Two stories in the news have caught my eye recently, each suggesting that ‘curves’ are back in style. One story concerned an MP who said that women should aspire to the more healthy, feminine shape of Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks, rather than skinnier models. The second article concerned the sudden leap in sales of ‘big knickers’, not the Bridget Jones variety, but the 50’s style Waistnippers magic pants that can help achieve a hourglass figure. But before we all heave a great big sigh of relief that curvy is now desirable, perhaps we ought to look more closely at the myths and realities of curves.
MYTH ONE – WASN’T MARILYN MONROE CURVY?
Well, quite frankly, I’m not too sure about this one. The prevailing myth is that Marilyn was a big girl, a size 16 no less, heck she was plus size. The reality is that Marilyn looked amazing, with curves in the right places, and yes, she did have a tendancy to be slightly heavier at times (Lets Make Love being an example of this), but plus size, no way. I was lucky enough to see Marilyn’s clothes and costumes at Christies before they were auctioned, and the conversations that dominated the room were all about just how tiny her day dresses and costumes were, many looked no bigger than a size 10. I discussed this with my mom, mentioning that Marilyn’s rival, Jayne Mansfield seamed to have more generous, if slightly cartoonish proportions. “No”, my mom answered, “she was just fat.” So much for female solidarity!
MYTH TWO – HURRAH FOR LARA STONE – A CURVY GIRL ON THE CATWALK.
Yes, she’s undoubtably beautiful. Yes, she’s got boobs. And yes, she’s more shapely than the pipe cleaners who usually walk the catwalk, but Lara Stone is a size 10. TEN. Since when has size 10 become curvy, its hardly Sophie Dahl at her plump peak is it?
MYTH THREE – DESIGNERS ARE BECOMING MORE CURVE FRIENDLY.
Miranda Kerr on the catwalk – she’s curvy. And Laeticia Casta – she’s curvy too. And Elle McPherson – they don’t call her The Body for nothing. Look at Louis Vuitton next season- all nipped in waists, full skirts, tight fitting sweaters, clothes built for curves. Well yes, these are all valid points, but look more closely. The models mentioned above are all glamazon models with perfect figures – not an ounce of fat between the three of them, and whilst more shapely than most models, no-one would call them plus size. The designer reality is that the designs that appear on the catwalk during the various fashion weeks are not meant for real women with real vital statistics, but for the tiny minority of even tinier celebs/heiresses and stars who worry about the calorie content of a glass of water. This is why naturally curvy women like Victoria Beckham and Nicole Richie have slimmed to the level where they disappear if they stand sideways, and an already slim girl like Alexa Chung now resembles a floor mop!
MYTH FOUR – AT LEAST THE HIGH STREET IS CURVE FRIENDLY.
There have been improvement in high street collections for the curvier/larger lady. New Look Inspire, Rogers and Rogers at Matalan, Sainsburys Grace Tu range and the always dependable Evans have great ranges for the 16+. Dorothy Perkins, Asda George and Wallis have size ranges that extend past size 16. Sounds promising doesn’t it, but look in the shop window. How many of these stores actually have these larger sizes on the dummies in the window display, how many(with the exception of Evans) have mannequins that reflect larger sizes, or posters in store or in the press that advertise these ranges. Food for thought isn’t it?
And finally, those curvier role models we keep hearing about. Christina Hendricks, Kelly Brook, Kimberley Walsh, Holly Willoughby. These girls, although curvier than the average model, pop star, tv star, are really no more attainable as a body image as Cheryl Cole or Cameron Diaz. These are stunning girls with hourglass figures, no lumps or bumps to point to, everything where it should be. There are no really normal role models for younger girls with normal figures, and when real women do emerge in the media, they soon try to conform through dieting(Lily Allen? Natalie Cassidy? Jenni McAlpine?Jennifer Hudson?) or through more drastic forms of surgery(Fern Brittan?Vanessa Feltz?even the tiny Jennifer Metcalfe).
Scary isn’t it?