Right to wear arms: Armoury, the hot new fashion trend

Arms are the punctuation mark of the body: to hug, to hold, to seize, to embrace. And a well-toned arm is a very sexy thing, as Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge have proved.

But exposing your arms can also be a sartorial nightmare. A recent survey found that 75 per cent of women hated their upper arms more than any other part of their body.

But finally, fashion retailers are listening. Dubbed "armoury", stylish cover-ups, shrugs, shawls, stoles and capes are the hot new fashion trend. According to Natalie Bagley, head of womenswear accessory design at Debenhams: "It's all about the transition wardrobe. What we are seeing is a rise in items which have multi-end use, such as gilets, wraps and lightweight pashminas in a fashion colour. Cover-up pieces that you throw on and layer up for day to evening."

But it is Mary Portas's new sculptwear that seems to have revolutionised the "arm market", if rocketing sales figures are anything to go by. Working with her wife, Grazia fashion journalist Melanie Rickey, Mary Portas came up with the Armery, which costs from £17.50. It is essentially tights for the arms - a stretchy high-denier hosiery tube in various colours and weaves (magenta, deep purple, black lace), with a hole in the "gusset" area allowing you to slip your arms inside.

This curious garment hugs your limbs, neatly pulling in any upper-arm sag in the process. Wearing it is like layering without the bulk. You can wear the Armery under sleeveless tops and dresses - revealing a sexy hint of arm, or an expanse of well-toned back.

Such has been its popularity that it flew out of the store. Maker Charnos has now added new colours and an extra M/L size has been introduced.

Last week when I visited Mary Portas's new shop in House of Fraser, Oxford Street, grown women were battling over the Armery. I managed to snap up the last indigo model. And during a week of publicity for my new book, Dangerous Women: A Guide to Modern Life, it proved a godsend.

During TV interviews, awkward angles were minimised. I could sling the garment in my handbag when I wasn't using it (it weighs less than a pair of tights), and in this bonkers autumn weather it stopped me sweating with a huge coat. Charnos says students are buying them for bar-hopping.

For our launch party I wore my Armery over a Vivienne Westwood corset top. I'd intended to take it off after the photos but actually it worked just like a long pair of evening gloves.

When it comes to taming upper triceps, everyone is getting in on the act. This week Asda announced a new T-shirt that promises to banish bingo wings without the need for diets and surgery. The "body sculpt control top" decreases the circumference of upper arms through a mesh of elasticated nylon and Lycra.

And M&S has just launched a "Personalised Fit" service where you choose the sleeve length of your LBD online. According to Neil Hendy, head of design for M&S Woman and Accessories: "M&S has conducted in-depth research through customer panels and the feedback has always been that women wanted more sleeve choice and length options in their dresses."