Figure: pretty pleasing . . .

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Posted by HSG on January 17, 2005 at 06:49:28:

It's easy to lament the fact that Figure magazine has not yet matched the original Mode, either in terms of visual quality, or in terms of its size-celebratory editorial content. In all likelihood, it never will.

However, all it takes is a trip to the local bookstore, and a glance at the horrors of the magazine racks--with their rows upon rows of publications pushing diet starvation through body-shame slogans, and androgynous imagery--to make one grateful that Figure exists, in any form. And the fact remains this magazine is doing more to promote the plus aesthetic than Grace ever did.

The January issue is, on balance, neither better nor worse than its predecessors. Last year's "Passion" issue still featured diet ads, which this issue does not (thank goodness), but last year's issue also had Valerie Lefkowitz on the cover and throughout the magazine, in some of the most gorgeous images of her career--and this issue does not.

The latest cover is, in fact, a clever mirror version of last year's unforgettable "sailor" image (but with a raven-haired instead of a fair-haired model, positioned left instead of right):

For several reasons, this cover is a shade less successful. The model and the dance instructor look a bit stiff, and the arrangement feels "posed." On the other hand, Leona (Click/PB, size 14) does have visible curves, long tresses, and her sheer dress is actually quite lovely and feminine, especially with the clever detail of the lingerie just visible at the neckline.

In fact, as a clothing promotion (which Figure is, by definition), the cover is rather effective. Consider this test image of Leona:

It shows off her lovely figure, but otherwise, the styling is rather "blank." By contrast, Figure's gossamer blue dress emphasizes the model's femininity, and still frames her curves in a most appealing way. So the cover is a little lesson in how soft, womanly apparel can enhance anyone's look.

Leona actually makes a rather favourable debut in this issue, also appearing with Ivana and Melissa King in the issue's best editorial, titled "Pretty Please," photographed by Roberto Ligresti. With more experience, and as she acquires greater ease in front of the camera, Leona could be a talent to watch.

Melissa King also appears in a lovely "dream curls" image, on page 34, which may comprise the best editorial work in this issue.

Some readers may have noticed that, for several issues now, Figure has been using smaller models than previously (i.e., size 12s). We don't really fault the magazine for this choice, however, because Figure is still using size 18s as well--and that puts it miles ahead of any publication since the original Mode. Moreover, as smaller models go, Ljubenka--who appears in several editorials--is rather a good choice.

Figure's casting policies will only become disappointing if it beings using size 12 models in lieu of genuinely full-figured girls. Let's hope that this never happens.

Beyond the layouts, the new issue contains informative stories about health and relationships, and has several size-positive if unremarkable editorials.

On the down side, it also features one ad which is somewhat unfortunate, because it contributes to the current anti-plus media epidemic, which (as we have all learned) is founded on faulty research, and engineered by individuals with questionable motives. With all of the gravely serious issues that face young girls today--from eating disorders, to drug use, to violence, to broken homes--might it not have been prudent to devote the ad space to these rather more pressing matters?

Figure still betrays a touch of ambivalence about women (or girls) of size, and although it does not express this ambivalence in the manner that it once did (for which we are all grateful), it remains an unnecessary element in a magazine that is just one small step away from being a truly size-positive publication.

* * *

Ultimately, without Valerie or Megan, aficionados may not consider this a "must-have issue." But perhaps the best reason to buy the new Figure is for its stunning Lane Bryant ads--in particular, for the back cover, which is a poster-size version of Crystal Renn's magnificent "spring blossom" image. Note also the inset ad on p. 8, second from the top, showing the model in rose, twirling her skirt, and with a profusion of pink blossoms in the background. It's simply magical.

Spring 2005 is securing its place as Lane Bryant's finest promotion--ever. It features the most gorgeous location that has ever appeared in a plus-size campaign, a dreamscape which significantly enhances the beauty of the models, and the clothing. One could not imagine a more fitting backdrop for a presentation of timeless beauty.

(Now, we are all eagerly awaiting the release of Lane Bryant's seasonal circular.)

Crystal Renn admiring the wonders of Lane Bryant's idyllic dream-world, Spring 2005:

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