Romantic fashion and the plus aesthetic
(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, March 14, 2004.)
If anyone needs further indication that the time to create the "next Mode," the next plus-size fashion magazine, is today--right now--at this very instant, then here it is.
Amazing as it may seem, it appears as if some of the fashion industry's "mainstream" designers are finally growing weary of the ugliness and minimalism that they have imposed on women's fashion for decades. If we examine the developments in so-called "haute couture" this season, we discover that fashion is genuinely becoming more romantic, albeit incrementally. Indeed, it now seems a greater tragedy than ever that the designers are still exhibiting their wares on concentration-camp victims rather than on curvaceous goddesses, because the androgynous waifs look glaringly unsuitable as models for these pretty, feminine designs.
We have always maintained that full-figured women should neither be governed by fashion trends, nor should they sweepingly reject trendiness in general, but should pick and choose from among the latest fashion movements according to whichever styles suit the opulent plus aesthetic best--i.e., those that possess timeless beauty.
For example, "big hoop earrings" may be trendy at the moment, but "big hoop earrings" will always look good on curvaceous women, whether they are in vogue or not. The same is true for chandelier earrings, or for any other manner of ornate, decorative jewellery that is based on classical designs.
Now, let us consider three of the more encouraging "trends" of the spring/summer fashion season. (Please click on the following hyperlinks.)
How welcome it is to see the revival of classical styles--but how tragic to see them hanging empty and deflated on such shapeless frames.
The image of the model with the flowers around her neck reminds us of Valerie's exquisite cosmetics page in the current issue of Figure, in which Ms. Lefkowitz is adorned with a garland of roses. Seeing the plus-size model and the blooming flowers together impresses the viewer as an expression of nature's highest order of beauty. But on the emaciated model, the flowers bear a distrubing resemblance to a funeral wreath.
Who can deny that ruffles and frills are ideal embellishments for plus-size beauty? Just look at how much better those romantic elements appear when we see them on a naturally curvaceous figure:
The body-conscious yet delicate ensemble suits the model's fuller figure perfectly, and because this slightly daring outfit is so very feminine, it is not the least bit vulgar, but sensual and chic.
With the aesthetic restoration continuing to chip away at "haute couture," this is the best possible time to start a new plus-size magazine. If such a magazine were to capitalize on the shift towards romanticism (as Grace never did, incomprehensibly allowing the emergence of the plus-favourable "peasant" style to pass it by, unacknowledged), then people would finally see the aesthetic advantages of using plus-size models instead of walking corpses.
Furthermore, readers who have felt alienated from fashion in general would finally see how curves and style can go hand in hand, and would feel an increased sense of pride in their appearance.
And finally, the impact of seeing models who exhibit timeless beauty wearing attire that is equally timeless would attract new artistic talents to the industry, people who have never before felt any inclination to express their artistry in this field, owing to fashion's hitherto modernist character.
Carpe diem. Let us hope that someone seizes the day. Full-figured women have nothing to lose but their guilt. They have a culture to win.
Ssssssinful curves . . .
(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, March 21st, 2004, in response to a reply by Melanie to the above essay, in which she enthused about the serpentine styles that were also among the aforementioned couture trends.)
For obvious reasons (including the parts that they play in the stories of Eve and Cleopatra), serpents have been a part of "femme fatale" iconography throughout the history of Western art. Snakes have often been used to accentuate feminine curves, and to emphasize their dangerous allure. Perhaps this is yet another reason why the media resists plus-size beauty. Male participants fear for their very souls, knowing that voluptuous seductresses can enslave them on sight.
Here is one of the most famous paintings depicting the intimidating qualities of full-figured femininity and its serpentine charm. The title of the work is (what else?) Sin (1893), and it is an open question which element in the canvas is most vividly representative of sinfulness--the snake, or the curvaceous temptress around whom he has wrapped himself. The artist, Franz von Stuck, painted countless versions of this subject throughout his life, utterly beguiled by his own creation, in a characteristic example of German cultural obsession:
And here is John Collier's Lilith (1887), whose fair features belie her perilous attractions. Indeed, it would appear as if the serpent in this painting has itself been bewitched by her irresistible beauty:
Long before Nastassja Kinski accessorized with a python in the famous photograph recreated by Marie Claire in its recent "Shape" issue, sinfully luxuriant sirens were often depicted in the embrace of curve-caressing vipers. How fitting that, to accompany the delicate, almost angelic styles that are currently reappearing in fashion, some darker symbols of feminine fascination should be revived as well . . .
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