Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fashion Made Me Fat

Great article from the Times (UK) by Francesca Gavin and so true!

Ever been hit by the shock of gaining a mysterious half-stone? Of course you have. For me, it was slow gain. It happened over a couple of seasons. I didn’t really notice at first, then, annoyingly, there it was - straining against my waistband. Where had it come from? Food? Booze? Embarrassing lack of exercise?

Er, no. In my heart, I knew the real culprit was fashion.

High-street fashion is currently dominated by blouson tops, extra-stretch jeans, boyfriend sweaters and dresses that wouldn’t look out of place on a maternity rail. Designer labels are no saviour, with bulbous skirts, smocks and metallic triangle dresses. A few pounds’ gain could easily go unnoticed under a well-chosen piece of Marc Jacobs. Hell, who can spot a waistline beneath a loose Aline sack?

This wasn’t the first time I had gained or shed a few curves as the result of fashion’s fickle trends.

When Calvin Klein’s hard Brooke Shields jeans were reissued recently and I had to have them, my hips shrunk in terrified response. In contrast, boho grunge layers hid any extra pounds. It never bothered me too much - health and a dose of sex appeal were far more interesting than a model figure. Nonetheless, I wanted to keep an eye on things so my body didn’t end up fluctuating as capriciously as my skirt lengths.

There was only one remedy: if fashion got me into this mess, then fashion was going to get me out of it. The first step was to go shopping. I needed desirable, fashion-forward clothes that would retrain my body shape. Instead of the freedom of loose layers, I went for restriction. Instead of super-stretch Cheap Mondays, I went for ChloƩ-style high-waisted jeans with a lot less movement. I stocked up on tight pencil skirts and tucked everything into firm waistbands for heightened visibility. I invested in a little more tailoring, with dresses that had some light boning. The idea was that, if I literally restricted my clothes and forced myself to be aware of my body, my flesh would inch off.

At first, it was darned uncomfortable. Eating is hard if your stomach is bound by fabric. However, my posture improved immediately and I kept in mind Joan Collins’s mantra about a flat stomach - if you hold it in at all times, it will stay there.

Of course, I sometimes fell off the wagon - slipping into a strapless loose number to make room for a night of passion-fruit martinis at Shoreditch House, or slipping into a comfy dress for the breakfast buffet at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo.

Yet, in the long run, the discomfort was worth it, as my body gradually began to return to normal. Now I’m scanning the catwalk shows for trends in anticipation of the return of any dangerously spacious shapes and forgiving materials.

Next season, I’ll be prepared.

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