Valerie: ''I love to live generously'' (DBW)
Fans of Valerie Lefkowitz will be delighted with the new Holiday 2005 collection at Dress Barn Woman. The settings are opulent and lavish, and the clothing is more attractive than one usually sees from DBW. Valerie herself still lacks the curves that, for two years, made her the most popular model in the industry, before she suffered a tragic and painful figure diminishment late last year. But in some images, she appears to have regained at least a trace of her former shape.
Pride of place in the new Dress Barn promotional catalogue goes to the following gorgeous image, showing Valerie relaxing against a piano. The caption, "I love to live generously," contains multiple meanings. One speaks of a "generous lifestyle," "generous portions," and of course, a "generous figure." The modern ethos defines generosity in narrow ways, as self-denial in favour of others; but the timeless aesthetic encourages generosity to oneself. Entranced by Valerie's beauty, the viewer cannot help but agree that a goddess such as this deserves to live a generous life, and that she belongs in a regal environment such as this. The bewitching langour of the pose makes the image overwhelmingly alluring, as does Valerie's lidded-eyed, come-hither glance. "Life has been generous to me," the model seems to say--and the viewer ardently agrees that she deserves Fortune's munificence. Fittingly, it is Valerie's most curvaceous image in this campaign.
Also thrilling is this look at Valerie in passionate red. The thematic similarity of this image, and the Allegory of Vanity painting that we recently discussed, is uncanny. The model's angelic curls betoken innocence, and play off effectively against the sinful allure of her red top and plunging decolletage. The juxtaposition of Valerie and the 19th-century painting beside her is a brilliant touch, intimating that the model properly belongs to a more sumptuous age, when she would have been feted and worshipped by all who viewed her--but also, that she brings that aristocratic era to life in the present day, by her sheer existence.
The similarity of the decor in the painting featured above, and the decor in these pages, is marked and deliberate. In the following image, for example, the backdrop is a panelled screen similar to that which appears in the painting seen above. Valerie's visage lacks some of the gorgeous roundness that it once possessed, but her fairytale curls still distinguish her as an embodiment of timeless beauty. The caption, "I savor life's magical moments," again conveys multiple meanings, as the term "savor" is often associated with lavish dining.
Nowhere is the angelic Valerie more visible than in the following image, with the heavenly blue of her top playing off against her golden curls and fair complexion. No other model approaches her expressiveness. The look in her eyes is deep and meaningful, almost beseeching. Even in this small reproduction, her gaze transfixes the viewer with the emotion that wells up from within, like a surging river of feeling.
The cover however, shows a very different gaze, one more in tune with the caption, "I love a little romance." A little? The smouldering fire in that glance could enslave the soul of any man. The curls falling so near the eyes, almost shielding them, add a touch of mystery. And the violet top contrasts effectively with the yellow drapery.
Seeing these images only reminds us what the industry lost when Valerie diminished her figure. It's happened before (Sophie Dahl, Kate Dillon), but it is always a source of profound regret, and significantly hurts the industry--to say nothing of the many girls who look up to these models as sources of inspiration. Let up hope that Valerie will be the one, single model who actually recovers her feminine curves, someday, and regains the beauty that she possessed in her Junonia, Nordstrom, and Fruit of the Loom campaigns--when she rivalled even Shannon Marie as the most beautiful model the industry has ever known.
Re: Valerie: ''I love to live generously'' (DBW)
I like the harmony between her outfits and the backgrounds.
Interesting that the copywriters used the word "generously" to convey the mood. Generous came into English by way of the French word genereux, of noble birth, magnanimous. So not only does it mean giving and sharing or abundance but had a previous definition of noble birth or to behave in a noble manner. Both meanings of the word fit these pictures perfectly.
Re: Valerie: ''I love to live generously'' (DBW)
The settings and photography are marvellous, and placing Valerie side-by-side with a painting is a wonderful touch. The implication is that even beside this artwork, she is the true masterpiece.
But how sad to see her looking so un-plus. Just a year or two ago, when she was fuller figured, she was the most captivating model of all. But sadly, I think it's all over. As a general rule, models never seem to regain the curves that they once possessed, and that make them so popular with the public. (Think of the equally sad case of Kate Dillon.)
On the other hand, Dress Barn's plus-size clothing has clearly improved. They seem to be moving away from career wear, and offering more social apparel. And according to an article that I stumbled across online, it's had quite an impact.
According to the article,
"Sales have been quite good for six months in part because of its strength in the plus-size area of the core Dressbarn stores," says Dennis Van Zelfden, an analyst at Suntrust Robinson Humphrey, an investment bank based in Atlanta. "That is due to the remerchandising of the whole chain over the past 18 months."
I take "remerchandising" to mean better clothing, and better promotions. So plus-size women do prefer feminine apparel to boxy suits, and such.
And since the topic of dessert contest was mentioned here recently, I should also share a link to an e-mail promo that I recently received from Dress Barn, advertising a "Holiday Bake-off Recipe Book":
If you follow the link, it takes you to a collection of great recipes at the Dress Barn site:
Anyone who actually does "love to live generously" should find the recipes delectable. It strikes me as a fine way for a plus-size retailer to be celebrating the Christmas season.
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