On Saturday night, Britain's Got Talent's The Ruby Red Performers wowed everyone in the first episode of the new series. Millions of us tuned in to be entertained by those who were insanely talented and those who were, well, not insanely talented at all. There were tears as a brother and sister were separated so early in the competition, a golden buzzer was pressed, and we were introduced to Wendy the "talking dog." However, the act that really got everyone talking was The Ruby Red Performers' routine.
The dance group, compiled of a gaggle of gals aged between 25-65 and hailing from Withernsea (in Yorkshire, England), appeared on stage dressed in what I can only describe as "what your grandmother might wear to do her spring cleaning." Their get-up consisted of long, frumpy shirt dresses and was completed with yellow rubber gloves and hair wraps on their heads. Their hair was scraped up into these scarves with each sporting a singular roller poking out comedically at the front. Queen's "I Want to Break Free" blasted out and the group began to dance, albeit not very skillfully. Simon Cowell pressed his buzzer and it seemed that the act was a flop.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any "worse," the performance took a U-turn. Suddenly the music changed to Body Rockers' "I Like The Way You Move" and the ladies began to remove their dresses to reveal silky slips. Their dance became energetic and invigorated and they soon threw off their hair scarves to free their flowing locks beneath.
Then, after thrusting and shimmying, the ladies began to give burlesque-style, peek-a-boo glimpses of flesh and suspenders to the audience (one woman even treated us to a flash of her panties). The finale involved the group removing their last layer of clothing to leave them all in their lingerie, which included fabulous union jack nipple tassels. The crowd went wild and the women swished their tassels in triumph. The judges sang their praises and Amanda Holden told them, "You make us proud to be women."
I was absolutely amazed at the confidence of this group of women, who (we discovered afterwards) had gone from being afraid to show a little peep of skin to proudly dancing in their underwear in front of the general public.
However, it got me thinking about an event that happened a few weeks ago. I went to a friend's birthday party in costume as per the Facebook Event description. I dressed up as Babydoll from Sucker Punch and was surrounded by a plethora of movie and TV characters including, but not limited to, Captain America, Jem, and Lady Gaga. The party was a riot and it soon moved into our town center and an array of bars, pubs, and clubs.
However, it seemed a different story when we were surrounded by people we didn't know. We received many looks that evening and I wasn't sure if it was just me, but I seemed to be racking up quite a few disapproving stares. Of course there were some Sucker Punch fans who recognized my outfit immediately and who were generally really lovely, but I was starting to feel a bit on edge as I received more judging looks. I began to question the notion (which I had toyed with before leaving the house) that at the ripe old age of 25, I perhaps shouldn't wear this costume again. I soon forgot about it and enjoyed the rest of my evening.
But later in the week, my fears were confirmed when I bumped into a friend who said something along the lines of, "It was nice to see you out in your underwear at the weekend." I could tell she meant it as a joke but it got me wondering if we are really that accepting of women showing off their bodies and being loud and proud about loving the skin they're in. So I decided to ask some of the women in my life about what they thought of The Ruby Red Performers and their routine on Saturday night:
"I think you're as young as you feel and those women were brave to do what they did and will have inspired bigger or older ladies." — Leonie Haigh, jewelry store owner.
"No 'age limit' to wearing skimpy clothes. Everyone should be proud of their body no matter age or size!" — Charlotte Kent, Customer Advisor in the banking industry.
"Being proud of yourself is important... Ageing can also be beautiful." — Betsy Green, personal fitness trainer and writer.
There were more positive comments that I collected ranging from a general "Go girls!" vibe to one lady wishing she had "the balls" to do something similar.
So the general consensus, it appears, is that women do in fact often support each other and are generally body positive. But I think that we all need to rewire our brains to eradicate the prior teachings of the media and the fashion industry, which have taught us that when you're at a later stage in life (or don't fit into a certain body type or look) you can't wear revealing clothes. I will also work on myself and my own pre-conceived beauty ideals and I will continue to wear whatever clothes I desire for as long as I am living and breathing.
Let's put an end to "mutton dressed as lamb" once and for all!
Images: ITV2; Author's Own