Ball­go­wns and g-strings

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - What’s your favourite story from this is­sue? Tweet me @As­pasi­aKar­ras and @marieclaire_sa

Iwent to one of those big-arse par­ties that get plas­tered all over the so­cial pages. The usual sus­pects were all there. You know the type – all the glossy girls in ball­go­wns and their var­i­ous acolytes. Clutch­ing my glass of Cham­pagne like bal­last in a storm, I kept get­ting trapped in a maul of pink se­quins and bu­gle beads. I pan­icked as the trains from all the princess dresses wrapped them­selves around my an­kles, about to suck me un­der. There must be a col­lec­tive noun for such An os­car of gowns?

More disturbing than the quan­tity of cheap chif­fon on dis­play, how­ever, was the man­i­fest ap­pear­ance of ev­ery­one’s un­der­wear. Not the lace bra of yore – it’s panties as out­er­wear that got me. That is if you both­ered with panties at all – some folks had frocks that made Ri­hanna’s pasties look de­mure.

As­pa­sia, I said to my­self in my in­ner fash­ion-mono­logue voice, you look like a Quaker. All that’s miss­ing from your en­sem­ble, my girl, is a kap­pie with some fetch­ing rib­bons. And that naughty thought right there, friends, is the crux of state of wom­an­hood right now.

On the one hand, some women have been lib­er­ated to the point of dis­pens­ing not only with their bras but prac­ti­cally all their clothes. Wit­ness Kim K and her var­i­ous sib­lings. It’s like the sex tape has be­come the blue­print for de­sign. The pat­tern we cut our cloth on must orig­i­nate in the strip bar, or risk bor­ing ev­ery­one to death. There is re­ally no piece gaze. Re­mem­ber all those celebrity pu­bic to some­thing. In the quest to be no­ticed and pho­tographed and to trau­ma­tise the in­ter­net, the red car­pet now all too of­ten bears a strong re­sem­blance to the strip club.

On the other ex­treme, a huge pro­por­tion of the world’s fe­male pop­u­la­tion is be­ing mar­shalled into ever-more vo­lu­mi­nous and opaque ver­sions of sack­cloth and ashes – oth­er­wise known as ‘mod­est’ cloth­ing. This is the dress as a form of chastity belt. A ne­ga­tion of any­thing fem­i­nine – hair, body shape and, in some places, skin. So gloves and a full veil are manda­tory for your own pro­tec­tion from men who might look at you and your ex­tremely provoca­tive hand. In some places, you get killed for not cov­er­ing your­self up enough. The tide of so­cial con­ser­vatism at the ex­pense of fe­male at­tire ap­pears to be ris­ing in di­rect pro­por­tion to the man­i­fes­ta­tion of vis­i­ble G-strings (or none at all) on the red car­pet.

Is ei­ther sit­u­a­tion re­motely good for women? I have heard all the ar­gu­ments that sug­gest both the fully cov­ered and fully un­cov­ered ver­sions of our­selves are rep­re­sen­ta­tions of per­sonal free­dom, self­ex­pres­sion and choice. I am not so sure. Both seem to me to be in­con­ve­nient side ef­fects of op­pres­sive sys­tems. Just how free are we re­ally if we care so much about the gaze of oth­ers? In both in­stances, it seems to me to be a case of the em­peror’s new clothes. There is such a thing as too much.

As­pa­sia at the Spier Se­cret Din­ner she

hosted in Braam­fontein

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