Style opinion | High-waisted jeans or modern-day corsets?

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By Erin Dearlove, Third year English

The Croft Magazine // Erin highlights why the restrictions of high-waisted jeans can be compared to corsets, and why we should instead opt for comfort in our clothing.

I went to a medical practitioner, and she told me to buy bigger trousers. She was making the point that the current fashion of super high-waisted trousers can impair the body's natural functioning, like its ability to digest food or simply breathe.

In the Pirates of The Caribbean, Elizabeth (played by Keira Knightly) faints off a castle wall and plummets into the sea, all due to a corset so tightly tied that she can't breathe. Although our society laughs at the archaic and misogynistic fashion, women are still walking around with their waists squashed into constricting fabrics.

So why are lots of women, including my previous self, walking around in modern-day corsets?

I headed online for some research. Immediately, I was met with pages and pages of 'rib-grazers'. I set the filter option to 'low-rise', and one pair of very flared jeans showed up. It was not a promising start. I extended the filter option to include 'mid-rise', and two more options appeared. I tried site after site, but the pattern remained the same - excessive amounts of high-waisted options and little-to-none lower-waisted styles.

It would be all too easy to blame clothing brands for the limited variety; however, these brands simply provide what is in the highest demand. Therefore, we must look to the consumer for answers. I asked my friends why they wear high-waisted jeans, and the most common response I received was to hide or 'suck in' their stomachs. I sensed a pattern of shame emerging concerning these women and how they view their bodies.

I picked up the book Just Eat It by Laura Thomas, hoping to find additional answers. Thomas challenges the 'diet culture that exists today and promotes body acceptance instead'. I highly recommend her book to anyone who has ever felt impacted by the body ideals that the media projects or feels confused or stressed about food and exercise. What I discerned from it seemed radical to me and, sadly, at this moment, is radical in our society.

'Just Eat It' by Laura Thomas, £6.99 | Amazon

One of the first tips in the book is to wear clothes that you feel truly comfortable in. This means both how your body feels in the clothes and how you feel you look. How often do we go into a changing room and shut our eyes to determine whether we buy an item or if it's the right size? I know I've certainly never done that before.

The more I observed, the more I noticed the disharmony between the messages we are being fed in the media and our reality. Flat stomached models and hourglass figures fill our screens. However, most women do not have naturally small, flat stomachs. Most wouldn't healthily have so without jeopardising their fertility and bodily functions or suffering from nutrient deficiencies and decreased immune function.

The known health risks of being overweight are clear. However, the way our society indiscriminately demonises fat, alongside the media and marketing projecting unrealistic body standards for aesthetics, not health, is hugely damaging. Is it surprising that so many women are consciously or unconsciously ashamed by their stomachs?

There is no question that men have their fair share of body-image pressures too. However, it is women that are subjected to damaging fashion trends that resemble the corsets worn in the 16th to the early 20th century that caused muscle atrophy and lower-back pain.

I searched 'the purpose of stomach fat for women' on google for this article, and what came up on the first page was only pages such as 'taking aim at belly fat – Harvard Health'. Names such as these suggest a military-like eradication of fat, without qualifying what amount and kind of fat it means or mentioning the importance of fat for life. 'Fat' in general is presented as the enemy, which simply isn't true. We need fat to survive, and more importantly, to thrive.

My request for you and anyone else who finds themselves partaking in this fashion trend is to ask yourself why you're really doing so? Is it because you find it super comfortable? Or is it for reasons related to body shame? When you shut your eyes, does what you are wearing serve you comfort-wise? Are you able to take a deep breath and feel yourself taking up the space you deserve? If the answer is no, then perhaps it is time to question your fashion choices and be brave enough to go against the grain!

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Featured image: Epigram/Morgan Collins


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