I feel I need to begin by telling the truth: I am a woman who is 5′-3″ tall, and I generally wear a size 4. I do not, however, think of myself as thin. I look in the mirror and see a curvy lady. Petite, but curvy.
I love fashion (in my former life I was a Hollywood wardrobe stylist) and I’ve been known to stare at the fall and spring shows on style.com for hours. I understand the concept of sample sizes and why models are what they are. Of course, as a self-proclaimed “curvy girl” (and obvious Christina Hendricks worshiper) I frequently examine looks for what they are: impossible for me to wear with a bra, or will never cover my ass. I get that designers are limited only by their own creativity, but it would be nice to see some examples of clothes I could actually wear every once in a while.
But then, last Friday, something happened. The June cover and feature spread of Vogue Italia (NSFW) started popping up all over the internet. It was stunning, and sexy—simultaneously flawless yet raw photographs of real, curvy women taken by Steven Meisel splashed quickly from the fashion blogs to mainstream media. And despite the lack of real clothes (it would be remiss of me not to mention that the shoot was pure editorial—and by “pure editorial” I mean semi-nude/lingerie, hence the NSFW) I was thrilled to see some gorgeous, confident, non-straight-bodied women in such a place of honor.
Six-foot-tall, size 12/14 Australian model Robyn Lawley, just recently appeared on the cover of French Elle for their “Shape Issue.” Ford + models Tara Lynn (5′-9″, size 14/16) and Candace Huffine (5′-11″, size 12/14) rounded out the trio. Tara Lynn actually graced the Shape Issue of French Elle a year earlier than Lawley. The reason these two covers didn’t cause a sensation in mainstream news? Three reasons, actually, and two out of the three are kind of sad:
1. Designated “Shape Issues” make it “okay” for a non-sample-size model to be the face of the issue. Separate is not equal here, people.
2. Elle is not Vogue. While a perfectly reputable magazine, historically, Elle isn’t exactly the juggernaut of fashion journalism that Vogue has been and continues to be.
3. (And here’s the key) They weren’t naked in Elle.
There will always be people who complain that women, not just “plus-size” (debate over what is and is not plus-size non-withstanding), are too sexually exploited. People that bemoan the horrors of sexy selling, that the fashion industry isn’t doing enough to embrace the beauty of multi-sized women, that the entertainment industry, especially American entertainment industry, just doesn’t get it. Those people do have a point. But because they’re so wrapped up in the negative, they’re neglecting the positive. That photographs like the one on the cover of June Vogue Italia, though disappointing in their rarity, have an impact. They remind the public at-large that fashion and photography at their cores, are still art forms; that not only do women come in various shapes, but that they can be healthy even when not industry-standard slim; and that curves are beautiful, too.