Fashion: Prada’s Bandeau Top: A Tiny Garment Says Loads About The Economy

Image: Prada.

I can’t get that wonderful skimpy bare-midriff thingie from Prada’s Spring 2012 collection out of my head. 

Okay, it’s technically called a bandeau top. And, if you followed Prada’s “Women and Car Engines” runway show at Milan’s Fashion Week, you can’t help but think that Miuccia Prada wanted to give us ladies a bra-less boost during this tough economy.

Yes, that bandeau top – essentially a loose-fitting elasticized chest-band – somehow manages to evoke both the expansive (Jupiter) and contractive (Saturn) components of the economic cycle.

Harkening back to the fifties and that era’s fascination with midriff fashion, those tops graced the chests ofHollywood starlets. They were also popular with pre-teens who naturally sported them without bras. As worn without foundation garments by Prada’s runway models, these new tops, while being tiny, advertise a disregard for economic contraction by virtue of their appeal to those who wish to remain, in the spirit of both Jupiter and Uranus, unfettered.

The vroom-vroom momentum of the top’s iconic retro-car print – you can almost smell the leather seats in the sedans and convertibles – also underscores pre-adolescent and teen fascination with Mercurial speed and fun, and Uranian freedom. With no suggestion of limitation of any kind, the Prada bandeau top – it’s also available in solid red – seems to presage a pain-free deliverance into the American Dream of adulthood. How un-recessionary. 

Who would fault Prada’s whimsy in dropping a let-it-all-hang-out bandeau top into an environment of extreme financial tightening, in which Spanxing one’s pocketbook has become the norm among working gals trying to keepto a budget?

The often cited research that women tend to splurge on lipsticks when the economy is tough – vibrant colors provide psychological pleasure that far surpasses the cost of a tube – suggests that even a miniscule item is sometimes worth its weight in gold. Or fabric.

Yes, those bandeau tops are essentially nothing but bands. It’s as though the designer decided that, with the economy up front and center, cash-strapped women might have to choose between buying a fashion top or brassiere. The revered fashion house solved that problem by mischievously providing one garment that serves up two functions.  

Sure, a woman who can afford 10 bucks for a piece of cloth and a couple of yards of elastic can whip up a knock-off in a few minutes. Prada knows that budgetary-minded gals who embrace the wisdom behind buying-lipstick-when-the-chips-are-down will do what these times require. The cheekiness of the garment itself all but invites a grrrl-power call to action.

But on a more serious note, Prada’s bandeau top is also a caveat. As a strip of cloth, it’s a bandage, and perhaps a sly message targeted to the world’s top monetary experts who are often given to temporary debt solutions that don’t address the source of the problem.

With its dynamic design of fast cars metaphorically on the brink of empty gas tanks, Prada’s bandeau top announces that the buck stops here. It’s bandeau-top-or-bust.

Rating: ♃♄☿♅ (Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Uranus)

(This story was first published, without astrological references, at http://www.forbes.com, on Sept. 28, 2011.)

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