Recently, while looking at retro-inspired dresses online, I stumbled across something called a "corselette" and gasped. Unlike the gossamer demi-cup bras and bare thongs you see in popular lingerie catalogs, the thing was actually sexy. Mysterious, seductive, cheeky. Coincidentally, Daphne Merkin wrote a piece for yesterday's T: The New York Times Style Magazine which begins, "Where are the girdles of yesteryear?"
Merkin writes that though Spanx are all the rage, they only work "if you are already in possession of a body toned and buffed from hours in the gym." She notes that during the 19th century, virtually all free-born women in the United States wore corsets. These days? Merkin finds that the girdle is virtually obsolete. But she was in search of "real help," and "looking for body armor to shield… extra rolls from scrutiny." Eventually, she discovered (and fell in love with) a black lace number by Rago (which, incidentally, turns out to be the same manufacturer of the one from the retro dress site). But, she writes, "I would be less than honest, however, if I said that it restored me to my 20-year-old body."
Of course, that's the problem with girdles and bodyshapers — they force a woman's body to conform to some sort of ideal which may not be what nature has in mind. Flat stomachs are prized in our culture, but very seldom do women — especially as they age — naturally possess such figures. Imagine if rounded tummies were considered sexy instead? Would young women pad their bellies instead of padding their bras? Would clothing be cut generously in the middle instead? Why is it, that even though women are "liberated" from other conventions, when it comes to our bodies, we're still desperate to keep things under control? In a new interview, Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, claims her product makes women more confident. "I don't feel it's [about] not accepting your body; I love my body. I love clothes, I just don't want panty lines."
Belt Tightening [NY Times]
Sara Blakely: The Spanx Creator Talks About Control [Times Of London]