Last week, Debralee Lorenzana filed a lawsuit against Citibank alleging that she was terminated from her job as a teller for wearing turtlenecks, wrap dresses, and pencil skirts.
What? Come again?
Executives at the banking giant called her tailored clothing "too distracting," she said. Lorenzana, who is attractive in a very Eva Longoria way, certainly looks sexy in photos posted on the New York Daily News website, but her clothing fits just fine.
I can't help but sympathize because, as a curvy girl myself, I know how hard it is to find clothing that suits my body. And then if I do, certain people always feel the need to judge. Should she really be wearing that? I'm not sure if that's appropriate.
Why is it that when women fill out their brassieres, pencil skirts, turtlenecks - even skinny jeans - it gives people pause?
It's as if there's one standard for the skinny girls and another - a more boxy and conservative one - for the rest of us.
By now you may have seen the "controversial" commercial for bras sold at Charming Shoppes' Lane Bryant that aired in May during episodes of American Idol. It features a voluptuous woman - with a perfectly flat stomach - getting dressed for a lunch date. She confidently slips a trenchcoat (instead of a dress) over a lacy red bra and panty set and struts out.
Both Fox and ABC initially refused to air the advertisements, first stating there was too much cleavage. Then Fox said it would run a version with the breast shots edited out.
I'm sorry. How do you sell a bra without showing cleavage? That's like showing a skirt without legs, a belt without a waist, glasses without eyes. How else might we see how a bra fits?
We've certainly sanctioned models entering our home showing far more skin in Victoria's Secret TV spots. So the question remains: Is cleavage on a size 2 model with (probably fake) double D's more acceptable than a fleshier woman sporting her own boobs?
"What's frustrating is that we try to teach our kids that it's OK to be curvier, vs. Victoria's Secret-thin, and society tells them something else," said Erica Atwood, a 35-year-old 36DD who works for Mayor Nutter. "Not to mention, I don't know any woman who looks like that, and if I did, I'd want to feed them."
Amen to that.
The thing is, this isn't about round women being jealous of skinny women. And the problem is deeper than designers such as Ralph Lauren using emaciated models on their runways, and more complicated than Urban Outfitters' most recent politically incorrect fashion blunder - a V-neck T-shirt with the words "Eat Less" emblazoned across the chest. (The company pulled the shirt last week.)
This is about what's not there - balance.
The lack of authentic images in fashion has done more than leave behind a trail of frustrated shoppers. The absence of real women on the pages of magazines or on your flat-screen TV has become so commonplace that television executives assume that 44D cleavage on a size 2 model is what we all like to see, that we all agree real women aren't good enough for public consumption.
If we do get the rare chance to see real women, we hear the message that flesh is bad - well, fat flesh, anyway. In fact, combined with cleavage, it's not appropriate for children. (As part of the negotiations with Bensalem-based Charming Shoppes, both Fox and ABC offered to air the ad after 9 p.m., not prime family viewing time.)
The message gets repeated so many times, we believe it.
In August, there was a hue and cry about a photo in Glamour magazine of a model who had fat on her back. Instead of embracing her and her imperfections, some readers were repulsed. Seems as if we just don't like ourselves anymore.
In the case of Lorenzana, women at her office were anonymously quoted as saying, "She should know better," while the men said on the record that they would go out of their way to catch glimpses of her.
It all comes down to a double standard in which we all, unfortunately, participate.
"Omission suggests that there is only one acceptable body type," said Carolyn Rammel, executive director of A Chance to Heal, a Jenkintown-based nonprofit that aims to stop eating disorders.
"The reality is there is a huge spectrum of bodies, and to suggest there is one type does harm."
As in: As long as she looks like a Victoria's Secret model, anything goes. That leaves the rest of us poorly represented, especially when a breakout commercial gets banned for breast exposure.
"Lane Bryant is part of the fashion industry and they should have the same rights as other underwear companies," said Jene Luciani, author of The Bra Book, which addresses issues centered on self-esteem.
"And until that changes, until we can see real women, it's never going to change."