"The flame / Of Beauty"


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Posted by HSG on November 29, 2004 at 01:48:24:

In Reply to: Simply Valerie posted by Jessica on November 28, 2004 at 21:32:42:


Thank you so much for letting us know about the page.

It's interesting that you comment on the face, specifically, because while Real Simple does offer us a glimpse of Valerie's beautiful facial features,

the rest of her figure is swathed in a shapeless mass of blank ink, which is presumably the "wrap."

The act of camouflaging Valerie's beautiful curves is quite indicative of this magazine's attitude towards plus-size models. It uses them, sometimes, and for that, it deserves praise. However, the models' figures tend to be carefully hidden away. And with rare exceptions (such as Glamour's magnificent red-dress image of Megan Garcia, from November of last year), this is a practice favoured by the majority of the out-of-the-mainstream fashion glossies.

(We call them that, because plus sizes represent the majority of North American women. Therefore, any magazine in which full-figured models are only marginally represented is, literally, out of the mainstream.)

These days, plus-size models are invariably permitted to look far more gorgeous in their commercial work than in their rare editorial outings. This is true of Crystal Renn, whose stunning images for Lane Bryant are far lovelier than most of her editorial pages. And this is true of Valerie as well.

Consider two of Valerie's current ad campaigns, and note how rich an artistic statement they make. For Goody's junior plus, Winter 2004, we see her looking like an angel from heaven, shining down benevolently on all mankind from the empyrean blue:

But for Fashion Bug, we see her inhabiting the other end of the metaphysical spectrum.

Here she is a wicked seductress, delighting in the love-torment that she inflicts on mere mortals:

The latter image calls to mind a work by the Victorian poet, Arthur Symons (1865-1945), titled "Modern Beauty":

I am the torch, she saith, and what to me
If the moth die of me? I am the flame
Of Beauty, and I burn that all may see
Beauty, and I have neither joy nor shame,
But live with that clear light of perfect fire
Which is to men the death of their desire.

I am Yseult and Helen, I have seen
Troy burn, and the most loving knight lie dead.
The world has been my mirror, time has been
My breath upon the glass; and men have said,
Age after age, in rapture and despair,
Love's poor few words, before my image there.

I live, and am immortal; in my eyes
The sorrow of the world, and on my lips
The joy of life, mingle to make me wise;
Yet now the day is darkened with eclipse:
Who is there still lives for beauty? Still am I
The torch, but where's the moth that still dares die?

The symbolic contrast between these two images, and the fact that the same model created both, is utterly fascinating.

Whether by design, or as a consequence of the intrinsic beauty of the models themselves, today's best commercial plus-size fashion photography is often far more artistically accomplished than the occasional editorial work that a plus-size model might do in a straight-size magazine. This was not the case when Mode was in existence, and the finest images in Figure rise to the level of the best of today's commercial work. But in the magazine world, Figure remains the exception to the androgynous rule.

At least, for now . . .

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