Tuesday, January 24, 2006


As much as I love new clothes, I hate shopping for them. I am small and short, but not at all proportioned like a 26-year-old. My limbs are just a tad too long for petite outfits, but too damn short for regular ones. I can hem up sleeves and pants all right, but the darts in the regular clothes are practically halfway down my ribcage. Juniors' sizes fit me the best, though I can't wear low-rise anything because of my aforeblogged lack of butt (thus ruling out half the department) and the tops certainly wouldn't help me look my age at the high school where I work (thus ruling out the other half).

I think what is stealing my butt is the 5 or 6 miles I walk to and from work. I work three days a week. On two of them, I walk a mile and a half to the train in the morning, a mile from my destination station to work, a mile back to the station at the end of the day, and then a mile and a half home. On the other one, I have to walk another mile between sites, both of which are a mile from the train station. On my way to one site, I pass by a formal gown store on a corner. It's never open at 8:45am, but it has the most amazing dresses in the windows, plus a great view of racks of other stock. I want to go in there sometime and try on the dresses. I don't need any more dresses, really--for one thing, I have no place to go--but they are just so pretty.

This morning, as usual, I walked past that formal gown store on the corner. As usual, while waiting for the light to change, I admired the dresses, imagining myself in some of them (and, yes, my wife in others). Those certainly are nice dresses, I thought. Very nice dresses. And then I noticed that one of these dresses had been altered for its mannequin in a most peculiar way. From a car, one would not notice the alteration, but from the sidewalk, I could peer around the mannequin and see that the bodice had been taken in by one of these:

Yes, a 2-inch steel spring clamp. But unlike the illustration, it had bright orange handles.

And the gown was hot pink. Couldn't they at least have found one that didn't clash with the dress?

My parents raised me to be savvy to social messages like lookism. When I was eleven, I churned out a one-page, typewritten treatise/rant on the dearth of intelligent female characters with realistic waist- and bustlines in mass-market cartoons. Around the time I Became a Woman, I began to notice not-so-subtle alterations in display clothes at the department store. (Not coincidentally, this was also when I had to stop shopping at Kids R Us and start going to the juniors' section.)

If you look at the average department-store mannequin, you will notice that the backs of its clothes are taken in, usually with basting stitches or safety pins. I was really angry the first time I saw a taken-in blouse on a mannequin. I mean, I knew Barbie wouldn't be able to walk if she were a real person, not because of her measurements (estimated at 39-23-33) but because of her freakishly tight heel cords. And the drawings in the pattern books at the fabric store weren't very realistic, either, but I dismissed those as artists' interpretations. The mannequins, on the other hand, displayed real clothes that you could find neatly folded right under them. Yet in a disgusting demonstration of the Thin Ideal, the mannequins were selling clothes whose smallest sizes were still too big for them! My G-d, people!

Not that mannequins would be able to stand up, either. Barbie doesn't hold the patent on freakishly tight heel cords. And at least all Barbie have heads, which is more than you can say for the average department-store mannequin. At least, until you rip Barbie's head off and discover her lone, bizarre, hot pink vertebral disk.

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