(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, April 11th, 2004, in response to a notice from Renee about an Emme article in Woman's Day magazine.)
Thank you for the notice, Renee. The title of the Woman's Day layout--"Plusperfect"--deserves a round of applause for grammatical wit. The styles are fun and youthful, turning the old Grace mantra of "age-appropriate" clothing on its ear. (Doesn't it seem as if "age appropriate" usually means, "looking as old as possible"?) Emme may be near 40, but in these spring outfits--fresh, colourful, and sleeveless (bravo!), she looks to be in her 20s, or perhaps early 30s.
The captions offer sound fashion advice, such as:
"The biggest fashion mistake? Not being in touch with your body and trying to hide it under clothes that are too big or too small."
"Buy what looks good on you--a hemline or a colour--regardless of what the current trend is."
Fortunately, this season's enchantingly feminine styles are entirely favourable towards the plus aesthetic, so for now, "current trends" suit timeless beauty remarkably well. But it may not always be so, and if fashion ever turns back towards minimalism, then it will be well worth remembering Emme's advice to follow your heart, instead of the fads.
Emme deserves limitless praise for successfully using the mass media to spread a size-positive message. Somehow, she manages to keeping otherwise ubiquitous "epidemic"-type weight hysteria out of her profiles--which is a considerable accomplishment.
The April 2004 issue of More magazine also contains a rather good article about Emme. The writer, Abbie Ellin, absolutely gushes over Emme's physical beauty, thus avoiding the pitfall of many size-related articles, which restrict themselves to patronizing, "personality"-based talk of "inner beauty," at the expense of acknowledging the goddess qualities of the plus-size model:
Oh, she's beautiful: all-American and fresh-faced. Today, her blonde hair is slicked back, leaving her face open, vulnerable, exposed. . . . It's refreshing to meet a celebrity so sexy and robust--especially one who has come by her fame as a plus-size model, something of a paradox in our thin-obsessed culture.
The rest of the piece retells the familiar "Emme story" that we have all heard before, but there is nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, since there are so few plus-size models who have managed to turn the media lens in their direction, thank goodness that Emme is still out there, sharing her triumphs and tribulations. As Ellin observes, Emme has helped many women to love themselves and their bodies, and continues to do so today.
But the best part of the More article, and a new addition to Emme's talking points, comes when she outlines the attitudes about size that a mother should pass on to her daughter:
As a mother, [Emme] gets to practice what she preaches: imbuing children with positive messages about their bodies. "If you're going to eat something, eat it with gusto," she says, nibbling on a chocolate-chip cookie. "If you tell your children 'You can't eat this, you can't eat that, you can only have fat-free,' you'll drive them nuts. When you're naked with your children, don't pull at your fat, or say, 'I hope you don't get these hips.' You've got to walk the walk, talk the talk, and always treat yourself like a goddess. When you get to that sense of clarity, you pass it on to your child.
"Clarity." Exactly. This is a word that we should all keep in mind. Not a mixed message--a clear message; an unreserved, unapologetic, and unconditional preference for plus-size beauty. This is the Mode brand of uncompromising body love that is notably absent from the "body issues" that mainstream fashion magazines occasionally publish, and from any periodical that mixes weight-control propaganda with size-positive imagery.
Not only should mothers attain this sense of clarity in order to share it with their daughters, but so should anyone who is in a position to influence the public in terms of its attitudes towards the female figure.
After all these years of "asking Emme," she is still providing the right answers.
Playful Emme, from Ladies Home Journal, 1999-ish. (The photographer is Shannon Greer--a Mode alumnus with a singular gift for making plus-size models look gorgeous.)
(You may click on the image to view it at a larger size.)
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