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Old 15th March 2011   #1
HSG
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Default Valerie by the Fireside (Zay Clothing)


The beauty of every plus-size model is directly dependent upon her size. As a model gains weight, she gains attractiveness. Conversely, as a model diminishes in size, she diminishes in beauty.

However, even among plus-size models, no girl's look is so directly contingent upon her degree of fullness as is that of Valerie Lefkowitz. Valerie began her career as a mere faux-plus model, but when she blossomed into a size 14/16 (at 5'8), she became the most gorgeous and popular model in the industry (Shannon Marie having just gone on hiatus). Then, when Valerie diminished in size, she lost many of her fans. When she subsequently regained her curves, reaching an unimaginably luscious size 18, she reclaimed her crown of "fairest of them all" and became more popular than ever.

How one wishes that her size-18 phase had continued in perpetuity.

Today, Miss Lefkowitz is a size 14, so she is just on the cusp of being a true plus-size model and of thus warranting attention. One recent Valerie campaign that we certainly should have noted when it came out was last fall's promotion for Zay Clothing. A branch of the Zizzi label, Zay recently launched its spring/summer line, but it is with the prior season's images that we will concern ourselves here, for they are quite remarkable.

We last encountered Valerie at Zay in the intriguing "distressed doll's house" promotion from early in 2010. This fall/winter campaign, on the other hand, finds her in a kind of rustic chalet. The principal image, the first one posted below, is so alluring that it could have come straight out of a James Bond movie. It is one of the finest images of Valerie's career and a masterpiece of plus-size beauty.

Valerie is seen seductively draping herself over a white fur-covered bed, sliding her legs forward to accentuate her luscious thighs and to show off the generous rondeur of her hips. The hand that she places on her hip accentuates her womanly curve, drawing attention to it and subconsciously making the viewer yearn for similar tactile engagement. Her buxom contours swell beneath her ruffled blouse. Her hair tumbles over her hand with wild abandon, while her eyes exhibit a languid yet hungry look, which is the epitome of seductiveness. Her tight jeans define her luscious legs, delineating even the soft fullness of her calves. The purple lace trim of the blouse matches the sash and adds a feminine touch to the wardrobe. Her bare feet infuse another sensual element. "You know you want me," she seems to say, as her slightly parted lips whisper of desire and mischief. The fur covering on the bed is the most sinful detail of all, a primal element that intimates the model's own wildness. She appears kittenish here, a voluptuous vixen for whom an alpha male, in another time, would have hunted wild prey to supply her with rich provender and with cloaks and accouterments. The white fur subconsciously triggers deep-seated racial memories of those passionate, primordial times. It is also an incredibly intimate image, personal and romantic, with the model's own softness echoed by the bed on which she lays, and the overall sensation is one of coziness and warmth.

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Needless to say, no other image in this (or another other) campaign can match such a steamy presentation of feminine curvaceousness, but the following picture offers a nice narrative complement. It shows the model having donned a jacket, as if she were planning to step outside, yet her gaze conveys a sense of invitation. And of course, the fur-lined bed is notably included in the frame just behind her, as if she were indicating it with her shoulder. Her golden tresses cascade in thick, gorgeous curls.

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The next image shows Valerie sitting beside a roaring fire. Again, one thinks of the setting as a remote chalet in the mountains in the middle of winter, with nothing for the couple to do in this cozy locale but to remain warm and to enjoy each other's company. The blazing hearth externalizes the roaring passions of the viewer, of the model herself, or of both.

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If one draws a little closer to Valerie, one sees a banked-down fire smouldering in her eyes as well as in the wood-burning stove. Notice too her wicked black fingernails, as well as the dark eye makeup. Miss Lefkowitz is known for her doll-like appearance (indeed, one might say that she personally introduced baby-princess looks into plus-size modelling), but in these images she explores her steamier, more seductive side.

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The tightest close-up of all maintains the intimate undercurrent of the campaign. The model looks young and earnest, vividly buxom in her feminine blouse with the ruffled collar. Her expression is open and inviting. The natural lighting beautifully illuminates the flawless features of her pretty face.

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In another, more dramatic picture of the model in the same outfit, she leans gently against the windowsill and smiles with a glint of mischief in her eyes. It is fascinating to see how effortlessly she shifts from a warm and welcoming demeanour to a more minx-like expression, no doubt illustrating the many sides of her inscrutable, multifaceted character. She relishes the viewer's admiration of her, but she also enjoys toying with her besotted worshipper.

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Valerie saves her most bewitching expression of all for the following picture, showing her leaning against a rustic timber wall, ready to be embraced, her eyes conveying a wicked mixture of desire and appetite. "Approach me if you dare," she seems to say. Her golden tresses flow in romantic waves. The blouse is feminine and girlish, although loose--such flowing formlessness being unfortunately characteristic of European plus-size fashion, although the Zay blouses are prettier than most. The leather boots add something animalistic to the look, in keeping with her carnivorous expression. This princess-like beauty still possesses her doll-like qualities, but she has grown up, and now feels mature passions, which she has no compunction in using her feminine wiles to satisfy.

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One of the prettiest items in the Zay collection is this ruffled, tiered skirt. Observe how the brown shrug embraces Valerie's figure closely enough to indicate her voluptuousness. Her blonde tresses appear especially long and romantic here, truly the hair of a princess. She stands beside a stepladder, which suggests that perhaps the bed with the white fur covering is situated on the upper floor--a place of play--while this, the main floor, is a site of work.

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The following image is particularly dramatic, with the skylight towering above Valerie like the roof of a Gothic cathedral. Her blouse admirably displays her buxom contours, which the heavy necklaces help to define. The big, wide hat is a fine addition; hats can be beautiful accessories, but they must have a feminine form, as this one does. The sight of her soft tresses cascading around her face and spilling over her shoulders is intoxicating.

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Perhaps the most compelling pose of the entire campaign appears in this image, which shows the model adopting an enigmatic, downward-looking glance and positioning her body is a graceful manner of affected modesty. One could interpret this look as thoughtful and introspective, but more intriguingly, one senses that the pose is deliberately chosen for the purposes of display, with Valerie always consciously showing off her beauty from multiple perspectives, the more to ensnare the heart of her admirer.

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The following image is perhaps the simplest of the campaign, a relatively straightforward presentation that nevertheless achieves some visual interest through the sensation of curvy hips that the fitted denim provides. The hardwood floor and the formidable columns and rafters in the background are also compelling. No studio set could achieve nearly as much atmosphere as does this practical location, which contributes significantly to the editorial narrative.

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And finally, the following picture makes the most size-positive contribution to the campaign, with the seductive swell at the model's midsection clearly visible. The image also brings the storyline to a definite conclusion. The attire is rather practical and business-like, while the model's scrutiny of the book, and the boxes and blueprint rolls in the background, suggest an architectural profession. One hazily perceives the buildings through the window, as if reality were creeping into this fantasy retreat. The weekend of fun and frolic is over, and the prosaic, workaday world intrudes.

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What a bittersweet end to an adventure that began with such steamy, seductive intimacy, with Valerie at her most carnally passionate, curled up on that white animal-fur covering, tempting and tantalizing, wicked and wonderful, voluptuous and irresistible.

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A round of applause to Zay Clothing for producing yet another compelling, editorial-style campaign with the beautiful Miss Lefkowitz, a promotion that is even more attractive and imaginative than the doll's-house storyline of the prior season.

Fans continue to hope that Valerie might once again become fuller-figured. She is potentially, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful girls in the industry, and when she blossoms into a fuller size, she becomes a bona fide goddess.

As it is, at a size 14, she is still attractive--and of course, when she stretches out on white fur, she becomes intoxicating. But with just a little extra opulence to her figure, she would regain her status as of the most gorgeous women in existence, and a definitive embodiment of timeless beauty.

- Valerie Lefkowitz: An Homage

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Old 17th March 2011   #2
Suzanne R
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Default Re: Valerie by the Fireside (Zay Clothing)

One word: WOW! Love Valerie - she is the epitome of elegant prettiness and I adore the clothes; they are so feminine. She has made my day! That photo of her in the dusty pink blouse is an inspiration; it is one of the few pink shades that I can wear. She makes it seem like the pinnacle of soft femininity
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Old 20th March 2011   #3
HSG
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Default Schloß Drachenburg


One of the reasons why we found the sight of Valerie lying on a white fur bedcover so seductive was because it triggered in us a remembrance of a similar fur-fashioned decorative item in a lady's bedchamber--and in a hilltop castle, no less.

Yes, a castle. And not just a fortress of the imagination, nor a palace from a storybook, but a bona fide, real-life castle, one that we visited during our most recent European pilgrimage, in the summer of 2009.

* * *

The greatest of all Teutonic legends is that of the Siegfried the dragonslayer. However, unlike British fables, which are often set in a realm of fantasy, Germanic myths are invariably associated with specific geographic locales. The English King Arthur slumber in the mystical isle of Avalon, a nebulous realm on the twilight borderland between this world and the next, but the Teutonic Kaiser Barbarossa sleeps under the Kyffhäser Mountains, a very real mountain range in central Germany. No one knows if Arthur's Camelot was located in Cornwall, or Glastonbury, or merely in a chronicler's imagination. But any German boy can tell you where Siegfried plunged the sword Notung into the body of the dragon, slaying the great beast, then drinking its blood to gain the wisdom of the natural world: it was on the slops of the Drachenfels ("dragon's rock"), a specific mountain overlooking the river Rhine.

In the image below, the Drachenfels is the taller mountain at the left of the frame, crowned by an ancient ruin.

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That ruin is the last remaining fragment of Schloß Drachenfels (Castle Drachenfels), whose noble stones still tower above the forest and offer a commanding view of the Rhine.

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Looking downriver from the summit of the Drachenfels, one sees the other castle that appears in the first image, above. This is no ruin, but a Neo-Gothic masterpiece called Schloß Drachenburg ("dragon's castle"), built in the nineteenth century by a patriotic German baron who grew up loving the Siegfried myth.

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The castle was horribly damaged by the barbarism of the Allies in World War Two, to the point that it nearly resembled the crumbling shell of Schloß Drachenfels towering above it. But the Germans have been slowly, painstakingly restoring it for the last 65 years, and reconstruction was only finally completed late last year. (The final touches of refurbishment were still under way when we toured it in 2009.)

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Not only is it one of the most beautiful castles in the world, but also one of the most sublimely situated, with the Rhine river flowing just below the western slope, and the Drachenfels--the most storied of all German mountains--looming above it to the south.

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The Drachenfels ruin is not visible from the terrace level, but if one ascends Drachenburg's north tower, one sees the crumbling walls rising above the forest, atop the mountain.

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Within, the Drachenburg is every bit as opulent as it appears from without The castle's official Web site offers a virtual tour of its many chambers, including the storied Nibelungen room, decorated with 19th-century Romantic murals of the Siegfried legend (as recounted in the medieval epic of the Nibelungenlied), as well as the opulently appointed dining room. The castle's Neo-Gothic style exhibits a quintessentially masculine character, as is evident in the mighty oaken bed in the master bedroom of the original owner.

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Did you notice the floor covering? Yes, that is a black bearskin carpet, recalling the hunting tradition that was so popular with the German nobility up until the last war.

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Just down the hall from the master bedroom, one finds the sleeping chamber for the lady of the castle. A quintessentially feminine aesthetic complement to the masculinity of the master bedroom, it is appointed in light colours rather than dark, in citrus hues rather than forest green, with a pair of white beds rather than a dark oaken bed. But for our purposes, the most notable item is the floor covering.

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Yes, just as the darker bed suited the male proprietor of the castle, while the white beds beseemed his lady, so does the black rug in the master bedroom find a white bearskin complement in the lady's bedchamber. We immediately thought of this item when we first saw the Zay Clothing image of Valerie lounging on her white-fur bedcover. One can easily imagine seeing a golden-haired, curvaceous princess languidly stretched out on this bearskin carpet, just as Valerie reposes in the Zay image, inviting her admirer's worship.

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While we have your interest, we will direct your attention to several other noteworthy sights in the immediate vicinity. First, there is the exterior of Schloß Drachenburg itself. This is the east face, with its magnificent Gothic rose window.

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This, on the other hand, is the castle's western terrace, with the photographer facing northwards. Now housing a pleasant café, this terrace directly overlooks the mighty river Rhine, offering one of the most storied vistas in all of Germany.

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Further down the slope from the Drachenburg, as one approaches the underlying town of Königswinter, one finds the Nibelungenhalle. Built a century ago in a consciously archaic style, right down to the runic lettering, the building houses a cycle of paintings by Herman Hendrich illustrating Wagner's epic operatic tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, which gives the legend of Siegfriend the dragonslayer its definitive artistic expression.

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This chamber inside the edifice shows a triptych illustrating Siegfried, the third installment of the four-part Ring cycle, and the opera in which Siegfried actually forges his sword and slays the dragon, Fafner. The paintings are difficult to see in the photograph, but before them stands an anvil into which a sword is embedded.

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This object recalls the most famous scene in the opera, in which Siegfried, having forged his invincible sword, takes it and strikes the anvil itself, cleaving the anvil in twain.

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Leaving the Nibelungenhalle, one descends to the Rhine, then travels a short distance upstream, first passing the Drachenburg itself, then the castle ruin atop the mountain.

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Subsequently looking back toward the southward-facing slope of the Drachenfels, one sees the scaly cliffs that originally gave the mountain its name. Many of the steep embankments of the Rhine gorge are home to centuries-old vineyards, and this one is no exception.

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However, this is no ordinary vineyard. In one area in particular, above the vines and just below the cliff face, a cave-like formation is visible, seemingly leads inside the mountain.

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This is the famous Drachenloch, or "dragon's cave," the crevice in which, according to myth, the dragon Fafner lay slumbering until the fearless Siegfried entered, sword in hand, and slew the ferocious beast, then drank deeply of its blood.

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Just as this is no ordinary vineyard, so do its vines yield no ordinary wine. The rest of the Rhine vintners plant their fields with white grapes, which produce the white wines for which the Germans are well known. But here alone in the entire Rhine gorge, the grapes that grow in the fields are red.

Red, like blood. Like the blood of a dragon.

And the name of the wine made from the grapes that grow in the soil of Drachenfels is . . . Drachen Blut.

Dragon's Blood Wine.

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Drachen Blut cannot be bought in North America, nor anywhere else in Europe. It was therefore the thrill of a lifetime for us when we personally made the trek to the Drachenfels winery and purchased two bottles of dragon's-blood wine. (It comes in two varieties: Trocken, or "dry," and "Halbtrocken," literally "half dry," or semi-sweet.)

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The bottle's elegant label is clearly marked Drachen Blut. Siegfried, with his sword, appears on the right, the ruin of Schloß Drachenfels towers on the left, and a forlorn-looking, dying dragon lies in the centre, blood gushing from its maw and filling glasses of wine.

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To imbibe Drachen Blut wine is veritably to drink the blood of the dragon.

* * *

There is something quintessentially feminine about the sight of a goddess stretched out onto white fur--an association that was already present in 19th-century décor. As the opulent "maximalism" of the 1800s increasingly gains favour, we may yet see further examples of such traditional motifs returning to cultural awareness. As this aesthetic restoration continues, it may bring back an appreciation for Neo-Gothic castles like Schloß Drachenburg, as well the myths and legends that they celebrate, and even a taste for the full-figured femininity that was the ideal of beauty in every century prior to the twentieth.

(All of the photographs in this post were taken by the author, except for the first, ninth, and 16th.)

- Schloß Drachenburg: official site

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Old 23rd March 2011   #4
Emily
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Default Re: Schloß Drachenburg

I remember learning about Siegfried and the Rhine's red wine known as "dragon's blood" from the second portion of the three-part Great Castles of Europe episode about the castles along the Rhine. This video launches straight into that portion of the program:



All three parts are worth seeing, however. They're embedded together on the following page. The complete three-part episode is just under a half-hour in length:

http://angerburg.blogspot.com/2010/...ne-castles.html
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