Friday, 20 August 2010


"Unlike models, most twenty-somethings are not tall and are most definitely not reed thin." Just one of the glaringly obvious yet at the same time so often forgotten - both by us when we are beating ourselves up on a fat day, and by the fashion industry at large - truths "exposed" by Robin Givhan in the article, A New Femininity in September issue of ELLE UK. Anyone else read this article? Thoughts?

See this is why, in my Masters interview, when asked what was my favourite magazine, my answer was UK ELLE. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the desired answer they were looking for, but it's the truth nonetheless. Simple, well-thought out, intelligent and insightful articles, often touching, seldom patronising (Marie Claire) and free from high-fashion jargon (Vogue).

In this particular article, Givhan rejoices at the long awaited move away from the "preening rock n roll youngster with her self-conscious need to sparkle and shock" - for which she uses the example of Balmain with its jewel-encrusted, shoulder-padded, bum-skimming mini dresses which saddens me slightly as I adore Balmain, but I can see the point she's making - to the image and ideology of The Woman and Womanly Beauty.

Perhaps, she continues, this was most obvious in the AW10 collections of Prada and Louis Vuitton:

Prada Fall RTW AW2010

Louis Vuitton Fall RTW AW2010

What Givhan is getting at is that neither skinny waif-like adolescents NOR grossly overweight models represent this new Womanly Beauty. Rather the new ideal woman has breasts, hips and a killer waist and can work a full fitted skirt with the kind of slammin' strut that takes years and experience to perfect. Sexy in a demure jacket suit, yet not "sexed-up" in one of the flashier rock n roll dresses of previous AW seasons (namely Balmain), the new Woman is sophisticated, often older (Elle McPherson who is a veteran of the industry looked Amazon-like at LV) and has grown into her curves. Surely this message is a positive one for all us twenty somethings who aren't 5ft 11 and reed thin. Surely this type of aspirational beauty is a healthier and more achievable alternative to the androgynous skinny 17 -year-old cardboard cut out that has plagued the runway for so long?

Looking back at the AW10 collections on, it seems to me that the waifs were there on the catwalk as usual of course, but they were interspersed with the curvier, older, sexier and more beautiful models without the type of fuss that a whole show of purely plus sized models would have created (take heed Mark Fast.) And ultimately, according to Givhan and I would have to agree, the normality of the Woman on the catwalk has signalled a quiet but very definite shift in the relationship between fashion and the female body. Like she says, the spectacle of real Women strutting down the catwalk with girls half their age and with half their curves seems to say, "look how fabulous ALL of you can look."

Which is perhaps one of the main reasons there has been so much discussion about this shift in focus. But why do we ALL care so much these days about what models look like? Why should we, the ordinary woman on the street, care about high fashion since it is a world so few of us ever experience? Well, says Givhan, this gulf between the everywoman and fashion is closing daily:

"Between reality television and bloggers, Topshop and H&M, everyone has access to fashion. Fashion is no longer this rarified world that can operate with impunity. Average folks feel comfortable taking designers to task for their oversights or insults. And designers would do well to understand that, no matter what they might think, they're no longer speaking a secret language to the initiated. We are all invested in fashion.

Let the revolution roll on."

*In 2006 Robin Givhan became the first fashion writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

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