View Full Version : Tracie Stern: The Queen's Hamlet

29th June 2011, 07:17
<br>One of the more regrettable aspects of the minus-size fashion world is that it often takes a short cut to creativity, relying on juvenile shock value, reflexively pursuing novelty for novelty's sake and rationalizing ugliness as "edginess."

True creativity need not be freakish or bizarre. Rather, originality and technical craftsmanship are at their finest when they are guided by the aesthetic of beauty.

As living embodiments of the Classical ideal, plus-size models spur designers to shape their creative talents into beautiful forms, to exhibit concord rather than contrast, melody rather than dissonance. This approach still allows them to express their individuality, but in tune with essential human tastes.

As a signal example of beauty-oriented artistry in fashion, plus-size model Tracie Stern recently embarked on a project that recalled the creative challenges that one sees on television programs such as <i>Project Runway.</I> However, the results were far more aesthetically agreeable than the outlandish costumery that Heidi Klum's aspiring straight-size designers customarily send down the TV runway.

Tracie outlined her project as follows:

Over the years, my non-industry friends have made one comment consistently: "Tracie . . . you’d look good in anything, even a potato sack."

To test the theory, I had a brainstorm to put together <strong>a photo shoot inspired by potato sacks</strong>. I enlisted the help of two local Virginia designers, RicLamar and Sylvia Hill (of Clu). Both designers were given twelve burlap potato sacks and the freedom to create a garment for me to wear in a photo shoot that would later be published in <i>Goddess</i> magazine.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic10.jpg"></center><p>I asked a local Virginia photographer, Mariaelissa Littles of Maya Photography . . . to see if she would be willing to shoot this concept. She agreed, and we started organizing the project.

At 7:30 a.m. on the morning of the shoot, Andra R. of Salon Vivace was at my house, putting curls in my hair to give me that sexy, innocent look. Empress Leigh was on set for makeup.
Creativity challenges are the best-known aspects of <i>Project Runway.</I> Indeed, in 2005, we <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/forums/forum1/messages/1283.html" target="_blank">discussed</a> one such challenge which actually had an attractive outcome: tasked with assembling a dress strictly from the materials that could be found in a supermarket, one budding designer fashioned an outfit from <i>corn husks.</i> Alas, the husks withered, and the dress ended up looking as dessicated as the minus-size model on whom it was draped. However, the concept of fashion that might work in concert with elements of the natural world was pregnant with possibility, and Tracie's shoot capitalized on this potential.

Not only did Tracie's endeavour improve on the <i>Project Runway</I> paradigm by having the clothing featured on the shapely figure of a plus-size model rather than on the wizened frame of a waif, but in keeping with the principles that we espoused in our "Natural Ideal" <a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/board/showthread.php?t=1745" target="_blank">post</a>, the shoot took place in the great outdoors rather than in a bare studio.

The resulting compatibility of three key elements--a fabric with organic associations, a model exhibiting luscious, fecund beauty, and an idyllic, verdant location--all harmonized in a celebration of natural beauty.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic07.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic07a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Yes, this attractive, couture-like dress was fashioned from potato sacks, but one would never know. Its organic hue is in perfect concord with the Arcadian surroundings: the rich foliage of the trees, the still pond with its lovely water lilies, the rustic boardwalk, the blooming flowers. The strapless, sleeveless style frames the model's buxom décolletage and rounded arms. (For a size-14 model, Tracie has always exhibited very attractive arms.) <p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic11.jpg"></center><p>The elaborate necklace adds a touch of luxury to the dress, and the model's pose is highly sophisticated. The sash at the waist and the ruffles in the skirt are decorative and feminine. The model's hairstyle is posh. Yet the tan colour of the fabric allows it to harmonize with the setting, even with the rustic wheel in the foreground.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic08.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic08a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>The result is an expression of traditional, European nobility--for as readers may be aware, the aristocracy of the Old World was historically the landowning class, close to the soil. As Spengler describes in <i><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0394421760/thejudgmenofpari" target="_blank">The Decline of the West</a></I>:
[The] nobility is higher peasantry. Even in 1250 the West had a widespread proverb: "One who ploughs in the forenoon jousts in the afternoon," and it was quite usual for a knight to marry the daughter of a peasant. In contrast to the cathedral, the castle was a development, by way of the country noble’s house of Frankish times, from the peasant-dwelling . . . Nobility and peasantry are plant-like and instinctive, deep-rooted in the ancestral land, propagating themselves in the family tree, breeding and bred.The ornate accessories and the model's aristocratic expressions engage with the agricultural fabric, effectively depicting the world of the pre-modern European nobility. In this image, the model's sensually indolent pose, which showcases the luscious curve of her hips, adds leisure and opulence to the overall effect, as does the paradisaical setting, which recalls the <i>locus amśnus</I> of classical literature.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic09.jpg"></center><p>We mention Old-World nobility advisedly when referring to this shoot, for the following images introduce another aristocratic association: that of the beautiful Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, who met such a cruel fate at the hands of the butchers who unleashed the holocaust of the French Revolution.

In happier times, the gentle queen retreated from the tedium of court life at Versailles to her idyllic <i><a href="http://en.chateauversailles.fr/marie-antoinettes-estate" target="_blank">Hameau</a>,</I> or hamlet. Here the queen had a picturesque yet genuine rustic farm built for herself, where she could take pleasure in the sweet, simple life of the peasantry, one day dallying at the tasks of a milkmaid, another day donning the garb of a shepherdess.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic01.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic01a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Tracie's outfit allows for both possibilities. The ponies are just the sort that would inhabit an agrarian setting (this shoot having taken place in an actual farm), while her adorable bonnet has pastoral associations. Yet the supreme touch is the model's regal, nonchalant pose. She exudes the attitude of a pampered princess merely playing at the rustic life, far too alluringly spoiled to ever exert herself in any way. The pink sash beautifies the burlap dress; once again, one would never imagine it to have been fashioned from such a coarse material.<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic02.jpg"></center><p>Though the shoot has bucolic touches (in the Arcadian nature of some of the settings and the cute bonnet of the previous photograph), we ultimately associate it with the Georgic tradition in literature, which involves agriculture and husbandry. The most specifically agrarian images are the two illustrating the following outfit. Fittingly, this appears to be the most practical of the garments fashioned from the burlap material, yet the model's pose, which bares her soft midriff and emphasizes her rounded arms (exhibiting even a sensual trace of textured flesh), infuses the image with seductive femininity. <p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic03.JPG" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic03a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>In the following image, the model achieves a fashionable effect through the lassitude of her pose. Even though the Georgic context traditionally involves travail and effort, she is far too alluringly indolent for any physical exertion. The luscious, teeming foliage surrounding her harmonizes with her well-fed beauty. The only minor flaw is the wire mesh in the fence; were it not for that unfortunate detail, the fence would be yet another attractive element, for rustic fences have their own picturesque appeal.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic04.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic04a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>The classical trope of the <i>locus amśnus,</I> or pleasurable retreat, traditionally carries amorous associations, which the following images of Tracie in enchantingly old-fashioned lingerie evoke. One imagines that she is eagerly anticipating an assignation in a secret hideaway. The full-blooming flowers, the model's breathless pose, and the idyllic cottage all suggest summertime passion.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic05.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic05a.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Bravo to Tracie Stern for spearheading such a unique and interesting project, one which proves that a creative fashion challenge can be guided by principles of timeless beauty in every aspect: in the Classical curvaceousness of the model, in the feminine design of the outfits (even given uncommon fabrics), and in the natural backdrop of the shoot. The results are far more aesthetically pleasing and artistically fulfilling than outré, urban endeavours featuring androgynous models, modernistic outfits, and grim cityscapes.<p><center><a href="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic06.JPG" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ts/georgic06b.jpg" border="0" title="Click to enlarge" alt="Click to enlarge"></a></center><p>Timeless beauty and artistic inspiration go hand in hand, as they have done from the dawn of Western history.<p>- <a href="http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover-the-estate/le-domaine-de-marie-antoinette/the-queen-hamlet/the-queens-hamlet" target="_blank">The Queen's Hamlet</a>