There’s some kind of revolution going on and it’s caused by you and me and the wonderful world of the World Wide Web.
Curvy is in. And I mean IN. Vogue Italia, the coolio of cool in the fashion world has released a new website with a section called Vogue Curvy, a showcase for larger models and validation to readers who don’t conform to the skinny ideal. It isn’t perfect, in that most of the plus sized models featured are not plus sized in the real world (but that shows you how unreal the media world is!), but they do have flesh on their bodies, which is a step forward.
It’s not the first time this has happened. I remember over a decade ago (1997) when I wrote a feature for the Telegraph about how glad I was that Vogue had started using bigger models.
Here it is, with a picture of Sophie Dahl before she skinnied up:
Pictures of a then size 14 Sophie were all over the UK media. But it wasn’t just about her – magazines such as Elle, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and even men’s mags GQ and Esquire were using big girls as models. Normal women started to feel hope that the ‘lose weight’ hypnosis might come to an end and there was an excitement in the idea that women might be able to stop feeling like we were somehow wrong.
But the big girl trend didn’t last more than half a year. It turned out to be flash in the pan. All the women over a size 8 who had started to feel a glimmer of hope retreated back into hiding (and the biscuit tin). But the hunger for validation was still there. And it’s only now, with the Internet, that ordinary people can become very shouty and insistent about what they want. It’s only now that the mainstream media has to follow behind rather than lead the way.
These days thousands upon thousands of websites and blogs are dedicated to healthy body image. Normal sized women all over the UK and the US are fighting back and defying the media ideal. In what has become a wave of a kind of ‘new feminism’, we are demanding to be accepted as beautiful and normal – something that has been denied to larger women and girls for four decades.
The numbers of these healthy body image websites are growing so fast that the mainstream media has go no choice but to follow. The glossy fashion mags and the newspapers and TV will follow suit but they will pretend to be the leaders of the new way, of course, with this ‘curvy is in’ trend. Even though we will all snigger behind their backs knowing that we led the way. But this mass media turnaround will make a big difference because it’s a feedback loop and it will influence the thoughts and opinions of the people who don’t use the internet and people who aren’t aware of this backlash.
The Vogue Italia Curvy site is great. But if you get tempted to feel any humble gratitude to Vogue remember that the real heroines are the army of Internet blogging queens who are using technology to bring the women’s movement alive again in a brand spanking new and updated form. It’s admirable, even if I say so myself!
Also remember that the media is run by big business advertisers whose existence depends on you feeling dissatisfied, so there’s going to be a war.
PS: Click here to find a fascinating video of Sophie Dahl ‘The Early Days’ from the 1990s. Interestingly, she was much more famous when she was bigger.