The Spandex Tsunami
Am I the only person perplexed by the staggering popularity of Spandex? Why have so many women decided that tourniquet tight legwear is a wardrobe must? And not just slim women; women of all shapes and sizes pry on their pants each day and head out into the world, defiant as new parolees.
I don’t care if you have a rockin’ body, I don’t care if you don’t. I’m just tired of seeing so much of you. I never signed up for a free subscription to your ass.
“They’re super comfortable,” a friend assured me, beaming at her thighs, which were shrink-wrapped in a dark gray material splashed with giant yellow daisies. “They move with your body,” she explained. Indeed your body cannot shake them; you’ve eliminated the option.
Yoga pants. Compression wear. Training tights. Leggings. Designers have worked hard to come up with fetching names. Still promoted/justified as sportswear, the distinction has become meaningless.
There are a handful of competitive sports that benefit from tight uniforms. When winning is measured by a thousandth of a second, a second skin is the way to go. The rest of us have options, especially those who don’t know they do, who believe that compression tights and skinny jeans are tickets to freedom.
Every time I see a girl in tight jeans—which is every day, many times a day—I cringe a little, imagining the difficulty involved in sitting, bending and walking. A fashion that limits movement, impinges on circulation and inhibits healthy breathing is not a product that favors liberation and empowerment.
Remember Grunge? I do, even though it last just half a minute back in the early 90s. With origins in the Seattle area, Grunge fashion—for both men and women—was characterized by durable and cheap clothing often worn in a loose, androgynous manner to de-emphasize the silhouette. Make-up and excessive grooming were shunned; the whole point was to disavow the pitfalls of conformity and capitalism. Decades later, men are still wearing easy-fitting clothes; women, sadly, are not. I guess Doc Martens, roomy jeans and flannel shirts did not contribute to the objectification of the female form. If a women’s body is de-emphasized, who will want it? Who will care? What is it worth?
What I miss most from the Grunge period was the way women carried themselves. The sureness of their movements, the nascent confidence. Women were realizing at last that they owned themselves, or could. Who needed to measure up? For a brief period in our evolution, the female body was under autonomous rule as women adopted a brave new world of non-fashion and individuality.
A style that celebrates personal freedom is not a style that can be easily re-packaged by clothing designers, and so Grunge died out. Hoping to monetize the attitude, the fashion industry has tried at intervals to echo the lost look, offering distressed garments at high prices, but these attempts do not illustrate what Grunge was all about. The mainstream cannot adopt a subculture without losing its grassroots nature.
So far, I’m not seeing any sign that women are ready to peel off their Spandex and slip into something more comfortable. I’ve been waiting for that sea change, for some daring designer to introduce loose-fitting jeans for women. Imagine the culture shock, millions of females moving freely through their days, empowered by the anonymity of modest, comfortable clothing. Of course, there is still the matter of make-up, hair dye and Botox, but we have to start somewhere.