Friday, May 7, 2010

Myths and Models

The local designers of Australian Fashion Week have decided to avoid showcasing any full figured beauties on the catwalk this year. Unlike the year before, where a number of plus-size models were hired for the prestigious event, the runway this week was graced with the usual parade of waif-like women and effeminate men, with irritated designers forced to defend their selections to the foreseeable storm of criticism. The situation follows the nation’s exhausting debate surrounding fashion models and body image.

The curvaceous woman has for centuries been regarded as the uncontested object of sensual desire. From the Rubenesque goddesses of classical art to the voluptuous temptresses of glossy men’s magazines, ample breasts and plump hips are with little doubt the deadliest assets a woman can have. The typical fashion model however offers something different. With striking features and a seemingly otherworldly essence, the fashion model contains the necessary ingredients required to promote a particular lifestyle and more importantly, to sell a particular product (in this case, wildly overpriced garments). I admit I depend on zero statistics in the following statement, but I am quite comfortable to assume that a man, in his more private occupations, is more likely to pick up his issue of Playboy than your issue of Harper’s Bazaar. I would also guess that that a woman would prefer the broader, more masculine affections of the workers fixing the roads outside her home to the timorous, elf-like qualities male models seem to be exhibiting in recent shows.

The slaves of fashion claim that there is no room for “real” women on the catwalk, and commercially speaking perhaps this is true. But one thing is certain: women (and men) should definitely not look to the runway for their examples of beauty.


  1. So true, thanks for bringing that up CSR. Why is it that high fashion is so unfashionable? These people look foolish to me. Oh well.

    Today's guest bloggers are Lisa and Laura Roecker!

  2. I totally agree with you... why do men have to look like women and wear very effeminate clothes to consider themselves trendy !? But let's not forget that things are moving on and changing, like with Sophie Dahl who sizes a 42. Mentalities are slowly evolving in this very "select" club. :)

  3. It bothers me that the male and female models these days are so androgenous. Are we not supposed to look like men and women? It creeps me out.

    The truth is, the fashion world is ruled by a bunch of very shallow, very foolish people with more money than brains and they go with whatever drug induced fantasies they can think up. I ignore the whole fiasco for the most part.


  4. I'm not sure that I agree with the conclusion of this article, actually. Beauty and sex appeal are two quite different things. Beauty appeals to our sense of form, our concept of symmetry and perfection. Beauty is supposed to reference a universal ideal, while the lustful or erotic appeal of sexual objects is based on the nuance of differences in the ideal human form.

    If everyone looked like these models, the world would be a very unerotic place. But through the androgynous and delicate human forms represented by the models that we observe on catwalks and billboards, we are better able to lust after imperfection and imagine the reasons for its appeal: Marilyn Monroe's beauty mark; the way a voluptuous woman or muscular man feels in bed.

    The androgyny of today's runway models is meant to represent an impartial beauty that serves to show off the artistic elements of the fashion it displays. Not at all an ideal for us to aspire in our daily lives, which are replete with gendered and idiosyncratic ideas of sex appeal.

  5. * Let me also acknowledge that the ideal human form changes over time and between cultures, but the models referenced in this article seem to indicate primarily perceptual ideals in Western/European and upper-class sections of contemporary society.

  6. Thomas,

    The separation of beauty from sex appeal is a very good point. But I think high fashion models often seem to exhibit a more "alien" beauty, defying common standards of aesthetics such as symmetry and especially perfection. Others, not unlike the two images in the post, appear plain looking, and serve adequately as walking coat hangers (as you say, an “impartial beauty”). I don't think people would look upon the modern fashion model as "beautiful," not like they did in the Cindy Crawford days.

    Also I'm glad you mentioned this Western cultural ideal of beauty. I will be looking at different standards of beauty in the near future!