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Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny

Apr
25
2006

Once upon a time, the phrase “bathing suit season” had some sort of meaning for me. Not a lot, but as warm weather hit I’d think about whether I needed a new bathing suit and balance that need against just how painful an experience it would be to find one, going through the try-on process of suits designed for 17- or 70-year-olds under lights designed in conjunction with the plastic surgeons’ board-of-drumming-up-business. And if we believe those interviews with supermodels where they talk about their insecurities about their bodies, even the Sports Illustrated size 4 would rather have a bikini wax than look for the bikini.
Bathing suit shopping hasn’t been a big deal for me lately though. The last time I bought a suit it was just me with a baby and a preschooler in tow, and I was somewhat, er, distracted shopping. (I know, I too am amazed I was able not only to shop but to try on bathing suits that way. It was a never-to-be repeated moment, and I feel like I’m entitled to wear a big gold Mommy Olympics medal around my neck every time I put the suit on.) A while before that, it was maternity bathing suit shopping, and that’s a pretty straightforward calculation: Is it hideous? Is there enough fabric? No, yes, you’re done. When you’re pregnant – and I think I’m paraphrasing the Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy here – it’s one time you don’t have to suck in your stomach on the beach. Whale-like? Ha! Who cares? I’m gestating. Anyone else want an ice cream?
So every woman has her own body image and is at peace or war with it, and handles clothes shopping in accordance. Hopefully more at peace than war, and if not, getting to that stage is a personal effort, right? Well, no. Not in Spain.
The Spanish government is trying to get clothing manufacturers and designers to revise the part they play in making women feel they’re too fat. The real problem being attacked is eating disorders, which are widespread and increasing, according to this Reuters story (pointed out by Broadsheet). (While Spaniards are also getting fatter from eating junk. The globalization of food nuttiness.) So the government is studying Spanish women’s real dimensions. Then it’ll present the information to the fashion industry so that it can show larger sizes, more realistic for the average woman, in advertising and fashion shows. And – what could really revise the shopping experience – the study aims to provide information on body measures so that sizes throughout the industry can be standardized.
Now, none of these voluntary measures are likely to work. Designers at this year’s major Madrid fashion shows said they wouldn’t use super skinny models and some observers said they saw the same tiny sizes as always on the catwalk. And there’s already a law on the books offering physical standards for sizes, according to this article in Spanish newspaper El Pais. Plus, what about film, magazines and non-fashion advertising – not to mention political commentating – and every other place where women’s images are presented and they’re expected to show a certain ideal of attractiveness (so that leaves out…um…)?
Still, isn’t it interesting that the Spanish government is trying? Sure it probably won’t work, and clothing is just one part of the problem, and ideally individuals would inoculate themselves against unrealistic body standards. And yet, the idea of having a little help is appealing, especially when you think about not only eating disorders but teenage and younger girls, and boys, who are over focused on diets. An argument used in Spain, where people are relatively big spenders on clothing, is that the industry makes its money off women, so it should reflect women more realistically, rather than encouraging unhappy and unhealthy attitudes with unlikely ideals. It’s not like anyone’s asking designers to give up charging $200 for a bathing suit not big enough to cover a sneeze. Just add an inch or so at the seams when they try to sell it.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 5:22 PM | Permalink

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