After rather guiltily making up a story about why I needed a full body faja, the sales lady in Fájate ("Girdle yourself"!) brought me out one in my size. These things are expensive (the one I tried on was around $80) and at least in the store we were in you can't just grab one off the rack. Let me tell you, that thing was not easy to get on, the poor sales lady had to help fasten me in and zip me up. I don't know how these things are made, but I can tell you that they make you look like you have butt implants and they suck the fat on your thighs in. Interestingly enough, as my sister pointed out from the pictures we snuck in the dressing room, it also gave me back fat that I don't have, but all in all I was pretty much given a Barbie figure that looked like it had had plastic surgery. It even had a slit to pee out of! Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), the photos we took were deemed inappropriate for the internets, so instead here are some unknown models sporting two different options in faja-wear:
I can't imagine wearing one for more than five minutes in the heat here, and especially not out dancing, but that is exactly what many women here do. Not to mention-- say you pick someone up at a club and go to a motel with them, how the hell do you get out of the damn thing? They sell men's versions as well, although the women's ones are not surprisingly more popular.
Another thing that I realized-- both from the shape the faja gives your butt and because the saleslady mentioned it-- is that many women wear fajas under jeans. One particular style of jean especially popular in Cali is called the jean "levanta cola", or ass-lifting jean-- no additional explanation necessary, I assume-- and in between the fajas and the levanta cola jeans, you can bet the women of Cali walk around with some pretty pert butts. The ripped jean look is popular at the moment, and high heels with jeans is always a winning combo.
None of this is to say that all women in Cali wear fajas or ass-lifting jeans or the like-- in fact as far as I can tell no one I know personally does-- but there is a large amount of pressure to look a certain way, especially in some sectors of Cali society, a pressure I'm happy to be free from (and don't even get me started on the whole "you should be a sexy virgin" message that pervades Latin American culture in general). Though I do have a pair of the jeans, which I love-- both because every time I wear them someone says my butt got bigger (always a complement in Latin America) and because they are my non-gringo camouflage jeans, helping me to pass more or less unnoticed in a crowd-- more or less as I'm blanca como la leche, there are after all limits to body modification...