Ballgowns and g-strings
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