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Old 11th May 2010   #1
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Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 517
Default Renaissance Fair curves

Here's an uplifting article about a reporter's impressions of the women whom she encountered at a local Renaissance Fair.

The pertinent points:

Renaissance Faire Body Image

By Aimee Boyle

Walking around the Renaissance Faire today, I couldn't help but notice that beneath many a leather lace up corset and layered flowing skirt-deal, lay a body of rounded, curvaceous, fleshier-than-fleshy proportions.

I have never in my life seen as many full-bodied women, so full of confidence, as I saw today. Why, I wondered, did the subculture of youth interested in Renaissance Faire role playing and fantasy imagery not seem as twisted about body image as their more modern-leaning counterparts?

It was as if I'd walked into a time period when a woman was supposed to eat a lot of good food and grow round. And it's funny to think of that statement as being shocking because, in our current climate, women eating a lot of good food and getting round is aesthetically a hotbed of emotional, social and psychological turmoil.

But today, in the 1300s, all was well with the world...The women grew their hair down to their lower backs and pushed their ample bosoms up, out and over their fitted garments, laughing with one another and tending their duties with apple-cheeked merriment.

I find it fascinating that the participants in this historical-reenactment activity actually took on some of the healthier values of the past (i.e., the natural appreciation of the fuller female figure) and absorbed them.

Notice how much happier the women at this fair seemed to be than those who conform to the alien, modern media aesthetic. They laughed, ate good food, and were in fine spirits. Who could prefer a life of starvation and torture to this?

The writer asks why the women in this "subculture" have such a healthy, natural body image. The answer is obvious -- these fairs are not influenced by the segment of society that owns and creates the media. These fairs are an expression of traditional Western values (aesthetic and otherwise). They offer a tantalizing glimpse of what our culture could be like if traditional voices were more prominent in the media; if the media were not wholly controlled by the forces of modernity.

The once and future aesthetic. May it be.
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Old 14th July 2010   #2
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Default Re: Renaissance Fair curves

I love RenFaires and the Society for Creative Anachronism and such. There are very many curvy goddesses there, and men who will settle for nothing less. Note also that many SCA members are textile and historic fashion experts, making, weaving, sewing and dying their own fabrics and clothes in historically appropriate patterns. It's amazing. The clothes of the Middle Ages and Renaissance were definitely designed to look and feel better on fuller figures. Ready-made clothing combined with a postmodern aesthetic concerned with everything but (biological) femininity changed all that!
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Old 19th December 2010   #3
M. Lopez
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Default Re: Renaissance Fair curves

The Renaissance occasioned the rebirth of Classical learning and a rediscovery of Classical art and aesthetics, so it stands to reason that it continues to inspire an appreciation of full-figured feminine beauty.

When I think back, I remember many interesting posts on this forum that have been related to Renaissance topics. There was Tamika's post, earlier this year, about a Renaissance-themed video game (talk about using modern technology to bring the past to life):

Another post from 2009 described Renaissance fashion and the contemporary love of the fuller figure type:

A piece about the Renaissance love of women with soft, full waists:

Another about a novel that was inspired by Titian's Venus of Urbino:

The original post on Renaissance beauty, discussing Firenzuola's On the Beauty of Women, a Renaissance-era guide to aesthetics which defined the timeless ideal of femininity as being full-figured:

A note on a PBS series about the Medici, the "Godfathers of the Renaissance":

Two Renaissance-themed art exhibits:

And of course, the first of those two, "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy," was the setting for this site's Kailee O'Sullivan interview, "Art and Modelling in New York City":
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Old 27th December 2010   #4
Join Date: July 2005
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Default Re: Renaissance Fair curves

This statement in the original article is particularly significant:

It was as if I'd walked into a time period when a woman was supposed to eat a lot of good food and grow round. Today, in the 1300s, all was well with the world...

In fact, every time period is a time period when women are "supposed to eat a lot of good food and grow round." That is what nature intended, and what it programmed into female DNA.

Little wonder, then, that "all was well with the world" in 1300s. From the standpoint of beauty and the enjoyment of life, all was well with in the world in every era that was more aristocratic than our own. It is only in our own hyper-democratic time period, when we have become exploited by the materialist cabals whom the nobility historically kept in check, and by the ideologies of resentment and their concomitant aesthetics of guilt, that all has gone wrong with the world.

As Erika correctly observes,

Originally Posted by Erika
The clothes of the Middle Ages and Renaissance were definitely designed to look and feel better on fuller figures.

The fashions of the time were predicated on every element of what we now call the "New Femininity" in fashion (which isn't "new" at all, but a revival of timeless principles).

For example, consider the painting titled Three Sisters (c.1520), by the Italian Renaissance artist Palma Vecchio. It clearly exhibits the body-as-fashion-accessory principle of female clothing. The dresses are cut very wide, to show off the abundant fullness of the sisters' necks and shoulders. The girls exhibit plump curves under their chins (which the artist has lovingly depicted) and lavish fleshiness around the shoulders and upper chest areas. The garments also hint at buxom décolletage. The viewer perceives the sensual weight of the bodies under the fabric. The clothing is designed to frame the sisters' points of beauty, which are the visible indications of their well-fed physiques. This pro-plus aesthetic is emblematic of the Renaissance.

Click to enlarge

Such appreciation of full-figured femininity was a Western universal at the time, and extended to the Northern Renaissance as well. This painting of The Death of Lucretia (1518) by Lucas Cranach the Elder is a truly magnificent depiction of plus-size beauty and of the Renaissance aesthetic. Lucretia is one of the tropes that artists throughout Western history have invoked in order to celebrate female attractiveness, and observe how seductively heavy a model for Lucretia the artist selected, a girl exhibiting "a body of rounded, curvaceous, fleshier-than-fleshy proportions," as the Renaissance Faire article put it.

Click to enlarge

A close-up shows this painting to be an unreserved celebration of opulence, both in this physical person of Lucretia and in the sumptuousness of her jewellery. Cranach depicts her as a woman whose stunning beauty has entitled her to a life of wealth and luxuriance, a husband who has lavished her with the priciest of gifts. She wears not one, not two, but three necklaces, all thick and heavy with gold. Her plump facial features show her love of self-indulgence, from her "apple-cheeked" appearance (as described in the original article in this post) to an intoxicatingly full curve under her chin. This is a young woman of alluring greed, who clearly enjoys all that life has to offer, who cannot get enough of everything--from food to jewels to love--and still craves more. Even her bejeweled hairstyle, while an updo, is rich and ornate. Although the subject matter is Lucretia's suicide (occasioned by the villainy of a contemporary miscreant), which explains her sorrowful gaze, Cranach mitigates the tragedy by indicating that this Lucretia was copiously blessed with beauty and wealth, has lived for unrestrained pleasure, and has received it in abundance.

Click to enlarge

These Renaissance images celebrate the ideal of femininity that is indigenous to Europe, both north and south, and was the dominant standard of beauty prior to the world wars of the past century, which terminated the aristocratic governance of the continent and took the media out of European hands as well.

For a moment, the women who participate in these Renaissance Faires escape the rootless, alien culture that our modern media has instituted, and return to a time when the powers that be were in tune with natural human inclinations.

Yet our culture as a whole can revive the best aspects of the 1300s, and of every era prior to the modern age. We in the West can reject the "aesthetics of guilt" and rediscover our Old World ethnic heritage.

Today, in a sense, we are all of us like fish out of water, living in a media culture that is not ours, that reflects different values than our own, and is incompatible with our natures. But we can recapture the more harmonious and agreeable environment of the past--of the Renaissance, for example--and live in that happier world once more.

- Renaissance Beauty

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