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Between Catwalk and Reality

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'Ladies and gentlemen, this is Mambo No. 5!' The latest highly preferred fashion music blasts in the chilly air outside the Louvre dome. Bright spotlights and lasers flash from one model to another; reflected on their glowing, over-moisturised skin. Full of confidence, the lanky all blond models sway on the catwalk with measured steps one foot straight after the other. This is ironic. How could any women concentrate on what she is doing let alone looks so proud while Lou Bega's most sexist lyrics is accompanying her steps?

The VIP seats are packed with famous people from the entertainment industry. Their eyes are locked on the stage, observing every detail of this season's hottest collections. "Must rush back stage and grab those tight lime-green pants", hissed one famous actor sitting at the front.

Fashion spectators, cameramen and reporters sit on both sides of the catwalk. They all knit their brows trying to look as professional as Elsa Klench, while some of them are just waiting for the highlight of the show. The lesser-known designers tend to throw as little or as thin as possible clothing on their gorgeous models to further expose their bare chests. But hey, they say that it's part of the art!

One man wearing nothing but a G-string and colourful-frilly cape, which looks like my grand mother's night-gown, walks by. Behind him, an entourage of female models, most of them are in their teens, try to present US$10,000-worth of office outfits. Yes sure, get real; as if there are any fifteen-year-old female CEOs in this world!

"Bellissimo. Nothing could be better than having such extremely young flower buds to model your creations!" said a distinguished Italian designer on TV the other day. "Their innocent, fragile skinny bodies, prominent bone structures and flat chests are so irresistible!" He would be investigated as a possible paedophile in a third world country somewhere for just saying that. I think these young girls would look a lot better with their school uniforms on.

Can we put the blame on these designers for creating such an unrealistic physical image from underage models? How many so-called mature women in this country waste so much money and time because they want to look like these 'just stepped into puberty' models? Or, if we think about it, where do you think bulimia comes from? Don't you think there should be a law imposed on these disease-promoting fashion advertisements? Maybe every time they put teenage models on TV or in magazines, the producers should be responsible to add text underneath that reads: " Surgeon General's Warning for adults! These models are only fifteen. Any attempt to imitate these images is highly hazardous; physical and mental damage may occur!"

Have a look at the local TV advertisements for example. They have all kind of slimming pills, cream, or machines complemented with all the obligatory 'before and after' pictures. I can't believe that people are still buying them. Are the cheap and safe old-fashioned methods of good eating habits and exercise too difficult to practice?

I know somebody who is really conscious about how her body looks. Mind you, she's not overweight at all, she just looks a little bit like the new version of Monica Lewinsky. Hey, even the old version didn't seem to have any problem finding a man.

"I have to take these," she said one day when I saw her taking dozens of slimming pills at once. " I can't stay looking like this. I have noticed that my husband has been trying to stay away from me lately. I don't want him to look for other younger and skinnier women". Gees, get a life girl! (I know, I will never be a good shrink).

She even still keeps her old tiny dresses she wore when she was eighteen in her closet. When I asked her why, she told me that she might need them when she looses ten kilos, someday. Women or men who try to lose weight in order to follow the trends are all around us. I myself have quit trying to put on my favourite high cut string bikini since my mini-me was born two years ago.

Sometimes you can see how people try a little too hard to be called fashionable. Let me see, what is the must have style of this season? Ha! Animal prints! I bumped into a woman while I was doing some shopping the other day. She had a short snake print-dress, leopard-print bag and cow-print shoes on! What message was she actually sending out? Protect the animals? Or skin the animals no matter how ridiculous they look on you?

It seems that everybody has at least one animal print accessory in the wardrobe. Just in case they need to wear it on a night out. I heard that some doormen wouldn't allow women to enter their exclusive clubs unless they wear something printed with the skin of wild reptiles or a four-legged creature. Puh-lease! And these women actually follow the rules. Talking about fashion victims!

Well ladies and gentlemen, let me say this. Real beauty is always inside us. It doesn't really matter whether you are size six or sixteen or whether your wardrobe hasn't changed much in the last ten years, as long as you feel happy and comfortable with what you have! At least you are standing on this side of reality. Those dazzling, flawless looking models still have to step down from the catwalk and wake up. This world is not at all only about looking good.

First published in The Jakarta Post  on Sunday, May 21, 2000

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