|8th June 2007||#1|
Join Date: July 2005
ALL curves are gorgeous, pt.3
In two previous forum discussions, we noted that one of the most positive effects that plus-size models have upon society is that they show full-figured women the beauty of their natural curves, and demonstrate that so-called body "flaws" are not flaws at all, but just the opposite--irresistible aspects of feminine allure.
In the aforementioned discussions, the specific features of plus-size beauty that we celebrated were first, the lovely natural curves that a full-figured goddess characteristically exhibits along her back, and second, the "slight rise" of a "slope toward the throat" that Renaissance writers considered "the foremost ornament" of womanly charm.
In this post, we will discuss a different trait--one that is perhaps the most attractive of all physical characteristics of plus-size beauty, and the one that most boldly defies today's underweight standard.
Although modern media culture valorizes cadaverously narrow, caved-in waists, and artificially flattened abdomens, historic representations of timeless beauty reveal that until the modern age, goddesses who embodied ideal feminine allure were always depicted as possessing softly swelling midriffs, and generously rounded abdomens.
In the Crouching Aphrodite of the 3rd century BC, the plump curves around the midsection of the Classical divinity of beauty are lovingly depicted.
And in Giorgione's Renaissance masterpiece, the Pastoral Concert (1508), the light and shadow effects are carefully arranged to highlight the opulent abdomens of the goddesses.
But one need not go so far back as to Classical Antiquity to verify the male attraction to the fullness of a woman's midriff. Tyra Banks recently noted that while she was curvier, younger men were specifically attracted to what she termed her "muffin top," as well as the "roll around [her] middle." Likewise, a male columnist for Glamour magazine recently admitted his attraction to a woman's generous midsection, stating:
I've been spending my Sunday afternoons at a particular cafe, sort of writing this column but mostly women watching. There are plenty of wannabe Giseles to look at -- concave-stomached girls wearing tiny shirts. But I'm obsessed with one woman who . . . has long, dark hair, big hoop earrings and a curvy, soft belly. Those Renaissance painters knew something Hollywood doesn't: Rounded lines just look more inviting than hard, straight ones.
Although plus-size fashion photography is not always as size-positive as it could be, it does (at the best of times) allow models to exhibit the physical characteristics of timeless beauty--occasionally even including that most seductive of all features, a curvy waist.
Perhaps the most celebratory image of this feature, and one of the finest pictures that any plus-size model has ever created, is the following photograph of Christina Schmidt, from her extraordinary 2006 test shoot with Fadil Berisha:
No other goddess exhibits irresistible vanity the way Christina can--perhaps because no other goddess is gorgeous enough to pull it off.
In this dreamlike image from Reitmans's greatest-ever campaign, from Summer 2006, Barbara Brickner's fitted camisole closely embraces her curvy abdomen, while the model appears attractively relaxed in this idyllic environment.
During the most gorgeous phase of her career, when she was a 14/16, Valerie Lefkowitz's finest images celebrated all of her womanly curves, including a shapely lower-hourglass, as seen in this celebrated Junonia swimwear shot.
Before she put her career on hiatus, Shannon Marie--the most gorgeous of all plus-size models--appeared in this Fashion Bug ad, which, although not designed to emphasize the figure, still disclosed the model's rounded abdomen, as indicated by the seam in the slacks.
Shannon Marie had blossomed into an 18/20 when the above image was released, and was then at the very peak of her beauty, but even earlier, in her alight.com profile from 1999, she discussed learning to love herself, "tummy and all."
Can anyone claim that the generously-proportioned midriffs of the models in the above images diminish their irresistible allure one iota? Rather, they enhance these goddesses' beauty.
Anita Ekberg, famous for her intense cinematic sexiness and equally intense love of Italian pasta, exhibited a rounded abdomen in her most alluring role, that of the temptress in Fellini's segment of Boccaccio '70.
Of all of the images that remain from Sophie Dahl's plus-size days, none is more revered by fans than this photograph of the model participating in a London runway show in 1998, wearing an alluringly fitted dress that disclosed her then-curvy waist.
Canadian model Etheliya later achieved a similar effect in this famous test photo, which shows her dress emphasizing her womanly rondeur.
Perhaps no model has ever created as daring a presentation of a shapely midsection as did European beauty Karen Vermeiren, for Zizzi Denim, in the image below. The setting is atrociously modern, but the pose, and the way in which the fitted top unapologetically celebrates her generous waist, make the image a singular triumph.
Proving that full-figured goddesses need never feel any compunction about donning closely-fitted jeans, size-18 model Cathy Bole creates a youthful look here (for Fashion Bug, 2004), with the round fullness of her abdomen simply presenting another attractive, womanly curve, in a contemporary-yet-feminine presentation of natural beauty.
An equally celebrated denim ad of roughly the same time showed Melissa King dressed in snug jeans, her self-confidence in no way diminished, but rather augmented, by her rounded profile.
Even a conservative retailer like Lord & Taylor occasionally contributes to size celebration, most notably with this fine 2006 image of Melissa, in which her soft waist creates a visible curve beneath her red tunic top.
This sensual test image of West Coast model Jenny C. achieves a similar effect, gently highlighting a shapely midriff, recalling the allure of '50s "sweater girl" photographs of stars like Marilyn Monroe.
But let's not forget Torrid. Over the years, the company has produced many notable images that have showcased all of the curves of the feminine figure. Melissa Masi won great acclaim for this image, from several season ago, in which her dress revealed the rondeur of a womanly midsection.
Earlier this year, Christina Schmidt appeared in a "sailor-chic" image presenting a two-piece oufit that fit closely, and highlighted her curvy figure. The model's look of ease and relaxation contributes greatly to the sensation of complete and total body-confidence that the image conveys.
Surprisingly, although she has one of the most alluring waist measurements of any model in the industry, Kelsey Olson has not yet created an image that celebrates this attractive feature in truly groundbreaking way. However, this breathtaking test image suggests just how attractive a silhouette a model with a full midsection can create,
and the steaminess of Kelsey's beauty in this Torrid item is due in large part to how sensually the top embraces her curvy figure.
"Ah, but those are too easy," some readers might say. "Can these goddesses look equally ravishing if they are required to bare their midriffs?"
More daring yet is Diana Zalewski's promotion from the last season of America's Next Top Model, showing her in the loveliest bikini that we have ever seen, and allowing her softly rounded waist to be revealed.
Kailee O'Sullivan's recent Glamour tear sheet caused an absolute sensation. It was widely acclaimed as the greatest (and most size-positive) image that Glamour has ever produced, and a masterpiece of size celebration. The praise for this image has been universal--right so--and we can only add that if anyone is ever seeking a visual definition of timeless beauty, this is it.
As a compliment to the above image, we offer this detail of a lingerie editorial from the Dutch publication Vol, 2006. It achieves a similar effect to Kailee's tear sheet, but in a different way. The model's figure appears even fuller, and the opulent setting harmonizes with the sumptuousness of Latetitia's soft curves. The differences between the two models' figures reminds us of Addition-Elle's famous phrase, "Curves are the body's natural art." The soft fullness of plus-size beauty adorn each goddess in a different way, making every figure a unique masterpiece.
In conclusion we ask once again: which are the true body "flaws": the visible characteristics of soft fullness that a goddess displays when she maintains a comfortable figure; or the jutting ribs and shrivelled, caved-in waists that an undernourished model or actress exhibits when she starves herself (as nearly all modern celebrities do), to the point of resembling a dessicated corpse?
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