A Postcard from Austria
(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, April 8th, 2004.)
It is always a joy to discover how size celebration is touching the lives of people around the world.
Just the other day, we received the following inspiring e-mail message:
How gratifying it must be for plus-size models to know that they are helping women everywhere achieve a more favourable image of themselves.
A visit to the Adler ("Eagle") Web site reveals many images of Mrs. Brickner. The clothing is . . . a matter of individual taste, but Barbara is as lovely as ever. You can see her work in the Große Größen ("plus sizes") section, which is directly accessible from the page linked below. Fans may also wish to visit the Wäsche (lingerie) department, which includes this pretty and tasteful image:
Apart from these examples of plus-size beauty, the Adler site also deserves a visit because of its unique Trachten collection. This is nothing less than a line of bona fide German and Austrian folk attire, on sale here from a major retailer. Surprising as it may seem to North American viewers, these items are not offered as costumes, nor does the fact that this apparel has been lampooned for decades in the "sophisticated" American media compel Adler to exhibit any self-consciousness is offering it to its customers. These items are simply presented as another style option for women in this part of the world.
(And people consider the peasant blouse an ambitious example of unapologetic historicism . . . )
It is reassuring to learn that even today, in 2004, in countries that are no less "modern" than our own, these traditional folk styles--which link generation to generation across the vast expanse of time, and through all the tribulations of the previous century--are still a part of a living tradition.
But does the fact that this clothing is available from a mass-market retailer somehow lessen its validity as a cultural symbol? No more than the artistic integrity of a Beethoven symphony is diminished when it is heard through an MP3 player, rather than in a concert hall. In both cases, contemporary means of production and communication enable people who may have lost touch with their cultural heritage to reestablish links with that heritage, and to incorporate the fruits of this legacy into their daily lives.
(But who can deny that, if there was ever a case when a clothing line should have been showcased on full-figured models rather than on contemporary waifs--this is it?)
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