Of Corsets Not Fashion

If you put a donkey in a suit, is it not still an ass?…

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies…. It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.”-Albert Einstein

            I worked in a library. On dress down Fridays, my attire was a pair of jeans and a t-shirt with a literary reference. Last week, I wore a Harry Potter t-shirt, a souvenir from my sister. My sister never read Harry Potter. Instead of a Hippogriff or a house elf, which would’ve suited me, she bought me a Death Eater shirt.

            The looks I received from patrons when they checked out the skull shirt led me to assume they’d missed the Harry Potter reference. The question ‘does your husband own a Harley?’ confirmed my suspicions.

            Due to wearing Lord Voldemort’s terrorist symbol on my chest, I was branded a biker chick. If leather chaps and boots were involved, I’d get the biker, but a lone skull t-shirt? Not all bikers wore chaps, boots, and skull shirts. See where judgments based on clothing became tricky?

            First, if I could afford something to ride on instead of in, it’d be a horse not a hog. Second, a woman can own a motorcycle. Third, a cardigan no more made me a librarian (you needed a degree for that) than a Death Eater shirt made me a biker.  I’d no desire to ride a Harley. The shirt was a gift and comfortable, geez.

            Are people so easily deceived? Yep, and humans are a judgy lot. We made assessments of others based on a few yards of material. Fashion, or lack of, drew us to or repelled us from people before we had the chance to know them.

            Blame history. King Louis XIII of France was mocked by an English king because of premature baldness. Louis donned a wig and gave into vanity instead of owning his natural state.

            The king’s men sucked up royally and jumped on the big hair bandwagon. Big wigs became a symbol of upward mobility. There were more than a few bugs in this power symbol, mainly lice and the stench.

            Dress was also a status symbol for wealth. The amount of sable and silk a person could wear was dictated by the amount of land you owned. Woe to the man whose britches became too big for him. If a man’s trunk hose (think baggy shorts puffed to look like turkey legs) were too overly stuffed for his position, he was publicly ridiculed, fined, or imprisoned. Too often history repeated itself with big wigs in big britches lousing with the stench of dirty laundry in positions of power.

            Women actually died to define their place in society with fashion. Corsets shattered ribs, herniated intestines, and suffocated wearers. Fashion killed females by the yard when hoop skirts caught fire or drowned a lady should she stroll too close to the edge of a pier. Such was the price for the illusion of big hips. Joan of Arc was burned alive because she wore pants.

            Women literally couldn’t run from fashion constraints. Chinese lotus shoes fit over toes that were broken and bound to make a small-footed, marriageable woman. In the sixteenth century, chopines were platform shoes that reached twenty inches. The shoes protected European ladies’ dresses from muddy streets. Women reveled in elevated status unless she fell and broke her leg.

            If a woman didn’t forfeit her life to clothing, wearing jewelry branded her as being sexually unrestrained at one point in history. Glancing at my bracelets and necklaces, I’d have been considered a whore. Who’d have thought beads and string helped me lure my husband to vice and doom? According to history, I should be hippy, with a tiny waist, unable to walk, and practically dead to be of any importance. Nudist are surely the most unpretentious people in the world.

             Of course, it’s not fashion that makes the person. I tire of attire. Today’s t-shirt states my opinion on clothing based judgments. A wise woman once said “F*ck this sh*t”, and she lived happily ever after.

Published in Funny Times-June 2021

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