Thursday, November 20, 2008

What not to wear: Aussie edition

by Franki Butler

As winter rolls into Princeton, I take a sort of masochistic pleasure in reminding myself that summer is gearing up in other parts of the world and thinking about how southern hemisphere frolicking compares to my winter misery. I’m particularly pained by the thought of not hitting the beach for at least another five months. In the interest of living vicariously through others, I must recommend this article in The Sydney Morning Herald as a fun read. Short version: people have taken to wearing the smallest amount of clothing allowable by law on the beach and elsewhere because they think it’s sexy. I must admit, I’m no stranger to skimpy clothing – though I would balk at any item the designer referred to as "a bit like a wedgie, a sexy wedgie."

The ridiculous skimp-tasticness of the bikinis mentioned in the article is not my biggest problem with the skin-is-in trend. It’s the suggestion that women who don’t have butts one could bounce a quarter off of should “wear a kaftan” to the beach. Aside from the fact that buns of steel aren’t the be-all-end-all of sexiness, such a suggestion limits fashionable beach wear to those who are either genetically blessed or spend an ungodly amount of time in the gym. It’s the beach, for crying out loud. If you don’t want to see bodies that aren’t perfectly chiseled, stay home and watch re-runs of The O.C.

Shallow jabs at bikinis aside, the article does touch on a deeper problem with our nearly-naked culture: women baring all because that’s what they think it takes to get a man’s attention. First off, anyone who’s only interested in me because I flash my breasts at him probably isn’t someone I want a relationship with. Probably not even someone I want to hook-up with. I’m not saying that women should remain fully covered at all times, but as with so many other things, one’s reason for throwing on that miniskirt is important. There’s nothing wrong with showing a bit of skin because you think you’re absolutely fabulous and aren’t ashamed to show the world what you’re working with. But that confidence and comfort is crucial. Making oneself uncomfortable just because it’s in style or because it will get a guy’s attention isn’t worth it.

That said, I find it interesting that men are jumping on the skimpy bandwagon as well. One must wonder how much of the man-kini trend is aimed at attracting a mate, and how much of it is just about showing off. After all, I know few people, gay or straight, who would find these getups (Warning: link NOT SAFE for work or lecture!) appropriate outside the bedroom, though I will applaud anyone with the confidence to pull it off. I can’t help but wonder, though, if the men in those pouches have to deal with the same amount of slut-shaming a woman in a similar ensemble would face. Swim fashion: promoting equality in all the wrong ways.

Oh, well. That’s all the way over in Australia; we in the States get a brief reprieve from such stylistic concerns. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go daydream about sandy beaches and a comfortably full-coverage bikini. Then I have to find an appropriately skimpy top to wear out to the Street.

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