The Italian Almanac

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Italian Obsession - May 30

All women dream of an apricot, but many have to settle for an aubergine. In between, there are oranges, which may not be perfect but are still a good result, and the depressing drop-shaped variety. Men don't have these problems. They have the pert bottoms they were born with, assuming their weight is kept within reason, because of the proportion of lean mass, higher than in women, and fat mass, obviously lower than the other sex. At worst, men will have to put up with a pear shape.

Nip and tuck specialists turn to the greengrocer's shelves when they are classifying their patients' buttocks. Personal trainers are less agricultural, merely shaking their heads and piling on the exercises, since the gluteus maximus is one of the body's strongest muscles.Both categories have been working overtime recently. They call it buttock mania and it affects men and women equally.

Significantly, a leading gym equipment company has designed a machine specifically to mould marble-hard backsides. More than one designer label, Fiorucci and Gilli included, has launched lift-and-carry jeans to revitalise this sometimes generously proportioned appurtenance. In spring, there were shaping tights but now that the hot weather has arrived, there is him and her underwear, in the form of reducing trunks. A torrent of creams, gels, oils and sprays promises comparable results. Then there is the new beachwear. Tangas are less in evidence, as designers have realised that not everyone has the right figure, and anatomic briefs have made a comeback.