ANOTHER day, another bloke telling women what not to wear.

This time it was Patrick Couderc, director of French fashion house Herve Leger, who apparently told Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper that fat women, old women and lesbians of any size or age should steer clear of his company’s famous “bandage” dresses.

You know the bandage dress – they’re stretchy and tight and look like something an Egyptian mummy might wear to a cocktail party if it ever got invited.

You’ve probably seen a Kardashian in one, which is funny because going by Couderc’s quotes that’s another type of person he wants to ban from wearing them: “voluptuous” women and those with “very prominent hips”.

At least, that’s the way this story whipped around the world this week, getting everyone’s Spanx in a knot.

Far be it from me to defend a multinational fashion conglomerate, but my reading of the original article is that Mr Couderc’s quotes seem to have been plucked out of context and unsubstantiated.

I read it three times and couldn’t find the thing he’d apparently said about fat or old women that caused so many readers to freak out – other than in the headline written by the newspaper, that is.

There was one bit where he said something about 55-year-old women and those with “a 12th of an inch around (their) stomach” (which would seem to me to not be fat at all?) but it was in such broken English I couldn’t decipher it.

And as far as I can see Mr Couderc never said lesbians shouldn’t wear his dresses, only that some – committed “butch” lesbians – probably wouldn’t want to. And I reckon even they wouldn’t disagree with that.

Still, the headline did its job and predictably, right on cue, the whole world went sick over his alleged comments, with columnists, bloggers, feminists and half of Twitter expressing their outrage as everybody asserted their right to wear whatever they want.

Putting aside the question of whether Mr Couderc – now axed from the company – was accurately quoted, I find it remarkable that anyone should be surprised at the sentiments he allegedly expressed.

After all, he’s only saying publicly what his company’s advertisements, and actually the whole fashion world, have been tacitly putting forward for years.

I mean, have you ever seen a fat, old or “butch” woman in a mainstream fashion ad? Not ironically, I mean.

For decades the fashion world has been telling women through its advertisements and runway shows to stay thin, young and feminine in order to remain desirable, and for the most part it seems we’ve all happily lapped it up.

But one hitherto unknown French bloke makes a few poorly constructed observations about fat women and we all leap to the barricades.

“GO FORTH SISTERS – some old guy you’ve never heard of reckons we can’t wear his hideously expensive dress! TO THE BATTLEFIELD!”

It’s not the first time, either. Karl Lagerfeld made global headlines when he called singer Adele fat, and Pippa Middleton ugly.

The former chief executive of Abercrombie and Fitch was howled down when he said he only wanted “good-looking people” to enter his stores, and designer Wayne Cooper copped flak for reportedly describing models at Australian Fashion Week as “porky”.

But no one says anything about the endless parade of advertisements that send the same messages to women over and over and over.

It seems we prefer our oppressive patriarchal messages to be subliminal. Glossy ads with pretty people and fun music and celebrities, that sort of thing.

It helps to distract us from our own self-perpetuated misery, I guess – although it does give us less to talk about on Twitter.


First published in The Advertiser, August 20, 2015. Click here to read the original.