Why fash­ion makes us look foolish in photos

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Heather Mallick Heather Mallick is a na­tional af­fairs colum­nist for Torstar Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices.

Twenty years from now, we will all look dated and ridicu­lous in photos, no mat­ter how beau­teous we think those self­ies are right now.

This is be­cause we are crea­tures of our time. Our hair, glasses, fa­cial ex­pres­sion, our very pants will be purely 2015 and will send our chil­dren into howls of de­ri­sive laugh­ter.

This will hurt. Are we not great enough to tran­scend time? (No.)

The de­tails, the killer de­tails, stamp our era on our fore­heads.

Take bot­toms. The Nicki Mi­naj-Tay­lor Swift-Katy Perry quar­rel on Twit­ter was ei­ther mean­ing­less or ab­sorb­ing, depend­ing on your tastes. I de­plored it, see­ing it as a retro cat­fight among three women of great wealth over a video award so tacky you’d use it to weigh down the door of your garter­snake cage.

But what struck me about Ana­conda, Mi­naj’s soft-porn video trib­ute to what Fred­die Mer­cury once joy­ously called “fat-bot­tomed girls,” was her con­tri­bu­tion to the way we see bod­ies.

Some women are fight­ing, justly, for the right to look “thick” in public, to be just plain big. Heavy­set men have al­ways had this right, walk­ing around top­less in the sum­mer like an off-sea­son mall Santa.

In Mi­naj’s video, a throw­back sam­ple from Sir Mix-a-Lot pro­claims his “ana­conda” - the sil­li­est name any man (even Drake) could come up with for his sig­nif­i­cant or­gan - “don’t want none, un­less you got buns, hon.” The video be­comes a fes­ti­val of bun­nery wag­gling in the viewer’s face. “Skinny” women should be­ware, ap­par­ently. They could get sat on.

For there are fash­ions in bod­ies as there are in clothes. Right now, whether you know it or not, you are re­flect­ing your era. When food was scant, the rich were fat. With cheap fast food on of­fer, the rich are thin. Swift is whip­pet-thin, Mi­naj is thick. That both are im­ages of this era is a tri­umph for women.

This is new. As a Guardian critic ex­plained in 1958, the dress de­signer Charles Worth was the first to tell rich women what to wear, rather than them telling him what to sew. He made women’s waists con­tract and ex­pand, breasts too. He man­u­fac­tured con­sent.

At the turn of the cen­tury the breasts of the Gib­son Girl “jut­ted out like wide slop­ing shelves.” In the 1920s breasts were made to look flat. In the 1950s they grew big­ger and higher, smaller and bra­less in the 1970s, and in­flated in the ‘90s when the brassy big-lipped hair-ex­ten­sioned look be­gan.

Now men are be­ing tor­mented too. They must have six­pack ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles that look like rub­ble. They are told to load their hair with prod­uct. Male cologne is a big sec­tor. The mod­ern male is ner­vous.

Our sur­round­ings change too. In Toronto’s di­lated real es­tate mar­ket, real­tors boast of hard­wood floors and gran­ite coun­ter­tops. But a smart condo owner would in­stall car­pet­ing to ward off noise com­plaints from the condo be­low.

Hard­wood makes no sense now and car­pet will re­turn. Gran­ite coun­ter­tops are done. It’s all quartz now.

Eye­brows thick­ened in the ‘40s, slimmed in the ‘80s. Now thick is back. You can have eye­brows shaped, or you can paint them with Re­vi­taBrow un­til cater­pil­lars grow on your brow bone, top­ping eye­lids al­ready heavy with 1960s liner. Men are wear­ing eye­liner now. It looks good.

In our homes, we see the foolish retro trend of leggy mid-cen­tury fur­ni­ture. Fat fur­ni­ture that used to sit flat on the floor is boxy now, with at least four legs. It is more likely to top­ple on small chil­dren. High and elab­o­rate base­boards are hard to clean. Your fash­ion­ably open kitchen shelves are sticky with dust and grease. Vac­u­um­ing time has dou­bled.

The rim­less eye­glasses of Amer­i­can mon­sters — Robert McNa­mara, Dick Cheney, Don­ald Rums­feld- have van­ished and big black rims are in. Ob­longs are done, round is back. We’re dress­ing our faces like Le Cor­bus­ier, the man who helped in­vent ugly ar­chi­tec­ture. Elab­o­rate por­trai­ture is out, il­lus­tra­tion is in. Wall­pa­per is back. It won’t last.

Look at those black­mail photos. There you both are, him suit-con­stricted with owl glasses, her well-cush­ioned with Grou­cho Marx eye­brows. How silly you look, how quintessen­tially 2015.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.