ms. Stevenson, 30. Her awareness of the universal flabby arm concern was heightened at her wedding in 2005 - sleeveless dresses are in style - and after the birth of her baby last year.

“I took my baby to classes, and the moms there were complaining about their arms,” she says.

FLABuLESS is essentially a nylon-and-spandex compression garment that fits over the arms and around the back and shoulders, so wearers don’t have to wear an entire piece of clothing under, say, a sweater or blouse. There is the Pleine Sleeve ($51), which offers shoulder-to-wrist coverage and is meant to be worn under long-sleeved clothing.

The De Quart Sleeve ($47) offers elbow-length coverage and is mainly to be worn under three-quarter-length sleeves. The Casquette Sleeve ($41) is a cap-sleeve style that can be worn under short sleeves.

FLABuLESS shape wear, which is manufactured by a contractor, runs in seven sizes from small to 3XL and in nude and black colors.

The garments won’t help you if you dare to go sleeveless, but Ms. Stevenson is working on an addition to her lineup. Coming soon is the Veston, which is meant to be worn over sleeveless clothing, kind of like a tight, shrug-style cardigan sweater.

Ms. Stevenson, who worked on the product for four years before taking it to market, says focus groups found that FLABuLESS took from 1 1/2 inches to 2 3/4 inches off of their arm measurements.

The products are available through the company’s Web site (www.Flabulessu.com), but Ms. Stevenson is hoping to have a contract with a department store soon.

Ms. Stevenson, who does not have prior fashion-industry experience, says she is inspired by the story of Spanx founder Sara Blakely, who cut the feet off her pantyhose a decade ago to give her body a smoother look while wearing pants. Soon she was awarded a patent, but her product was rejected by store after store.

In time, Neiman-Marcus agreed to carry this millennium’s answer to a lightweight girdle. After Oprah sang the praises of Spanx, sales skyrocketed, and the company recently recorded more than $150 million in sales. A Glamour magazine editor says so many women are wearing Spanx that they are like “hosiery crack.”

Spanx makes many undergarments, including camisoles aimed at taming back fat, but so far nothing that targets only the upper arms. All sizes of women are wearing Spanx - from the already thin to the ones who want to look 10 pounds thinner.

Ms. Stevenson hopes for a similar upper-arm revolution.

“Whether you are 15 or 50, we all want to look good in our clothes,” she says.

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