Most things in nature are not symmetrical and are often prized for their unusual color, shape or size. Nothing could be truer of this kind of admiration than the luscious summer heirloom tomato. It’s imperfect curves and unusual shape or color makes it stand out from the ordinary crowd of circular cherry, grape, salad and beefsteak varieties.
I know what you are thinking…
For a personal stylist who dislikes typical style terminology that compares women’s bodies to fruit or other objects, why is she likening my shape to a tomato?
Stay with me here…
I’m betting that most of you would agree the unusual, juicy curves of these heirlooms make them look delectable, but imperfect curves on a woman aren’t considered a thing of beauty.
Am I right? Don’t we tend to believe our bodies need to symmetrically curve in “all the right” places to be considered beautiful? We generally believe that we can’t be attractive or sexy unless we conform to an ideal body curve and shape. (The reasons behind this belief is a long story for another blog post about the negative influence of the fashion and beauty industry standard, so stay tuned!).
If you have “irregular” curves that don’t fit the “ideal,” how do you feel about them? Things like a full, round bottom or asymmetrical breasts or a different waistline come to mind. Is your tendency to want to hide them?
“I always find beauty in things that are off and imperfect. They are much more interesting.” – Marc Jacobs
When I first started fashion illustration in high school, I imagined the symmetrical balance of perfect hourglass curves as my model’s shape. I quickly learned that most fashion illustration is stylized to over-exaggerate neck, arm and leg length and whittle down the waist to Barbie Doll proportions. Whether intended to or not, the fashion illustration industry standard for willowy Amazonian shapes made me feel uncomfortable about my own body.
“Wouldn’t it be better to draw a real woman’s shape to demonstrate how clothes can fit her body, not how she has to fit to the clothes?” I asked myself.
So, in college I switched to life drawing and started to see the human body like I see the beauty of nature with a bountiful variety of unusual line patterns and ‘imperfect” curves. I played a game with my eyes to see beauty in everything and look for pattern plays of line, texture, shape and color in everything.
You’d think I wouldn’t have any personal body issues.
But even with this ability to see beauty, I didn’t listen to my own intuitive advice for many years – especially as a young woman. I blamed my body for not looking good enough in clothes. It didn’t occur to me to realize the clothes weren’t good enough for my body and the fashion designers must have been off their rockers!
But, my attitude changed when I become a makeup artist and personal stylist.
I realized most women don’t like their bodies no matter their shape, but curvy, voluptuous and/or otherwise known as fat women have suffered the most.
The thin, straight-lined and youthful boyish female physique has dominated the last century as the ideal body. From dancing hall flapper dresses to menswear suiting, fashion has favored the “barely there” curves of the skinny esthetic. Women with real curves haven’t received much attention or support.
BUT, HERE IS THE DEAL…
Let’s admit we have dulled our eyes to the splendor of our physical diversity in a beauty culture that has almost completely overlooked it.
The truth is that we can change the metric of what is ideal to include full and “imperfect curves.” We can start to see each other as heirlooms. We have a choice to believe or not to believe what we have been told is beautiful.
“I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.” – Alexander McQueen
Here are a couple of simple things you can do to expand your own definition of beauty:
1. USE YOUR EYES
Remember the gift of your eyes is their ability to see beauty. Let them absorb the beauty around you. Notice birds, trees, light, shadow and patterns in things you may not have appreciated before.
2. NOTICE YOUR OWN LIMITATIONS ON FEMININE BEAUTY AND WHERE THEY COME FROM
What is your definition of beauty? Write everything down. Ask yourself how you came to believe these qualifications? Are you excluding yourself from the equation? Think again…how are your own criticisms helping you to feel confident, happy and empowered? Look again…find something about your body to behold as beautiful.
3. IMAGINE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BEAUTY ESTHETIC AND WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE TO LIVE IN THAT CULTURE
Allow me to take you on this journey. This is a story about a town that reveres the large, strong and fleshy woman as the ideal beauty. I apologize to my lovely, slim sisters ahead of time because you’ll see how – in this place – the skinny woman is on the bottom rung of cultural beauty. (It’s just a story like the story of today’s pronounced ideal body!).
THE FLIP SIDE OF SKINNY
Picture yourself living in the thriving metropolis of Majestic in the year 2050 where the sight of protruding hip, rib, and shoulder bones on a woman is believed to be unfortunate. In Majestic, a culturally-rich city where women politicians and CEO’s outnumber the men, big women are the favored beauty esthetic. Strong, large female frames encased in firm fleshiness are far preferred over the sparse look of skin and thin bones.
Here, in Majestic, big is really beautiful. A full-sized woman with a huge smile and zest for life has real substance, confidence and power. She is a formidable presence and someone worth knowing. The broad form of a woman’s back and full bosom suggests someone who has breadth of worldly knowledge and inclusive generosity towards others.
The question “Have you lost weight?” isn’t a compliment here in Majestic – it’s a hint to see a doctor. The admiring question women want to hear is “Have you put on weight?” They make sure, through eating well, that the only visible bones on their bodies are their wrists, ankles, elbows and knees.
As unfair as it may seem, there is a stigma attached to being skinny in Majestic. Next to their jovial counterparts, women with no meat on their bones feel inconsequential, silly and unimportant. Skinny conjures up the image of a narrow, constrictive outlook – someone who is afraid to show up in life, take a stand or make a difference because her body looks like it’s trying to disappear. No matter how smart or creative she is, a skinny woman is thought to have poor health and self-esteem and gets passed over for job promotions and deemed questionable for insurance coverage.
Majestic is a Mecca for high fashion designers and clothing is made to flatter the bigger woman. Size 2-4’s either don’t exist or have to be special ordered and size 0 is considered a scandal. In an effort to help skinnies look more like their Jupiterian sisters and fit into the wide fashion craze, wired shoulder inserts and shape wear with back pads come on the market.
Large scale jewelry and handbags that complement the large woman are the fashion rage. Advertisements read, “Pad those hip bones! Cover up those ribs! Reclaim those chubby cheeks! Bring back your Buddha belly! The new look for women is about really standing out in life and having the powerful presence you deserve.” New products to grow bone size sell through the roof. “Increase your influence by growing your frame with Calcium Plus Plus!”
As crazy as this story may seem today, fashion history has shown us a wild pattern of extremes from enormous hoop skirts and hair as high as a house to slip dresses and pixie cuts. The late 18th century was particularly fond of making dresses so wide women couldn’t fit through doors or stand close to their lovers!
So, as you are enjoying your gorgeous outside summer dinner of succulent, farmers market veggies and heirloom tomatoes, make a toast to the beauty of all kinds of curves, shapes and colors!
I would love to continue this conversation in person. Click here for your free 30-minute consultation!
Feel free to let me know what you thought of this article in the comments section below. My constant goal is to help change the paradigm of beauty to include women of all shapes, sizes and beauty esthetics.