Real Quick: Kathy Najimy offers confidence through spandex, sizes S-XL only.

By | November 30, 2010

Ch'arms. No, really.

Don't you just hate it when people can see your arms?

Kathy Najimy is an “award-winning” actress who spent over a decade as the voice of a character on one of my most hated television shows of all time, King of the Hill. I don’t know what character she was, because as I’ve already noted, I really loathed that show. She’s also been in a bunch of other television shows and movies, though I mostly remember her as the fat nun in Sister Act.

Evidently Kathy’s had some free time even with all that acting, and has invented something that already existed, which she is now peddling on HSN under a name so precious and clever I would want to stab it if it had a body to stab. They’re arm-Spanx, and Kathy’s calling them “Ch’Arms”. The apostrophe makes it look French, right? That makes them fashiony!

But what are they for? Kathy, explain yourself!

“Ch’Arms is a garment problem–solver. For those of us who love the look of short sleeve or sleeveless garments but sometimes choose to have our arms covered, Ch’Arms gives us the best of both worlds.  No more bulky layers either under or over your cute shirt or dress.  Ch’Arms is lightweight and seamless and allows its wearer to feel comfortable and confident, covering your arms without covering your garment or body!”

I’ve mentioned that these things already existed, and they did — as dancewear, or as another product with another cutesy name that I have blocked from my memory, which was offered to me whilst shopping at Lee Lee’s Valise a couple years ago. And even before that! In my goth-clubbing days in the 1990s, we used to achieve the same effect by taking a pair of tights, cutting a neckhole in the crotch, chopping off the feet, and yanking the result on like a shirt, repurposing the legs as sleeves (custom thumbholes optional). It’s true that this was most popularly done with fishnets, but pretty much anything from Leg Avenue‘s line of “costume” hosiery would work. And this DIY sheer top was equally effective for plus sizes too, as I can reluctantly attest.

But I digress.

Kathy says above that this product is for people — oh let’s be honest here, we’re talking about women — who love the “look” of short sleeves, but would prefer them without all that pesky shortness in the sleeve area. Which begs the question of whether these people love the look of short sleeves at all, or whether what they don’t love is the look of their arms. Describing arm-coverage as a “choice” is also interesting; this language strives to avoid judgment. It’s true there are numerous reasons, many of them unrelated to a lack of arm-esteem, why a person might want to keep her arms covered: some women may do so to repurpose warm-weather clothing for winter wear, for example, while others may do so for religious reasons. However, this product is pretty obviously aimed at women who are simply insecure about the appearance of their upper appendages. This is about the freedom to hide your arms, ladies! You don’t hate freedom, do you?

Watching the videos on the HSN site is a must here, as Kathy refers to the Ch’Arms-clad mannequin by name, and at one point says, “You can see here that Margaret has changed her outfit, and now she’s wearing the beige [Ch’Arms],” when Margaret is quite clearly a mannequin and therefore incapable of changing her own outfit. I wonder if Kathy thought they were going to photoshop in a live model in post-production, especially since a flesh-free mannequin is hardly a great spokesmodel, given that Margaret’s arms look the same whether they’re Ch’Armed or not. And in a final ironic twist, this garment is not even available in plus sizes. Evidently slender women are entitled to a means of hiding their arm-shame, but fat women are not, and must do penance for their fatness in all those bulky layers until they can lose enough weight to merit a sleek arm-covering option. Thanks, Kathy Najimy! (Correction: Apparently they do go up to a combined “2X/3X” but they seem to be mostly sold out.)

This product is gimmicky, and at $30 a pop, grotesquely overpriced, not to mention a clear effort at exploiting women’s body-insecurities for financial gain. Oh sure, I hear Kathy say she’s trying to help all those ladies who choose to exercise their god-given right to cover their arms for vague and subjective reasons, but I’d argue that what would really help is assuring all women that their arms are fine just as they are, and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. So long as women are made to feel that their various body parts are unacceptable or ugly, this is not a choice. Arm-coverage can only be a choice when women are no longer pressured into hiding, obscuring, or altering their physical attributes that fail to be “perfect”, and Kathy Najimy is working to reinforce that influence, rather than to free anyone from it.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Southern California, Carnie Wilson is kicking herself for not thinking of this first.

H/T to Jezebel.


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