The Plusses of Plus Size.
It’s no secret that our culture worships thinness and equates the emaciated state with great beauty. It’s also no secret that more and more of the population is succumbing to “obesity”, gaining more weight than ever before. One secret that remains is that you can be overweight on the charts while still being healthy and beautiful. And the plus in the recent trend towards overweight in the general population means that, slowly but inexorably, fashion designers will be designing attractive clothes for plus-sized women. It’s about time!
Why is being thinner in style historically speaking?
It’s only in the past sixty years that thinness became the standard for beauty, and it started in the U.S. Even into the 1950′s, women were expected to have considerable curves, and if look at pictures of great beauties from the early 1900′s, you’ll see some amazing feminine forms. Lilly Langtry, considered the most lovely woman of her time, weighed around 180 pounds. The Gibson Girls of around 1915 were wasp-waisted thanks to the death-grip of tightly-laced corsets, but they also augmented their natural rumps with great big bustles. A big behind was considered charming.
Some feminist theorists point out that the demand for women’s thinness came along just as women were starting to assert themselves socially. The sixties, when the women’s movement burgeoned, the Pill came along and women could be sexually active without enduring unwanted pregnancy. Divorce laws changed, freeing women from onerous marriages, (and freeing some husbands too). Finally, women started entering the workforce in large numbers for the first time, excepting the years of W.W.II when the government first urged women into the workplace, then threw them out at the end of the war. One theory is that the sudden emphasis on thinness came about as a social pressure to keep women from being as powerful as they could be. Perhaps unconsciously, men and women have been colluding, creating a society where women have many social freedoms, but taking away the greatest freedom of all–the right to feed oneself adequately.
I’m always reminded of this theory when I see an advertisement for a particular treadmill It shows a woman finishing her workout, then folding up the treadmill and sliding it under the bed. The voice-over says, “Soon, you’ll both be taking up less space”. The first time I heard it, I got mad, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. Then I recalled my college readings, that suggested that women are expected to attain unnatural levels of thinness so that they will take up less physical space, minimizing their impact on the world.
Many Cultures Perfer a Fuller Womens Figure
So it makes me wonder how our world will change over the next few decades. At one time, (and in many cultures still), beautiful women were round, curvy, plump, even downright fat. Right now, over 60% of American women are over size 12. Is it possible that those times of larger feminine beauty are returning?
Popular Plus Size Celebrities
There has always been a section of the masculine population that considers women more attractive when they aren’t thin, and there are some notable exceptions to the industry-wide narrowness in the television world. Witness Ina Garten, whose Barefoot Contessa show on the Food Network illustrates fabulous cooking and gracious dining. Ina is a beautiful woman (I know a man who says he loves her, although they will never meet if his girlfriend can help it!) She’s a plus-size beauty, with a satiny, brunette bob, gorgeous skin, wide eyes, and a husky laugh. What’s not to love?
What women like Ina Garten know, is that there is so much more to life than counting your carbohydrates. There are white roses and candles on the table, champagne and kir, plum tarts and boef bourgignon, for example.
So here’s an idea. What if, instead of focusing on taking up less space, we all spent more time attending to our greatness? Can you imagine what the world would be like if all the hours spent at the gym were spent instead on developing compassion? If nail salons were replaced with the old-fashioned European salons where people met to discuss art, music and current events? What is we all spent as much time and money on growing our characters as we now spend on reducing our waistlines?
Remind yourself that its OKAY if you need a larger size
I think most people are motivated to diet in order to fit a particular clothing size. That way lies madness, as sizes vary drastically, even within brands. Life is much simpler when clothes fit the person, rather than the other way around. And for plus-size people, finding the designs that complement the body is more than half the battle. Although many designers are starting to include plus size fashions (in sections separated from non-plus-sized clothes), the clothes often fall into the “giant-black tunic over giant black stretch pants” category. Look at companies that specialize in plus-sized clothes –my particular favorite for stylish, pretty clothing is Zaftique at www.ebay.com.
So, here are my beauty tips for plus sized women. You will not find the recommendation to wear black apparel because it’s so slimming, or to wear neutrals because they help you “blend in”. And I’m not going to write about career-wear here; check out the previous articles on professional and business-casual work wear.
1. Wear clothes that you love. If you feel pretty or elegant or sexy or classy in an plus size skirt, dress or other outfit, that’s the way people will see you. Spend a little more if you have to, but find clothes and designers that work for you.
2. Wear brightly colored outfits to feel cheerful. Let your self shine through and only wear black if you happen to like the way you look in black. For example, EVERY woman should own a pair of the classic black plus size pants that go with everything. Just pair them with a bright shirt or blouse on top. Use your own good sense when mixing and matching.
3. If you have them, flaunt them. Some plus size tops, tanks and shirts were made to show off beautiful shoulders, or a nice bust. Don’t hide in cowl-necks or tunics if you have the option of a nice V-neck or an off-the-shoulder top.
4. Pretty curvy legs are pretty curvy legs. Buy the best-looking hose in natural colors, strappy shoes or sexy boots and show the real estate between ankle and knee–the prettiest parts of the leg. A great aline skirt is wonderful way to show off nice legs as well.
5. Work on increasing your happiness and body images. It doesn’t matter what you wear if you’re happy, and the most fabulous clothes in the world can’t cover up an unhappy face (remember Princess Diana in the unhappily-married-ever-after years?)
6. Exercise for your health, not for your derriere. Not for your mother, your boyfriend, the fashion industry, or your ideas of what you “should” look like. Focus on feel-good exercise like dancing, wandering through the woods, playing in the water. Stop tormenting yourself with the Stairmaster, and go outside to play.
7. Friendship is one of the primary components of a happy life. It’s also one of the hardest things to maintain once we’re grown up. Find friends, nurture relationships by hanging out together, make time for each other, and you’ll enrich your life immeasurably.