It’s a Wrap:
5 Fads from the Slimming Fashion Industry

There’s always the question of what to do with those extra pounds, particularly at this time of year. Should you squeeze them back, tuck them in, wrap them up, camouflage them, or simply let hang? Well, whatever your preferred method for masking that extra chub, there’s a manmade solution out there for you. Or, if all else fails, it’s still not too late to make yet one more New Year’s resolution.

Kirtles, Corsets, and Coches
Women and men alike have used bindings either for religious or fashion reasons since time began. The origin of the use of corsets (derived from the French word corps, for “body”) can be found in drawings discovered at a Neolithic archaeological site in Brandon, England. Not particularly confined to women’s wear, the use of stays or corsets is documented back to 1700 BCE, when corsets were used to train small waists on young men and warriors as part of their culture. In the 13th and 14th centuries CE, dress construction incorporated a corseted effect known as “kirtles” into everyday wear.

Iron was used in the 14th century to create the first known artificial support known as a coche in France and a busk in England. Used as a status symbol, Catherine de Medici, in the French court, ordered her ladies-in-waiting to cinch their waists to no bigger than 13 inches around, prompting the use of a steel framework to achieve this extreme state. In the late 20th century, the corset was resurrected as a piece of fashion outerwear made famous by Madonna in the late 1980s.

Jeans and Slimming Cream
The quest to lift and shape our derrieres has become an economic boon for denim jean producers. A select line of jeans, trousers and skirts produced by Miss Sixty carries an extra ingredient, Skintex, combining retinol, designed to stimulate collagen production, and chitosan, produced from shellfish skeleton bone. The serum embedded in the jeans material is designed to be released upon friction between the skin and fabric when worn.

According to Cognis, the German manufacturers, 40% of the “medication” is absorbed after 48 hours and the clothing remains effective for 30 washings. Hand washing is recommended. Doctors, however, are skeptical. One unforeseen problem is that the retinol reacts to sunlight so sunburn might be an interesting by-product of the slimming exercise. These clothes are not cheap; jeans retail at $ 139 a pair, pants range from $119 to $149 and skirts are $99 dollars. Already the company has said that it will not reissue this line of clothing next season.

The art of wearing a swimsuit is an acquired technical skill, not necessarily apparent to the naked eye. Every year the agonizing ritual of searching for that ideal magic swimsuit begins. Reality strikes as women start the journey of accentuating the positive and camouflaging the negative. This focus on body shaping and trend toward exposing more body parts increased in importance at the beginning of the 20th century, spurred in 1902 by the Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman, an “underwater ballerina” who dove into a glass tank clad in a swimsuit that showed arms, legs and neck. Although she was arrested for indecent exposure, the damage had been done. Today, you can buy a swimsuit with panel-restricting tummy control, underwires to maintain bust shape, bust enhancers using a gel cup, bust reducers, bottom control and support, and even padded bottoms.

These Shoes Were Made For Walking It Off
The latest cellulite-busting phenomenon, MBTs, gives a whole new meaning to the song “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” Produced by Masai Barefoot Technology, the company’s anticellulite sneakers are designed to help you mimic the gait of members of the Masai tribe in Africa. Why, exactly? Well, the lanky Masai are renowned for their perfect posture. Although definitely not a fashion winner, these bulky athletic shoes sit on a sole of rubber, curved thicker and higher in the middle, to force your legs to work harder with each step. Walking like a Masai ain’t exactly cheap, though: it’s about $255 for a pair of shoes. Despite the hefty tag, the sneakers move off shelves pretty quickly. And while there seems to be little scientific support for the shoes’ anticellulite claims, they are credited with improving posture a slightly pricey way to put some spring in your step!

Wrapping It All Up
The fascination (and profit potential) associated with the magical effect of body wraps to
reduce inches has survived for more than two centuries. Traced back to the time of the
Romans, and used in Cleopatra’s court, body wraps have worked by shrinking the size of
fat cells to reduce, contour and slenderize the body shape. Creams, lotions and gels containing a mixture of either herbal extracts, chemicals, minerals or vegetable products
are applied to the skin before wrapping with terry cloth or cellophane. And while the older European full-body wraps sound closer to a variety of mummification, they promise up to six inches off original body measurements, which might last for a year. Using bandages soaked in sea-clay mud, the entire body is wrapped, starting with the feet and ankles, then going all the way to the jaws, with specialized wrapping procedures for the bustline. Recently, at-home body wrap kits sold directly to consumers at a lower price are competing against the high-priced wraps from the luxurious beauty salons.

Adapted from “Forbidden Knowledge” published by HarperCollins (November 2005). For more quirky fun visit www.mentalfloss.com