I have always marveled at the boldness of fashion designers. They have come so far from their once humble, even servile, task of fitting clothes to the female form. For most of modern history they have managed to convince customers to redesign their bodies to fit the clothing.
Let us imagine just one woman trying to keep her shape in style from the beginning of the century to the current day. In 1900, she would have retrofitted her kidneys up around her lungs so she could have the 19-inch waist of a Gibson girl. In 1925, she would have bound her bosom to get the flatness of the flapper. In 1955, she would have the bosom again.
The genius of the designer movement may have peaked in the 1970s, when it created the unisex out of whole cloth. Unisex was the unicorn of the fashion world: an entirely mythical creature. It was sighted most often during the early '70s at the height of arguments about gender. Were the differences between males and females biological or cultural? The designers took the political position that thighs were a product of cultural conditioning which women should overcome. They simply drew them out of the fashion picture.
By 1980, unisex was replaced by dress-for-success, which was a euphemism for hide-the-sex. Finally, along came the anatomical wonder of the present day: shoulders. Women who were carrying more weight in the world were given the shoulders to match. Those of us who could not acquire the padded football look by Nautilus or steroids added it by needle or Velcro. The magazines call these falsies on the shoulder power pads.
But now -- are you ready? -- Karl Lagerfeld has come up with the latest, the last word in redesigner breakthroughs. From Paris, ladies and gentlemen, fashion slaves everywhere, I give you Hip Pads. Yes, you read it here first or at least second. The spring line of Coco Chanel's successor will carry Styrofoam hip pads sewn into the skirts.
I know what you are thinking. You already have a pair of your own, right? Anyone who can sell hip pads to American women can make a bundle bringing coals to Newcastle.
You're right. Only a man who spent his whole life working with fashion models could come up with such a redundant phrase as "hip pad." The fashion model is a subspecies bred exclusively for the use of photographers and runways. The very last curve was eliminated by genetic engineering in 1972 during the unisex craze.
The rest of us are to models what the stepsisters are to Cinderella's slipper size. We spend more time fantasizing about subtracting than adding padding to our own abundant supply.
By my own medical observation, the average female hip is a magnet for calories. Most of us who get hip pads from Paris do it the traditional way: by eating. The hip is the final resting place of an estimated 60 percent of the very best Camembert, and 53 percent of the finest chocolate.
I personally know only 39 females who would immediately benefit from hip pads. A full 38 of them are in the seventh grade. Nevertheless, I've got to take my power pad off to the man who took such a fashion risk. I think he's got a hit on his hands.
After all, a skirt that has room for artificial pads may even have room for natural ones. As the designer said coyly, "With the padding at the hips, there is no difficulty telling the girls from the boys." We may be taking a remote course back to the real world of female anatomy.
So, the next time someone glances in the vague direction of your widest expanse, just look him or her in the eye and say "Styrofoam." Then offer a small cheer for Lagerfeld: Hip, hip, hooray.