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Does this make my butt look big? Good.

July 23, 2010 |  3:32 pm

JLo You know you're not on the cutting edge of fashion when you learn about a new trend from the Wall Street Journal, as I did this week in reading a front-page story about the growing market for padded undergarments to enhance a woman's rear end. Talk about being behind the curve; there I was still trying to slim down at the gym while JLo, Beyoncé and maybe even "Mad Men's" uber-curvaceous Joan Holloway were moving tastes in the other direction.

Unfortunately, despite having suffered a lifetime of derrière discontent (along with most American women, I would venture to say) I couldn't just take heart and cancel my gym membership. I had to ask -- butt why? And this being an opinion page, I had to wonder what it meant that women were going for bigger glutes. Is this something like high heels and hemlines, which increase in economic hard times? Does it mean we're in for another market collapse and the bustle is on its way back? 

So the first thing I did was to consult the local butt expert, Erin Aubry Kaplan, who wrote a whole essay on the topic for the LA Weekly more than a decade ago. "It means beauty standards are shifting in the right direction," Kaplan said.

You might recall that Kaplan drew a lot of heat from African Americans in particular for focusing attention on First Lady Michelle Obama's behind in a 2008 Salon.com article and declaring herself "free at last" with a new beauty norm.

 "I'm a black woman who never thought I'd see a powerful, beautiful female with a body like mine in the White House. Then I saw Michelle Obama -- and her booty," Kaplan wrote.

Here at The Times, we have said that the athletic, real-woman-with-curves first lady is an excellent leader for the government's campaign against childhood obesity, which has tripled since 1980, precisely because she has this figure and wears a dress size that average American women can aspire to. 

Surgical butt enhancement has been around for a long time, either with implants or "a kind of reverse liposuction," so apparently not only was I late to the trend, the Journal was too. In Kaplan's mind, padded panties are a lot better than surgery. I had to agree, although I can't help but think they're two sides of the same coin: As with the perky push-up bra, these are ways for women to transform themselves publicly into something they're not. At the end of the day, they still have to go home, take off the padded underwear and accept who they are.

-- Marjorie Miller

Photo: Jennifer Lopez performing at the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo. Credit: Dave Hogan / Getty Images

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