“Rubenesque: of, relating to, or suggestive of the Renaissance Master painter Rubens or his works; especially plump or rounded usually in a pleasing or attractive way, Rubenesque figure.”
“Statuesque: resembling a statue especially in dignity, shapeliness, or stillness. especially having a tall and shapely form, a statuesque actress”
It would seem significant that these definitions were created many years ago, because what broadly constitutes feminine beauty today, as portrayed by the media and fashion worlds, focuses almost exclusively on the ‘statuesque’ image. Given that women of all shapes and sizes have a passion for fashion, why are larger women so under represented in the fashion stakes and are perceptions changing?
Impossibly slender models (some would say anorexic) slink along catwalks and decorate magazines all over the world, while the rest of us despair of ever looking that way. But do we really want to?
The Quiet Fashion Revolution!
A quiet revolution has been taking place; it seems to have started some years ago with The Body Shop slogan “there are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only eight who do”. The campaign featured a generously proportioned doll called Ruby – short for Rubenesque and attracted a lot of attention. One of the Bodyshop’s values is “Activate Self Esteem”, and Body Shop founder Anita Roddick had this to say on the subject:
‘We're proud not to fit the mould. We'll never sell false promises, or an unattainable ideal of beauty, and never ever play on insecurities. We believe that there's no one way for a woman to look. After all, no two women think the same, act the same, or sound the same.’
In 2004 beauty products company Dove launched a ‘real women campaign’ with the mission to broaden the stereotypical concept of beauty and ‘make more women feel beautiful every day’. To this end they featured a group of women (none of whom were professional models) sized 6-14 with real curves, wearing just undergarments and smiles.
Soon after, Sportswear giant Nike launched their 2005 much-vaunted Big Butts, Thunder Thighs and Tomboy Knees campaign. Tennis player Serena Williams wears Nike and looks great in it; the Big Butts campaign dared to show women with well toned and muscular bodies, rather than the stick thin runway models who usually strut the Nike stuff.
The growing body of evidence (pun intended) by the fashion industry is something that real women have known, but perhaps not acknowledged publicly: that we should celebrate our curves, along with our differences and definitely not aspire to the (for most of us) unattainable anorexic model image.
Take guys for instance: Would the stereotypical ‘skinny guy who gets sand kicked in his face at the beach’ be likely to sell clothes to normal men? Would these same men then aspire to look like the skinny model? Not likely. Men are rightly allowed to have muscles, and even the male models, although buff, are not underweight. Conversely, women should be allowed to have womanly curves, and it is time more real size women stood up and said so.
More public acceptance and validation of the bootylicious and curvaceous is further evidenced in the fashion world as this month City Chic in Sydney stages the finals of a plus size modeling competition.
Competitions such as this give kudos and visibility to plus size ladies, and in future there is likely to be more models like the outspoken Velvet d’Amour who in 2006 strutted down the runway in Paris, modeling for John Galliano's and Jean Paul Gaultier's spring collections. She caused a sensation.
The Voluptuous Woman Company (VWC) is an organization that functions as an information source for plus-size women providing information and visibility for them through various distribution channels. Statistics reveal that 62% of American women are size 14 or larger, and Australian statistics are similar. Why then should the fashion and media portray skinny models as the norm and present size 12 or smaller as being highly desirable and larger sizes less so?
The increasing number of fashion houses and outlets that cater for larger sizes suggests the fashion industry is on a learning “curve” (or should that be curves?) – beginning to respond to the needs of those whose proportions are more generous. Sydney's Closet offers a huge range of prom dresses and much more, Nordstrom offers an alluring range of big and beautiful gear, including offerings from designer Calvin Klein. Another American chain, BigBras.com make sure that plus size women get all the support they need to put up an impressive front! And there are many more.
So women of all sizes - Rubenesque or statuesque or somewhere in between should stand proud. We are individuals and come in a wonderful array of shapes, weights and sizes. It is well past time to throw out the idea that one dress size or body size is more desirable than another, and to celebrate our womanly diversity. Good things do come in small packages but they equally come in plus size packages too.