The Embodiment of a Cliché

Every so often I extract my Feminist Card from my back pocket and think about what’s important.  This becomes especially vital in times of  Feminist Trial where, like a talisman, the Feminist Card focuses me on my world: a world where hair, make-up, and conformist pressures are alien and viewed from afar with suitable disdain.

This year’s Feminist Trial is not, in the spectrum of Global Feminist Trials, particularly upsetting or challenging.  In the spectrum of Nic’s Feminist Trials, however, it’s in the file marked ‘Extremely Painful’.

I am to be a bridesmaid.

Yes, I agreed to do it.  It’s not the first time, or even the second.  Why did I agree?  How do you refuse someone who is asking you to share in a day that’s extremely important to them?  It’s an honour.

In my world, bridesmaid duties don’t inherently require OMG hair OMG make-up OMG dress panic OMG OMG OMG yay!!!! x 1000 LOL. 

My world, it turns out, isn’t inhabited by much of a population.  A key absentee from my world’s populace is the bride.

I understand bridal desire to be overtly conformist about weddings.  It would be a brave woman indeed who chose the day she is to occupy a significantly heightened, be-pedestalled, centre-of-attention, photographed-for-posterity position to experiment with non-conformity.  I’ve been a bride.  I was spectacularly sucked in to the My Special Day Conflict of 2004, and didn’t emerge with my dignity fully intact.  I get it.

I don’t have to like it.  But I have to participate in it, with a smile and plenty of grace.   Phase 1 was bridal dress shopping, necessitating a weekend trip to the bride’s town and several appointments with openly snooty wedding dress shop assistants.  I nearly said something very sneering indeed to the shop assistant who said the bride’s hair was ‘very greasy’, but I remembered: smile and be graceful.  Phase 1 was completed, and the bride will look stunning.

Phase 2 is bridesmaid dress shopping.  So it was that I was summonsed to central London.  Why oh why do brides choose to inflict pre-Christmas dress-shopping on their bridesmaids?  This is the second time I’ve been through it, and Oxford Circus in mid-December is the tenth circle of hell, yet there I found myself, trying to look like I was smiling and being full of grace rather than hotly grimacing.

My  fear was that we would be unable to find a dress that makes me look even close to attractive, or that the bride likes.  I want the bride to have nice photos – I have no desire to be the person who ruins them.  For entirely selfish reasons, I want to look at least semi-decent.  I’m struggling with that because I thought I’d grown out of it, but it turns out there’s a scratch on my Feminist Card.

Happy days!  The second dress we tried on was fine and the bride liked it very much.  I was imagining a relaxing lunch and some corollary non-dress shopping to ease the last minute Christmas gift panic, when the bride suggested we keep going in case something better should appear.

I smiled, and looked graceful, and agreed.

In a department store a short jaunt away, I finally solved the 127-button puzzle and got into what had appeared on the hanger to be a slinky satin number.  I looked at myself in the mirror.

Maybe I’m slightly overweight; I tend not to think about it very much.  This dress, being made of clingy weird fake satin, stuck to every lump and bump.  Surely, surely I am not really that fat, I muttered.  I shut my eyes and opened them again, because it must have been an optical illusion.  It wasn’t.  The dress is the sartorial equivalent of the fun-fair mirror nobody loves.

Never mind!  I thought to myself, she’ll hate it too.  I cast aside the changing-room curtain with a flourish, expecting her to recoil in horror and demand that I remove all thoughts of that dress from my memory forth-with.

I didn’t even have time to open my mouth before she gasped.  She liked it. No, she loved it.   It’s the one.  Smiling and being graceful, I expressed mild and carefully-worded concern that perhaps this dress makes me look like the Heffalump’s fatter cousin.

All I need, apparently, is some support underwear.  All the celebrities are supported in this way – didn’t I know?  Nobody looks good in this type of dress without help.


I reported to a trusted colleague, who informs me that in addition to being horrifically uncomfortable, support underwear simply serves to re-position the issue from A to B, where B is the under-bust and under-arm region.  Fabulous.

So, I’m going to be eating lentils, salad, cardboard and dust between now and the summer.  And my future features support-underwear shopping.  The bride thinks we might do this together.  I think I might buy it from the internet and then sit in a dimly-lit room, crying.


6 Responses to “The Embodiment of a Cliché”

  1. 1 Jenn @ Juggling Life January 10, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Feminist or no, I wouldn’t even try on a dress like that without a “foundation” garment. Also? If I really thought I’d look hideous I would say no to the dress. I am THAT vain.

    You are reminding me of the time the bride and I chose the dresses for the wedding party–and I looked fantastic while everyone else looked terrible. It wasn’t intentional and I still feel bad about it. I think I may blog this!

    I was a very low-key bride and I will smack my daughters around if they start to go bridezilla!

  2. 2 unmitigated me January 11, 2012 at 12:29 am

    1.consider sizing up
    2.skip the spanx and go for some Lycra bike shorts. Sooooo much more comfortable, and slippery so the offending dress will gracefully slide over!

  3. 3 Mrs. G. January 11, 2012 at 5:10 am

    The one time I wore Spanx I cut them off me in a public bathroom because the constriction and pain were ruining the evening…bike shorts or one of those full body numbers so you don’t have the waist strangulation.

    • 4 Nic @ Life, Smudged. January 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      @Jenn: My attitude to my looks are that I generally don’t care, but there’s a line. This dress? Below the line. I did not even think about my underwear in advance of shopping – I learn something every day!

      @unmitigated: For reasons I can’t explain, sizing up doesn’t help. I was already wearing the size up from my usual size, and it was baggy in the back and shoulders yet clingy all over my stomach and thighs. Sizing up further wouldn’t work – I tell you, this dress is a freak. I literally have no option but support underwear and salad, and if that combination doesn’t work, maybe a seamstress can do some last-minute alterations. Bicycle shorts, though, there’s a thought…

      @Mrs. G: Yes! I knew I’d read it somewhere. The moment she said ‘support underwear’ my mind went to scissors and now I know why.

  4. 5 Jen January 11, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Contrary, to Mrs. G’s experience with Spanx, support garments don’t have to be painful. If you are wearing the correct size, everything will be smoothed out and your dress will look terrific. I have some that are really comfortable and I love how they make me look in certain dresses.

    And Mary’s idea about wearing running/bike shorts is a great one that I’m going to have to try.

  5. 6 Monica January 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Don’t you love how the models in support underwear ads don’t need the support underwear? What’s up with that? Show me how someone who’s got the bulges I’ve got looks in that spanx, please. And her face, so I can see if her features are pinched up in pain, or if she looks relaxed.
    I did love this post. Grace is a lovely quality, never mind how the dress looks.

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