Fans of Valerie Lefkowitz will be delighted with the new Holiday 2005 collection at Dress Barn Woman. The settings are opulent and lavish, and the clothing is more attractive than one usually sees from DBW. Valerie herself still lacks the curves that, for two years, made her the most popular model in the industry, before she suffered a tragic and painful figure diminishment late last year. But in some images, she appears to have regained at least a trace of her former shape.
Pride of place in the new Dress Barn promotional catalogue goes to the following gorgeous image, showing Valerie relaxing against a piano. The caption, "I love to live generously,"
contains multiple meanings. One speaks of a "generous lifestyle," "generous portions," and of course, a "generous figure." The modern ethos defines generosity in narrow ways, as self-denial in favour of others; but the timeless aesthetic encourages generosity to oneself. Entranced by Valerie's beauty, the viewer cannot help but agree that a goddess such as this deserves to live a generous life, and that she belongs in a regal environment such as this. The bewitching langour of the pose makes the image overwhelmingly alluring, as does Valerie's lidded-eyed, come-hither glance. "Life has been generous to me," the model seems to say--and the viewer ardently agrees that she deserves Fortune's munificence. Fittingly, it is Valerie's most curvaceous image in this campaign.
Also thrilling is this look at Valerie in passionate red. The thematic similarity of this image, and the Allegory of Vanity painting that we recently discussed, is uncanny. The model's angelic curls betoken innocence, and play off effectively against the sinful allure of her red top and plunging decolletage. The juxtaposition of Valerie and the 19th-century painting beside her is a brilliant touch, intimating that the model properly belongs to a more sumptuous age, when she would have been feted and worshipped by all who viewed her--but also, that she brings that aristocratic era to life in the present day, by her sheer existence.
The similarity of the decor in the painting featured above, and the decor in these pages, is marked and deliberate. In the following image, for example, the backdrop is a panelled screen similar to that which appears in the painting seen above. Valerie's visage lacks some of the gorgeous roundness that it once possessed, but her fairytale curls still distinguish her as an embodiment of timeless beauty. The caption, "I savor life's magical moments," again conveys multiple meanings, as the term "savor" is often associated with lavish dining.
Nowhere is the angelic Valerie more visible than in the following image, with the heavenly blue of her top playing off against her golden curls and fair complexion. No other model approaches her expressiveness. The look in her eyes is deep and meaningful, almost beseeching. Even in this small reproduction, her gaze transfixes the viewer with the emotion that wells up from within, like a surging river of feeling.
The cover however, shows a very different gaze, one more in tune with the caption, "I love a little romance." A little? The smouldering fire in that glance could enslave the soul of any man. The curls falling so near the eyes, almost shielding them, add a touch of mystery. And the violet top contrasts effectively with the yellow drapery.
Seeing these images only reminds us what the industry lost when Valerie diminished her figure. It's happened before (Sophie Dahl, Kate Dillon), but it is always a source of profound regret, and significantly hurts the industry--to say nothing of the many girls who look up to these models as sources of inspiration. Let up hope that Valerie will be the one, single model who actually recovers her feminine curves, someday, and regains the beauty that she possessed in her Junonia, Nordstrom, and Fruit of the Loom campaigns--when she rivalled even Shannon Marie as the most beautiful model the industry has ever known.
- Click here to view the complete Dress Barn promotion