- "There are no words to describe her save the old ones that have served so often to picture the bygone heroine of romance and the fairy lady of our dreams. There was nothing subtle or hidden about her charms; her beauty was all there, flaming and apparent: the spun-gold hair that comb nor confining pin could restrain . . ."
- (Kate Chopin, The Awakening)
In the past, we have discussed the distinctive qualities of "the plus aesthetic"--i.e., timeless feminine beauty--and noted what types of fashions, accessories, and even photographic locations are most complimentary to this manner of beauty.
But is there anything that the aesthetic legacy of the West can tell us about what kind of hairstyles
suit plus-size beauty best?
Perhaps there is.
As Kate Chopin indicates in the passage quoted above, the opulent allure of thick, romantic tresses is as much an emblem of the Classical ideal as are full, rounded facial features, or the soft contours of a womanly figure.
And it appears as if this wondrously feminine attribute is slowly returning to cultural prominence, along with other aspects of timeless beauty.
Consider the following advertisement, which stopped one reader of this forum dead in his tracks:
The model in the ad (Carrie Tivador) may be straight-sized, but she certainly possesses the "lovely round face and rosy cheeks that are flush with teenage health" that The Guardian praised, in its recent "Thin is No Longer In" article.
But more importantly, hers is a shining example of a hairstyle that is perfectly suited to plus-size beauty--one that reincarnates the ideal of the "fairy lady of our dreams," as described by Chopin, while simultaneously exhibiting a coquettish, contemporary sexiness.
In fact, the company that produced this ad obviously recognizes the appeal of the voluptuous look. Not only does it prominently emblazon the phrase "Voluptuous Volume" on its products,
but--thanks to the soft facial features and voluminous hair of the model, and the fact that the shampoo bottle strategically conceals her body--the company's ad cleverly engages the viewer by subliminally suggesting that the model's figure possesses as much "voluptuous volume" as her hair.* * *
(How regrettable that it does not.)
Like the slogan, "Sexy girls have dessert," this is a tell-tale instance of the mainstream fashion/cosmetics industries betraying their secret envy of the plus aesthetic, and their desire to capitalize on its opulent attractions, while still shying away from progressing to the next logical step, and selecting models who embody that aesthetic fully--i.e., the Lillian Russells of today.
At any rate, from this stellar example of a fairytale coiffure interpreted in a contemporary manner, we can establish a serviceable guiding principle for plus-appropriate hairstyles:
Romantic tresses + "voluptuous volume"
(which is the hairstyling equivalent of the fashion mantra, "tradition + sexiness").
Now, let's put this principle into practice, and see several examples of this hairstyling approach on our favourite plus-size goddesses.
The first and most obvious exemplar of "voluptuous volume " is Charlotte Coyle. In this, perhaps her most beautiful Torrid cover, Charlotte's tresses cascade freely over her neck and shoulders, in an arrangement that is quite similar to the got2B coiffure above. Note the bewitching detail of the bangs hovering over the model's lidded, bedroom eyes.
The hairstyle contributes greatly to the overwhelming allure of the image, which speaks of the most intense desire.
For a slightly more romantic arrangement, more in the "courtly" vein, this captivating image shows us Charlotte's tresses tumbling down her back like a golden waterfall. At first glance, her wavy hair seems to have twined together of its own accord, but a second look (and a third, and a forth) shows us that the waves have been carefully arranged to achieve this artless effect.
The original "golden blonde" of the industry was the legendary Shannon Marie. When Mode debuted, no other model even remotely resembled her, and she deserves full credit for introducing an unapologetically gorgeous look into the industry.
Shannon possesses the "masses of golden hair" that Duet in Diamonds author John Burke attributes to Lillian Russell, and she always wears her tresses long and uncurled. But her hair is so rich and thick that it naturally arranges itself into a veritable halo of sunlight.
And even when she wears her hair partially "up," as in this image, she still lets enough of it flow freely to frame the exquisite roundness of her facial features--which remain lovelier than those of any other model, past or present.
Among currently-working models, Kelsey Olson's fair tresses most closely resemble Shannon Marie's. And when she plunges her hand into that golden mane, the viewer cannot help but be mesmerized.
This, incidentally, brings up another hair principle that every curvy vixen should keep in mind--it's not just about how it looks, but about how one "plays" with it, that makes it such a bewitching attribute.
Consider what Charles Dickens says of his generously-proportioned flirt Dolly Varden, in the novel Barnaby Rudge:
"Dolly beguiled the time in the most improving manner that occurred to her, by curling her hair on her fingers, with the aid of the looking-glass before mentioned, and giving it some killing twists."
The persons being "killed" by Dolly's nonchalant actions, of course, are her ardent suitors.
And speaking of "killing twists," while some models achieve remarkable effects with flowing, straight hair, writers have traditionally lavished the most generous praise on enchantingly curly locks. Charlotte Bronte, for example, ascribes this attribute to each of her most beguiling coquettes.
Of Georgiana Reed in Jane Eyre, Bronte writes:
"Her beauty, her pink cheeks, and golden curls, seemed to give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for every fault."
And who better to exemplify this look than Valerie Lefkowitz, whose blonde ringlets are the stuff of legend? Here she is sporting the most perfect incarnation of her trademark densely-curled style, from Figure magazine, 2004:
And when introducing the irresistible Ginevra Fanshawe in her novel Villette, Bronte writes,
"How charming she looked, when she came down on a sunny Sunday morning, well-dressed and well-humoured, robed in pale lilac silk, and with her fair long curls reposing on her white shoulders."
Later in the same novel, a description of a fuller-figured Ginevra occasions Bronte to pen one of her most sensual passages:
"Yes: in she came, dressed in bright silk, with her shawl falling from her shoulders, and her curls, half-uncurled in the damp of night, drooping careless and heavy upon her neck."
Valerie provides us with the perfect contemporary incarnation of this enchanting hairstyle in the following test, which shows her thick, luxuriant ringlets spilling out over her bare shoulders.
Curls invariably endow fair hair with fairytale magic. Ljubenka may be best known for sporting long tresses with just a touch of "body," but her most engaging look is represented in the following image, from the Sara catalogue:
On the other hand, when Megan Garcia wears her hair longer, she exhibits a luxurious wave, and the extra length makes her already rich look that much more sumptuous and goddesslike:
But although blonde hair has traditionally attracted the lion's share of praise (and envy) in literary history, full-figured goddesses have exhibited "voluptuous volume" in every shade.
The seductively epicurean Hyacinth Kirkpatrick in Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters is often described "shaking her long soft auburn hair over her shoulders." And no one better exemplifies this look than Ford's Kailee O'Sullivan, in her promotional video:
Indeed, Kailee's video is practically a one-minute lesson in every fascinating thing that a fair damsel can do with her goddesslike locks, to enslave the soul of any man she desires:
Moving from auburn to actual red, here we see Marie Christianson (Heffner, size 14) mesmerizing the viewer with her regal crimson mane. This image indicates better than any other the aesthetic harmony between an opulently-proportioned figure and a wild, extravagant hairstyle. A short cut would look as incongruous on Marie as this hairstyle would look on a tottering waif:
(Many thanks to D. Trull for his post-production work on the above image.)
And to come full circle from day to night, the industry's brunette models often sport hairstyles that are every bit as romantic as those of their fair rivals.
French model Anabelle's tresses extend to near-mermaid lengths,
and, like a fabled siren of the sea, she knows how to "work" them in the most irresistible manner imaginable:
Some dark-haired models have tresses so thick and luxurious, that, like Shannon Marie, they can leave them straight and flowing, and still captivate the viewer by their sheer abundance--as is the case with prom queen Lindsey Garbleman, whose brunette glory perfectly compliments her buxom charms:
Others, however, never look as lovely as when they display a romantic wave in their tresses. Ashley Graham's enchantment increases tenfold when she puts a touch of body in her hair:
In this image of Liis, every detail contributes to a palpable sense of majesty, from the modelís full facial features, to her commanding expression, to the soft cushions, to the ornate bridal gown. But the magnificent tumble of dark waves cascading down her back may be the most alluring detail of all, the element that suggests a wild, feminine nature lurking beneath that stately demeanour.
And finally, we would be remiss not to honour the very popular Crystal Renn in this category. The decision by Crystal to grow her formerly short hair into a thick, luxurious spill of starless night was as significant to her transition from modern waif to Classical goddess as was her determination to acquire womanly curves.
Crystal sometimes wears her hair straight, which affords her the opportunity to dazzle the viewer by putting it in motion:
But her best looks are undoubtedly achieved when her inky-black mane cascades freely over her shoulders:
You may currently visit the plus-size section at Nordstrom to view many more stunning examples of Crystal's "voluptuous volume."* * *
It is undoubtedly true that everyone should adopt whichever hairstyle they feel most comfortable with. But it is also worth keeping in mind that timeless feminine beauty is just now beginning to be rediscovered by the mainstream fashion industry, after years of misrepresentation, occasioned by wilful blindness. Most of the extant "rules" pertaining to this manner of beauty were created by individuals who were not aesthetically predisposed in favour of the plus aesthetic--and those rules should be rejected accordingly.
At first glance, you might look at a romantic coiffure and think, "No, that style is not me." But consider this: are you the plus-size goddess that you were meant to be? Or have you been conditioned to define yourself according to the demeaning standards of the modern media?
Remember Nietzsche's famous dictum: "Become who you are." Perhaps the curvy vixen with "voluptuous volume" (in every sense) is more truly you, than you youself realize.