The marketing team at British retailer Marks & Spencer were very excited and pleased with themselves when they realised there was still an area of the body women weren’t stuffing into expensive suction balloons from hell.
Sorry – control underwear.
Thighs and tummies could be forced into submission and flattened out for a “smooth silhouette”, they pointed out, so why not add arms into the mix? Aren’t women scared of the ‘tuckshop lady’ effect, when they wave at their pals then shuffle back into cardigan sleeves because their arm skin moved? This is new territory. We can make a dollar out of this.
And so Flatter Me Armwear was born, just in time for Christmas and New Year parties and the promises that this year I WILL BE THIN.
Dubbed “Arm Spanx “, after Spanx, the original control underwear from the States, Armwear is like an oddly cut 90s crop top. It’s made of lace that tightens up the shameful area for “complete shaping and coverage”.
Soozie Jenkinson from M&S (she would be called that, wouldn’t she) says Armwear is “the perfect way to add a touch of glamour to a little black dress. The clever design eliminates any underarm bulges to create a smooth, streamlined silhouette under your clothes.”
(Just as an aside, I don’t know how “clever” the design really is, because not only is the whole thing exposed, there also can’t be that many different lace designs. Plus, everyone in London shops at M&S. So there’s sure to be much Arm Spanx-spotting to be done this silly season in England – especially seeing as it’s already sold out.)
The problem with things like this is that their very existence makes women suddenly look down and go OH MY GOD MY ARMS. If we didn’t know our arms weren’t supposed to move, would we care when they did?
Before 1972, for instance, when a beauty salon owner called Nicole Ronsard published a bestseller called Cellulite: those lumps, bumps and bulges you couldn’t lose before, “cellulite” as a concept didn’t even exist, as blogger Eva Wiseman points out. Women thought that area was just the back of their thighs, not some offensive expanse worthy of diet and exercise warfare. But the new word became a thing, and now that thing makes women despair and have secret cries in changing rooms.
The launch of Flatter Me Armwear coincided with a picture of Madonna in the UK’s Daily Mail that showed her waving, with a caption about her “bingo wings”. I’d wage a bet that Paul Dacre, the editor of that paper, doesn’t have strong muscled arms, a washboard stomach or steely thighs. But no one is trying to force his limbs into small tubes, are they?
* Disclaimer: I usually really like Marks & Spencer, especially their little cakes.
By Rebecca Kamm rebeccakamm Email Rebecca