LAST WEEK SOMETIME, a tweet of doom unfurled on to the screen. “If Suno’s spring 2013 show is a sign of anything,” it chirped, “the revealed midriff is sticking around for another season.” Great tidings, I thought murderously. Fabulous news if you’re fat and forty-four.
The fact that I even follow Vogue, source of this vital bulletin, is a mystery to me and must surely have happened by accident. I haven’t the faintest clue, either, what or who Suno might be. I am perhaps the least fashion-forward person I’ve ever met and much style journalism seems like an elaborate practical joke that thin, rich, beautiful women are playing on their dumpy peers to get their cruel jollies and make up for the fact that they are permanently hungry and sad. Or, perhaps it’s even more sinister than that: a sort of Truman Show-style parallel reality constructed by a group of Situationists hell-bent on demonstrating how stupid and gullible the species can be and how frequently they can be persuaded that something they once thought utterly desirable is now completely hideous.
Anyway, the legion insecurities, borderline body dysmorphia and chippiness that inform my dislike of the world of fashion aside, the revealed midriff seemed a little bit of body fetishism too far. As if the middle of women’s bodies had suddenly reared up, organized themselves into a union and put out a press release: “No more! Stop covering us up! We’re here to stay!”
If only I had known that this was the mere tip – or tit – of the ice-berg. For just a couple of days later, we had been plunged into boob-gate, and a mere midriff began to seem like the very least of our worries. You will remember how, a few weeks ago, it was Las Vegas that led Prince Harry astray, bedazzling him with bright lights and one-armed bandits and gleaming swimming pools until he couldn’t bear to keep his clothes on a moment longer. Well, following that debacle somebody allowed further royal personages to leave the country; clearly, in light of what transpired, a colossal error of judgement. No sooner had the poor Duchess of Cambridge skipped off to France to soak up a few rays than a naughty snappeur had caught her in the middle of hoiking off her bra-type garment. And all because poor Kate had probably read in a magazine that tan lines were a real fashion faux pas this season!
We understand well why William, Kate and the entire royal family should have reacted so furiously: once you’ve been zoom-lensed having a quiet ten minutes by the pool on private property, who knows where it will stop? Personally, I suspect that Princess Diana’s complex and damaging relationship with the press and paparazzi is a long way behind us, despite inevitable mentions of it over the last few days. But the scrutiny is nonetheless intense, and, if you are its object, you’d presumably prefer to limit it to the occasions upon which you are fully clothed.
Possibly, the whole thing would have gone away more quickly had she, so to speak, bra-zened it out. A few days later, she was abseiling up a tree in Borneo; if I’d been her, I might have kept mum at the time and then given the waiting press pack a cheeky smile, as if to say “I know! What a fuss about a pair of breasts!” (NB: The British sensibility in relation to parts of the body, particularly what we have been taught by therapists to call “erogenous zones,” is heavily informed by our fondness for low-grade comic erotica such as seaside postcards and the Carry on Films. Bristols, baps, balloons, Zeppelins, charlies, melons, puppies, etc – all friendly greetings for this, the friendliest part of the female anatomy, for as someone said to me this week of the royal reaction to the offending photographs: “I don’t know why they’re so surprised. Everyone loves breasts.” We have so many words for a lady’s chest area that I am only passingly acquainted with the vocabulary from elsewhere in the world. A quick scout of the titernet informs me that US readers might call them “hooters.” Can this be right? Or is it another joke? It certainly doesn’t sound awfully respectful.)
You see the paradox. Midriffs I would now resolutely cover up to defy the fashionistas. Boobs I would uncover to show solidarity with our traduced Duchess. Vaginas I would ban the mere mention of, on the grounds that we’ve all heard quite enough from them for a while.
I have written this entire piece with not a stitch on. It’s called Method Journalism. It’s also called being in England at the beginning of the long slide into winter, but before this puritan nation feels it’s allowed to put the heating on. The midriff gang are clearly based in warmer climes. Time to get a jumper.