The fall ''Figure'': Valerie, Megan, and no diet ads
(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, August 04, 2004.)
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core . . . (Keats, "To Autumn")
If you can look past the dreary cover, there is a lot to love in the newest issue of Figure (Fall 2004). There's Valerie. There's Megan--both looking inexpressibly gorgeous. But there is another reason to adore this issue, another reason to cross the border right now--this very instant--and buy a copy from your nearest Charming Shoppes store. And this delightful bit of news is sure to make Figure-lovers out of many Figure-haters, because this new issue contains . . . (wait for it . . . )
. . . no diet ads.
That's right. No diet ads. Not one. The closest thing to a diet ad in this issue is a one-page promo for some sort of reduced-calorie mint--which is pretty irrelevant, compared to the horrors that appeared in past issues.
And just as significantly, the issue contains no stories promoting starvation, gym torture, or body mutilation of any kind.
Instead, we are treated to helpful and size-neutral articles on dozens of different topics, including a health article about a woman who was thin and had a heart attack, a very thoughtful and informative piece about social anxiety, and a relationship retreat write-up with the following cut line:
There was no pool, tennis court, or gym at this three-day retreat. The only exercise for guests was learning to love themselves.
Judging by these items, and by the many stories in the issue that are lighter in tone, it would appear that the Figure team has finally come to a significant realization about their readers: i.e., that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being full figured, and no reason why being curvaceous should be an impediment to living a fruitful life. In fact, it shouldn't even be a distraction.
Instead, the magazine has now turned to addressing readers' basic, day-to-day concerns--concerns that have nothing intrinsically to do with size. And it has refrained from resorting to any of the "scare tactics" that other magazines employ (as Myrna Blyth relayed in Spin Sisters).
Take note, by the way, of the sheer variety of advertising that has replaced the diet promotions. In addition to clothing promos, there are ads for Broadway shows, books, footwear, and even for "baby" items. The implication is that once plus-size women stop punishing themselves needlessly for their curves, they will discover many enjoyable new ways to spend their time and money.
Figure has finally become the magazine that we always hoped it would be: a guilt-free source of positive images of gorgeous plus-size models; a waif-free environment in which readers can feel better about themselves. Figure may not yet exemplify the kind of pure, unadulterated size celebration that the early Mode did, but at least it embodies size acceptance, and has purged itself its most obviously negative messages.
Let's hope that this is a lasting change.
Now, for the really important question--how does the issue measure up in terms of its quotient of plus-size beauty?
Very well indeed.
Like last year's fall offering, this edition is somewhat limited by the inherent dullness of most autumn attire. But two ads and two layouts stand out above the rest.
Valerie is mesmerizing in a flawless Fashion Bug promotion, and Megan looks adorable in a Notations ad.
More significantly, there is a delightful two-part jacket/poncho editorial featuring Valerie and Jordan. The clothing is . . . well, think of it what you will. But even readers who don't care for these styles will acknowledge that all three models pass the "burlap-sack test" with flying colours, give the camera their all, and bring these fashion basics to life. And it is certainly a treat to see Figure finally emerging from the studio and doing a location shoot--and in a truly charming location as well, with elaborate green spaces and weathered stonework.
Here is our favourite image from the layout: effulgent Valerie in full glow.
But aesthetic pride of place in this issue must surely go to Megan Garcia's absolutely glorious images in the "Go Berry Picking" editorial. Megan looks utterly enchanting here--and once again, Roberto Ligresti is the photographer responsible for this masterpiece, an editorial that equals his previous Figure covers, as well as his brilliant "Flower Girls" layout from the summer issue.
In fact, this "Berry" layout seems to be a kind of follow-up to "Flower Girls." Just as, in that layout, Ligresti made his models resemble Bacchantes by having them dance barefoot in flowing summer dresses, so here we see Megan offering grapes to the visitor, like a true handmaiden of Bacchus (the god of wine, whom the Greeks knew as Dionysus, and whom Nietzsche regarded as the "patron saint" of his entire philosophical system).
Could anything more perfectly embody the concept "luscious" than this spectacular image of Megan with a ripe strawberry in her hand?
God is in the details, they say, and every detail here deserves consideration. In the "grapes" image (which really should have been this issue's cover photo), notice how the fruit is perfectly colour-coodinated to the outfit (and to the earrings). And speaking of those earrings, notice how they rather resemble grapes as well. From the model's long, flowing tresses, to her dramatic makeup, every element is in aesthetic harmony with the rest, all blending together perfectly to create a visual feast. And Megan, naturally, strikes the perfect pose and expression to suit this picture--a mix of playful invitation and bewitching sensuality.
In the strawberry image, note how the fruit bracelet adds a touch of colour to a composition that is otherwise dominated by reds (even red toenail polish). Those reds are so natural and vibrant that the picture has an almost tangible quality. It actually seems to be bursting with life.
Industry professionals can scan the credit line that accompanies this layout and parcel out the accolades for its success, based on each team member's respective role, but it is a stellar team effort, and an unqualified triumph.
If we have any lingering criticism of Figure, it is that the magazine is still not as consistent as it could be. Its very best images equal Mode's, but Mode was far more balanced in its overall quality. But if the Figure pattern continues--of continually improving its standards, issue after issue, month after month--then we have every reason to believe that someday, it will reach even that exalted plateau.
Oh, and by the way, there is a multiple-choice test in this issue on page 66. In order to help readers of this forum pass it with a perfect score of 100%, we will share a little secret with you: all of the correct answers are "B" . . .
"I am the Bacchus who presses out the glorious wine for mankind. Whoever truly understands my music is freed thereby from the miseries that others carry about in them." (Beethoven)
''The Four Seasons''
(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, August 09, 2004, in response to a suggestion that a magazine layout feature four models embodying the four different seasons of the year.)
What an inspired idea for an editorial--four models, four seasons. That reminds us of our own all-time favourite thread on this forum--a request for readers to share their own ideas for fashion layouts.
"The Four Seasons" spread will probably never happen, since fashion is seasonal by nature, and retailers never stock a years' worth of clothing all at one time. But the concept is fascinating.
Valerie as "Spring" and Megan as "Autumn" are understandable choices, based on their Figure layouts. Barbara will always evoke the idea of "Summer," thanks to her immortal Mode swimwear editorials, photographed by Michel Arnaud. And Melissa Masi as the personification of "Winter" is an interesting choice--especially since, as an L.A. model, winter is probably quite unfamiliar to her.
For a winter theme, one might shoot a "Night at the Opera" layout--fitted evening dresses, ornate jewellery, and, for the model, a Snow White/ice-princess look, with Melissa's dark curls complimented by fair skin and ruby lips.
Melissa Masi (Wilhelmina L.A.), test image:
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