The squeezing season

Tight-fitting jeans and short tops are what's in fashion, all other body types be damned.

Published July 5, 2006 4:31PM (EDT)

The L.A. Times offers up the perfect story to follow your weekend burgers and beer: Meet the Sausage Casing Girls. According to the Times, these girls "are everywhere this summer, their muffin tops hanging over their hip-skimming jeans, clothes shrink-wrapped around fleshy bodies that look as if they've been stuffed -- like forcemeat -- into teensy tops and skintight pants." Whoa! There are so many kinds of food going on in that sentence I'm not sure where to begin.

Disgusting phrasing aside, the article writes on the phenomenon of women, particularly teens, who wear clothing smaller than their body sizes to fit, literally, into slim standards of beauty and cool. Skinny standards of beauty may be nothing new, but the idea of women forcing clothes to fit their form rather than starving themselves to fit the clothes is somewhat of a revision to the usual body-hating paradigms.

Jessica Weiner, author of "A Very Hungry Girl," who herself suffered from eating disorders as a teen, believes that there are several factors at work: "the oversexualization of teen girl clothing, peer pressure and relentless messages about self-esteem." She also pointed out the "image diet" on which teens are fed. As Weiner points out, we "don't see anyone who looks like [us] on TV, in movies, in ads, or in fashion spreads. It's like a cocktail for disaster."

As is the fact that the clothing industry hardly tailors to bigger body types. According to a study of more than 6,300 women by Cynthia Istook, associate professor of apparel design and technology at North Carolina State University, "only 8 percent of American women actually have the hourglass-shaped body that the apparel industry uses as its standard," the Times reports. As Ivonne Lopez, a 16-year-old from California, told the Times, it's hard not to wear tight clothing, "everywhere you look this is the only type of clothing available  The only clothes that are cute and pretty are the ones that are tight. That makes me feel bad because I feel the fashion industry forgot what being a normal size was."

While this is an interesting, if disturbing look at the lack of fashion options for real bodies, the language in the article and its bizarrely insensitive tone is more than a little distracting. The Times seems surprised to find that girls are not clamoring to talk to a reporter about their body issues, and there is no critique whatsoever of terminology that equates the female body with a piece of meat.

Skinny jeans anyone?

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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