Sad as it is that Valerie isn't fuller-figured, this campaign is well worth a second look, if only because the locations (and even some of the styles) are quite attractive. This promotion exemplifies what an ideal editorial might look like, in a plus-size fashion magazine.
The cover image is well chosen, and is the most striking photograph in the campaign. The curtains in the background seem to be framing, or even unveiling, the model herself. (She is the star of the show, in every way.) The model's golden tresses compliment the vibrant red of her blouse, and both colours stand out vividly against the muted shades of the background. Valerie's fair skin glows with a celestial ight.
The hairstyle, with its fairy-tale curls, is so elegant and feminine that it suggests the artistry of a different age--the same glorious age that produced the architectural beauty exemplified by the setting. Never has any hairstyle made a model look more like a princess. The ruffled collar of her blouse, and the ribbon belt, are enchantingly feminine touches. The slacks are the only incongruous element. Otherwise, this image is a visual masterpiece.
Note the recurrence of the word "pretty" in this campaign. It is clearly the motif of the entire promotion, and each of the pictures richly merits this epithet. The sumptuous gold trim of the wall decoration, in the image below, harmonizes with the model's blonde tresses, and the doorway functions as a marvellous framing device.
The setting of this campaign is so gorgeous, so redolent of the superior aesthetic and craftsmanship of a better age than our own, that one almost believes that the model has been transported into the past. The mirrored walls, below, are reminiscent of their famous counterparts in the Palais Garnier, the renowned 19th-century opera house of Paris, which provides the setting for both the novel, and the subsequent musical versions, of The Phantom of the Opera.
Indeed, in a Valerie-related message on this forum several seasons ago, we called on plus-size retailers to shoot campaigns featuring elegant attire in suitably opulent environments. We even provided our own photograph of the grand staircase in the Palais Garnier, as an example of an ideal setting for shooting plus-size fashion promotions. And in a follow-up thread, we shared an image provided by one of our readers, showing a Valerie test superimposed over the Garnier backdrop. How wonderful to see Dress Barn adopting this approach. The gorgeous results speak for themselves:
As the caption in the following image suggests, femininity is a central element in this campaign. Valerie heightens her own innately feminine nature with seductively girlish touches, like playing with her hair (always a irresistible action), which play off against the imposing majesty of the setting. It is almost as if the masculine environment is a protective element, shielding the model's delicate beauty, and allowing her to reveal her feminine nature, in complete safety and security. Fittingly, Valerie looks somewhat curvier here than elsewhere in the campaign.
These stately settings look rather different today than they would have appeared when they were first built. The sense of age and history is unmistakable. The colours are more muted, the details touched by the passage of time. However, as a witness to over a century of change in aesthetic tastes (all for the worse), this edifice stands as a testament to a better era, an era of beauty and splendour and Old World glamour. The presence of the golden-haired young model within these venerable walls, who fits so perfectly with the decor, suggests the very real possibility of a great revival of that bygone beautiful culture, in our own day and age.
The attire on display varies in appeal, and while one might more easily imagine Valerie wearing sumptuous, decolletage-baring gowns in this location, the given styles do have their own charm (e.g., the embroidery in this top, which has a handcrafted look). These fashions do, at the very least, transcend the soul-destroying rigor of "career wear," and speak of social settings and general enjoyment of life--fitting for the season; fitting for any season.
The one and only thing that could have made this promotion better--indeed, that would have made this one of the greatest plus-size fashion campaigns in history, equal to any Mode editorial--would have been a fuller-figured Valerie. If the model still retained the glamour of her size 14/16 heyday, she would have embodied the timeless beauty of the setting to perfection.
As it is, the location, the model, and occasionally even the clothing, still harmonize beautifully, making this a shining example of just how exquisite the artistry of a full-figure fashion campaign can be, when it drawn on the superior aesthetic of pre-modern times.
Let us hope that many future promotions adopt this approach.
- Valerie Lefkowitz: An Homage