Kate Dillon: A Glimpse of the Future
(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, June 25, 2004, as a follow-up to an eating-disorders thread.)
The discussion of anorexia brings to mind the case of Kate Dillon, who suffered from this disease, turned her back on the modelling industry in order to stop starving, and then returned as a plus-size model--expressly to use the idealizing power of the fashion industry to promote size celebration.
Sadly, the Kate Dillon of today is not the force for cultural change that she was when Mode debuted in 1997. At that time--as noted in a famous Avenue ad--Ms. Dillon was the same size that Megan Garcia is today: a size 18.
The concept of a supermodel blossoming into a size 18 is still utterly inspiring, and Ms. Dillon's beauty at the time was so undeniable, that it is easy to understand how she became the "face" (and figure) of the plus-size fashion industry.
Alas, as time passed, Ms. Dillon--and Mode itself--minimized their distinctively "plus" identities, subordinating themselves to mass-media standards, and diluting their subversive force. However, even today, Kate Dillon still occasionally creates images that point the way forward to the "media of tomorrow," when timeless beauty will return to public consciousness.
The stunning advertisement posted below gives us some indication of what the media of tomorrow will look like. The image displays all of the technical quality of top-notch fashion photography, and is, in that respect, the equal of any image in the news-stand glossies.
However--and this is what makes the images subversive--Kate is clearly, and without any doubt, a plus-size model. Her arms are gorgeously full, and her waist is naturally soft. But rather than attempting to hide these aspects of the model's figure, the body-conscious outfit emphasizes her womanly curves as beautiful features--which they assuredly are.
This image communicates a message of size celebration more powerful than any diatribe ever could. Magazines such as Vogue and Elle never bother to insist, in essays and articles, than they prefer emaciation to natural femininity. They don't need to. Their thin-worshipping images make that preference quite clear, and dupe the public into accepting this standard as well.
But if all of the fashion industry's artistry--its visual craftsmanship, and its technical expertise--were used to glamourize full-figured femininity rather than the anorex-chic standard, we would soon see the popular understanding of beauty shift back to the timeless ideal that held sway in Western culture throughout its long history.
Once this happens, instead of being confronted with more anorexia victims, future generations of young women will be able to applaud the positive body image of their cultural luminaries, and emulate it in their own lives.
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