I just read a fairly old, but still relevant style article, Killer Fashion: Looking Good Never Hurt So Bad. The author writes about the pain we suffer for the sake of “beauty”, specifically super-high heels, tight jeans, and suffocating shapewear.
For as long as recorded history, women have suffered pain for cultural standards of beauty. Chinese women bound their feet until the early 20th century, crippling themselves to have sought-after narrow, dainty feet. And for centuries women wore corsets that could deform their internal organs* (myth! see comments below) and restrict their breathing — but give them an hourglass shape.
|You want me to do what with this?|
We have moved beyond these rather overt restrictive garments to more subtle ones, still in the quest of “traditional” feminine beauty. For example, even though most women’s bodies are rectangular or pear-ish in shape, we’re told the hourglass is the ideal, so we still buy and wear “shaping” garments.
Some modern shapers are said to be cooler and more comfortable than the vintage versions, but I wouldn’t know: never owned a piece. Too squeeze-y, and way too noticeable for my comfort level. Here’s a fairly disturbing anecdote from the Killer Fashion article:
Renate Raymond, another 33-year-old woman . . . developed an abusive fashion relationship with her slimming BodyShaper. “The first time I wore it, I had bruises all over my body where it had cut off my circulation,” she says. “But even with the bruising, I put it right back on so I could look good in my clothes. I’m like a battered wife.”
Just wow to that sentiment. People, we don’t have to be bruised to “look good in our clothes.” No payoff to “looking good” seems worth this agony. And I don’t want to have to “get used to it.”
|While progress has been made, this modern girdle doesn’t appeal to me either.|
Ultra high heels can be another sort of agonizer. I just finished gorging on several books about Parisian style. One advised, “Always wear heels; it makes you walk more beautifully.” (To be fair, many other books recommend chic flats and flat boots for the French wannabes among us.)
When I wear high heels, my feet hurt, my calves ache, I can’t walk quickly and I don’t feel powerful, beautiful, or confident. So, not for me.
|So pretty, but they’re agonizers to me. Buy them here if you dare! : >|
Another young woman quoted in the article said this about high heels:
“After years of heels, I’ve become almost exclusively dedicated to flats,” she says. “Let’s face it, there’s nothing like walking around in really sexy, fabulous shoes, but if you can’t hide the grimace of pain or oozing blood or swelling toes…”
Mmmm, oozing blood — never seen on the cover of Vogue!
I have not given up on looking stylish in favor of comfort! I don’t wear all-elastic-waist pants or athletic sneakers to the office. I still try every day to look attractive, authentic and modern. But the days of suffering for style are behind me.
What say you all? The case could be made that even coloring our hair is suffering for beauty (chemicals, odors, time . . . ) or wearing hose, or even bras. Is there a line of “agony” you won’t cross? Love to hear your thoughts!
* As Trystan and Megan have pointed out, well-made corsets did/do not cause bodily damage.