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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: It looks like the laugh is on me. Months ago, while reading your column in the morning paper, my husband and I had quite a laugh about the 90-year-old woman who recycled everything and found an unusual use for the "panty" part of control-top pantyhose. She said she used them "to keep her 90-year-old breasts under control." (She'd cut off the legs, cut out the crotch and wear the remainder like a strapless bra.)

A couple of weeks after that letter appeared, I broke a rib in a horseback riding accident. Aside from the pain and shortness of breath involved, I couldn't wear a bra without great discomfort. I tried every bra on the market to no avail. Being well-endowed, going braless was out of the question. I may not be 90, but I'm no teen-ager.

Thanks to that letter, I was able to return to work without embarrassment and in relative comfort while mending. I salute that woman and you, Abby, for letting the world know. You provided a workable, economical answer for both men and women in similar situations. Broken ribs, breast surgeries, you name it. When you need light support without binding, THIS WORKS. -- GRATEFUL AND NO LONGER LAUGHING IN OREGON

DEAR GRATEFUL: Thanks for the testimonial. Recycled pantyhose can be a godsend in more than one kind of "medical emergency." Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Not everyone will have a use for this, but it is a solution for the person with a mastectomy who wears a breast enhancer in the bra.

The breast form is slick, and it can be very embarrassing if the bra is a little loose and the form slides out and drops to the floor. This happened to me twice.

I took a clean knee-high nylon, slipped it over the form, and folded the top across to make a little more filler for the bra. After that, I had no more worries. It was the perfect solution for me. -- ANOTHER RECYCLER, SUGAR CREEK, MO.

DEAR RECYCLER: Bless you for sharing your solution, and bless the inventor of nylons and pantyhose. Something tells me there may be a run on both.

DEAR ABBY: While we're on the subject of pantyhose, here's my experience:

I was driving down the highway in the 1950s with my fiancee by my side, when she decided to look into my glove box. Much to her surprise, she found several nylon hose of various shades.

I assured her that, since I was a painter, I carried them with me to use as paint strainers. I would cut off a section and tie a knot at one end.

After 60 years in the painting business, I still carry hose in the glove box of my truck. You never know when they'll come in handy. -- CLEAN-CUT PAINTER IN SHERIDAN, WYO.

DEAR CLEAN-CUT PAINTER: That's for sure! I've been known to carry an extra pair of "sheers" in my purse in case I snag the ones I'm wearing, which never fails to happen when I'm determined to look my best.

DEAR ABBY: Last fall my doctor prescribed a splint for my wrist; however, it had Velcro fasteners that caught on the sleeves of my fleece jackets.

I cut off one leg of some old pantyhose, cut a hole for fingers and a thumb, and pulled it up over the splint. Presto! No more problems. -- IMOGENE KANE, AVA, MO.

DEAR IMOGENE: Very clever. I've also known doctors to prescribe a sock or the leg of hose be used over a cast or splint to protect it from becoming soiled.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111; (816) 932-6600