(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, July 2, 2004.)
In response to a recent discussion about the encouraging trend of using genuinely full-figured models in plus-size fashion advertising, a reader sent us the following comment:
I wish I could agree that companies are starting to use larger models, but as far as I can tell, in most cases, and especially in swimwear and lingerie, they're still looking for models who either don't look plus at all, or if they have any plus features, the models are posed to make those features invisible. They're still trying to make the models look as thin as possible, and that really annoys me.
This reader's frustration is understandable, and one could cite many examples of companies that still adopt the faux-plus approach, with its underlying implication that being full-figured is not compatible with being beautiful.
But we are pleased to say that there are signs of progress.
To illustrate this point, readers will hopefully forgive us for posting several images that are just a tad . . . revealing. We agonized over this post, and if it offends anyone's modesty, it will be removed immediately. But we wanted to give readers an opportunity to see that curves are no detriment whatsoever to beauty--that in fact, they can enhance it. And if anyone follows up on Dr. Claire Wiseman's groundbreaking 2003 study--which revealed that images of plus-size models do improve women's self-esteem--then hopefully these images will prove instructive.* * *
Of all company brands, "Fruit of the Loom" may be the last name that anyone would associate with the notion of "feminine beauty." But unexpectedly, FOTL is currently producing some of the most size-positive images in the industry.
To promote its "Fit for Me" plus-size line, FOTL placed this arresting Valerie Lefkowitz ad in various fashion glossies, including Glamour, Marie Claire, Grace and Figure. And now, to adorn its product packaging, FOTL is duplicating the success of that celebrated promotion with ravishing images of the industry's two most popular models--Valerie and Barbara Brickner.
Posted here are several examples of Fruit's Barbara Brickner packaging. Instead of a causal, "lifestyle" approach, the company permitted the model to look all-out glamorous, with a "celebrity" hairstyle, and very animated expressions:
These images bear more than a passing resemblance to Mrs. Brickner's celebrated Mode lingerie editorial, which was a daring mix of sensuality and tastefulness, then as now.
Images such as these make it possible to envision what a truly size-positive media would look like. The fashion industry could retain its "aspirational" qualities--its craftsmanship and creativity, its professionalism and style--but would employ those talents to adorn the beauty of naturally curvaceous models, rather than androgynous waifs.
Whether it comes in the form of product packaging for women's clothing, or the cover of a Sports Illustrated swimwear issue, the media is a mirror before which women stand, every day of their lives. And it can either reflect an artificial standard that compels women to ruin their quality of life in its pursuit, or a healthy ideal based on natural femininity, which encourages women to make the most of the beauty that they already possess.
But FOTL's masterpiece--their most subversive and gorgeous image of all--is this new promotional packaging featuring their signature model. Valerie looks utterly radiant, glowing with health and vitality. Her golden tresses cascade over her shoulders, her gently-lidded eyes shine with a crystalline blue light. And she reveals her natural rondeur with positive delight, knowing that her beauty will convince even the most brainwashed of viewers that generous curves do not diminish womanly allure, but enhance it.
The tyranny of thinness still dominates our cultural landscape, but a growing number of companies are reintroducing the Classical ideal to the modern world. And long after that natural ideal is restored, people will look back upon this particular blip in time--a time when full-figured femininity briefly went "out of fashion"--and consider it . . . quite incomprehensible.
- Click here to view the final image at a larger size