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May 12, 2005


Unintended Consequences of Body Modification

An article in the Styles section of today's Times highlights an ironic trend in women's fashion that shows just how warped our culture's concept of a regular female body has become. Now women who buy designer clothing, which we all know is usually cut to fit more slender women, are having to get their clothes altered so that they can accomodate their gigantic fake boobs. Yes, wealthy women who can lead the lifestyle that allows them to maintain a size 2 or 4 are having to buy dresses in size 10 (gasp!) because of their breast enlargements.

I think we can safely assume that the average dress size for women who shop at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills is likely well under a size 12, but it seems more and more women in this neighborhood now need to buy larger sizes, at least for some regions of their bodies. And it's not because they've gained weight: "With many plastic surgeons saying that Los Angeles is the country's implant capital, the Beverly Hills branch of Neiman Marcus sells more dresses in Size 12 than any other, while Sizes 8 and 10 are the most popular for designer evening wear at other Neiman branches, said a buyer for the chain, who linked the phenomenon to customers who had surgically increased their busts." From 1997 (when enlargement surgery rates were relatively low after silicone implants went off the market) to today, enlargement surgery rates have gone up by 257%.

When you consider that there are likely a number of women who have this fashion problem who went through some other form of body modification, like liposuction or stomach stapling, in order to get the rest of their bodies down to a size 2, who are then surgically changing their bodies again to reach another non-proportional and unnatural dimension, well, the layers of crazy really start to pile up.

Thin women are also starting to realize the limitations of some women's clothing for the bustier among us. A clothing merchandiser in New York who had breast enlargement surgery says, "I gave up my wardrobe to show off my breasts. Your options are so much better, but it's funny: I used to wear button-down shirts, and now they don't fit. I might have to go up a size on the top if it's too tight around the chest, but then it does not fit in the shoulders or the arms."

Maybe that's because clothes are still, quaintly, being designed to fit actual human bodies that adhere to some concept of proportionality. Women have long complained that designers make their clothes to fit only women on the smaller end of the spectrum, but at least those clothes fit bodies that naturally exist. Now more and more women want clothes to fit fake bodies that pretty much never occur without surgery. As one designer says of his industry's rigid adherence to the laws of nature, "You can't design a collection around a customer with a large chest, because it throws the proportion off. It's not realistic. When someone is a size D cup and a 2 waist, it's really a challenge."

Ladies of Southern California: maybe it would be a lot simpler, and cheaper, to just leave your tits alone and be able to shop off the rack without paying the cost of your clothes all over again for alterations. Unless you're a stripper, in which case you probably buy most of your clothes as separate tops and bottoms, anyway.

categories: Business, Culture, Gender
posted by amy at 12:50 PM | #

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