Monday, 25 January 2010

An Own Goal in the Beauty Battle

Having worked myself up into a veritable frenzy of excitement at the prospect of reading the Times Style Magazine piece on the “curvelution”, I disappointingly found it to be the editorial equivalent of eating a penguin biscuit bar when you’re hankering after a Dairy Milk – It simply didn’t hit the spot.

The tantalizing image on the front cover of two voluptuous vixens promised an article about “how the curvy girl is trying to break into high fashion”. I expected an expose, detailing these women’s struggles and the reactions to them in a world devoted to worshipping a twiglet-like physique. Instead we were told that “men like a woman with a bit of meat on her bones” (no kidding) and where to buy a correctly fitting bra (yawn, Cosmo taught us that ten years ago).

In a similarly predictable and tedium-inducing way, it is hinted that this plus size revolution is merely a flash-in-the-pan and that larger ladies should get out and strut their stuff whilst it remains fashionable, which runs completely counter to the writer’s earlier argument that, whilst rail-thin has always been hailed as the epitome of beauty in high fashion, in the real world it’s curves that get you noticed.

This is all ultimately crowd-pleasing, platitude-filled tosh. In the real world, it’s confidence that gets you noticed, whatever look you happen to be working. In a typical oversimplification, the writer completely disregards the fact that these women even being allowed into the notoriously elitist sphere of high fashion represents a huge breakthrough and revolution in attitudes. It didn’t happen merely because Mark Fast got bored one day and thought “hey, why don’t I put some curves on the catwalk for a change?” – It is the result of endless campaigning, soul searching, public outrage and personal heartache (for the models involved at least) and is the first step towards getting some variety into the portrayal of beauty.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: What plus size models represent is pride and self esteem. One of the pictures shows a (guessing) size 18 girl wearing a sliver of a silver Gucci swimsuit. She has sturdy-looking thighs, a bit of a tummy and rolls of back fat. It is not a flattering photo (but then I’d defy anyone to pull off a cutaway shiny silver strapless swimsuit whilst adopting a Matrix-style motionless back-flip pose) but there is something defiant and undeniably beautiful about it. The pose conveys strength and rebelliousness and has a shock factor – It says “get ready world, for I am me, I am here and I will not apologise for my body”. That is an attitude we could all do with a little bit more of, wrongly-fitting bra or not.

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