This was the headline in an article recently in Melbourne’s prestigious newspaper The Age, except I’d add a question mark at the end. Does fashion intrinsically torture women as the author maintained, or is it that far too many women are enslaved by what they perceive as fashion? Indeed, is it more to the point to suggest women torture themselves?

The writer, who calls herself a feminist via previous articles she has penned in The Age, has written about bodysuits, claiming they are not designed for bathroom visits. The crotch of her bejewelled bodysuit (and how less slinky, smooth and sexy?) was fitted with hooks which slipped as she tried to undo them, hooking in to a very sensitive place. ‘I wanted to be taken to hospital but was too mortified to admit it’. She went on ‘I am sure a lot of men are laughing at this point, rolling their eyes at female folly….yes, those sexy little bits of flimsy whimsy men love are actually lace straitjackets, excruciating erotic impediments’.

Now this writer, I can only say as a female too, I am also laughing, not because the hooks obviously pained you, but because you’re such a stupid shopper who purchased a bodysuit, I am surmising slightly, to appear sexy for a man. I am 65 and have been wearing bodysuits for several years now for a myriad of reasons; first and foremost because they are far more comfortable than a tight bra around my chest. I know from other articles this writer has penned that she has somewhat copious breasts, well I too, am rather well-endowed, and a cleverly designed bodysuit, if you shop around for the right sort, without hooks I must add, is far preferable to a pinching, wire-laced bra.

I have about 10 different style bodysuits; some of which do not even have crotch fasteners to undo, you just pull it slightly apart as you sit on the toilet and hey presto, you can pee in comfort. Others I wear have press studs, which are tightly fastened but can also pull them away from your crotch to piss without disaster. I have never bought one with hooks. Nor would I. Moreover, some I bought were from recycle shops that cost me just $5 or $10 – and they feel beautiful. They were not bought for a man in my life, but for me to feel more relaxed and comfortable in my own body, with or without a man. I can only pity your idiocy. They are certainly NOT straitjackets, but a corset, tightly laced, is.

The writer also confessed to dressing up in one of those with stockings, ‘in an attempt to look sexy for my partner at the time’. Now, I had a partner in my early 40s who wanted me to wear stockings too, actually buying me a black, lacy suspender belt and black stockings sans corset, and I wore them, once more comfortably and easily. We had great sex that night! I still have the suspender belt and bought new stockings, and I am old enough to remember wearing suspender belts and stockings in the 60s as a teenager, both to school in winter and to parties at night; pre-pantyhose. The only comment I would make about wearing a suspender belt is that in winter, under a skirt or dress, the tops of your thighs get cold, and of course, in tight jeans or long pants, it reveals itself in silhouette, tasteless and without style.

You have to be smart to be sexy, the writer adding that when the corset was removed by her ‘paramour’, she burst out of it ‘like an overcooked frankfurter’, hardly a sensual moment as her partner ‘almost peed himself with laughter’. Again, I would have laughed, too; at her, not with her!

I couldn’t help recalling an article written in The Dawn magazine in 1889 by Louise Lawson about how corsets were ‘imprisoning’ for a women’s body and how she urged women to claim their release from that garment. What’s new in the 21st century for ‘some’ women?

The Age writer also narrated how an Adelaide 35-year-old woman collapsed in a car park and had to crawl on her hands and knees for help because the skinny jeans she was wearing had cut off the blood supply to her calf muscles and left her in agony, with muscle and nerve damage. She had to be cut out of the pants, put on a drip and was unable to walk for four days unaided. I too, sometimes wear skinny jeans (I’m lucky I can as I’m slim), but I always allow my legs to breathe in between fabric and muscle.

It’s not fashion torturing women, but women torturing themselves, unable to distinguish between slavery to a dress code and comfort and style in their own choice of clothing. They are victims of a couture culture that blames ‘fashion’ instead of recognising their personal culpability as fools of that supposed culture. The writer also denigrates $1500 skyscraper heels as tortuous, too, and I have never worn skyscraper heels, nor would I, but I do wear high heels of sorts. They are not stilettos, but have thicker heels which aren’t too high and I always make sure I can walk in them comfortably. They make me feel good, and I like the look, wearing them for myself, not to supposedly appear sexy for men. I also wear flat shoes too; it’s all about what I’m wearing, how far I have to walk in a day, and what I feel relaxed in.

I must say that one item of underwear she omitted to write about was the panti-girdle; a garment that my mother first told me about in my early 20s when I was putting on weight and complaining about my protruding belly ad nauseum. A panti-girdle was a strong, stretch fabric as a pantie that pushed your belly into a flatter, less rotund sphere so that tight-fitting skirts and dresses could appear slimmer around the stomach. I did purchase a couple of them, but the strength of the girdle part varied depending how much belly you needed to shove into recession and I opted for a more light-weight type that helped flatten some of the bumpy bits. It was never comfortable or relaxing to wear, feeling more often like a tourniquet around my stomach, jettisoning wearing such a ‘thing’ after a few painful months. Better to exercise and eat less than wear that kind of steel straitjacket.

Moreover, just a few months ago, I saw a whole tabloid size page ad for a body length girdle contraption, for both men and women, designed to crumple all the fat into a concertina of curves instead. It looked truly mortifying, body size appearing shrunk by as much as three sizes and I could only wonder how excruciating it must feel to don one. Daresay however, the research marketeers had done their homework and these shrunken skins no doubt sold well. The ad was in the biggest selling daily newspaper in Australia and money well spent I can only postulate. More fools women AND the men too who have now caught up with women in being body phobic about themselves.

Back to The Age article now and I couldn’t help remembering some of a book I read in the late 70s called Fat Is A Feminist Issue which detailed how women were always engaged in behaviour, dress and body image antics to lure/attract a man. The writer stressed that it was imperative that women took control of these issues FOR themselves, not trying to seduce and or be selected by a man. Own yourself was her basic message. That book was penned nearly 40 years ago and I’ve never forgotten its intrinsic mantra even though it’s not necessarily a feminist issue as such but a very personal one about guiding and living by your own beliefs and convictions instead of being driven by how other people might regard you or hope they regard you, particularly those of the supposedly opposite sex.

Sadly, more and more men are falling prey to the same insidious cultural cant that celebrates cellulite free poundage as if we’re all perfect specimens descended from ancient Greek gods and goddesses who decorate the temples of Greece, making us unable to accept our flawed bodies as anything more than frauds to fate. It is not fashion per se that must be decried but the many women and men who delude themselves with dire delights of the flesh that only destroys them. Hooks and all!