Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another interesting moment on the subway

The Korean obsession with appearances is a frequent discussion in mixed (Korean and foreign) groups here. Aesthetics are considered very important in every arena of human activity, from the obvious (art, design, architecture) to the astonishing (beautifully gift-wrapped juice boxes), but nowhere is the focus more intense than on personal beauty. South Korea has one of the highest rates of plastic surgery in the world. I've seen at least three people with the bandages indicative of a recent nose job in the last month, and apparently eye surgery (to add a fold and make the eyes look rounder) is even more common. People of all ages are generally neat and well-dressed any time that they appear in public; I look quite the slob by comparison.

I mostly don't bat an eye anymore when I get into a mirrored elevator (it's very common for all four walls to be mirrors) and see everybody taking opportunity to shamelessly preen during the 30-second journey. In fact, it's quite liberating to know that nobody will look down on me for checking myself out (although rather less pleasant to realize how badly I will fare if I ever have a run-in with the Seoul fashion police).

I thought I was used to all of this, but today I saw something today that stopped me in my tracks. In a subway station, there was a vendor selling undergarments--mostly bras, but also some other items--all lacy, but also sturdy and serviceable, probably targeting women in their 50's. Bras here seem to be padded about 90% of the time, so everything was holding its shape quite well, but there was one shape that looked a little off. Upon closer inspection, I realized that I wasn't actually looking at a bra at all. It was a pair of heavily reinforced biking-short-like underwear, complete with two full round pads right where the arse should be: padded control-top underwear for women that find themselves having a crisis of gluteal inadequacy on the subway.

Now I've seen everything.

6 comments:

Rachel Inbar said...

That is too funny :-) I think I'd buy them for everyone else. Maybe that way mine would look small by comparison?

Marie-Baguette said...

I have seen the same in Singapore. The bras were all padded and in pale colors. There was hardly any lace at all. The panties were padded too. The sad thing was that (back in the mid-90's, not sure if it is still the case), a high percentage of Singaporean women were acutely undernourished to keep up with the social requirement of being skinny. The only way to have curves was to get those padded underwear. I looked like a cow in comparison, and I was actually on the thin side compared to Western standards.

Lut C. said...

Well, at least trying to make things look fuller is easier then the reverse. A corset looks pretty uncomfortable.

Sarah said...

got plenty of my own padding but could use a cushy ride now and then...

WaterBishop said...

I'll have to get one of those. My rear is flat. ;)

Rachel Inbar said...

I just wanted to let you know you won an award :-)