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Old 15th July 2005   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default Curve-revealing fashion: a timeless style

In the fashion article that Kaitlynn recently posted, the writer takes note of Torrid's size-positive styles, which, she enthuses, "promise to show skin and shape: lacy camisoles, knee-baring peasant skirts, tube tops, tight-fitting jeans, clingy shirts and sleeveless dresses." And as we have noted previously on this forum, this new enthusiasm for the body-as-fashion-accessory principle is a real triumph for size celebration, because it indicates that curvy vixens are finally becoming aware of their own charms, and that the fashion industry is recognizing and enabling this growing body-confidence.

Indeed, the sense of discovery that permeates the ads for these "skin-baring" styles could easily lead you to believe that size celebration had been invented in Summer 2005.

But of course, this is not so. Curve-revealing fashion in "luscious" or "extra luscious" sizes (to adopt the terminology of one fashion retailer) is not actually a new concept, but a revival of a timeless principle of feminine dress that prevailed in every century until the twentieth--when the "aesthetics of guilt" were imposed on society.

In the Victorian age, for example, Lillian Russell was universally regarded as the epitome of feminine beauty, and she was as famous for her figure-revealing outfits as for her angelic voice. The most photographed woman in the world, Ms. Russell also consented to have her beauty immortalized on canvas by the renowned American painter, Joseph Imhof. In Joseph Imhof, Artist of the Pueblos (1998), author Nancy Hopkins Reily describes Imhof's painting of a sensually-dressed Lillian Russell (posted below) in the following manner:

It is believed that during this time [c.1896] he created the portrait, "Lillian Russell," which he later secured for Winfield Morton's hotel in Silverton, Colorado. The 90-by-42 inch unframed work, apparently executed in chalk, currently hangs in the Grand Imperial Hotel, Silverton, Colorado. The formally posed Lillian Russell appears larger than life under glass, surrounded as she is in the wood-and-gold 100-by-50 inch frame. . . .

Her creator obviously intended for her to look down on her subjects. She has a sly, bemused seductive look in her white and pink strapless gown that reveals her ample breasts. Her right arm hugs her waist as her fingers touch her right shoulder, as if to say, "Look at me. I know your secret desires." The large hat she wears tends to emphasize her feminine assets, as does a fan-like piece of fluff she holds in her left hand. The tilt of her head to the right, and the slight turn of her body convey a coy statement, calling attention to her seductive quality. She appears believable, yet remains a part of the myth that belongs to the long since vanished West.

In her lifetime, Lillian Russell was well aware that her generously-proportioned figure would be universally admired--all the more as her size increased during the course of her career. She therefore proudly adorned herself in the "skin-baring" fashions of her own day (not dissimilar from current feminine styles), which framed her opulent charms to best advantage.

It is a sign of considerable progress that today, after a century of suppression, this natural appreciation for the womanly figure is finally being revived.

Kati Kochanski (IM, Miami), modelling for Alfred Angelo:

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