Curves Ahead

As an eager reader/collector of fashion magazines, I’ve realized that the world of fashion has got two big taboos – one is related to black (or non-Caucasian) models and one to size. This sounds incredible, but if you take a look at any glossy fashion magazine, you’ll realize it’s the truth: non-Caucasian models rarely appear on the cover of magazines and in editorials, and this is so much true for non-thin-stick models. As for black models, something has changed since the Seventies, when Beverly Johnson was the first black model to appear on the cover of Vogue US – think of the iconic Black issue of Vogue Italia or of the September 2009 issue of i-D magazine – but it’s not enough.

If you think about models who don’t wear a size 0, the situation is a disaster [1]. I’ve been reading fashion magazines since I was a child, and I can only remember Sophie Dahl, Crystal Renn and Cindy Crawford as famous models with real curves. Part of the Nineties was  related to the waif look and the anorexic body of Kate Moss (and of many others), and this has continued up to now. I perfectly understand the reason why designers need thin-stick models on the runway, because they actually need living hangers to show their creations, but I don’t get the reason why the same models can be found in magazines, too. I am strongly convinced that fashion is an expression of human creativity, and as such, shouldn’t it be addressed to any type of women? Moreover, wouldn’t alternative examples of beautiful (but not anorexic) models be great for the self-esteem of women and teenagers all around the world?

V Magazine has tried to give an aswer to my questions in the spring 2010 Size issue, with some gorgeous editorials focused on the size of models. Some photoshoots are honestly creepy – Barrio Gotico by Sebastian Faena, for example, starring the scarily skinny Iris Strubegger) – but others are sublime. Apart from One Size Fits All by Terry Richardson, featuring the heavenly Crystal Renn and Jacquelyn Jablonski, my attention has been caught by Curves Ahead, shot by the Norwegian photographer Sølve Sundsbø and styled by Nicola Formichetti [2], at the moment my favourite stylist.

The protagonists of most shots are Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine, Michelle Olson and Marquita Pring. I love the style of the images, reminiscent of Richard Avedon’s work for many Versace campaigns. The setting is kept bare – the models pose in front of a neutral background – to let the girls do the talking – and there is an extensive use of a wind machine, which in my mind is immediately connected to the Eighties. In the shot above, the models all wear denim clothes – skinny jeans, a vest and a jacket – and they all look fabulous.


Omg, it’s so weird to see models (in this case, Candice Huffine and Tara Lynn) with real curves and with potbellies! Weird but refreshing. I love this shot because the make-up of the models is flawless; their thick and arched eyebrows and their wavy hair scream Eighties.

Michelle Olson is portrayed in black and white, wearing an Agent Provocateur Marie satin corset.

Tara Lynn is so beautiful in this black and white shot, where she’s wearing a striped bodysuit and stacked bangles.

This picture is one of my favourite: Candice Huffine is wearing a Gucci strapless swimsuit and platform sandals (both from the s/s 2010 collection). If you compare Candice to Lindsay Ellingson, the model who wore the same swimsuit on the catwalk, you’ll realize what I have written at the beginning of the post: designers don’t need women on the runway, but just walking hangers, who can show sample clothes at their best. The pose of the model is gorgeous, I love how she grasps the heel of the sandal, very sexy.

Marquita Pring is absolutely statuesque in this black and white shot. Her legs are stunning, so long and well-rounded.

The blonde model Kasia P is featured in this shot only, where she’s wearing Agent Provocateur Iona leopard-print bodysuit and Fendi bow peep-toe pumps. Her doll-like features are enhanced by smokey eyes and a neutral make-up on lips and cheeks.

Tara Lynn poses in all her naked glory, wearing strappy sandals and gold jewellery only. This shot reminds me the famous portrait that David La Chapelle took of make-up artist Sharon Gault, naked under a plastic cupola. Sølve Sundsbø’s approach is less dramatic, but the shot is still impressive.

Candice Huffine and Michelle Olson pose together for this last shot. Michelle is wearing a beautiful Herve Leger bright blue bandage swimsuit, which looks gorgeous on her.

Before closing the post, just a couple of thoughts about this editorial: in most of the reviews of Curves Ahead I’ve read so far, it is stated that the plus-size [3] models’ trend is exactly a trend, destined to have its rise and fall and to fade away. For some twisted reason – they say – photographers and fashion journalists think these models are trendy, but they will soon get tired of them, retreating to the reassuring thin-stick models. I don’t know if V Magazine has produced the Size issue just for boosting the sales and to give the fashion world something to talk about, but I hope this somehow will break the wall of racism and hypocrisy in the fashion iconography, and will establish a new – and democratic – reference point for women all around the world.

[1] I can only remind Love issue featuring a naked Beth Ditto as the only magazine which has chosen a non-thin model for its cover.

[2] He’s is the mind behind Lady GaGa’s outrageous style. I’m so proud of him, because he’s in part Italian!

[3] This definition is interesting, because it is certainly related to the 0 size of most models. I think most of the women out there – who wear 44 and 46 sizes in average – are not plus-size, but just real women.

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16 comments

  1. a bit offtopic :
    I still dont get why men say they love curves but then, they date the skinny girls. Maybe its just the people around me but I do tend to see lots of boys trying to pool the skinny girl and ditching the chubbier one. I mean, Im not talking about the fatties and uglies just, a little bit curvier. They dont get picked that often even though men always say “Oh I love boobs, I hate bones” yeah, my arse!
    It is a fact that In England girls are bigger then we are here in Italy, but its not a problem cos boys do tend to like bigger girls better THERE. But HERE, no way. And its a shame. When I lived over there, there was no pressure whatsoever, everyone went out drinkind and eating without thinkin “oh dear, do I get fat by eating this?”, here all I hear from girls is “oh my, Im gettin fatter. Oh no cant eat that!”, and they are all thin as hell ofcourse. its sad and depressing.
    Nevetheless I can understand why they are always on a diet, cos when they go out, boys go for the skinny one in skinny jeans and little arse and stick legs. And dont tell me it aint true.
    Im a size 8 (38-40italian) and still people(boys, italian) have said to me “I reckon you should loose some weight. your hips are too big” or said something like ” are you seriously eating that aswell?” . what?? Are you insane? do you really think I should be on a diet?? Bollocks.
    italian men are all wankers. sorry for the rant, I just had to let it out.

    1. What you write is quite alarming, in my opinion. I’ve really had no idea that young men actually give so much importance to weight and I am so disgusted by what some of these boys told you! This is the reason why the girls you refer to starve and eat as less as possible: they want to look good and desiderable for the boys, but they don’t understand the idea of women these boys have in mind is absolutely twisted and out of this world. I mean: I’m sure their reference points are the “showgirls” on tv and the models in magazines, but those are exceptions, not the rule. Thank God we still don’t live in a world of mannequins!

      According to my experience, men actually love women with some curves and for sure they don’t give so much importance to the weight, but note that I’m 35 years old, I don’t live in a big city and I don’t have a frantic social life, so the social pressure on me is reduced to zero. I’ve never had issues with my 42/44 size, because I’ve always thought my mind is more important than my body, and I’ve dumped all the boys who thought the contrary, but I know it is not easy to resist the pressure coming from society.

  2. yeah well teresa, it isnt just an opinion on mine, it is reality.period.
    I swear I know an awful lot of girls who starve cos boys they like want skinny legs and small arses. which is pathetic. but still, true.
    AND it is a fact that what I see is boys drooling over thin girls, just because they are thin and they can wear those super cool jeans and those super tight tshirt. I kid you not. what makes me furious is that we are not even talking about fat girls. a size 44 ( like a 12 in the UK) here is considered fat, which means ugly. please please believe me that isnt just the world Im living in, my collegues or people I know. what Ive noticed is that a body shape in particuar, like the one jennifer lopez (or shakira) has, you know pear shape, is being seeing as awful. both by men and women. seriously. If you think that for me Liv tyler is one of the most beautiful human being EVER, and for most of the people I know shes too chubby. its insane.
    when I lived in the UK girls who were a size 14 or even bigger, didnt give a damn about it. they went out, dressed up nice, and had fun. I dont know why Im using the past, cos they still DO have fun. here what I see is girls perfectly fine covering themselves or starving, being on a diet, going running everyday to loose weight. I dont like this. really, I dont. I hate it with a passion. Mainly cos in some level is affecting me. Being constantly surrounded by girls thinking about food and weight and loosing that weight and boys saying “whoa, look at that girls ass, shes fat” it is not healthy. Ive tried to make my point, bt noone really understand.

    one of the reason why I hate being back to Italy.
    oh I wish I could find a job in the UK, or the US (Ive been there aswell and they are way more relaxed then us about weight too) and leave.
    Once I ve overheard a conversation between two boys that went like (and Im writing it in italian )”oh maguarda quella! che culo ha??! fossi in lei me ne sarei stato a casa, chi se la scopa! ” and the other ” minchia quella si che è figa. culetto piccolo sodo, seni duri, perfetta”. and I was not in a nightclub, somewhere “naughty”.
    Oh boy, I was not. I was in one of those “pretentious club” on a friday night here in Milan. one of those places I hate but oh well it was a friends bday party so I had to go. and those 2 talking were like 30-35ish..not even teenagers. twats. sorry for swearing 😛

    this world is sick. they all say they like a size 42 44 but then they all go out with a size 36 38. now that makes sense innit.
    0.o

    1. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think what you say is an opinion of yours, I totally believe you and I am amazed/disgusted by what you tell me. At the same time, my experience tells me something different.

      Of course all the men I know like beautiful women, but they have a different idea of what being beautiful means. The boys you’re talking about care about their image and the image of the people around them, I can even venture in saying that image comes first for them. I can also assume they are sexist, because they see women as sexual objects only (the conversation you overheard is clear: a woman goes out just to hook someone to have sex with).

      It would be interesting to know if they say this because they truly believe it or because they just conform to the feminine model they see on tv and on magazines. They are conformist, they feel safe only if they think and act like the rest of the herd, but – I repeat – it would be interesting to know if the true woman of their dreams is thin-stick or curvy.

      This is a complicated topic, because it is related to social pressures and conventions, to self-consciousness and self-esteem, to the unattainable dream of being forever young (a thin-stick and model-like woman makes a man feel like younger and sexier). I agree with you on the fact that people in the US and in UK are much more relaxed about the weight issue and I think they feel more comfortable in their bodies than the rest of the Italians.

      As for the girls who starve, I don’t approve their behaviour, but I understand their reasons. The media world is domined by young, beautiful and thin (and airbrushed) women, and this is an unrealistic model. Girls who actually feel different from the rest of the herd, who don’t want to conform to the conventional idea of beauty/fashion, don’t have a popular alternative model to turn to. For this reason, they (the 44-46 sizes, the ones who don’t wear trendy clothes, the ones who don’t like clubbing and drinking and doing drugs, the ones who are not slutty….and so on) soon become the outcasts and retreat into their worlds, where they can hopefully find other outcasts to befriend with. I have been an outcast myself, the one odd out, the one with the blue hair and the holes in her shoes, the one with small boobs and big booty, the one with old-fashioned clothes on, the one with the fake bindhi on her forehead, the one who always stayed home because she had no friends who asked her out. When I was a teenager, I tried to conform to the rules, but I didn’t make it, because I knew I couldn’t become who I wasn’t. I think these girls who desperately want to be thin to be an attractive bait for boys should stop and ask themselves who they really are and what they really want, but maybe someone should provide them with examples of imperfect women (aren’t we all imperfect?) who have used their flaws to become unique. It takes guts to break free from what others want us to be, but sooner or later (maybe in their 30s or 40s) they’re going to realize you can’t live with such conditioning forever.

    1. I’m really surprised to hear that the country that gave us Sophia Loren would now call her fat. Isabella, come to the States if you can, and until then, tack up a few pictures of Sophia and Bettie Page, look at them every day and act the part of a curvy diva until it comes naturally. It’s what I did after a bad ex-boyfriend damaged my self-image, and I am like a new woman! I’ve never, ever, seen women bigger than myself held up as glamorous and sexy in a fashion photo shoot and it makes me feel fantastic. I have always been proud that I was tall, healthy, curvy, and strong, independently of what popular culture said. I just assumed that most of the trendy, fashionable styles that came around every season would be unflattering on me, so I started dressing more like women did in the 1940s and 1950s and it paid off… my boyfriend’s idea of the perfect woman is Marilyn Monroe and he drools over my big, round ass. I think the really amazing thing about these photos is that the women look stunning while they’re refusing to conceal soft rolls of flesh or (excuse the expression) muffin top, things that are usually a source of ridicule. Imagine if they were dressed in body-skimming dresses and heels, turtlenecks and pencil skirts, and completely covered. Dressed like that, their smoldering sensuality ought to make any man who saw them so wild with lust that once he got their clothes off, their weight and measurements would be the last thing on his mind. Any man who wouldn’t have to pick his jaw up off the ground has been badly damaged by popular culture’s adolescent beauty standard and deserves the misery of trying to enjoy skinny, looks-obsessed little bundles of nerves and bone as best he can.

      1. I TOTALLY agree with what you’ve written. I perfectly know the damages to self-esteem a bad ex-boyfriend can do (I had the same experience as you had), but everything can be wiped out if you just realize who you are and accept yourself as a person, not only as a piece of meat to show to the outer world.

        I love the 40s/50s style and I think it is perfect for curvy women! I feel the same when I look around and realize the current trends have nothing to do with me; for this reason, my style is a mix of 70s/90s/grungy fashion, the only one I really feel comfortable in.

        As for Sofia Loren’s native country’s obsession with image and weight, well, I must admit it’s true. Italians are more and more obsessed by weight issues, aesthetic surgery, plastic surgery and so on. Just think our 73-year-old Prime Minister pretends to be a young boy…

  3. I completely agree with English girls being bigger (and taller) and completely at ease with it.

    Italy is such an aesthetic (couldn’t find a better word) country. Think about it: “la bella figura” is untranslatable in other languages. It is a phrase so peculiar of our culture.

    However, my husband, who is English, thinks these girls are beautiful but fat, not curvy… We kinda had an argument about it and ended up agreeing that we disagree.

    It is a fact that the average woman size is 44/46. But then it all depends on your structure, doesn’t it? If you are 180cm with solid bone structure, then you can be a size 44/46 (or above) and look great. If you are 158cm you can easily be a size 38 and look fab without looking anorexic…

    P.S. Great post, Terry. x

  4. The issue has nothing to do with curves and what boys / men like. The issue here is that these women are overweight / obese. Guys who want curvy women don’t necessarily want overweight girls. Yes thin women have curves too and generally thinner legs are actually more shapely than thicker legs.

    1. I don’t agree with you. Have you ever been obese or have you ever seen one? I can assure you they are not obese! I can agree on the fact that they are fat, but being obese is something completely different.

      Oh, of course men have their own tastes and I’m not judging them. They may want thin-stick girls (like Isabella wrote) or curvy women (who are usually considered fat, guess why), or even overweight girls by their side, it all depends on their tastes and on the importance they give to physical shape and appearance.

  5. I do not favour any of the sides, i don;t like super skinny girls, but i also don’t agree with the promotion that is done through this editorial…I’m sorry, the fact that most women look like this does not make it normal…I live in Romania…and here the majority of women are a size 6, 8 or 10…Maybe it’s because we are a poor country, but these are the facts. I hate it when i read on blogs that the majority of women are curvy, and that that image should be pushed forward. In America, almost half the children are obese. Is this also supposed to be normal because there are a lot of them??I am sorry for all the women who feel they are offended by the pictures of skinny women and models… In my view they shouldn’t feel like that…Again, I apologise if anyone is offended, but when i shop….there are pretty big clothes out there…I mean if a curvy woman wants to buy an item, she should be able to buy one…I for one, am very tiny, I am 5 ft 1, and in my childhood i had a big complex about this… It is not my choice, and I couldn’t do anything about it, and I still feel pretty bad when i can’t look someone in the eye because they are too tall, and maybe i should feel bad because all the models are so tall…But i don’t. It’s what nature gave to them, and they gave something to me too, i shouldn’t be bitter about it…
    Plus these photos are great, but isn’t the whole purpose of them to show REAL women? Are you telling me they are not at all photoshopped??

  6. Also I have a lot of friends that are ashamed of being to thin. This complex also exists and maybe people are not aware of this…And some guys do reject girls for being too skinny or too small(happened to me). This is life, everyone gets rejected at least once… I personally don’t think it it about weight or beauty, but about personality and most of all about CONFIDENCE!if a guy senses you are selfconscious about one of your flaws, he will start feeling it more strongly… my opinion

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