What Katie Did Next: In which I wonder if less is really more

Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

I get quite excited when I see Miley Cyrus dementedly twerking while wearing next-to-nothing on stage, just as I got very excited to see dresses that were millimetres away from indecent exposure at the recent Academy Awards.

I don't get excited in the same way that an unimaginative male might. No, no - I don't find images of Miley Cyrus sticking her bottom in the air like a cat in lordosis in the least bit titillating. Nor do I get excited in the same way that, say, a 14-year-old boy might upon spying a photo of Rita Ora wearing what looked like a body stocking at the Oscars.

I get excited because it tells me that the age of hypersexualisation must be drawing to a close. How can it possibly go any further without legal implications or a culture of nudism?

It started with a billboard reading 'Hello Boys'. Soon we had a curious contraption called the g-string, which gave rise to a bizarre trend called the 'whale tail'. Allow me to refresh your memory: this involved displaying the waistband of a g-string above the waistline of one's trousers, often with diamante embellishment. Oh, do we not talk about that? Sorry, shall we just pretend it didn't happen?

These days hotpants are a daywear staple and the unholy trinity of skintight bandage dress, six-inch heels and clutch bag is the look for after-dark adventures. Well, for another little while anyway.

You see, the share price in 'Sexy' is plunging like the necklines of those who bought into it. Every time I see a bandage dress I think of an uncle doing the Ice Bucket Challenge three months after the trend began to thaw. It can't go any further, well, unless Miley Cyrus decides to have full penetrative sex on stage with one of her backing dancers.

There's an old saying, attributed to Joseph Kennedy, father of John F Kennedy: "You know it's time to sell when shoeshine boys give you stock tips". Likewise, you know it's time to put away your bandage dress when the RTE weather forecaster is wearing one.

It chimes with a fascinating thesis by British historian Sir John Glubb. The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival examines the rise and fall of empires and notes the common features of an empire in the last stages of 'decadence' and 'decline'.

These common features include weakening of religion, a huge disparity between rich and poor, economic meltdown brought about by a devaluation of the currency and hero worship of actors, singers and athletes. Tick, tick, tick and tick.

Another sign of an empire in decline is an obsession with sex. Could Kim Kardashian's naked bottom on the cover of Paper magazine be an augur of better things to come? I hope so because, really, hemlines cannot get any shorter just as heels cannot get any higher.

I realise that I sound like a po-faced fuddy duddy, buttoning up my cardigan to the top as I bemoan slipping standards. Or worse, a Daily Mail headline reading: 'She left NOTHING to the imagination'. The feminism 2.0 brigade would reprimand me for slut-shaming - a woman has the right to wear whatever she likes, etc, etc.

I'm not appealing for moral values, though. I'm appealing for common sense. When a woman squeezes herself into a bandage dress she wants to appear sexy, in the same way that a woman wearing a vintage tea dress wants to look quirky and a woman wearing an oversized shirt dress wants to look edgy.

But the bandage dress wearers have forgotten that trends lose their appeal when they become pervasive. Sexy loses its sex appeal. Bandage dresses don't look extraordinary any more; they look ordinary… and a touch desperate.

More to the point, sex appeal is as much about what you show as it is about what you hide. The late Alexander McQueen put it well: "When a woman gets dressed up to go out at night, she wants to give 50 per cent away, and hold the rest back. If you're an open book, there's no allure".

Real sex appeal is about nuance - it requires imagination. It's suggestive rather than provocative. It whispers rather than screams. Real sex appeal is a backless dress, a top that casually drapes off one shoulder or a flash of ankle. Any man worth his salt would prefer to see a peek of a woman's back dimples when her top rides up rather than her breasts pushed together in a low-cut corset dress.

But what about the would-be WAGs, I hear you ask. The bandage dress helps them score footballers, no? You must remember that many footballers are recruited by academies when they are as young as nine.

In order to achieve sporting brilliance they have to sacrifice some of the developmental milestones, one being the point at which a man cultivates a taste for women that don't look like the ones he once had Blu-tacked to his wall. Likewise, the bandage dress is still sexy among yacht-owners in Marbella because cocaine has anaesthetised their finer senses. Everything finds its own level.

If you want to look truly sexy - and you're in the market for a man with average or above average intelligence - I can assure you that a bandage dresses will not do the job. Common sense is sexy.

And common sense is knowing not to hoist your breasts up to your chin and overpower the only feature that gives us proof of the divine: the eyes.

Respect is sexy, and that includes having the self-respect not to torment yourself with eight-inch heels. Power is sexy - a woman bucking the trend with a silk shirt or a trouser suit is a real showstopper.


I've learnt this one the hard way. I bought the bandage dresses and the hotpants and the croptops, all the while ignoring my mother when she told me that mystique is the sexiest thing in the world.

Now, with the wisdom (and perhaps the waistline) of age, I can categorically say that the most knock-em-dead numbers a woman can wear feature nipped in waists and full skirts. Eva Mendes came around to this look in recent years and she's now with Ryan Gosling.

On the plus side, she's launched her own fashion range, which is decent of her.

This attire tickles the complexities of the male psyche. It's Freud's Madonna-Whore Complex (an evolved man can handle both personas at once) wrapped in a bow.

Yes, I know things are never as sexy when you deconstruct them... but it beats the overt overtones of a pleather tube dress.

I discovered this when I bought a yellow 50s-style sundress. Actually, discover might be too weak a verb: this was an epiphany of Newtonian proportions. I don't want to brag so let's just say that it immediately became my secret weapon and golden ticket.

Okay, I will brag: a stranger once got down on his knees and mock-worshipped me on the street when I was wearing it. He was well on - and wearing one of those awful oversized tricolour hats - but still... It was evidence enough to conclude my study and my findings are this: Every woman should have one of these in her wardrobe.

'Sticking her bottom in the air like a cat in lordosis'