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WARNING, Curves Ahead!

01/20/2012 at 11:05 am

Something quiet, even subversive, is creeping into the sensibilities and consciousness of fashion’s most eminent. Curvy women, bosomy women, women size 12 and above, once relegated to muumuus and shapeless elastic sweatpants are suddenly more than relevant, and dare I say, closing the gap that exists between the runway and the regular woman. Perhaps it’s born of a Mad Men-esque nostalgia heralding back to an idealized femininity from a different time. Perhaps it’s the fact that the majority of women are not a size 0, 2 or 4 but actually a size 14 and above. Women the world over are taking a stand. They are speaking with their blogs, voices and dollars and forcing the fashion industry to respond. Unlike a few years ago, curvy women are being released from fashion’s  fringes.

Christina Hendricks’ role as Joan Holloway on the series hit Mad Men has helped curves become vogue again.

Sure, the majority of runway models are still a size 00 and Rachel Zoe and her protruding collarbone continues to grace our TV screens. But at the same time, Christina Hendricks and her buxom, hour-glass figure has created a multitude of fans craving the Mad Men-styling of Hendricks’ portrayal of Joan Holloway. Outspoken, plus-size (to use the industry’s marketing-sanctioned word for women above a size 10) supermodel Crystal Renn has created not just a place for, but a demand for plus-size models-acclaimed designer Jean Paul Gaultier walked then size-16 Renn down his runway to showcase his Spring 2006 collection.

Size 16 plus-size model Crystal Renn and Jean  Paul Gaultier walk the runway to showcase the designer’s Spring 2006 collection.

Fashion magazines responded. Glamour received hordes of positive reviews when, in 2009, the magazine ran a small picture of a 5-foot-11, 180-pound model Lizzie Miller, comfortably exposing her paunch.

Not to be outdone, both Vogue Italia and V Magazine published issues featuring large models in skin-baring outfits. Marie Claire engaged a monthly plus-size columnist.

Blogs dedicated to curvy fashion are popping up every day and gaining both the attention and esteem of the notoriously size-ist fashion community. Retailers are responding in tandem. In addition to plus-size retailers Torrid and Lane Bryant, straight size retailers such as Forever 21, ASOS and The Limited have also released complementary plus size clothing lines.

Little by little, Karl Lagerfeld’s hurtful dictum that, “No one wants to see curvy women”  is becoming less relevant.

The battle is of course nowhere near won. Plus-size feature articles, beautiful as they are, seem to feature curvy women in lingerie thus implying that curves are sexual, but not necessarily fashionable. Four months after being featured in the spread in V, the April issue of French Elle showed plus-size model Tara Lynn undressed again- this time perched in a wicker chair. Not that I’m against nudity, but the purpose of fashion spreads is to sell clothes, so could they find her nothing to wear that fit?

Most high-end fashion houses, the Pradas and Chanels of the world, continue to relegate plus-size women to the shoes and accessories section since they do not make clothing above a size 6. Fashion runways continue to be a sea of skinny and sample sizes outfitting only the tiny sample of the population that fits sizes 0 to 2.  And in the 2009 cringe-worthy Fox series “More to Love,”  20 women weighing up to 300 pounds competed for the affections of an equally large single man, implying quite simply that heavy women are worthy of the indignities of a dating show but were certainly unworthy of “Bachelor” -looking bachelors.

But this change is coming along. Slowly but surely, the concept of curves is creeping into fashion, and  I know I speak for women the world over when I heave a sigh of relief. Isn’t it about time?

Here at Untapped Cities, we consider it a triumph when we find locals who inspire and who are changing lives. So I knew I had hit the jackpot when I came across a Bay Area””based curvy fashion blogger, Tanesha Awasthi, who has seen her barely 1-year-old blog, Girl with Curves, climb the charts of fashion and curve acceptance in a meteoric way. Tanesha was one of 20 bloggers invited by Tumblr to attend New York Fashion Week last year. She is currently featured on a billboard in Times Square representing Forever 21. She  has also been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Vogue to name a few. Not bad for a Tumblr blog born out of boredom! Tanesha is quietly leading the charge for curvier women and plus-size acceptance, and I sure as hell am on board. See below for excerpts from an interview I conducted with Tanesha and check out her amazing blog!

Untapped Cities: What inspired you to launch Girl with Curves? What inspires you today?

Tanesha Awasthi: I needed a creative outlet outside of my full-time tech job, and my hubby suggested starting a blog. I hadn’t decided on a topic, but I posted a pic on Flickr, and it ended-up getting re-blogged on Tumblr over 400 times. All of the comments were positive and supportive, while most referred to my curves. It was right then and there that I decided to create a personal style blog, and call it Girl with Curves.

UC: On the rare times that curvier women are featured in media, they tend to be for lingerie/sexy photo shoots (like the recent pieces by Vogue Italia). What’s your opinion on that?

TA: I know, right?!  I think it’s sad and shocking that curvy models aren’t represented in media in the same way that straight-size models are. I truly hope to see curvy women in high fashion spreads one day, as opposed to the overtly sexy spreads we keep seeing lately.

UC: What’s a fashion essential every curvy girl should have?

TA: A tailored blazer!  It does wonders for curves by accentuating the waist, and it can practically go over anything, from a dress, a skirt, to slacks or jeans.

UC: Your clothes always seem to fit well, which is a challenge for curvy girls. What’s your secret?

TA: I try everything on! And when I can’t, I order online from retailers that allow easy returns.  Having curves means that not all brands will fit the same as others, and not all sizes are created equal, so my secret is trying things on, as well as taking risks ordering online.

UC: What do you consider your proudest moment since you started blogging?

TA: Receiving an email from a 12-year-old girl in a different part of the world was definitely a proud moment. Knowing that something so simple as a blog could inspire others, and help girls and women of all ages to feel more confident in their own skin is so fulfilling and like nothing else I’ve ever done. It also means the world to me that so many of my fellow curvy girls have taken an interest in my blog.

UC: What is your goal as a curvy fashion blogger? What do you envision for your future?

TA: My goal is to continue touching lives, making connections with my readers, and spreading body positivity, self-esteem and self-acceptance through fashion. A major goal of mine is to convince straight-sized brands to extend their sizes to fit all body shapes and sizes!

Follow Untapped Cities on  Twitter  and  Facebook. Get in touch with the author @mmmagpie.

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20 Comments

  1. amrit chima says:

    Loved the article…great, strong writing!!

  2. Kath Walker says:

    Wouldn’t it be great if one day this just wasn’t an issue any more……..
    Great article :)

    • vanessa chan says:

      Thank you…and I don’t think it’s never not going to be an issue, but there’s so much more awareness now.

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  4. Jen says:

    I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful this article is. Having been from a size 12 to a size 0 throughout my life, I can understand both sides of the conundrum. Fashion should be empowering, not prohibitive or demoralizing. Thank you Van, for writing such a well thought out piece and introducing me to Tanesha’s blog.

    • vanessa chan says:

      Thanks for the shoutout Jen! And I’m so excited you’re taking fashion (that can be afforded!) to a new level on your blog. I’m a faithful reader.

  5. Sonia says:

    Beautiful piece and makes me feel quite proud of my curves! Fashion should be made for everyone. Well done and I want to see more of your work please :)

    • vanessa chan says:

      Your curves are fab and legendary. Guys from school still talk about them, ha :) And yes more work forthcoming!

  6. cindy casey says:

    Fabulous article – let’s see more like this!

  7. Liz Lee says:

    I think it’s time for fashion to make clothes that flatter every type of figure other than 5′ 11″ size 00. That just doesn’t work for the most of us!

  8. Yuki Says Roar says:

    wonderful piece. i saw an opposite situation developing during my visit to japan. i hope more girls around the world can embrace their own bodies without comparing it to others whether skinny or curvy.

    • vanessa chan says:

      I agree! Everytime I’m back in Malaysia I’m shocked by how painfully body-negative everyone is. My teeny tiny friends complain that they’re fat and eat pretty much…well nothing. Or take some pretty damn intense laxatives to poop out the entire contents of their food consumption!

  9. Karen says:

    This article makes me so happy and proud. Women of all shapes and sizes should be celebrated. Thanks for writing this Vanessa! <3

    • vanessa chan says:

      Agree – all shapes, all sizes, all looks! Here’s an equally good response to all the skinny-bashing that tends to happen when people are talking about body positivity and embracing curves.

      http://fb.me/LripX4sD

  10. Valerie says:

    WOW!! I love love love this sooo much!! Thank you!!!!

  11. This makes me so happy! Great article.

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