I'VE decided I'd like to look sexy. So how do I go about it?

I could always lose a few stone, stick on a blonde wig, have plastic surgery, pop on the sun bed for a year, slip on a skimpy, peasant-style purple top with rips and tears in a few rather intimate places, and pull on a pair of skin-tight jeans with a metallic drawstring crotch.

But then I'd look like Britney Spears, who can't for the life of her believe she looks sexy.

"When I look in the mirror and try to look sexy, I just make myself laugh," she says, while posing Bridget Bardot-style in the above gear.

What defines a "sexy" look? To some extent it's a personal thing.

Pop star Britney is obviously so accustomed to wearing plunge-neck, negligee-style shirts and spray-on trousers, that she sees it as boringly normal everyday wear.

I bet if I lent her my clothes - black woolly tights, long skirt, fully-intact (ie, no holes other than the neck, torso and arms) shirt and librarian-style mushy-pea coloured cardigan - she'd feel so sexy she'd be afraid to leave the house.

Sexy does not have to mean stockings and suspenders or some feeble excuse for a top, with a teeny, weeny micro skirt. But the word itself conjures up those images and brings controversy in its wake.

Nine-to-12-year-olds are under the spotlight at the moment, after being targeted by a magazine telling them how to look sexy.

A sleeveless T-shirt (unshredded), a necklace, earrings and a spot of lipstick seem to be the criteria for the look. In other words, how girls that age - and a lot younger - have looked for decades. Yet various agencies are up in arms, warning of paedophiles and unwanted attention.

Maybe it's because the magazine is called Mad About Boys. But, lets face it, reading about lads - and we all did it and putting on a bit of lippy and a "sexy" outfit for the school disco isn't going to damage them for life, or turn them into man-magnets.

If, at the age of nine, someone had stuck a magazine under my nose telling me how to look sexy, I'd have been overjoyed - and probably wouldn't have gone down the skirt and cardi route that has blighted what could have turned out to be a fabulously glam life hob-nobbing with the rich and famous. I might even be married to Richard Gere.

Nowadays you can't escape "sexy." When I was growing up the shops were full of drab clothes, beige slacks, brown jumpers.

Now the world is full of shimmering crop tops, pink tu-tus and all manner of screen goddess make-up - for all ages.

My daughters are four and two, and already they're trying to look like Barbie - as good an example of a sex symbol as you're likely to find.

Last week they had their pals round for a disco-party at which they applied body glitter, lip gloss, nail varnish and all manner of make-up. They put on Barbie vests and see-through blouses covered with hearts, with pink ra-ra skirts and chunky glitter-heeled shoes.

No doubt, as they get older, they'll graduate to crop tops and micro skirts and platforms. Pretty, girlie stuff, that, despite the wearers' tender age, could also be described as sexy.

It's harmless fun. Yet it's also in the eye of the beholder.

I suppose my husband must have found me sexy at one time or he wouldn't have been interested. He must have gone a bundle on the tights and cardy, because that's all he's ever seen me wearing (even in bed).

I must admit, in common with Britney, I've never felt sexy in any of my clothes. But you're never too old to learn. Or am I going to look silly reading Mad About Boys on the train home?