Getting a woman to love and respect her body is a huge life challenge, even before fashion and marketing mess up our heads the game of life. We have two posts this morning, and one NYTimes article For the A-Cup Crowd, Minimal Assets Are a Plus that remind us just how diverse the population of beautiful women actually is. (See also Crystal Renn | High Street Scorching in Britain’s Look Magazine).
The Meaning of Bust Size
Today’s focus is breasts, but the arguments apply to every inch of fashion’s obsession with the ideal body type.
Even I am guilty at times of lamblasting fashion’s dispensing of breasts and hips in their definition of ideal beauty. Most women have curves, I argue and we don’t look like boys.
What a disempowering statement from a feminist like myself!
What I mean to say is that the 34AAA woman is every bit the ‘real woman’ as the 38C, but it aggravates the heck out of me that for the last decade mostly male — and often gay — fashion designers have dictated a body image devoid of typical female physical attributes.
Digging deep into the nether regions of men’s misogynistic attitudes about women, I write that female curves scare the heck out of men. Female sexuality unleashed is men’s worst nightmare and the fashion patriarchy exists to keep women running in place.
Freja Beha Erichsen, photographed here by Rafael Stahelin for Vogue Korea September 2010, is the fashion norm of the last decade. (See the entire Freja Beha Erichsen editorial.) In an increasingly gender-neutral, sexuality-experiencing young culture, boyish-looking femmes are as womanly as Marilyn Monroe.
Rejecting fashion’s beauty standard of women as ‘coatracks’, a body shape preferred by designers because their clothes look better on the model, my best-intentioned self insults the small-breasted or very thin woman.
Evolving a Diverse Global Beauty Standard
In reality, all I want is a wide range of body shapes and sizes on the runway, from Freja Beha Erichsen to Crystal Renn. I want women healthy, with some muscle lust and able to run fast and aggressively in the game of life. We all need our mojo these days, even if we do get off the corporate treadmill.
Besides the many small-busted women living in America, fashion brands must address the reality of a large number of body shapes in the fashion-buying population.
The influx of Asian women into the global lingerie buyers lineup demands a vision of a smaller bust size. Western women — and particularly American women of non-Asian heritage — are often Amazons, standing next to Asians.
American and British women love Crystal Renn because she looks more like us. Frankly, many aren’t thrilled that Crystal Renn is eating healthy and exercising her way to a size 10 US. Renn’s positive attitude about loving her body in a wide range of sizes is spiritually and psychologically invigorating to us. The truth is that many of us like Crystal better as a ‘big girl’.
Small-busted women have a much better self image than in past decades, say the host of experts quoted by NYT. After all, a woman can’t fight what nature has given her, when the subject is breasts.The small-breasted woman make shrink at Victoria’s Secret ‘bombshell’ ads, but she’s the beautiful swan in the world of Chanel.
We all know that Karl Lagerfeld wants his women thin. His Fall 2009 words on body image continue to ring in our ears: “Fat mummies sit there in front of the television with their potato chips and say skinny models are ugly.”
The world of fashion was all about “dreams and illusions”, Lagerfeld added, concluding that no one really wanted to see overweight women. Lagerfeld has extended his remarks to Victoria’s Secret model Heidi Klum, agreeing with Wolfgang Joop who said: “Heidi Klum is no runway model. She is simply too heavy and has too big a bust. And she always grins so stupidly. That is not avant-garde - that is commercial!” via Gawker
Fashion’s dictates around beauty and body size ebb and flows. The 1920s flapper body was replaced by the 1950s more curvaceous ones. The 1980s size 4-6, busty supermodels were dumped for the last decade’s rail-thin women.
Behind the levers of this international fashion machine are men dictating a narrow vision of what women should be. She is typically one ideal, rather than a diffused vision of global beauty that includes Mother Nature’s variety of beauty in life.
With flappers predating the Great Depression and today’s small-breasted models walking the runways in a global, economic meltdown, perhaps there’s a relationship between Wall Street fantasies and fashion’s current breast fixations.
If we’re allowed to embrace the woman in the mirror, regardless of her bust size and hip dimensions, we might not spend as much money aspiring to be someone we’re not. Such a self-nurturing attitude and self-love celebration simply isn’t good for business, if the woman before us doesn’t need fixing.
What if women rebel against the dictates of fashion and branding, regardless of our bust-size? Is it conceivable that Freja Beha Erichsen joins hands with Crystal Renn, conveying an aspirational but not single-minded vision of beauty?
Can I curb my tendency to insist that women have an expressed physical sexuality, so that we line up like the naturally diverse animals in Noah’s ark — some with long necks and others with short ones?
Repopulating the World of Fashion Models
“My ideal legacy at Ford — and hopefully there will be one — would be to open up the idea of beauty not only being classic but being, you know, global. I’m just obsessed with finding these amazing creatures in all these exotic countries. I want to find girls in Egypt or Sri Lanka or India — all the places where people don’t look.” via NYMagazine
The choice of listening to Paul Rowland vs Karl Lagerfeld belongs to every woman who cares about fashion and style. Rowland’s views are music to my ears, when he says that he wants to do for Ford Models what Marc Jacobs has done for the Louis Vuitton brand.
Simply stated, although very gay, there is no doubt that Marc Jacobs is a man who loves women — consistently and year after year. Marc Jacobs is woman’s best friend. Other designers are not.
The focus of fashion today should be breathing Smart Sensuality life into a more broadly defined vision of beauty, one in which style-conscious women can aspire to maximize their natural assets, rather than hating the woman in the mirror for not being the inpossible to achieve.
Attainable aspiration is one motivation; neurotic self-loathing is another. We do not live in a world with a single Western, white vision of beauty any more.
Gorgeous women come in all shapes and bust sizes. If fashion wants to get women spending money again for real, let them begin by demonstrating that they are worthy investments of our hard-earned money.
Few of us have the discretionary income any more for fashion’s frivolity and misogynitic pleasure in reminding us of the aspirational woman we are not and never can be, no matter how much fashion we digest in our daily diet.
Being a 34A or 40DD shouldn’t be a life sentence spent repairing one’s self.
Men the Master Builders
Modern men have spent lifetimes trying to dominate Mother Nature. From building skyscrapers and rocket ships to creating the myth of Icarus, men have sought to harness the diversity of feminine nature, molding her with steel and concrete.
Fashion designers are no different from these master builders. They are just architects with a different engineering degree but always their own visions of how female principles should be improved and redefined, with discipline and linear restraint.
Let fashion designers apply the lessons of biomimicry to their own craft, as engineers and scientists are doing worldwide. Biomimicry reminds us that holistic, natural principles are the thinking person’s mantra going forward, because the linear thinkers have failed.
Having suckled billions of children worldwide, Mother Nature knows that breasts give sustenenace and pleasure both; they come in a wide variety of sizes; and under no set of elitist circumstances, does one size fit all.
Evolutionary biology is smarter than such a narrow vision of beauty and healthy humanity. If only fashion’s patriarchy could get smart, Marc Jacobs style.
An American who understands Paris but also speaks Mandarin and is a practicing Hindu just may be the next fashion god — or better yet, goddess. Personally, I can’t wait. Anne
See also today’s Crystal Renn | High Street Scorching in Britain’s Look Magazine