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HSG
1st August 2009, 09:00
<br>Devoted <i>Mode</I> magazine readers, as well as experienced plus-size shoppers, may well remember Lane Bryant's clever if short-lived 1998 "V-Girls" promotion.

The V-Girls were touted as the plus-size answer to the Spice Girls. The curvy quintet consisted of Sophie Dahl, Kate Dillon, and Mia Tyler, as well as two minor celebrities of the time. The "V" in the name stood for "Venezia," which was the brand of LB jeans that the girls were promoting.

This was a time when both Sophie and Kate were genuinely full-figured, and therefore much more attractive and popular than they became in subsequent years, as they diminished in weight and beauty. The campaign is also notable as marking one of Sophie Dahl's surprisingly few interactions with the American plus-size industry.

The October 1998 issue of <i>Mode</I> (one of the magazine's all-time best) ran a two-page Lane Bryant ad promoting the V-Girls concept:<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/vgirls01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/vgirls01a.jpg" border="0" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>As you can see in a close-up, Sophie Dahl completely stole the show, for in terms of beauty she outshined any other plus-size model of the day (except for Shannon Marie). Her look during this early, curvy period of her career--so soft and doll-like, with round facial features, fair hair, and azure eyes--remains far superior and more genuinely timeless than that of any other full-figured model, past or present, who has been deemed a "supermodel."<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/vgirls02.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/vgirls02a.jpg" border="0" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>And now, thanks to our friend and ally D. Trull, we have something truly exciting to share with plus-size-beauty aficionados: a 5-minute <strong>video</strong> from 1998 offering a behind-the-scenes look at the V-Girls shoot, as well as clips from a Lane Bryant Venezia runway show, and a peek inside the <i>Mode</i> offices.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap005.jpg"></center><p>Observe how pretty Miss Dahl was at this time (although she looked even better in 1997, when her hair was longer). Notice in particular the adorable curve under her chin.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap011.jpg"></center><p>But the most significant revelation in the video is the appearance of Kate Dillon. Kate has been faux-plus for many years now, so fans have forgotten just how beautiful she was in 1997-1999, when she was fuller figured.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap020.jpg"></center><p>Notice how soft her shoulders appear, and how her clavicle is sensually submerged in plump fullness.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap013.jpg"></center><p>She has a healthy, youthful glow in this video. No wonder that fans of the day began spontaneously putting up numerous Web tributes for her (tributes that vanished after she lost weight and beauty).<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap025.jpg"></center><p>Still, nothing can match the loveliness of Sophie Dahl during this period. Observe how round and full her face appears, how exquisitely well-fed she looks. At this stage of her career, she truly personified the timeless ideal.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap035.jpg"></center><p>Her eyes are big and child-like, her apple cheeks faintly flushed. There is a babylike softness to her facial feautres. If Sophie had continued as a plus-size model rather than starving herself into waif proportions, size-celebration today would be much further advanced than it is.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap033.jpg"></center><p>With her adorable face and figure, Sophie stood a much better chance than anyone else of persuading the world that plus-size models are more desirable than walking skeletons.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap028.jpg"></center><p>Next, the video turns its attention from the V-Girls shoot to Lane Bryant's Venezia runway show. Notice, on the right side of the screen in the following still, the young model with the luscious, womanly figure. She never faces the camera, but this may well be Shannon Marie, who was working in New York at this time, and whose contemporary hair colour and length matched that of the model pictured here. If only Shannon Marie had been selected to be a V-Girl, the promotion would have been ten times more exciting than it turned out to be.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap001.jpg"></center><p>Also, watch for clips of an enchanting young Valerie Lefkowitz.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap026.jpg"></center><p>Valerie was unfortunately tiny in those days, but she already possessed her angelic facial features.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap031.jpg"></center><p>She too would have made a much better V-Girl than either of the forgettable quasi-celebrities that filled out the quintet.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap032.jpg"></center><p>The video also shows several clips of the <i>Mode</I> offices, and mentions the forthcoming launch of the magazine's short-lived sister publication, <i>Girl.</I> This part of the video is bittersweet, as one cannot recall the <i>Girl</I> failure without frustration. Everything that <i>Mode</I> did right, <i>Girl</I> did wrong. By making the magazine "for all sizes," <i>Girl</I> lacked an identity or target demographic. <i>Girl</i> readers were subjected to pages upon pages of typical underweight waifs, with a rare, token faux-plus model occasionally tucked into the corner of an editorial.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap043.jpg"></center><p>The problem is evident in the publications' respective covers (shown below): <i>Mode</I> boldly announced itself as being for sizes "12, 14, 16 . . ." while <i>Girl</I> was for . . . whom? Skinny girls understandably stuck to skinny-girl publications, while curvy girls found nothing in <i>Girl</i> to inspire them. No wonder it failed. And in subsequent years, when <i>Mode</I> lost its size-defining cover logo, and began using skinnier models, no wonder it failed as well.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap046.jpg"></center><p>But rather than ending this post on a dour note, let's turn back to the video and catch a glimpse of Kate embracing Mia Tyler, and admire how gorgeously fuller-figured Ms. Dillon was in those days--visibly and truly plus-size.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap066.jpg"></center><p>You can even see her curvy abdomen. No wonder Kate was so popular at this time. How regrettable that she didn't keep this luscious figure throughout her career.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap065.jpg"></center><p>We end with one final wistful glance at the alluringly full facial features that Kate once possessed.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/sd/vgirls/cap058.jpg"></center><p>Now, without further ado, here is the link to V-Girls video.

- <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzgwO2RdQ_o&fmt=18" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>