Weird Body Anxiety Products
Posted by Mel Campbell on November 21, 2008
(Cate’s previous post about bizarre ‘helpful’ fashions has inspired me to post this extended riff on the October instalment of the pop-culture column I write for jmag. In the course of researching this column, I trawl through various weird products and trends off the internet.)
Coined in the wake of Janet Jackson’s infamous Superbowl boob-flash, the term “wardrobe malfunction” now refers to the indignity and public humiliation we face if our clothes go “wrong”. But some supposedly helpful products are less about preventing wardrobe malfunctions than making money from women’s anxiety about their bodies.
This is the entire rhetoric of the “fashion problems” that are endlessly discussed in magazines. Rather than questioning commonsensical ideas of how a woman should look, move through space, and invite or repel the gaze of others, we spend money on unnecessary – and sometimes uncomfortable – products simply to help us feel okay about ourselves while we conform to those ideas.
It’s such a seductive industry. I wish I could get back all the money I’ve spent over the years on trying out a new trend in tights, or a supposedly revolutionary bra technology, to see if it helps me feel better about the way I look. Still, I would not spend any money at all on the following retarded products:
Addicted to stiletto heels but worry about being trapped in gratings, skidding over cobblestones or sinking into lawns? Two female investment bankers have come to the rescue by inventing SoleMates, clear plastic tubes that attach to heels. As far as “invisibility” goes, they are like the shoe equivalent of those “invisible” clear plastic bra straps, making the shoes look weird and ugly but increasing their surface area and giving more grip.
Meanwhile, women who worry about visible underwear lines, or the dreaded “muffin top” where their undies dig in, can try the CString, a truly distressing flexible wire contraption that appears to tuck between the legs in a similar way to those “slap bracelets” from the ’80s. Basically, you can’t have any pubic hair and wear one of these. There is also a trampy-looking adhesive version by Shibue Couture, and fabric spots like the Anti-panti that stick in the crotch of your pants so you don’t have to wear undies at all.
Then there’s the opposite extreme of underwear. Women who don’t enjoy baring their cleavage can avail themselves of the alarmingly named Winkee, a “cleavage cover” that looks more than a little like a pair of undies clipped onto the front of a bra.
It’s mystifying why anyone would spend money to solve fashion ‘problems’ that appear to have much more straightforward solutions. Wearing flat shoes. Wearing shoes without stiletto heels. Wearing undies that fit. Wearing a high-cut top, or a singlet under that plunging neckline. What’s more, it’s particularly disappointing to see women inventing products that employ a rhetoric of helpfulness and sisterhood but actually pander to lame patriarchal stereotypes of sexiness. There are testimonials from satisfied husbands and boyfriends on the CString and Anti-panti websites, while the Winkee site claims the product helps “make men more productive in the workplace”. Perhaps that caveman could use the Winkee as a blindfold?