Originally Posted by M. Lopez
"There's an emphasis on nostalgia -- we're harking back to an earlier time with its positive aesthetics and sentiments," Ogle said.
This is an especially encouraging statement, because it acknowledges:
(a) that the aesthetics of the past were
positive--not just "size-positive" (although they were certainly that), but positive in general, i.e., life-affirming, pleasurable, and in harmony with essential human desires;
(b) that the "sentiments"
of the past were positive as well, i.e., that the beliefs and value-systems of the past were similarly healthy and ennobling; and
(c) that the "aesthetics and sentiments" of the present are, by contrast, resoundingly negative,
In all of these assertions, the article is correct. The war against beauty of the last half-century was nothing less than a concerted attempt at social engineering, an endeavour to suppress essential human beliefs and values, and to distort human beings into rootless automata designed to function within a soulless, utilitarian state.
The imposition on women of an androgynous standard of appearance, of dress, even of behaviour,
was expressly designed to eradicate feminine beauty, and with it, femininity itself. The relentless push into the workforce, the constant promotion of diet-starvation and exercise-torture, was a calculated effort to set women against their own natural inclinations.
By contrast, when we compare the aesthetics of the Victorian age (or other bygone eras), we find that they are warm and welcoming. They are in tune with human sensibilities; they instinctively "feel right." One cannot help but respond to the opulence of the styles. Yes, they are
elaborate--intoxicatingly so. One enjoys looking at them, the way that one enjoys losing oneself in a Pre-Raphaelite painting, or admiring the forest-like detail in the stonework of a Gothic cathedral.
Far from being "uptight," Victorian aesthetics luxuriate in artistic abandon. And in the faces of Victorian beauties, one does not see the stressed-out, wearied, haggard look that is emblematic of women's life in the modern world, which pulls them in many different directions at once. Rather, one sees contentment.
One sees women who never denied themselves any pleasures, who enjoyed food, fashion, and life. They exhibit the natural glow of health--a well-nourished appearance that, today, is only seen (if at all) during pregnancy.
The rediscovery of Victorian and other Romantic styles proves that humanity has an essential yearning for beauty, which will not be denied. Let us hope that the revival of these fashions helps to bring about a renewed appreciation of the cultures in which they thrived, and perhaps even a desire to incorporate those timeless values into contemporary life.
Lillian Russell, belle of the Victorian century, from a contemporary engraving. Note the harmony between the delicate, lacy attire, the masses of heavy tresses, and the heady, decadent fullness of her facial features.
The aesthetics of the past were about enjoying life, as much as the aesthetics of the modern world are about regulating it.