Une femme Weighs In…

…on the Sex and the City Wedding Dress Brouhaha

Yesterday several blogs including the Esteemed Manolo featured pictures of Sarah Jessica Parker in a wedding dress from the filming of the “Sex and the City” movie.

Comments included the words “dessicated”, “veiny”, “haggard”, “needs a sandwich”, etc. I’ll admit that while I joined a bit in the pile-on (remarking that often we older broads look better with a few extra pounds).

I’ll also admit all of this has been bothering me a bit, so here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

I think a lot of the initial shock of these pictures is that we’re not used to seeing images of women (especially women past their 20’s) that haven’t been airbrushed or photoshopped or filmed throught a gauze lens. She probably looks like most women of her age and weight would look. How refreshing that she hasn’t Botoxed or plastic-surgeried herself into looking like an alien! How many of us past the age of 35 don’t have a bit more sag in the bosom or droop in the undercarriage?

People who might take umbrage when someone refers to Kate Winslett as a “porker,” are using words like “shrivelled”; how is this any different? Maybe SJP has overexercised herself into this state, or maybe this is just her natural weight. The thing is, we don’t know and making that judgment is just as incorrect as assuming that every woman over a size 8 sits in front of the TV eating Cheetos all day.

I will concur that the design of the gown is probably not the most flattering choice. It’s definitely in character with Carrie Bradshaw’s style sense, and that’s probably what they were going for. (Not liking the red lipstick either.) But like the Fug Girls, if we’re going to pile on, let’s have it be about the fashion choices and not about the body that’s wearing them.


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  1. Ok, I’m not sure if my initial ick reaction was related to her veininess or the fact that her fashion choice wasn’t the most flattering. But Pseu, you are right, it’s not really anyone’s business. Yes, Carrie always wore ridiculous get ups. Yes, SJP is an actress and spends a great deal on clothes and maintenance, and has had a nose job. So I guess that makes her fair game for comments. I don’t want to be mean, though.

    BTW, I am reading The Beauty Myth, that is, when I can stand getting so angry I can’t sleep, and your analysis is right on with Wolf’s culture/religion arguments.

    I guess I am really just trying to figure all this out myself. In the last year, I had twins, turned 38, lost my waistline even after 75 pounds went away, and so am trying to figure out who this older, off the market, higher up at work, mother of three is and how exactly she should dress (besides comfortable and washable, that is).

    Thanks as always, Pseu.

  2. Dana, I just want to be sure you know that this wasn’t meant as criticism to your prior comment, but that in reponsing, it helped me to jell some these random thoughts.

    I read “Beauty Myth” when it was first published and it really influenced my thinking. It’s probably even more relevant today.

    I started this blog because I was flailing around trying to redefine my style as a no-longer-young woman. So I understand where you’re coming from! 🙂 I figure we’re all in this together, and I appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation with other women who are working through the same things.

  3. I’m so glad you’ve said this, Déja. It’s been on my mind as well, particularly since I’m rather an admirer of SJP. I think you’re very astute to note that much of the criticism probably has something to do with her age showing — now we have a responsible to maintain a certain weight so that our wrinkles won’t distress those who look at us?! I know many women who can’t put on weight for trying, and altho’ I might joke that there’s is an enviable problem, such joking would reflect problems with acceptance of my own shape. We women especially need to be careful about jumping on any bandwagon that’s judging any one of us based on appearance. I note that Scott Schumann, the Sartorialist, will now simply delete any comment that makes any reference to weight, and his decision to do so came from critiques of skinniness more than from critiques of more curvaceous figures. The collective schadenfreude in response to SJP’s photos speaks to our continuing fetishization of women’s body size/image — sadly, this isn’t going to disappear any time soon.

  4. No harm, no foul ::)) I wasn’t offended at all.

    Wolf’s preface to my 2002 edition mentions the steps both forward and back in the beauty wars over the last few years.

    So I’m bouncing around with aging, increasingly radical feminism, motherhood, and work on a campus, all happening to me. That has brought my style “rules” of the moment to:

    1. Clothes should cover you. That goes for you sylphish young ladies, too. A good test is, would it be too much for a man who wasn’t on his way to the gym? If yes, then no one wants to see it. Especially past 35. Then you just look desperate/cheap.

    2. Pants, not skirts. See 1.

    3. Flats, not heels. If your day is as packed and active as mine is, you need comfy shoes you can walk from your $380/year parking space to your office in, (2 blocks) and to chase your kids in. See also Twisty’s. And again, if men aren’t expected to wear crippling footwear to be dressed, why should women be? It’s these double standards that are making me nuts.

    4. Given 1-3, try, just try, to look a tiny bit stylish/pulled together.

    I don’t know. It’s a conundrum, one I at least try to have fun with. Jewelry seems to be helping. There are two sides of my brain at war every time I get dressed for work: basic uniform or interesting color/texture/cut/combination? Can’t I have the comfort and ease of a uniform, with the flair of the something stylish? Wow is that a tough prescription.

    Giving up on losing these last 5-10 pounds is somewhat comforting and I can tell myself it’s a political act. And hey, I need some treats! Giving up alcohol has helped me greatly in terms of day to day functioning.

    Thanks, pseu, for all your thoughts and advice and trying to build some solidarity and support as we head into the years where culture tells us we’re past our sell by date. The more I think about that, the more I think it’s a good thing. I am actually thrilled not to be young anymore!

    Now if I could just find some pants that fit.

  5. Dana: On the style tips above, I think just as the fat woman/ thin woman lens is not ok, an all-women-are-tall lens is equally inadequate.

    Petite (below not 5’3″ but below 5′ sometimes), sylph-like women, with toned bodies, who do not show their age on their faces or their hands (!) can and should be free to wear skirts, I believe. They do not have to be silly ra-ra skirts or figure huggers. They can be well-cut A-line or tulip skirts depending on whether they have calves that look like a calf’s or a rugby scrum-half’s..

    I use a lot of Scottish kilt skirts and have been wearing them for ever. They wrap-around is comfortable. It is a classic look. I always buy them in the best wool and am now considering custom tailoring with a well-known tailor in Edinburgh. The length may have slightly shifted down but they remain an altogether suitable attire, that can be coupled with a sweater or a shirt; they bring colour; and their still relatively-short length is a great excuse NOT to wear heels for fear of looking like what we call a tart in the UK.

    About trousers (pants in the UK refer to underclothes… such is life), I find side-closing trousers very flattering. I bought a woollen, lined one in black once from Lands End which is very good even after 8 years.

    Just my tuppence!

  6. Oh, I love kilts! There used to be a wonderful store in Vail, CO called “Scotch on the Rockies” which had beautiful kilts and other Scottish imported clothing and tchotchkes. They closed a couple of years ago, and now I’m sorry I never purchased anything there.

    I’m rediscovering skirts myself. Usually worn with tights, but they’re not as uncomfortable as I’d remembered.

  7. Dejapseu: Then you must put them on your shopping list for your London trip! 🙂 October alas will not be ‘sale’ time anywhere but I shall find out about where best quality and bargains can be had.

    Tights in my experience are the one key investment that has to be made. I remember in 1998, when I lived in Switzerland, I was buying 7 or 8 pairs at Wolford in Basel one day. My friend – American who was then living in Basel – said: “Aren’t they kinda expensive?”. Well considering I still have them all, bar one, nearly 9 years later, I do not think so. We hear colourful tights are in vogue this winter and I see some proof already in London. Hmm..

  8. Sorry to be rant-y! I get grouchy. I think skirts/dresses look great, they just don’t work for me right now. I never mean to be prescriptive, just trying to say where I’m at. (I’m bending over a lot to pick up babies.)

  9. I so agree with your post. I think many of the comments about SJP have been vile and hypocritical. On the one hand, people criticize anyone who goes to extremes to look young, but on the other, God forbid you look natural. Fat is bad and thin is bad. Critics often blame celebrities and models for setting unrealistic examples but I think it’s the other way around. How many people in the public eye starve themselves or have plastic surgery because of the criticism they receive? We as a society demand certain appearances and then cry about it when we finally turn our demands on ourselves. Sorry for ranting!