all of the selves we Have ever been
Stretching the Expanding Wardrobe
I stood in the check-out line behind a young woman dressed in rainbow-colored leggings. The leggings were so tight that I’m pretty sure the woman had a beauty mark on her right butt cheek. I felt a little awkward with this view of the woman, so I tried to avert my gaze. The outfit seemed to say, “Look!” but it felt wrong to see so much. Shifting my eyes to the phone charger display, I wondered, what is the correct reaction to this new wardrobe phenomenon? Envy? Acceptance? Disdain?
I decided to go with discomfort. Even my own skin doesn’t fit that tight. If I were I to try to stuff myself into a pair of those leggings, it would be like trying to get rising dough to stay in a teacup or a helium balloon to stay in a paper bag. There would be a lot of fruitless pushing and punching going on. Regardless of the self-flagellation, something would be left hanging out, and it would be a lot more than a beauty mark.
I have to accept that I am of an age when the term “skin-tight” no longer applies to me. I have been voted off that island and sent to the place where what is baggy is me. Any clothes that fit like my skin need to sag and be permanently wrinkled. The only starring role appropriate for my look is that of a Shar Pei.
I have a very beautiful and dear friend who hates shopping. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t even call her pursuit of new clothing shopping. She will report in her discouraged way: “I went out to try to buy something.” My friend is a slender, fit, and active woman who prefers soft sweatpants and loose flannel shirts. She, like so many of us gals, survived girdles, garter belts, underwire, mini-skirts, hip-huggers, and platform shoes. We were the generation that grew to womanhood watching older women burn their bras. Perhaps it was all of that Lycra on fire that led to the deterioration of the ozone layer and our minds, but we got the message. We’re all about comfort now. Bring back the moo moo!
But style shifts aren’t the issue. No, the real culprit in this fashion evolution is spandex. It has turned underwear into outwear. Spandex has spread faster than the coronavirus and infected everything we wear. It is like the COVID of cloth. We are being embalmed in our active wear. Please! Give me some distance, some breathing room.
I am amazed that some people who object to wearing a mask will stuff themselves into clothing made of 98% spandex. Folks who won’t take a life-saving vaccine consider better living through chemistry to be the laboratory-created fibers that stretch up to five times their original length. DuPont started cooking this stuff up back in the 1950s along with a stockpile of forever chemicals.
Does that mean leggings are here to stay? Maybe not. Things do change. After all, spandex was the replacement for rubber in girdles. A friend who was a flight attendant back in the 1960s tells me that even a stick-thin stewardess was required to wear a rubber girdle as part of the uniform. The only upside was that it protected her backside from being pinched by inappropriate male passengers. Today, if a man were to grab a woman’s spandexed bottom and release quickly, the woman would be rocketed into space without the wings. But as the commercials promise, spandex will hold its shape even when we don’t.
From my point of view, it’s not the leggings; it’s the spandex that is the real enemy of the people. No wonder folks are so miserable and full of complaint. We’re all clothed in fabric stretched too thin. Life has enough pressure, now our clothes are squeezing us too. I say, “Loosen up!” You don’t find the peace and love crowd wearing spandex. Jesus and his followers wore loose, flowing robes and comfortable sandals. Other holy men and women have followed suit.
The fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has said, “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat,” a sign that you’ve lost control of your life. Sure, Karl, nothing says “I’m in control” like being bound with elastic and scheduled for labiaplasty. Going forward, I think I will take my fashion advice from the grand designer. I’m going with the Jesus-look. Fortunately, the one item of clothing I own that contains absolutely no spandex is my bathrobe. Depending on the wind speed, you may be seeing more of me.
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