By Emmaleigh Burtoft
There are plenty of past fashion trends we may scratch our heads at. Shoulder pads, for example. An oversized T-shirt "casually" gathered together with a bright scrunchie (guilty). Personally, I think platforms and harem pants will be the next decade's Halloween costumes. Ridiculous trends make us laugh, shake our heads, and ask, "What was I thinking?"
But then there are the trends that really make us shake our heads and ask, "What was society thinking?" Trends that really limited women and their movement–corsets, bound feet, bustles and hoop skirts, you name it. Some of these "trends" lasted for hundreds of years, harming women's health and preventing them from doing things we take for granted today. Like running. Or taking a deep breath.
As strong, twenty-ﬁrst century females, it's easy to imagine that we would have been the rebels against these obvious attempts to control women. But would we have? After all, everyone else would have been doing it. It would have been what was considered attractive at the time. If we didn't follow the trend, we might have felt ugly or frumpy. And it may have hurt our chances of getting a boyfriend (provided we weren't too particular about the kind of boyfriend we got). It's easy to see the pros and cons of a situation in hindsight, and less easy to see them in the here and now.
There have certainly been leaps and bounds in what women can do today, with corresponding innovations in the fashion world. We don’t hanker to wear corsets, and I'm sure we're all grateful that it's socially acceptable to wear pants. But are there trends that, even though they limit us, we follow without thinking about their limitations? I think the answer is a solid yes. Here's my own personal deﬁnition of a fashion limitation: you’re uncomfortable to do something because of possible overexposure. If you’re wearing an ultra-short skirt and four-inch heels, there’s not much you can do besides sit, rest your aching feet, and cross your legs. If you’re wearing a strapless dress at a party, you may manage a dance move or two, but not without some adjusting in between. Water sports in a string bikini? Forget it. Those things are meant for laying out very still only. Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
We all want to look good, but when our appearance is keeping us from accomplishing things we want to be doing, or distracting us from actually living, I think we have a problem. When my husband and I were engaged, he lived about two blocks from the beach, and one day we decided to go body surﬁng. I was wearing a one-piece swimsuit and a pair of board shorts among countless bikini-clad girls. I’m sure I stuck out, but you know what? I could get into the water. We had a blast riding waves into the shore, and funnily enough, I felt attractive. Not because of what I was or wasn’t wearing, but because of what I could do. I felt empowered and competent and free to do exactly what I wanted. That feeling was deﬁnitely worth more than a trend.
Emmaleigh Burtoft graduated from Brigham Young University in English and editing, and is now a freelance copywriter and editor. Between projects she likes to try new recipes and spend as much time with her husband as possible. They live near Orlando, Florida.