Packed In Like a Sausage

You did it too. Admit it.
I was one of those girls all the other girls hated. Throughout high school I never weighed more than 95 pounds. The day I came home from the hospital after having my first baby at age 18, I weighed 100, then, after the birth of my second baby at 23, I came home weighing 103. And that's where I stayed until I was about 38 years of age and had to have The Operation...

All through the 1960s and '70s I wore either size 3 or 5 jeans, depending on the price range. Cheaper clothing sizes had larger size tags than more expensive clothing.

"The American apparel industry has created an intentional system of 'Vanity Sizing.' The increasing use of the smaller sizesa size 12 in 1970 is now in the size 4-6-8 rangeis meant to make consumers feel better about buying clothing."

According to this, if I were still wearing a 60s-70s size 3, today I'd be wearing a 0. Size 0? Come on, this is ridiculous. Do they think today's young women are really so vain? Are they? Was I?

The point of this entry isn't to lunge into a tirade against the fashion industry and the unrealistic and harmful expectations that are being placed on young women to attain and maintain an emaciated ("waifish" as the industry innocuously calls it) figure. Although it's a subject worthy of criticism, there are thousands upon thousands of blogs and pages dedicated to it. And it's not a new subject, either. I remember it back when Twiggy first appeared on the covers of Seventeen, Vogue, and even Time magazines. Hers was a good look for me. Although she was four inches taller, I was thin and leggy and easily pulled off that cute little school boy look she made popular. I even got to do some petites modelling one summer in Santa Barbara. Hey, I was 16 and it was fun getting paid to parade clothes for the Old Money and their teen daughters! But that too isn't the point of this entry. What I want to talk about is how my body has changed on a more sensual level. (Not sexual. Sensual.)

When I was buying size 3 and 5 jeans, I bought them tight. Like today's fad of tight, hip-hugging jeans, that was the style. When I took a pair out of the dryer, I had to lay on my bed to pull the zipper up with a pair of pliers. Come on, ladies, you know you did it too! We didn't have Spanx in those days (I still can't bring myself to hop and tug and sweat myself into those). Most girls who needed to suck in and flatten a few extra pounds did so with control-top pantyhose. Well, that was in the Seventies. In the Sixties we used little girdles called pettipants, which were an abbreviated form of old-fashioned bloomers. These quickly grew rows of ruffles around the legs that, if they peeked out from under the miniskirt, who cared? But because we wore thigh-high hose with dresses and skirts whose hems were steadily rising (yeah, that was fun), they often had those little garter grips in them, front and back. No matter how we tried to hide them, they looked weird under jeans so I was really happy when a friend introduced me to ballet tights, and then when Carnaby Street began sending us those fab patterned tights to wear with our skirts. Talk about liberation!

In those days we all wore everything tight. Hiphuggers, tees, turtlenecks, jersey dresses... but these days I've found that I just can't do it anymore, although I'm still petite in an older woman sort of way. Even Levis 501s bug me, never mind the skinny jeans. And my signature look of 501s, boots, and a black cotton turtleneck? I haven't worn that beloved look in over a decade, and for that I'm truly sad; I really loved it. It suited me.

My mother told me this would happen. She warned me that high necks, long sleeves, and tight waists and legs would eventually become intolerable. What she didn't tell me was that clothes in general, as well as scarves, shoes, even jewelry and makeup, would also become increasingly uncomfortable. I refuse to give in completely, though. At home I may wear sweats, sleep pants, and loose tees. I may wear Indian kurta sets when someone comes over, but when I go out I still dress much like I used to, although I don't pack myself in as tightly. And as if it's a type of rebellion, I still load on the jewelry and makeup. As soon as I walk in the door, though, off everything comes, and I tie my hair back to keep it out of my face.

So what is this? Why do the young like to be packed into clothes like a sausage, wearing layers of makeup all day, some never bothering to wash it off at night, and why do older folks throw it all in for loose, barely-there clothing and bare faces? Is it something to do with our stage of life: the young discovering their bodies while the old are preparing to shed them? Maybe it's just that our skin gets thinner and less elastic.

Maybe I'm over-thinking again.