Monday, December 3, 2007

Optical scentsibilities: Neck Rings

Who isn't familiar with the Christian Dior advertisements for their feminine perfume J'adore? Before enlisting Charlize Theron and her fabulous physique, it was Carmen Kass and her graceful East European neck who adorned the pages of glossies. The gold hoops round her neck were shining much like those on the long, giraffe-like top half of the bottle iteself, elongating it, giving it a graceful line upwards. Very innovative, right?

And yet, when one looks back on advertisments from a previous era, one sees that that this is not the case. In fact, Jean Desprez, a perfumer who launched his own creations and not under the wing of another house ~a practice unusual for the second half of the 20th century~ had used this idea for his classic oriental Bal a Versailles, back in the 1960s. The advertisment of this one is more sketchy and less realistic, but the idea remains the same. The rings around the neck, the elongated line that hints at vulnerability. An idea of woman as a constricted being who is subject to the desires of some unattainable ideal, inflicted by men. One could write a whole treatise on this alone! However to revert to more arty rather than feminist issues, every little trait of the two images conspires to show that they both drew their inspiration from yet another source; a source much more in the real world than one would anticipate.

None other than the constrictive beauty ritual of the Giraffe Women of Thailand. In a practice that rivals that of the bound feet of Chinese women (Google the term only if you're brave), those women put rings around their necks producing an effect that although more of an optical illusion than real elongating, it has the unfortunate characteristic of seriously oppressing the collarbones and ribs into an unnatural shape in the long run.
Everything in the name of an unrealistic, unattainable beauty? Putting on perfume is so much easier comparatively. The rest is up to always.

Pics of ads from parfumdepub, pic of giraffe woman from paradise


  1. The Bal à Versailles ad, I recognized right off the bat as being by admeister extraordinaire Jean-Paul Goude. This particular technique, pre-photoshop, was called "The French Correction": he cut up photographs to manipulate silhouettes into impossible postures/shapes. Goude is also, of course, the director of some famous perfume tv campaigns such as the one for Coco, with Vanessa Paradis as a bird in a cage in Chanel's Ritz apartment...

  2. Indeed!
    I didn't know it was called "French Correction"; fancy term!
    And he is also the mastermind behind the FABULOUS Egoiste one (with the hotel windows and the susequent one with the shadow for Platinum) as well as Covet, I believe?

  3. Hi Helg,

    I think you summed it up perfectly...." Putting on perfume is so much easier comparatively. "

    I agree.

    And, I saw a special on the Discovery or National Geographic channel about the women in Thailand and the neckrings custom. It was fascinating. I wonder what those Thai women would think about my culture and its obsession with big ole' breast implants? For the record, I don't have fake boobs. My only body modification endeavor is perfume. :)

    Paris and Amsterdam pics will be emailed later on today. I've been a bit of a procrastinator lately.


  4. Dawn,

    thank you for your comment. These kind of documentaries are fascinating, aren't they? Different cultures have different obsessions. The tan vs. white skin divide for instance etc.
    Like you so succinctly put it, they would be deeply surprised by western standards. It would be interesting to watch reactions!

    Looking forward to pics! :-)

  5. Anonymous04:32

    The name of the tribe that the women in Thailand belong to is called the Padaungs. They are are not Thai but ethnically Burmese. They do not like being called giraffe women and the rings are not just placed around necks but on legs too. It's their idea of beauty and the centuries old practice is becoming extinct since the younger generation have begun going to the cities and abandoning the practice.


  6. Thanks C for the clarification.

    To be completely accurate, I didn't say they were Thai, I merely mentioned them as "The Giraffe Women of Thailand" ~the term having more of a geographical than ethnic ring to it. The detail about them being Burmese escaped me, I admit. As to them being non responsive to the name and te practice being abandoned, both are part of the usual, natural course of events.

    Yes, leg rings are something I knew of: but it has no relation to the point of the post, anyway, right?

  7. Giraffe Women are some women from some barbarian tribes in Africa and Asia. About the girl on your photo tell the tourist guide: They lengthen their neck in their total submission under the male-dominated society. When their husband catch or suspicion her in unfaithfulness, the husband remove the rings, and because the neck is lengthen and weak of the long enclosure, the neck break and the woman choke. The women are forced to the use of neck rings because all the men prefer bride they have full control of. The reality is almost opposite, but the tourist pay for the lying and do not love the truth.

  8. Anonymous05:51

    There's no medical concern for removing the neck rings; that's a myth. The rings create an optical illusion by pushing the collar bone and ribs downward, there's not really any elongation happening. The rings also aren't as tight around the neck as they appear, the women can fit their hands under the rings to wash... The neck muscles may be slightly weaker than they would be without the rings but it's not disabling or in any way fatal (it's physically impossible for your neck to snap because the muscles are undeveloped... it doesn't even make sense). Plus the women remove the rings pretty regularly and walk away from it. Even after 10-15 years of non-stop wear, they can take them off with no adverse effects. Barbaric? Hardly. Besides, it's a part of their culture and heritage and really doesn't need anyone's approval.


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