Lum: Masochism in the fashion world

The other day I was watching an old movie from the ’40s wherein a man was desperately searching for a lost cufflink. I hadn’t thought about cufflinks for many decades but, come to think of it, I remembered that I used to have several pairs of them in the days of my youth. They were a real pain to put on one-handed; they dropped on the floor, rolled under the bed or vanished entirely leaving a lonely, useless singleton. I wonder if people still wear those things.

This got me thinking about all the other paraphernalia we put up with in those days, starting with the dreaded sanitary napkins held (barely) in place by elastic “belts” and a new terror of accidentally uttering the word “period” in any context. It was all so secret it’s a wonder they ever got around to improvements in that department.

There were also the unspeakable garter belts to hold up your stockings, which only came to mid-thigh, and the stocking themselves that snagged on everything, causing runs (also called “ladders”), as embarrassing as having your slip, or (worse) your bra strap showing.

If I’d had any money I should have bought stock in pantyhose, a fad I thought would die on the vine because if you ruined one side you’d have to throw the whole thing out, proof of my predictive sagacity.

Then there were girdles—not as terrible as the Scarlett O’Hara lace-up variety, but plenty nasty; fortunately they were just going out of style as I was growing up, but I borrowed (without asking) my older sister’s girdle one time and thought I would die before I got home to the “serves you right” sneers.

We don’t have to put up with any of that any more, but look what we’ve done with our newfound liberation. Instead of girdles, we undergo liposuction.

Instead of shaving, even though the shaving equipment today no longer leaves bloody slashes, today’s hipsters get (scream) waxed— even “down there.”

Instead of sweet clip-on earrings, we pierce or even slice our soft lobes to accommodate dime-sized ear ornaments. In the ’40s, we thought that only gypsies (real ones) pierced their ears.

When my daughter Hillery was 10 she was terrified of doctors and shots, but she was bound and determined to get her ears pierced, and she even worked for the money to pay for it. She almost fainted on the nurse’s table and suffered from a string of lobe infections (“Tribal,” I kept muttering), but she loved those earrings.

My daughter Skye did it herself with an ice pick, a friend and an ice cube.

We (scream) tattoo — sometimes wildly, despite the inevitability of sag — get shot up with botox, distort our lips with injected plumping gels, allow surgeons to break and reshape our noses and slice the very flesh from our faces. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

We turn peach breasts into watermelons, requiring special harnesses to hold these appendages in place, and totter perilously on 5-inch stiletto heels or platform shoes that raise one’s height half a foot, tantamount to walking on stilts.

Why don’t we stop doing this to ourselves?

Su Lum is a longtime local who predicts, probably erroneously, unpleasant side-effects will follow with age. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at


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