Last night on Facebook, a friend posted a hilarious video of an English woman putting on Spanx.  Many women can associate with that experience.  Recently, I wrote a story that fits this category.  Hopefully, some of you can share your “horror” stories too.

True Girth

By: Karen Wielinski

Throughout the ages, women have felt the need to wear undergarments of torture to enhance their appearance.

This ridiculous practice began in the 1550s, when French King Henry II’s wife Catherine had the not so brilliant idea of enforcing a ban on thick waists at court events.  Thus the corset was born.  What was she thinking?  Was she trying to get even with her girlfriends?  Did they fail to invite her to some activity or flirt with the King?

Sure, corsets lifted breasts, gave women tiny waists, and made butts look bigger (which some men apparently like), but was wearing them worth basically being unable to breath?

Women began to wise up in the 1800s.  Dress reformists emerged.  They felt corsets were a dangerous moral “evil”, promoting promiscuous views of female bodies.  The reformists also pointed out that corsets were health risks, as they damaged and rearranged internal organs and compromised fertility (tell that to the women who seemed to have excessively large families in those days).  At the height of the Victorian age, corsets were proclaimed a sign of moral indecency.

American women active in the anti-slavery and temperance movements, added their two-cents, and demanded sensible clothing that would not restrict their movement.  Things were changing, and corsets began to slip in popularity.

Women still were obsessed with enhancing their figures.  The girdle answered that need. Constructed of elasticized fabric, it included hook and eye closures to hold up stockings.

I was introduced to the girdle when I was about eleven.  Weighing in at about seventy pounds, I definitely did not need this undergarment to enhance my figure; basically, I had no figure at that time.  I needed it to hold up the stockings, which I had just received to wear with my first pair of high heels.

You could never trust those girdle hooks, though.  They could suddenly snap off and leave you sweating over whether the remaining hooks would decide to hold up their end of the bargain.  If they let you down, you would end up with stockings pooled around your ankles.

Because hooks were unreliable and slackers on the job, they soon became obsolete thanks to the introduction of pantyhose. When purchasing control-top pantyhose, you knew things would stay in place nicely.

So, were women satisfied with this more comfortable solution?  No.  Sara Blakely, a successful saleswoman, did not enjoy wearing pantyhose in the hot Floridian climate on a daily basis.  She disliked the appearance of the seamed foot while wearing open-toe shoes, but liked that the control-top model eliminated panty lines and made her body appear firmer.  She cut off the feet of her pantyhose while wearing a pair of slacks.  She was happy with the result.  So, at age twenty-seven, she tweaked and refined her idea to create the Spanx line of undergarments.  Her success was literally confirmed when she sent a basket of products to Oprah Winfrey’s television program with a gift card explaining what she had developed.  Oprah named Spanx a “Favorite Thing” in 2000.

I admit that I have worn Spanx in recent years.  Yes, they tuck you in where needed, but they are not comfortable.

Before my daughter Lori’s wedding, I visited the undergarment department of a local store.  There are no longer sales clerks available in these departments to lend assistance.  Of course, in this case, I am not sure I wanted assistance from some middle-aged or twenty-something clerk. I proceeded to the fitting room where I struggled to step into a Spanx contraption. Can you imagine trying to slip a small rubber band over a large item?  Well, halfway up, I decided to abandon all efforts to hoist the Spanx up to my waist.  Taking them off was difficult too, and laughing about my predicament only added to the problem.

I ended up with the old panty girdle solution for the wedding.  However, I ditched the girdle after dinner due to discomfort. A few drinks convinced me that I didn’t care if a small pouch was visible at the front of my dress.  I removed the girdle in the ladies room, balled it up and tried to conceal it as I took it out to my car.  Free at last, I could comfortably enjoy the wedding.

I eventually did buy Spanx that were easier to put on.  The old hook-an-eye setup causes some torture.  Unhooking the hooks to use the facilities is fairly easy, but trying to hook them up again can be quite a trick.  I cannot bend my head between my legs to see what I am doing.  I blindly have to make numerous attempts to achieve that goal.  I settle for attaching one, and hope that will keep the contraption in place.

There is one type of Spanx that I have tried on, but quickly decided was totally impractical.  This one-piece undergarment ditches the hook-and-eye idea, and simply replaces it with a hole. If I have trouble peeing into a cup for a urine sample, I cannot perfect my bodily functions to hit the bull’s-eye through a hole in a pair of Spanx.

Throughout history, women have sought a way to hide their girth, and I can be counted in that number.  At this point in my life, though, I’m ready to accept the natural flow of life, pouching, sagging and all. You will just have to accept me as I am.  I am done with torture.