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Old 24th June 2011   #1
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Default ''The living death of modelling careers''

An Australian newspaper published a piece today that uses the Vogue Italia editorial featuring three plus-size models as a springboard for a powerful condemnation of the fashion world.

The article suffers from mixed messages, but contains fine denunciations, especially:

Cast an eye over shots from the big 2011 couture shows and you'll see scores of emaciated young women limping down the runways with flesh-less knees, stringy necks and rib cages that make ET the extraterrestrial look like a fatty boomsticks.

These human coat hangers are held up as exemplars of feminine beauty yet are eerily reminiscent of Sidney Nolan's infamous photos of dead-but-alive-looking cow and horse carcasses from drought-stricken Queensland during the 1950s.

Of course if high fashion catwalkers were cattle they'd be the subject of Four Corners exposes, GetUp! petitions and bans on live export. As things stand, they're not even humanely stunned before being herded into the living death of their modelling careers.

This is entirely true. I looked up the drought photographs to which she refers, and they're absolutely horrifying.

What makes these images so disturbing is how closely they resemble photographs of minus-size fashion models. This really is how today's "mainstream" catwalk cadavers look, with skull-like faces and tissue-thin skin barely covering their jutting bones. No exaggeration.

Furthermore, the article's writer makes the incontestable case that even if apologists for the industry try to make the clam that today's size-0 skeletons are not dropping dead en masse (although some are indeed dying, and many more are permanently damaging their health), fashion still should not be permitted to foist this toxic standard on the public, because it does ruin the body image of women in general, and lead to eating disorders:

there is still a strong argument for the humane production of fashion, just as there is a convincing case for the ethical farming of meat. And, in the case of the former, consideration must be given not only to the treatment of models but also to the well-being of those who look at them.

Interestingly, the author describes how she, on her own initiative, assembled a personal gallery of images of full-figured celebrities to counter to skinniness-brainwashing, but had trouble finding many such celebrities or their photos. This is why plus-size models are so indispensable - they create the pro-curvy imagery that the media refuses to produce.

On the downside, the author claims that "scrawniness sells." But for that there is no evidence, because there has never been any society-wide alternative. Without a cross-cultural alternative to the hegemony of thinness, there is no way to claim that curves would not sell, nor that they wouldn't in fact sell better than emaciation.

I like her last point about the virtues of so-called "tokenism":

A common critique of such shoots is that they are nothing but empty gestures. But the thing about changing entrenched social practices is that the initial steps will always look - and perhaps even be - tokenistic. What we need to do is accumulate enough tokenism to reach a critical mass and establish a new normal.

Imagine...if Vogue Italia received international coverage because it featured an under-sized, empty-figured, curve-less size eight model on its cover.

Exactly. To us, here at the Judgment of Paris, we see the anorexic models for the aberrations that they are, because we see gorgeous plus-size models all the time, who truly are normal. If society as a whole experienced a steady dose of such positive visual imagery, it would come to the same orientation.

Seeing the drop-dead gorgeous images of true plus-size models from the collections at Full-Figured Fashion Week has illustrated what the fashion industry could look like, if all runway shows featured lusciously feminine models. It could be an industry of true beauty. Let's hope that we're on the way to having that happen...
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Old 24th June 2011   #2
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Default Re: ''The living death of modelling careers''

Those photographs are deeply tragic. The writer was right to make such a comparison. Perhaps seeing what emaciation looks like on a poor animal might make some of the people who blithely accept this type of appearance for girls reconsider their passive acceptance of the fashion industry's culture-of-death aesthetic.

I also applaud the writer's dismissal of the "under-sized, empty-figured, curve-less size-8 model." Even given the fact that Australian sizes run one step larger than American sizes do, she is still indicating that a U.S. size 6 is "under-sized, empty-figured, curve-less," which it is. The idea that such skinny models could be passed off as curvy, let alone plus-size, is intolerably offensive. Only true plus-size models, a U.S. size 16 and above, can make any substantial difference in public perceptions.

Another article I read recently makes a similar set of arguments, although it's likewise blighted by mixed messages.

It too begins with the Vogue Italia spread as a springboard for the discussion.

The June issue of Italian Vogue boasts a lush and provocative cover featuring Ö wait for it Ö plus-size models. Thatís right: The cover and a generous interior spread celebrate four stunning women with hips, thighs, and hindquarters that donít hide from hotshot photographer Steven Meiselís leering camera. In black-and-white 1960s cinema style, the voluptuous ladies lounge in lingerie, sprawling half-nude on divans, crawling cat-like across tables, cuddling up to fur coats (how desperately do you want to see this right now?).

It denounces the fashion industry's anorexic standard and reminds readers that this standard has led to actual model deaths. The author observes that fashion

trumpets grasshopper-thin girls as paragons of glamour, but has lost five ďsuccessfulĒ young models in as many years to anorexic deaths. The youngest was 18; the smallest weighed just 73 pounds.

The most interesting point, I think, is her final contention. One of the most absurd rationalizations that apologists for the thin-supremacist standard make is that fashion is meant to be "aspirational." Well, this writer makes the very obvious (but surprisingly seldom voiced) point that plus-size models can be aspirational:

For my part, I found the entire photo spread mesmerizingly sexy. I couldnít peel my gaze from the fullness of these womenís curves...full, like fruit.

But if itís aspiration these ďreal beautiesĒ are selling, I want it. I want their confidence and sultriness. I want their ginormous back-combed hair. And I wouldnít mind those patent leather kitten heels, if Iím being entirely honest.

Fashion can be aspirational without triggering eating disorders, and the FFFWeek 2011 runway shows have proved that, once and for all, as the beauty of genuinely full-figured models like Kelsey, Katherine, and Lindsey is far more truly aspirational than the cadaverous appearance of the industry's minus-size famine victims.
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Old 1st July 2011   #3
M. Lopez
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Default Re: ''The living death of modelling careers''

Further on the topic of the Vogue Italia spread, the British newspaper Metro ran an interview with the magazine's editor, Franca Sozzani, in which she made a number of interesting observations.

This passage is the most pertinent:

Q: Can fashion be political?

A: You can use fashion to make a certain type of statement because itís in the media [e.g.,] the current issue with the curvy girls on the cover. Of course itís exaggerated...but when you want to get a message across, you have to be exaggerated otherwise people donít get it. People asked me why I put a curvy girl in the nude on the cover. I say, because if she was dressed, you wouldnít realise what body they have.

Q Women are not encouraged to feel proud of their bodies.

A Youíre right, women are not proud of their bodies because the aesthetical code that is around us is skinny...Thatís why I created the makeover edition. And thatís why I did this one now. Every woman has something beautiful, it depends how you feel. Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, today would be considered curvy girls. We have to change our mentalities.

Rather commendable words, and since she did put three plus-size models on her magazine's cover and gave them a genuinely beautiful editorial, one cannot dismiss her comments are mere lip service. She has backed up her arguments with real action - the most that any Vogue editor has done for plus-size beauty since British Vogue ran its Sara Morrison editorial in 1998.

Where I absolutely DO agree with her is in this principle: "When you want to get a message across, you have to be exaggerated, otherwise people donít get it." YES! However, I saw nothing in the Vogue Italia editorial that was "exaggerated." Only one model was a 14/16, while the other two were 12s. Far from being "exaggerated," the issue would have done better to feature all size 16s and 18s. Also, there was nothing in the aesthetic of the shoot that was "exaggerated"; rather, it was very classy and elegant (except for the nudity, which in some cases was excessive).

But her idea of fighting an extreme with an extreme is absolutely sound.

Also, on the issue of model size, when she says that "If [the plus-size models were] dressed, you wouldnít realise what body they have," that very clearly indicates that the models could have been a bit bigger! If she had used size 18s and photographed them to exhibit their curvaceousness in body-conscious fashions, then, even if they had been clothed, the viewers would have seen "what body they have"!

But I don't mean to sound too critical, because except for the fact that the shoot would have been improved by featuring fuller-figured models, it was aesthetically and thematically accomplished, and beautiful - which is rare when the "high" fashion industry shoots plus-size models.
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