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Old 8th August 2005   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default A fashion magazine in living motion

Sometimes, an interesting idea can arise from a synthesis of two completely separate elements.

Element #1:
Fashion professionals will be well acquainted with, which is a subscriber-based fashion-industry Web site. With offices in many metropolitan centres, the site tracks global developments in fashion and culture, spots trends, and provides analyses of societal currents--all for a respectable fee.

One of the ways in which the site fulfills its function is by posting candid photographs (shot by WGSN's freelance photographers) of individuals on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, and in other major cities, who are seen to be wearing highly-original attire that might represent a new style, or an emerging trend.

Who knows if popular fashion trends such as peasant skirts, or chandelier earrings, or folkloric embroidery, might have begun when WGSN posted candid images of young women in New York wearing these styles, long before the trends became mainstream fare?

The success of WGSN testifies to its soundness of its basic approach.

Element #2:
If anyone is ever interested in seeing what a magnificent full-figure fashion publication might actually look like, they need look no further than to a shopping mall in a middle-class neighbourhood, in a major city.

What they will find there is a plus-size fashion magazine in living motion.

However difficult it may be for the modern media to conceive of a world in which young full-figured girls feel confident, dress well, and are wildly popular, the fact is that this world has already come into existence.

We are living in it.

Gabrielle's Taber's inspiring account of seeing a size-16 Britney Spears lookalike in a local mall is not atypical; rather, it is an accurate picture of contemporary youth.

The "Torrid generation" that is growing up today does not dress to "hide" or "disguise" their curves. They have wholeheartedly embraced the fashions of the "New Femininity." They are well aware of the body-as-fashion-accessory principle of timeless feminine style, and they variously exhibit a tasteful but generous degree of decolletage, as well as bare midriffs, and soft shoulders in strapless tops without number. And sleeveless--oh, sleeveless apparel is everywhere.

What's more--to use a colloquialism--today's curvy vixens are really "put together." Their hair is elaborately styled, their makeup looks like it was applied by a professional, and they accessorize as if they each had their own personal stylist.

This reality goes a long way towards explaining why past plus-size publications have been unable to reach this market. Those magazines were all at least a generation out of date. Much of the full-figured fashion industry still sees today's plus-size girls as Terri MacGregor on Degrassi, or as Sara Rue's character on Popular, whereas girls of the "Torrid generation" actually look and feel like Christina Schmidt, or like Kelsey Olson.

These girls have clearly grown up with a heady dose of positive thinking, and have learned to pick and choose which media messages they will heed, and which they will dismiss. They enthusiastically absorb messages that tell them about fashion, and cosmetics, and hair products, and they rightly reject messages about body-shame, and self-imposed gym torment.

They know that they are beautiful. They are aware of their own allure. They don't have chips on their shoulders, they don't feel marginalized, and they don't relate to the dowdy images that past plus-size magazines have given them. Rather, they relate to the models in Teen People or CosmoGirl or Seventeen--but dream of seeing them at a larger size (i.e., their own size).

And they certainly dress every bit as well.

* * *

Now, if we synthesize Element #1, and Element #2, we arrive at the following idea:

If anyone ever wished to create a publication filled with images that reflect the stylish youth of today, one could quite effectively accomplish this by setting up a photo studio in a major shopping mall, and handing out leaflets saying something like, "Would you like to be featured in a fashion magazine?"

For every hundred girls who took one up on the offer, one could probably obtain ten or twenty perfectly usable looks, on very photogenic girls. One would certainly wish to maintain a high aesthetic standard (rather than inflicting yet another demeaning presentation of the homeliest reality possible, such as we have seen in the media of late). But the high number of responses that one would receive would create a generous pool on which to draw. And from that pool, one could surely obtain all of the photogenic material that one would require.

The results would perhaps be a little bit less spontaneous than WGSN's candids, but at least they would fill the same function. They would show the world what today's full-figured youth actually looks like, how they dress, and what their tastes are.

The more regressive elements in the industry would be dragged into the 21st century, and young curvy women would see the fashion trends that they adore on models with a look not unlike their own--and in their own size.

* * *

Ultimately, the goal was, and still is, to create a plus-size fashion magazine with the same high aesthetic credentials as Vogue, Elle, or their junior equivalents, with professional models in top-flight photo layouts.

It would be wonderful if such a magazine could be created from scratch. But many industry professionals might still be too far out of touch with the actual look of today's youth to be able to create such a publication ab ovo. Therefore, the plus-size equivalent of WGSN might be a useful and important intermediary step.

Popular Dillard's junior-plus model--much closer to the look of today's full-figured youth than the stereotypes that the media still perpetuates:

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