Let’s talk about underwear.
There is a new viral picture + rant making its way around the internet, of a young woman in a formal gown, whose mother is livid that a salesclerk suggested her daughter should wear Spanx under the gown. The mother is insistent that this is an example of body shaming. I am here to help.
“You shouldn’t wear that dress because you are too fat,” is an example of body shaming.
“You will need to wear [whatever is the equivalent of proper foundation garments] under that dress,” is an example of good salesmanship.
I was thinking about underwear as I was trying on a cocktail dress. It was a super hot dress, with a zipper down the back, and as fantastic as it looked, I had a nice laugh thinking about what anyone would find, should they unzip it. They would find Spanx and a dowdy strapless bra because I have a) a belly button, and b) real boobs.
If you can see your navel through the fabric of a dress it means that the dress is not properly lined, is too tight, or needs proper undergarments. A pair of Spanx will smooth out that line (and any others) if the dress fits properly. Likewise, if your dress makes a big smile under your belly, or puckers at the small of your back, it either does not fit correctly, or it wants some foundation help. That is okay. That is not body shaming. That is understanding how fabric works. (And if you like to see your navel, and you feel never fully dressed without a belly-smile, or you want to look like you are hiding a prehensile tail, you do you. I won’t judge.)
As for the dowdy strapless bra, I would buy myself some gravity defying boobs if I weren’t so afraid of general anesthesia, if only so that I could wear all those cute tops meant for the newly blossomed and silicone enhanced. My boobs are real, middle-aged, and are totally into physics, so I have to find ways to haul them up from the love affair they are having with Newton’s law of universal gravitation into some semblance of youth and fertility. I’m told youth and fertility are what we’re aiming for as far as levels of attractiveness go.
In my world, and in the world of most of my compatriots, getting undressed from a fancy night out is less a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, and more a struggle out of our sausage casings and flying buttresses. There is no movie scene strip tease from gown to gorgeous underwear. In fact, I want to see this scene played out realistically, as a woman (larger than a size 6) works her way out of her Herve Leger bandage dress to reveal her nude colored shaper and stick-on, underwire, strapless/backless bra. And I want to see a realistic reaction shot from the man as confronted by the creepy doll-looking body under the dress. I also want to see him peel off the stick-on bra with a straight face–no, with the same smoldering look of passion that kicked it all off.
Here’s the thing: Unless your body is your job, your parents are Giselle Bundchen and Tom Brady, or you’ve had some surgical reshaping, chances are you’re going to want to wear something more under your clothes than the flesh colored g-string favored by runway models. Chances are, your cocktail/evening wear is going to hang better with some sort of body shaper. It has nothing to do with YOU and everything to do with fabric.
And trust me, when the movies have the lovely actresses in formal wear (which has been tailored to their shapes exactly, unlike your great find at Dillard’s), those lovely actresses have on more foundation gear than you can imagine—because that’s what makes a dress look like a million bucks, instead of something you got for $19.99 at Ross. Bodies don’t make clothes look good. Good structure makes clothes look good.
So, when your salesclerk offers you a body shaper, give it a try. She is telling you that your gown needs a little help–not that you do.