Katie Byrne: 'The return of the vajazzle signals the endless pressure to be 'party-ready''
Fashion fans have been subjected to quite a few unseemly sights this year: Kim Kardashian in cycling shorts, Balenciaga's interpretation of Crocs and the Instagram-friendly return of logomania, to name just a few.
Fashion trends that we hoped we would never see again have returned with a vengeance, which is why it isn't all that surprising to hear that the vajazzle might be making its own comeback.
For those who had better things to be doing during the early Noughties, the vajazzle is a temporary jewelled body tattoo that is applied to a woman's depilated vulva area. Think spray tans, bandage dresses and saddle bags and you'll get a sense of the cultural climate that inspired women to turn their vaginas into what looked like tweens' mobile phone cases.
Like velour tracksuits and 'whale tail' exposed thongs, the vajazzle was one of those fashion fads that we all pretended didn't actually happen when it finally faded away. But now, thanks to the 90s/Noughties fashion revival, the vajazzle is making a comeback - and just in time for the festive season.
Waxing professionals say they've noticed a rise in the number of women requesting vajazzles. However, they're not asking for butterflies, love hearts and shooting star motifs like they did way back when. This time around they want festive decorations like baubles and candy canes - because nothing says Christmas like a vagina that looks like Santa's grotto.
In case you've missed the memo, women up and down the country are required to be 'party-ready' at this time of year. It's a culturally-programmed month-long makeover that involves swishy hair, shimmery eyelids and at least one sequin-festooned dress.
According to women's magazines, we should be using the month of November to work on our canvas. Skin should be sheet mask dewy (even if you're about to embark on an orgy of eating and drinking). Nails should be fire-engine red. Hair should be highlighted with rich caramel lowlights and streaks of 'chestnuts roasting on an open fire' resplendence.
And then we decorate. Festive fashion is all about striking the delicate balance between Cher and Liberace. It takes an awful lot of time and money to look like a Christmas tree topper, but women remain undeterred in their quest to dazzle over the festive season. The party-ready look signals that you have thrown caution to the wind and embraced the festive spirit - even when you have about as much joie de vivre as an overcooked Brussels sprout.
Let's be honest, in spite of the gusto with which we buy into the party-ready festive mania, very few of us have the energy to hit the dance-floor running in December. We're too busy decorating our homes, ticking off our shopping lists and falling asleep on the couch.
Women's magazines seem to think that we all turn into fabulous, fur-swaddled social butterflies in December, but the truth is that the dazzling Christmas party where people dance under disco balls and kiss under mistletoe is something of a myth. Most women will go to just two Christmas parties this year: the office party, where they will spend the better part of the evening trying not to disgrace themselves; and the obligatory party - the one they simply can't get out of.
Some brave souls make it a hat-trick with a New Year's Eve party, but the rest of us have run out of money at that point, having spent hundreds of euro on a show-stopping, sequin-strewn dress that still has the tags on it.
The truth is that our party-ready attire doesn't always take into account the existential exhaustion we feel at this time of year. And maybe that's why we buy all that glitters in the first place. We know we're going to flake out of a party, or three. We know we're going to do at least one Irish goodbye. We know, deep down, that we'll probably end up watching Jools Holland rather than dancing until dawn on New Year's Day.
From sequin boleros to festive vajazzles, women put themselves under a lot of unnecessary pressure to look glamorous at Christmas time. But this isn't just the tyranny of fashion at work. No, it's the social pressure to be vivacious and party-ready when we're actually just ready to hibernate.