Tag Archives: fashion

Bikini Bottom Economics

2012 Olympic Women’s Beach Volleyball Medal Winners
AP Photo/Keystone/Peter Schneider

As an active duty Navy family, we are definitely feeling the strain of the economy and military cutbacks. With all this talk about the struggling middle class, who would have thought that rich guys like Ralph Lauren are in the financial hurt locker?

I mean, why else would he feel the need to pinch pennies by having the US Olympic Team uniforms made in China? The poor guy must be clipping coupons for foie gras and hitting early bird specials at Le Bernardin. Otherwise, he surely wouldn’t have made a deal with the country that is currently our biggest Olympic, economic and political rival to design and manufacture our team uniforms. Right?

And, did anyone else notice that, despite the absence of stars and stripes, the US Olympic uniforms are emblazoned with HUGE Polo logos? Ralph Lauren must be financially strapped if he felt the need to shamelessly promote his brand at the expense of patriotism. Bless his shriveled, greedy little heart, he must really be strapped for cash.

But to be fair, Ralph’s not the only one committing Olympic fashion faux pas this year. The Spaniards are being accused of wearing McDonald’s uniforms, the reserved Brits are blinged out in metallic, and the stern Germans are uncharacteristically warm and fuzzy in baby blue and pastel pink. Are we in some sort of Twilight Zone of haberdashery or am I missing something here?

If the Olympic Opening Ceremony’s Parade of Nations wasn’t bizarre enough, the uniforms worn by athletes during competitions has me wondering whether pole dancing might soon be added as an Olympic event.

Most striking are the women’s beach volleyball uniforms, which consist of booty-revealing bottoms that are about four square inches short of being thongs, and the tiniest sports bras ever made. And apparently track “shorts” are now passé — runners wear bikini underwear instead. Similarly, our women’s diving team suits have extremely high-cut leg openings which expose the athletes’ buttocks and guarantee a turbo wedgie with every dive.

The performance enhancing wedgie.

What’s the practical rationale for showing so much flesh? Was the fabric creating performance issues for these athletes? Too much drag perhaps? Based on how many times I’ve seen them reach back to pull their uniforms out of their rear ends, I highly doubt that the athletes find that the new thong-like bottoms enhance their performance.

Even some male athletes are over-exposed. Take the Men’s Water Polo Team for example. Are they wearing those itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny swim trunks to balance out the un-sexiness of their ridiculous swim bonnets that are fastened with big bows under their chins? They look like what might happen if an Amish cross-dresser got a job at Chippendales.

I love a man with a bonnet tied under his chin.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Now, if any group of athletes had a reason to expose more flesh, you’d think it would be our Olympic swimmers, who benefit from the smooth hydrodynamics of water against bare skin. But no, for some reason, they are wearing more fabric than ever this year. The men are forgoing skimpy “Speedos” in favor of conservative bicycle shorts, and the women are sporting knee-length wrestling uniforms. Go figure.

Other than fencers, whose uniforms not only cover every inch of flesh but also flash dramatically in bright robotic green and red lights making them look like sword-wielding R2D2s, the only other athletes who insist on being totally covered are Olympic archers.

In keeping with the ancient tradition of the sport, one might reasonably expect an archer to be simply clad in a bark loin cloth or animal pelt. However, for some unknown reason, they all dress like Gilligan, wearing buttoned up shirts, bucket hats, chinos and boat shoes. I keep wondering when the Skipper’s going to show up and cheer, “Hey Little Buddy!”

Try to get a bulls-eye Little Buddy!
(REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)

As crazy as this year’s Olympic clothing choices seem to be, I can’t rule out the possibility that the attention-getting uniforms might just be a brilliant strategy for better ratings. Be it bare buttocks or bucket hats, I have to admit that I can’t seem to tear my eyes away.

Let’s face facts: more viewers lead to better ratings. Better ratings lead to more advertising. More advertising leads to more sales. More sales lead to more money in the pockets of businessmen like poor destitute Ralph Lauren. More money in Ralph’s pocket might keep him from giving our jobs to the Chinese.

I’m not sure if that’s top down or bottom up economics, but keeping an eye on Olympians’ bottoms might just be improving our country’s bottom line.

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In Pursuit of Panache

I’m sure many things have been said about me, both good and bad, but there’s one thing I can be certain nobody will ever utter in reference to me, and that is: “I like her style.”

Why? Because, I have no style. Never have, never will.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those non-conformist types who protests social norms by allowing her hair to tangle into dreadlocks, eating organic lentils, playing instruments made out of gourds, and driving a rusted out van containing children named “Rainbow” and “Leaf.”

To the contrary, I’ve always wanted style. I just simply can’t figure out how to get it.

As a kid, I was definitely fashion-challenged. This disability might possibly have been triggered by my mother, who forced me to wear thick yarn hair ribbons, saddle shoes, white knee socks, and polyester dresses topped with white cardigan sweaters until I was in the seventh grade.

By adolescence, any burgeoning fashion sense that may have developed in the recesses of my brain had withered and died, apparently asphyxiated by those stifling cardigan sweaters. I had to master the basics if I was ever going to survive high school, so I armed myself with simple color matching skills, lots of denim, and a pair of brown shoes. My most fashion-forward outfit was an orange wool sweater, a knee-length denim skirt, matching orange knee socks, and my brown shoes. That was as good as it was gonna get.

But this lack of style was not confined to fashion. Try as I might, I could not seem to muster any distinctive flair for music, interior decorating, or culinary skills either.

In an attempt to develop taste in music, I plagiarized my older brother’s favorite mix tapes. But while my peers were shoulder-shimmying to Pat Benatar and moon walking to Thriller, I was too busy trying to decipher the confusing lyrics of songs by Rush and Jethro Tull.

When I was shipped off to college, I couldn’t wait to decorate my first dorm room with my Kliban Cat bedspread and poster of a kitten hanging from a tree that read, “Hang in there, baby!” Little did I know that I’d been randomly matched with a stylish, wealthy, well-traveled roommate who would cringe at the juxtaposition of my décor with her sleek modern bed linens and poster of Château de Chambord.

After marriage, I still seemed be the last one to clue in to the latest trends amongst my peer group. While the other wives were toasting pine nuts, wearing distressed jeans, painting their walls “Claret,” installing aged-bronze fixtures, and listening to Alanis Morrissette, I was obliviously content in my shoulder-pad-reinforced sweater, drinking a Zima over my Williamsburg blue Formica countertop while humming Juice Newton’s “Playing with the Queen of Hearts.”

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find my own sense of style. Just when I thought I’d discovered the latest trend, it was already on a clearance rack at Big Lots or on the buffet at Golden Corral.

Mercifully, I have entered Middle Age, the time in life when a sense of style is certainly admired, but optional nonetheless. I can finally stop the fruitless search for the perfect pair of sunglasses and the trendiest wines, and just concentrate on keeping my jeans from creeping too far north of my belly button.

In a way, all my years of lagging behind the latest trends has supplied me with a certain panache that’s totally unique. I’d like to think I have an eclectic “vintage” vibe with a comfortable no nonsense charm; however, I’m certainly aware that others interpret my style as garage sale frump with a touch of interstate truck stop.

It’s OK. There’s more to life than style, and I’m fairly certain that when my time on this Earth comes to a close, I won’t wish I’d cooked with wood sorrel or quinoa. I won’t regret having never owned a pair of ankle boots or harem pants. My dying wish won’t be to hear the latest Black Eyed Peas single. And I certainly won’t long to finally install cork flooring.

I’ll continue happily perfecting my meatloaf recipe and wearing my brown shoes, because, ironically enough, having no style has a style all its own.

Back to School Duds for a Fashion Dud

Fashion has always eluded me. By the time I clue in to the latest trend, it has hit the clearance racks, which is why I’ve never spent much on clothes and often look a bit outdated. 

It all started in my primary years when my mother was dressing me in polyester dresses, cardigan sweaters worn over the shoulders with only the top button done, knee socks, saddle shoes, and my hair tied in thick yarn bows. Even when I was allowed to get a pair of groovy gauchos, I still had to wear the stinking saddle shoes. Add to that my chunky frame and a huge split between my front teeth, and it wasn’t a pretty sight.


I remember one August back in the late 70s, when my mother dragged my brother and me downtown to do some back to school shopping. Our first stop was Troutman’s, a musty old department store on the main street. At 13, I thought it was an “old lady store,” and never much set foot in the place except on half days when my friends and I would stop in to see the latest Bonnie Bell Lip Gloss flavor behind the makeup counter.


I associated the place with a mild level of anxiety, a direct result of the years when my parents would take my brother and me there at Christmas time to sit on Santa’s lap. No candy cane was worth the building terror that I experienced every year as the line inched forward. I loved Santa when he was that elusive guy up at the North Pole I wrote letters to, but put me in his lap and he may as well be the Creature from the Black Lagoon.


My mother took me to the juniors section, and started sifting through racks of slacks, while I watched my mischievous older brother occupy himself over by some mannequins. For a moment, he disappeared behind a display. As he popped out the other side with a smirk on his face, I noticed that the wig on one of the mannequins had been tugged off to one side, exposing her bald head and knocking her sunglasses askew. He could barely contain his laughter, and I started to snicker too.


“Here dumpling, go try these on.”


My mother handed me a pile of outfits and I reluctantly faced the harshly-lit dressing room. One by one, I tried the outfits my mother had put together. Plum slacks and a cowel neck. Khaki gauchos and a blouse with a bow at the neck. Blue chinos and a plaid shirt. I just wanted to crawl under a rock.


Our next stop was Pflorsheim Shoes, another place my friends and I went to on half days. The store had one of those old stand alone penny gum machines that spit out five or six square pellets in green, yellow, orange, white, pink and red. Curiously, they all tasted the same, except the red one, which was cinnamon.


But we weren’t there to buy gum, we were there to find me the one pair of school shoes I would be imprisoned in my entire 7th grade year. Mercifully, we passed by the saddle shoes and headed for a rack of brown leather. A salesman in shirtsleeves and tie knelt to measure my foot and brought out an array that could best be described as dumpy, frumpy, plain and nondescript.


As the salesman fitted me in the shoes, I tried to think of what my best friend would do. But she never shopped in these stores. She was totally cute, hip and trendy, and used her mother’s employee discount at a chic little boutique called “The Cubby Hole” across the street in upscale Brody’s Department Store. She had just purchased a satin jacket, rainbow suspenders, a Coneheads t-shirt, designer jeans and a huge plastic comb for her back pocket.


But my parents were more conservative than hers, so I didn’t even think to ask for anything satin or rainbow. I knew it was brown leather or nothing.


Having remembered something my best friend said about new “preppy” styles, I settled on a pair of plain Bass loafers and hoped my back to school shopping agony would soon be over.


As the years rolled by, I continued to make obvious fashion mistakes like the bang roll, my suede green Pumas, the lace-collared peach dress with the massive shoulder pads, and that time I got a perm. But, through it all, I learned to overcompensate for my lack of fashion sense with my developing sense of humor, and although I was always somewhat uncomfortable in my clothes, I found a comfortable security in making people laugh. 


Now, as an adult, I wish I hadn’t worried so much about my clothes when I was a kid. Much older and a little wiser, I know that developing a strong sense of character is more important than a sense of style. That being said, I need to go shopping. I heard there’s a big sale on parachute pants and crop tops.


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