Today marks Barbie’s 53rd birthday. While women all across the country would like to think that we’ve evolved from the standards of the 1950s, in many ways we’re still striving to achieve the unrealistic hourglass proportions symbolized by this tiny iconic figure.
So pervasive is the quest to be Barbiesque that no one blinks an eye when hearing that even skinny celebrities are trying to look skinnier by donning body-slimming shapewear. Just take a look at 19-year-old Selena Gomez, flashing her Spanx at multiple events, or watch 22-year-old Kristen Stewart revealing too much on Jay Leno. But I was as shocked as Ellen’s audience earlier this year when Octavia Spencer confessed that she had taken to wearing triple layers of Spanx at red-carpet events. She later admitted to wondering, “
if one works, what will two do?”
right before deciding to wear three!
The Academy Award-winning actress also acknowledged that this habit had been killing her, and that her tortured experience at the recent SAG awards was her final triple squeeze. Afterward, in the press room, Spencer revealed that it was hard not to get sucked in by the influence of societal pressure that equates weight inversely to value. Indeed, it appears that the latest trend in under-fashion among the ‘It Crowd’ is the use of more than one constricting garment to ensure the very smoothest, sleekest, smallest possible bod. Today Show’s Hoda Kotb has reportedly admitted to doubling up on Spanx, calling it her secret weapon. Notting Hill star Emily Mortimer referred to Spanx as a genius invention, at the same blogger interview that she came clean about having on more than one pair. The normally sensible Gwyneth Paltrow, after giving birth to her daughter, allegedly fessed up to wearing two. And prime time has even captured 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon putting on triple Spanx before a hot date, while the real Tina Fey has been quoted to call Spanx her dream come true.
With all this hype, who wouldn’t want to try it? But, this Hollywood fad is more cruel than cool. Even if you survive the acrobatic effort of wriggling into the items unharmed, and then take another (albeit more shallow) inspiration and accomplish that feat all over again, you still have to manage to get in and out of a car without incident, and somehow feign a normal stride as you go about your day. And the medical risks are not insignificant. Just a single layer of body slimming Lycra can create a host of health dangers, from painful, pinched nerves in the groin, to severe abdominal pain and digestive problems, as one of my young patients discovered when she began wearing Spanx under her soccer uniform. As I warned in a 2009 CR blog, constrictive garments have also been implicated in bladder infections, vaginal yeast infections, contact dermatitis, and blood clots in the legs.
Bottom line: This is one fad even Barbie would want to stay away from
—double the Spanx, double the trouble.