If you think body-deforming fashion went out with 19th-century boned corsets and bustles, think again. A recent spate of research and studies on high heels, and one amazing news item on skinny jeans, reveals the dark secret behind the stilettoed,slender silhouettes that are all the rage: fashion hurts and can damage your body in mysterious ways.
Skinny Jeans as Health Hazard
I’m not a big fan of skinny jeans mostly because I just can’t pull off the look. I do have one pair, which I bought a size too big so that they fit loosely. I know that is kind of beside the point.
Still I’m glad I opted to size up. It turns out that tight skinny jeans recently caused an Australian woman to lose the use of her legs after she repeatedly squatted in the jeans while helping her sister pack cupboards in preparation for a move. According to Washington Post coverage, the “damage was the result of compression at the calves that created a ‘compartment syndrome’ where pressure builds up inside an enclosed space in the body.”
Doctors had to cut off her jeans to free her. She was unable to walk unaided for four days.
The good news? Skinny jeans may be on their way out in favor of the looser ‘boyfriend’ look, which is based on the idea that those fabulous jeans you’re wearing were lifted from your boyfriend’s closet. Not sure what you’re supposed to wear if don’t have one--a boyfriend, that is.
High Heels Cause Pain, and They're Dangerous
I used to love to wear high heels as often as I liked. These days, however, I choose my heels carefully, as my feet are not what they used to be.
According to research by the Royal College of Surgeons, my experience is no anomaly. Hospitalizations of women for a painful condition called Morton’s neuroma has increased 115 percent in the last 10 years. The Mayo Clinic defines Morton’s neuroma as “a painful condition that affects the ball of your foot, most commonly the area between your third and fourth toes… This can cause a sharp, burning pain in the ball of your foot. Your toes also may sting, burn or feel numb.” Who suffers the most from this syndrome? Women between the ages of 40 and 65 who have been wearing heels for years--or, women like me.
Walking in high heels not only causes inevitable foot pain, it also has been shown to change the biomechanics of walking. A study by a group of Australian scientists reveals that women “habituated” to wearing heels at least 40 hours a week walked differently even when barefoot. Apparently, heel wearers walk with “shorter, more forceful strides than the control group, their feet perpetually in a flexed, toes-pointed position,” which causes calf muscles to shorten.
And yet, women continue to wear them. According to a survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association, 72 percent of women wear high heels, 39 percent of them daily. Why? More than 70 percent say they’re an essential part of their power work outfits. Others like the elongating effect on the body and the added height. Most daily heel wearers are young (between 20 and 29) but that doesn’t necessarily protect them. Incidence of ER visits due to injuries from high heels doubled between 2002 and 2012. Most of the injuries were to ankles. None were fatal.
Even with this wealth of evidence that body confining and foot elevating fashion can have short- and long-term impacts on women’s health, we’re still drawn to mimic the images of beauty glorified by mass media. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase fashion victim. -- Emily Brower Auchard
July 21, 2015
If you missed our last issue, here you go:
Remembering our Dads
If you liked this story, you'll also like:
Meeting My Mother, a Small-Town Girl Turned Fashion Model
Booth Babes, Redressed
Photo courtesy of flickr user chris gold
Serena Wins; Gray Lady Loses. When tennis great Serena Williams won her sixth Wimbledon title at age 33, she became the oldest woman to win a Grand Slam tournament in professional tennis (this was her 21st Grand Slam single win). It also became an opportunity for the New York Times and others to discuss her "mold-breaking muscular frame" and how many other women tennis players were reluctant to show off their muscles because the "perceived ideal feminine body type can seem at odds with the best physique for tennis success." Whaaaat? The ideal feminine body type? People were not amused, including Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who took on Williams' critics in a tweet showing the tennis star in a red dress looking powerful and buff: @diegtristan8 "she is built like a man". Yeah, my husband looks just like this in a dress. You're an idiot." The NYT also did some self-reflection with public editor Margaret Sullivan noting, "It’s unfortunate that this piece didn’t find a way to challenge the views expressed, instead of simply mirroring them." Yes, it is.
He's Not Afraid to Eat: Picking up on this idea about the bias in the way men and women are described in the media, we turn our attention to this fabulous piece by BuzzFeed's Jenna Guillaume and Jessica Misener titled "If Male Actors Were Described the Way Female Actors Are." The authors take on magazine profiles that detail the way female celebs "purr...and encase their svelte-figures in all-white pantsuits" is spot on. Case in point: This fictional meet up with a noted actor:
Bradley Cooper hurries into the restaurant, almost tripping over his stilettos but sill somehow looking effortlessly chic in a white silk pansuit and his perfectly coiffed blonde tresses. "Sorry I'm late!" he exclaims breathlessly, immediately flagging down the waiter for a sourdough grilled cheese sandwich. He seems totallyk unconcerned about calories when the waiter mentions it comes with fries. "Oooh! Onion rings! Let's get some of those too!" he says to me, a naughty glint in his eye. (Cooper, for every inch of his Pilates-honed physique, isn't afraid to EAT.)
Go Set a Watchman -- or Not. Harper Lee's supposed sequel to her literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird was released this week, and many readers found it a depressing and dispiriting read (supposedly because Lee may have written it before Mockingbird). In any case, it picks up with the young Scout, now an adult, returning to her hometown. There we learn her idealistic father, Atticus Finch, is really a racist. "Great, Scout's vomited twice now. In this regard at least she is a good proxy for the reader," tweeted the Washington Post's Alexandra Petri. The Irish Times review was equally blunt, telling readers they have been "betrayed....Go Set a Watchman’ is Boo Radley. Like that key character from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, it was meant to stay inside, locked away, hidden from the world. It was never supposed to be published."