There is something rather encouraging about the fact that today, nearly a century after her death, Lillian Russell is still a cover model for the fashion industry.
True, the J. Peterman company is something of a "specialty" enterprise, focussing on making Victorian apparel available in the present day. However, as forum member Maureen (who kindly brought this latest Lillian Russell modelling "gig" to our attention) points out, it still leaves Lillian "advertising some very feminine underthings (camisole and pantalettes)!"
Here is a larger version of the image that was incorporated into the J. Peterman cover. The tiara seems so appropriate, testifying to Lillian's unchallenged status as the greatest incarnation of timeless femininity whose beauty has ever been captured on film.
Maureen also directed us to the wonderful write-up that the company gives Ms. Russell, on a catalogue page:
Pedestrians stopped in their tracks and applauded as she rode down Fifth Avenue on a jewel-encrusted gold bicycle, wearing shoulder-length white kid opera gloves.
Lillian Russell knew how to make an impression.
She was the queen of the American stage in the 1890s and early 1900s. Her sweet face and Rubenesque look defined the era's concept of beauty...She always did exactly what she wanted.
Collected four husbands along the way, plus squads of admirers like Diamond Jim Brady, who gave her that extravagant bicycle and kept his fingers crossed.
Despite modern anti-Victorian stereotypes, the society of the 19th century celebrated feminine sensuality in a way that the modern age, with all of its starving, silicone-warped, surgery-disfigured celebs, cannot touch.
It only seems fitting, then, that in the absence of present-day superstars possessing Lillian's well-fed beauty, a company might draw on her images, preserved for posterity, as a better means by which to present a size-positive brand to the public than whatever any malnourished modern "clothes hanger" can offer--especially when that public is starving for a more natural and glamorous image of femininity than the one that the modern media provides.
"Miss Lillian" modelling a lovely pink sleeveless summer dress (showing off her gorgeously full arms); still providing a fashion ideal for generously-proportioned beauties:
- Lillian Russell gallery