The Knot

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fashion's Big Deal

Left: French model Tara Lynn

Tara Lynn is a French size 48. That translates to size 20 in Australian women's clothing sizes, size 16 in US sizing and, according to the international size charts on the fashion website, it's simply size XXXL. In anyone's language it tips the top of fashion's Richter scale and is usually enough to frighten off most designers.

Despite her extraordinary beauty a woman like Lynn rarely gets a look-in when it comes to fashion's elite, which is why France's leading weekly women's magazine ELLE caused a stir amongst fashionistas this week when Lynn appeared on the cover, wearing an Hermes jumpsuit no less. She also features in an extraordinary fashion shoot inside that mostly disguises her size from being the focal point - apart from a beautiful image of a naked Lynn that is reminiscent of the Venus of Willendorf.

Left: March 26 cover of ELLE France with covergirl Tara Lynn

It's ELLE magazine's Curvy Issue and that's the justification for Lynn as covergirl. It's a bizarre concept the Special-Issue-featuring-covergirl-as exception-to-the-rule. Rather than inviting plus-size fashion into its stylish world, the magazine excludes curvy fashion from its regular weekly line-up by interrupting the program with a special event. If Valérie Toranian (Editor, Elle France) is serious about doing anything more than publishing the equivalent of an upscale freak show for undernourished women to point and snigger at, then this issue will mark the beginning of a beautiful relationship between ELLE France and women of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps that is the intent for future issues. Keep an eye out.

Twitterer @curvesmart has called on US Vogue editor Anna Wintour to start using larger size models too. But what would happen if she did? Would fashion magazine consumers stick with US Vogue if it featured heavier women as models or would they dump the title and jump ship to a leaner Harper's Bazaar?

At their very best magazines are created to attract the maximum number of people sharing a particular style and interest. So what if the majority of fashionistas aspire to be thin? Perish the thought, burn the very idea at the post or accept that all women are in fact different and that includes our aspirations and our shape. It may be politically incorrect that fashionistas prefer to see Miranda Kerr wearing Gucci than Tara Lynn wearing Hermes, but it's not a crime.

I am all for embracing the idea that women need to start seeing role models of all shapes and sizes but the fashion world needn't be made to shoulder that burden alone. Film and television reach more female eyeballs than fashion magazines so perhaps we need to be calling for plus-size female actors to do more than make reality TV shows.

Let's not be token with such a cultural shifting issue. And let's not adopt the politically correct stance publicly about matters we have no intention of supporting privately and with our own money. We need to challenge our own institutional commitment before we can ever hope to see fashion magazines featuring plus-size models increasing in circulation month-in, month-out.

Photo Source: ELLE France March 26, 2010

Photographer: David Oldham
Sets/Production: Nora Bordjah
Hair: Alessandro Rebbechi
Makeup: Jurgen Braun
Manicure: Elsa Deslande