Monday, April 07, 2008

Pay no attention to the mannequin's backside...

Last week I was watching a documentary on modeling (okay, it was really Tyra Banks’s America’s Next Top Model, but saying “documentary” makes my guilty pleasure a bit less pedestrian…) and one of the girls was being ignored by the designers for being, “too big” for their clothes. The “too big” girl was a size 10. Size 10. Hello! A size 10 would be a dream come true for me.

What I learned was designers generally book girls who are size 2. (In one scene I found particularly amusing a model was chastised for being too thin. The designer said, “I’m looking for 2’s, not 0’s.” Oh my word – what the heck is a size 0 anyway? Doesn’t that mean the body is non-existent? Zero is nothing, right? I found myself wanting to take the young waif by the shoulders and force-feed her a cheeseburger.) So all the models we see selling us clothes on the runway are basically one size away from nothingness.

I really felt for the cute size 10. She had a great smile, beautiful hair, and to my eyes, a darn good body. But she was told she should look for work in the “plus-size” world of fashion modeling. This disturbed me greatly because if the plus-size models are a size 10, there really are no plus-sized women modeling.

This crazy kind of body-consciousness hit home for me this weekend when I was at the mall with my children. Two of my babies can now shop at stores that are not decorated with primary colors and cute pictures of babies on the walls. No, they can now fit into garments peddled by clothiers who employ photographers who are two baby steps away from being child pornographers. I’d never been in Hollister before, but because Michael was with a buddy who wears practically nothing but Hollister, I went in with them. Holy dadgum cow, you would never know the store was selling clothes based on the pictures on the walls. There were lots of young, buff models but none was wearing much of anything. If you asked me I’d have said they were selling bronzing powder and boob jobs. However, once I looked closely I could see teeny tiny bits of cloth that passed as shorts and sold for $35.95.

And that’s just the models on the walls; the mannequins were even worse. There were four boy mannequins outside the entrance, and each had on a pair of jeans. Now, I say they had on jeans, but let me tell you, those jeans were one sneeze away from falling off. They were placed so low on the mannequins you could see way, way, way too much of the plastic butt and even more of the plastic front (which, by the way, is entirely too realistic. Just an FYI for you.)

Not being one who can leave well enough alone, I attempted to hike up the jeans so they would fit properly. You can only imagine the trauma this caused my children. Twenty years from now I’m sure this will come up in their therapy sessions.

Needless to say, the jeans would not stay up. There was absolutely no way the waistband would cinch enough to cease showing the butt crack, which made me realize even my dear son is going to grapple with the concept that the “perfect” boy body is practically impossible. Those models had a waist Scarlett O’Hara would envy, paired with abs of steel earned by sitting up who knows how many times.

We finally left the store, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the barely-there shorts, half-naked models and well-equipped mannequins. I was overcome with a mix of feeling old and feeling grateful to be old. I felt old because all I could think about was covering up the mannequins’ back ends. On the flip side, however, I was so thankful to be old and to (hopefully) have some wisdom from my years on the planet to realize my hope does not lie in my dress size and my self-worth comes only from knowing what Jesus has done for me.

As we walked down the hall we passed Gymboree in all its primary color glory. And I couldn’t help but wish I still shopped where pictures of precious babies covered head to toe in red, green and blue overalls smiled back at me.