We all have heard the fact that Marilyn Monroe, the biggest sex symbol and movie star of her time was a voluptuous size 12. There are always blogs online and in fashion magazines that speak about embracing your curves, loving your body, if Marilyn Monroe can do it so can you. Usually ads like this come right after an airbrushed photo of a star that is nowhere near a 35-22-35, but rather a skinny, Jessica Alba or Halle Berry size zero.
So why do we iconize size zeros? Why do women on Americas that look extraordinarily average size have to model as “plus sized”? Why have our James Bond girls, the sex icons of their times rapidly decreased in size?
The answer goes back to the comments that Struken and Cartwright state, that beauty is not about a single image but rather is about our cultural preferences, and sadly our pop culture has influenced us to think that the skinnier the prettier.
This is not to say that this cultural preference will not change in the future, cultural preferences do certainly change, look at the size we thought was beautiful 50 years ago and what is “beautiful” now. The question I pose is not whether it will change, fashion is in constant change. My question is how can we speed up the progression of the movement away from stick skinny, and how can we remind our pre-teen and teenage girls that a size two after she hits puberty may not be achievable by everyone. And that is okay.
Before delving into the progression we are making, it is valid to look at where these concepts of lean beauty are derived from. The debate over does media influence us or do we influence the media as discussed in class, can be vividly seen in the imagery of beauty in size. The media certainly feeds us images of unattainable stars in the their 40s like Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie who still manage to fit into a slinky single digit dress, but in the medias defense. We love it. We eat up the skinnier is better ideology and highlight stars that fit this category.
I looked up the teaser for People Magazine’s: Most Beautiful People of 2010, and found that out of the 9 women shown, the closest one to even maybe be “curvy” was Jennifer Lopez, coming in at a whopping size six. The rest, including Jennifer Aniston as seen below, accentuate my point that beauty is a size two.
Another more obvious example of how we, especially young ladies, get the idea that beauty in fashion is all about small sizes is from America’s Next Top Model. This hit reality TV show is centered around 10-14 girls that compete for a modeling contract and spread in a fashion magazine. The show just completed its 15th “cycle”, and out of 15 seasons, 184 ladies, there was just one single plus sized winner, barely a size 12 at that.
Whitney Thompson won the show in season 10, yes it took 10 seasons to get a plus sized winner, and the model has avidly worked to educate young women about being beautiful, no matter what size. According the Huffington Post, Thompson told a journalist, “…I don’t think it’s fair for especially children and younger girls to see the airbrushed images and think like, oh that’s what I’m supposed to look like, or that’s what beautiful is, because that’s what the fashion industry tells them.”
Above is an image of the “plus sized” winner Whitney Thompson, (far left). Compared to the two finalists on the right, Thompson looks proportionally larger, but it is our pop culture that has ionized the two on the right as the perfect more beautiful size.
To further point out the reality of small sizes being valued as the beauty norm, Thompson explained in her interview that in the modeling world, size six can be considered plus sized anything above six is always plus sized and size four is still often too big to be booked. Our sense of what is average, what is even attainable for most people, has been greatly skewed by the fashion industry.
Although it seems to me a sad reality we iconize these tiny wasted women as beautiful, it is the reality of the matter. Luckily for future generations, slowly we are starting to watch as full figured and still beautiful women such as Thompson, Jordin Sparks, Kim Kardashian, Queen Latifa and others speaking out about healthy body images. These leaders strive to push the limits that a women can be beautiful and not fit into a size two dress, and as these image of beauty become more en vogue maybe we can start to take this obsession with tiny wasted ladies out of the fashion spotlight.
And just maybe with our full figured ladies pushing to the front of fashion trends we can step away from the likes of Halle Berry’s, albeit great, tiny body as an image of pure beauty, and see some more images like this 1960s James Bond girl, not just as plus sized models but as the central image of what is truly beautiful.