Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Body Images

I have had trouble with Marie Claire before. In fact, there are times when I think I am just plain stupid for not ending my free subscription. Other times I am sort of glad that I get great rant material once a month, for free! This time I would love to hear your opinions about Ashley Falcon, Marie Claire's plus-sized fashion columnist. At 5"2 and 220 pounds, she is certainly not your typical fashion writer. She has had her own column with US Marie Claire since August last year, and ever since I have tried to figure out what I think about the whole thing.

Falcon's monthly contribution is titled "A Big Girl in a Skinny World". As Marie Claire tends to portray itself as the magazine for women with brains (or in their words, "more than just a pretty face") it was to be expected for them to hire a fashion stylist who does not fall into the regular bracket of "be-skinny-or-else". I certainly couldn't envision Vogue doing anything of the sort. As important as it is to widen the scope of body images that are featured in magazines, there is something about Falcon's column that rubs me the wrong way. Actually, it is not her, it is the rest of the magazine.

The latest issue of Marie Claire has 244 pages. Only one page is dedicated to their mission to pretend to care about women's body image - that of Ashley Falcon's, who is obese. Okay, they have their monthly spread where normal women tell us about what they like about themselves, but I don't think I have ever seen any of those normal women look fat or have acne. I don't know, perhaps it is necessary to start with just that one page. Perhaps it is awfully naive of me to think that they could do more at this stage of the game. For me, the magazine would seem so much more sincere in their mission to change the industry if they at least featured the occasional plus-sized or petite model in their editorials (which they don't) or gave more pages to the people off the street. Just that one column out there, I feel that the rest of the magazine screams "Look, we have the guts to show a fat girl on our pages..! And these are the clothes she can't fit into!" I don't know, perhaps I am cynical. Perhaps I shouldn't expect anything from a magazine that fills its pages with a story about a woman who gave her husband a threesome for his birthday.

What do you think? Is Ashley Falcon's column a start of something good, or does it only underline the sad state of the fashion industry? Does Falcon give Marie Claire more street-cred, or is she too heavy to be considered a role model for women who are not size 0?



Eyeliah said...

It's all about extremes, very thin or obese. what about the rest of us in the middle? This is a big part of why I am thankful for personal style blogs, real people are far more inspiring.

Karenina said...

My issue with this woman is that she isn't "curvy" or "voluptuous"; she's clinically obese. No one with a BMI or body fat index like that should be held up as a body-type roll model, because it is simply unhealthy. One third of Americans are already overweight; what is going to happen if we start to condone 200 pound women as "normal"?
If this woman actually put some thought into her health and her future, she would lose some weight and become reasonable. No one is fashionable when they are dead of heart disease.

joelle van dyne said...

i am totally with you on marie clare- the whole 'look at our token plus-sized writer!' thing is kind of lame. i mean, i think her column is interesting- it's nothing against the writer personally- it's the magazine. if they really cared about featuring 'normal' women of all shapes and sizes, they'd just DO so and not have to talk about it. i would love it if magazines started featuring women from all ends of the weight AND ethnicity spectrum so we wouldn't even notice it anymore.. ~joelle

jesse.anne.o said...

I have seen one or two of these and it stuck in my mind. The same sort of reasoning - go ahead and stick her out there to talk about how difficult it is but don't really offer to try to change things, MC. It reminds me of yearbook signings - "Keep in touch! Don't ever change!"

On the flipside, they would need designers to give them sample sizes that fit women who are not typical model sizes, and who is going to be the first to volunteer to do that?

Anonymous said...

Karenina, the title is BIG GIRL, it's not normal girl, the name says it. I agree that she is stuck there all by herself but I think it can be a start. I also think that is not all about the magazine's fault but the fashion industry itself. Not that I'm defending the magazine, I just want to give another point of view. Another thing, I've seen normal weight girls in the mag, not modeling the clothes, but in the other articles I've seen girls with normal weight.

NYC Fashionista said...

I know exactly what you mean about Marie Claire! The heavy topics (such as female genital mutilation) covered in such a frustratingly light and superficial way. I have a paid subsciption, but it's only $10 a year, so not a big deal..and I do subscribe to several other mags as well. I think it is good though that they feature the big girl column. But certainly they could do more about featuring normal weight girls in the editorias.

vesperbeauty said...

It's a token acknowledgement that means nothing. Plus, they put her in insanely unflattering clothing. As someone who has been around the same measurements, you can definitely look attractive in clothing. Leggings and pencil skirts are mean to overweight girls.

Karenina - these magazines already promote an unhealthy ideal: being skin-and-bones thin. Models aren't fashionable when they OD on cocaine or literally starve themselves to death, either.

a cat of impossible colour said...

I agree with Eyeliah. I wish they would represent some of the people in the middle, who aren't one extreme or the other. I'm 5'4" and weigh 57kg ... I'm pretty much bang in the middle of average! And yet I don't see people like me in the fashion magazines.

The Waves said...

Thanks so much everyone, for commenting!

Eyeliah: you are so right, what is it with extremes that attracts fashion so? Hmm, perhaps a post about this might be in order!

Karenina: very true, the fashion world is full of unhealthy images already. The last thing we need is to celebrate more extremism.

joelle: Amen!

jesse.anne.o: spot on re: sample sizes. I have been trying to figure out who should change first within the industry (designers, magazines, retailers?). If we are talking about an industry that is interested in making money, we are going to have to deal with mass markets. Shapeless 0 sizes require less fabric and less work, but what escapes me is the reasoning behind the link of 0 size and the appeal to the mass market. I guess the change has to come from the market then. If we destroyd the link between portrayal of clothes in a certain way (on 0 size models) and consumerism, we would force the industry to change.

Anon.: I guess to some extent we should welcome any change that threatens the one-size-fits-all framework. I should flip through the magazine more carefully, perhaps I just haven't noticed the normal girls in it, which, if true, is really alarming! The last thing I want to do is NOT notice if normal girls are featured in fashion magazines! I do wish they were featured in fashion editorials though, and not just articles!

NYC Fashionista: Thanks for your recent comments, it is nice to hear from another fellow Finn living in the US! I struggle with Marie Claire because I quite like their take on the fashion, but find their oh-so-societally-and-politically-motivated articles disturbing.

vesperbeauty: I was considering writing about how unflattering the columnist's clothes often appears to me, but not knowing too much about body-type-related dressing, I decided not to. But I agree - clingy tricot, leggings and ankle boots just don't look right on her.

cat: yep, you've got it. This whole thing about the extremes is worrisome.