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Corsetry and couture crisis

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January 3, 2009 by Melinda Young

Weddings are the suburban equivalent of the Oscars for couture do's and dont's. I attended a wedding recently where there were some serious problems with the female guests' undergarments. Number one; they are called under garments for a reason. Number two; not everyone can or should wear g-strings, especially not those three sizes too small. Number three; brassieres should never be optional. When there is only one bra for every three women in attendance, this causes a serious concern which needs to be addressed. What is most distressing is that I noticed the bad corsetry before the outer ensemble. Believe me when I say that I have never been in the company of so many badly dressed women who have congregated in one place at one time — and I frequent Midland Gate Shopping Centre.

The greatest offender was a woman who had clearly seen a dress, decided she must have it, and purchased it, neglecting to try it on. Halter neck dresses are not difficult beasts to manage. However, when the straps are loosened in an attempt to emphasize a non-existent cleavage and the back is pulled down to the waist to reveal two voluminous love-handles, an outfit can go from classy to skanky in an instant. It was the lack of bra that was most visible — think marble in a sock. After breastfeeding two children, they aren't where they used to be. An under wire was as necessary as the amount of red wine I consumed to soften the affront. As the gaze shifted downward, a black g-string, obviously too small and hardly comfortable was making its presence known by redistributing fat to places there once was none. In an attempt to mingle and generate conversation, my husband quietly asked me this woman's name and said he would congratulate her and ask how many weeks she had left. I would loved to have overheard that discussion, but in an effort to preserve what little dignity she had left, I told my husband that this line of discourse would be problematic because the woman was in fact not pregnant. He decided drinking was much safer than speaking.

Black must have been the colour of the day because another fashionista teamed a too small g-string with a dusky pink bra to match a similar coloured dress. Points are due for matching the bra and the dress, but are quickly subtracted when the back of the bra and the straps are visible over the halter neckline. With the number of alternatives available there is no excuse for undergarments to be on the outer. Clear strapped, clear backed, strapless, low backed, halter necked and stick-on bras are prevalent. Couture need not be complicated by unconcealed corsetry.

Thankfully the bride had her lingerie safely hidden under her dress. The bridesmaid went braless but had plenty of support from the fitted bodice to give the bar wench effect. I am a fan of this style, on my wedding day there was plentiful heaving bosom. It suits most sizes and shapes, there were sizes ten, fourteen, sixteen and twenty-four in my bridal party. We all looked hot, but we were all wearing the correct sizes. The bridesmaid at the wedding I attended was wearing a full satin skirt that was very obviously too small — and satin is not a forgiving fabric.

There is a perplexing question to be raised out of this happy yet visually mortifying day; why do women wear corsetry and couture that clearly does not conform to their dimensions? I know some women who think they are a certain size and will only purchase in that size. This causes pain, red welts, chafing and discomfort. It also looks bloody awful. I have seen enough size sixteen bum-crack squeezed into size twelve or fourteen hipsters to know that some women have no idea what size or shape they are. These female consumers are not alone in their ignorance. Manufacturers and designers have absolutely no idea what size and shape women are. I had to buy a pair of black pants for this wedding. The last pair I bought was seven years ago. I dreaded this task. Joanne Smith helped me understand this fear by describing an Oprah episode which labelled women's thighs as saddlebags. Apparently it is the general consensus that these 'bags' should not be there. If women's bodies are meant to fit the clothes, not vice versa, this explains our inability to find well-fitting, comfortable pants. My Dad puts saddlebags on either side of his Honda. My thighs look nothing like bags draped either side of a motorbike. I will not apologize or compromise my comfort because I do not have the body shape of a boy, women curve there. It would make sense to sell garments that fit women properly; they would buy a hell of a lot more of them.

I found my black pants; $25 — Kmart. They have been christened the 'phenomenal arse pants,' as the name suggests they fit perfectly and look great. I would like to think my body had something to do with the phenomenal arse effect, but I think it is all the pants. I have bought two pairs. It is a liberating relief to purchase attire that fits well and looks good, it made me purchase an additional pair. Unfortunately, this is an apparel epiphany seldom experienced.

Before the phenomenal arse pants I had been on many pant purchasing excursions. Usually I would return home with goods that did not resemble pants at all; necklaces, bracelets, hair clips and bags. My husband is investigating an extension on the house so my accessories will have somewhere to reside. Buying these things was much safer than buying pants.

The reason the accessory market has boomed of late is because women still want to buy, they just want to buy something that fits. For me, buying pants is a self-esteem shattering experience. For other women, the bane of their existence is tops and bras, for my fellow wedding guests, it is dresses and underwear. By purchasing accessories female consumers are guaranteed of something that fits. They get the same tingling feeling associated with handing over cash or plastic and departing the store with a product filled bag. The bonus is that self-esteem and self-worth are still intact and desire for radical dieting or mass ingestion of cheesecake is eliminated.

The garb of the female guests at the wedding confirmed what many women have suspected and complained about for some time — they have nothing to wear. The ideas that designers and manufacturers have about women's body shape and size are ludicrously askew. Until a change is made, women will continue to be publicly seen in ill-fitting outer and undergarments. Women dress badly because they have no alternative. Accessories are grand, but my Fiorelli bag won't cover my breasts. The time wasted looking for clothes and underwear is astounding. Shopping for female attire is ineffective and inefficient. It took me seven years to replace my old faithful black pants with the phenomenal arse pants. A change must be made to women's fashion or my 'saddlebags' and I will continue looking for pants and come home with bags.