Dresses to die for

Cur­rent wed­ding fash­ion is for glum women to lean against door­frames, their cold fin­gers los­ing grip on a deathly clutch of flow­ers.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - LEAH MCFALL -

Can I please draw your at­ten­tion to wed­ding fash­ion, and ask of all in­ter­ested par­ties: what the dang is go­ing on?

It’s pos­si­bly the wrong ques­tion. I mean for the most part, what’s go­ing on in the bridal in­dus­try is busi­ness as usual. Ev­ery year it re­li­ably flogs us gowns and veils, usu­ally in va­ri­eties of white, some­times in stiff ex­pen­sive fab­ric and some­times in soft ex­pen­sive fab­ric, of­ten with webbed Ly­cra pan­els and con­cealed plas­tic rib­bing to hold the bride and her fac­ul­ties to­gether. You could ar­gue there’s noth­ing new un­der the sun in bridal­wear; the only things which change, sea­son to sea­son, are the gim­micks.

For ex­am­ple, the year I got mar­ried, the gim­mick was vin­tage lace. This year it was the un­der­stated boat neck, thanks to Meghan Markle. I’m sure she would have pre­ferred the whole ball of wax – rib­bons, hoop pet­ti­coat, shep­herd’s crook – but with Oprah in a hat, Amal in a veil and Vicky Beck­ham in a snotty mood in the pews, dress­ing plainly was the only way to get no­ticed.

The dresses aren’t the prob­lem; it’s the peo­ple dream­ing up the ad cam­paigns. What are they think­ing, ex­actly?

If your In­sta­gram is any­thing like mine right now, you’re be­ing flooded with art­ful, moody fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy fea­tur­ing the lat­est bridal col­lec­tions. I’m not sure what these shoots are try­ing to achieve, but they ap­pear to be a 21st cen­tury homage to the Vic­to­rian hys­teric.

Many fea­ture young women – none old enough to re­mem­ber the iPod – swamped in washed silk or tulle and lean­ing heav­ily against door­frames, their cold fin­gers los­ing grip on a deathly clutch of flow­ers. For va­ri­ety, they might also be col­lapsed onto fur­ni­ture while star­ing into space, with no flow­ers in shot.

You’d imag­ine these women are oth­er­wise vig­or­ous, ruddy and full of life, un­less there’s been some kind of gas leak at Vogue. But put them in a new sea­son wed­ding dress – even a woke one, with pock­ets – and they lose the ad­van­tages pre­vi­ously af­forded to them by their ver­te­brae, pelvis and knees. They sink.

And boy, do they look glum as well as life­less! One model raises her eyes heav­en­ward, through a veil as

thick as a cheese­cloth, as if to im­ply: “I would rather squeeze a dog’s anal glands than get mar­ried to­day.” Com­pared to these girls, Miss Hav­isham is a mon­u­ment to op­ti­mism. I mean, at least she had hope at their age.

This oxy­gen-starved aes­thetic – let’s call it hy­poxia chic, be­cause it’s noth­ing a nasal can­nula couldn’t fix – isn’t nec­es­sar­ily con­fined to bridal fash­ion, although a wed­ding dress does draw at­ten­tion to it.

You don’t have to look hard to find ev­ery va­ri­ety of splayed, awk­wardly man­nered pose on bill­boards and in magazines, sell­ing ev­ery­thing from clothes to shoes, or those chi-chi leather coin purses at­tached to belts. (I can’t think of a good rea­son to wear a coin purse so openly on my belt, un­less it held an­tibi­otics I needed to take three times a day. One, you’re beg­ging to be mugged. Two, when was the last time you needed 20 cents that badly?)

Mod­els have al­ways been re­mote to us, but at least in the 60s they held your gaze with some­thing like chal­lenge. The chal­lenge was: “Fin­ish the bloody roll, David. I’ve got Mick Jag­ger wait­ing in the car.”

In the 80s and 90s, su­per­mod­els had at­ti­tude. To­day, they have eye­brows.

It’s not the mod­els, it’s their mes­sage. I watched a fairly aw­ful doc­u­men­tary about Vogue’s cen­te­nary

You’d imag­ine these women are oth­er­wise vig­or­ous, ruddy and full of life, un­less there’s been a gas leak at Vogue.

is­sue, in which Kate Moss breezed into a man­sion in a Rolling Stones jacket, posed for a few bursts of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy and then breezed out, prob­a­bly for a three-day celebrity ben­der in the Cotswolds.

What sur­prised me was that she didn’t just stand there and take di­rec­tion. She flick­ered with con­stant move­ment. Silly move­ments, cer­tainly (lit­tle pouts, shim­mies, the odd hair flick, and the con­stant re­arrange­ment of her ribs, kid­neys and di­aphragm). But her rest­less en­ergy was what they wanted to bot­tle and when she left, she took all the oxy­gen with her.

To­day’s pas­sive style of mod­el­ling seems to ask noth­ing of the model, or the woman buy­ing the clothes. It’s al­most Dar­winian. (A pop­u­lar style is to stand slightly off-cen­tre, mo­tion­less with your arms use­lessly at your sides, look­ing slack-jawed with mild sur­prise. The vibe is early Homo sapi­ens; per­haps the wheel is just dawn­ing on you.)

What’s mad­den­ing about this mes­sage of stony im­mo­bil­ity is that it comes just as in­tel­li­gent power-play is re­turn­ing to women’s clothes.

It’s the lat­est thing to “Dress Like an Ar­chi­tect” in flat shoes, sex­less pants and stiff shirts that en­large your sur­face area, like a cocky bird. Per­fect for a woman in con­trol of her des­tiny, body and coin purse. So why the dead arms and blank face?

I’m a 17-year-old girl, soon to turn 18. I’ve had a boyfriend for a year now. We’ve had sex mul­ti­ple times but I don’t get any­thing out of it. I get aroused and wet but when the ac­tual in­ter­course be­gins, all I feel is bore­dom. It did hurt the first time, and the first few times I had a few sec­onds of ex­cite­ment and plea­sure, but it dis­ap­peared quickly.

I’m won­der­ing if there’s some­thing wrong with me; not to men­tion the fact that it kills my boyfriend’s con­fi­dence. I’m sure other girls would’ve en­joyed it. What should I do? I get no plea­sure out of oral sex ei­ther or mas­tur­bat­ing.

The ab­so­lute first thing you must do is stop wor­ry­ing about boost­ing your boyfriend’s con­fi­dence! It’s great to be a car­ing part­ner and emo­tion­ally aware that your ac­tions im­pact on oth­ers. How­ever, your sex­u­al­ity is for


your plea­sure and a gift you choose to share with him, it’s not pri­mar­ily for pleas­ing him or mak­ing him feel like he’s a stud. I also chal­lenge your be­lief that other girls would have en­joyed this. When I ask large groups of peo­ple how many en­joyed their early sex­ual ex­pe­ri­ences, most women do not raise their hands and most men – while re­port­ing lots of ner­vous­ness and some en­joy­ment – make com­ments such as: “It was a bit brief,” or: “Wish I’d known then what I know now.”

Males, with their ex­ter­nal gen­i­tals, get more prac­tice at self-stim­u­la­tion from an early age than fe­males, with our largely hid­den in­ter­nal gen­i­tals.

What’s more, the com­monly held be­lief about sex is that it re­volves around in­ter­course – which most het­ero­sex­ual men re­port feels good. But at least half of all het­ero­sex­ual women re­port not reach­ing or­gasm from in­ter­course and many re­port not get­ting much

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