Gemma Cartwright writes...

Visible panty line, bra straps on show, whale tail, camel hoof, white undies with black clothing, black undies with white clothing...there are so many ways to get underwear wrong and I think we've all done it at least once. It's a real bugbear of mine, and through my mistakes I've learned the key to dressing well is to start with your undies. As well as the obvious sexy lingerie, beautiful separates and great hosiery we can now pick up (even if we're on the larger side) there's now a plethora of shapewear on the market that promises to hide and disguise or flaunt and flatter the bits that are on show. Here are my top five underwear issues, and suggested ways to solve them...

1. Visible bra straps

Sometimes on the right girl with the right dress / top, this can look quite cool. On most of us, it looks ridiculous. A particular 'favourite' misdemeanour of mine is to match a regular bra with a racerback top. Those visible straps on the back just reminds me of the slutty girls at school who would find a way of showing their bra at every opportunity. Once you hit 20, you're on rocky ground. Invest in a racerback converter for a few pennies, and that'll solve the problem. It's also brilliant if - like me - you find your bra straps slip all the time. And if you simply must show your straps, make sure they're pretty ones designed for the purpose!

2. Visible panty line

Obviously there is a very simple solution to VPL, and that is to go commando. But don't get me started on this...we've all seen those paparazzi shots of Britney, Lindsay and co. Much better is the wonderful inventions that are microfibre and seamless stretch cotton. Pick a pair of seamless knickers and you're halfway there. Just remember to be generous where size is concerned, especially if you're curvy. If your knickers dig in, you'll get a line. If they skim your body you're more likely to get a smooth finish. In really extreme curcumstances (like when you've put on a few pounds and you're trying to squeeze into a dress that used to fit you perfectly) there's only one thing for it. Spanx Higher Power or Trinny & Susannah's Magic Knickers. They might not look sexy, but they can shave off half a stone...!

3. Tights that dig in and leave a ridge

How much do I hate this? Let me count the ways! If you have even the tiniest bit of soft flesh, you're pretty much guaranteed the elasticated waistband of a pair of tights will dig in and leave you with a ridge. The solution? Firstly, pick the right tights - go larger and they'll be longer, meaning you can pull them up to bra level (NOT sexy, but if you're wearing a dress you might be able to get away with it). Pick ones with wide waistbands if you can, and go for wool in winter, it's both warmer and more forgiving. To avoid the line completely, go for good old-fashioned stocking instead. There are some great hold-ups in high deniers available which give you smooth lines, look great and mean you don't have to mess around with suspender belts (unless you want to).

4. The wrong sized bra

If I can give every woman one piece of advice, it's to go and get remeasured for a bra. Even if you had it done previously, it's worth a second trip, especially if you've gained or lost weight. There are so many telltale signs to look out for if you think you've got it wrong, from straps that dig in and cups that give you the 'four boob' effect to bands that ride up at the back or central panels that sit away from the chest. Do yourself a favour, get remeasured and don't be one of the thousands of women who don't flatter their assets in the right sized bra, it'll show no matter how beautiful your clothes are.

5. Crappy 'problem solving' underwear

Some of us are lucky enough to be able to get away with no bra. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them, and as a result I own every kind of mutiway, strapless, backless and stick-on bra on the market. They're all rubbish. I've lost track of the strapless bras I've chucked away (word of caution - the strapless wonderbra is NOT an option if you're bigger than a B cup) and have only recently found one that does what it's supposed to without falling down or digging in (bless you, Marks and Spencer). Sadly it has lace on it, so it's not great under close-fitting items. Sometimes I think it would be easier to let it all hang out and not worry about the consequences...or commit the cardinal sin and wear a bra that shows. But now I know there is help out there. It's called the Hide & Seek control slip, it's by Spanx, and it is absolute genius under strapless dresses. Just breathe in!