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Plumcake’s Challenge (and a teensy Come to Jesus) | Manolo for the Big Girl

Plumcake’s Challenge (and a teensy Come to Jesus)

Friends, I have some hard news.

I am not Audrey Hepburn.

What’s worse? Neither are you.

First I need to say I think Audrey Hepburn was a wonderful person, a talented actress and an admirable humanitarian. I’m not going to harsh on her so don’t ask me.

But seriously guys.  I think it’s time we let this one go.

If you are a big girl, there is nothing on this planet or any other that is going to make you look like Audrey Hepburn.

No over-sized sunglasses or ankle-length pants or black dress with a diamond bib. Nothing. I’m sorry.  You can tell yourself something is Very Audrey (or Very Jackie O, if you want to take another Hubert Givenchy-ite) but it’s just not. It might be very Givenchy, but we are never going to be able to ape Audrey’s style because it is gamine, fragile and birdlike.

Are you gamine, fragile and birdlike? Me either.

I get it, I do.

She was a classy broad, the opposite of vulgar.

Plus-sized women are often seen as vulgar because fleshiness often translates into vulgarity, and if I streeeetch I can even see how some women –particularly big women– find the characters she played, the  impossibly charming but plucky naifs who still got rescued by some Big Strong Man, incredibly appealing.

Let’s face it, when you’re a substantially built gal, particularly if you’re tall, the Big Strong Man fantasy –complete with picking up and twirling around– just isn’t gonna happen.

Anyway.

I think we do ourselves a disservice when we pick unrealistic style icons and try to interpret them literally. Unless you truly do look like a particular glamor girl, and want to play that up,  you might be better served by dissecting what attracts you about that particular celebrity and then interpreting it into something that works for you as you are now (and not the elfin darling you are in your head).

Today’s challenge is to think of a style icon and come up with one way you interpret it into a style that works for you as you are.  Report back, or if you need a little help seeing how something might be translated, put it in the comments!

39 Responses to “Plumcake’s Challenge (and a teensy Come to Jesus)”

  1. Melissa August 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm #

    Great post! I love the challenge. I’m going to go with Little Edie Beall – batshit crazy, but she wore what she thought would be “a good costume for the day.” Didn’t matter if it was a sweater she had safety-pinned as a skirt or a vest as a head scarf; she wore what she want and she owned it. She maintain glamor with delusions, and she did it well. Crazy? Yes. But that’s the point. I’m working on being more intentional and brave with my costumes each day.

  2. Sarah August 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    Okay, maybe she’s not a style icon, but the costuming of McKinley High School guidance counselor Emma Pillsbury on GLEE is adorable and I’d really love to cop her style. Of course, she also falls under many of the categories of Ms. Hepburn above – gamine, fragile and birdlike. With a side of OCD.

  3. txbunny August 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    Marilyn of course.

    I have to preface this with the problem/issue/fact that I come from a family of bombshells on my mother’s side. Two great aunts, a grandmother, a mother, and an aunt all with this viewpoint. Also 1 second cousin and 2 first. There is no escaping it because you were instructed by age 4-5 onward as to the appropriate way to move, what colors look good, how clothes were supposed to fit, etc. I think I was the only 13 yr old on the planet told to go back into the bathroom and put on more makeup because I was wearing too little (if I remember correctly my 2 great aunts used the term “war paint” at the time).

    I didn’t need a finishing school to warp me – I had my strong matriarchal family provide the service. So as I have gotten older I have just learned to accept how my brain was molded as the well meaning gift it was and is.

    In terms of characteristics: I wear perfume to bed; I read fairly serious literature (because I can not stand trash writing); My clothes fit/do not hide my figure; and I’m blond although I do have mid tone low lights as well.

  4. Miss B August 17, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Ooo! Good challenge! I am going to go with Sofia Loren. I am currently not in possession of such a fabulous hourglass, I am more an apple. But, I do have amazing eyes and decolletage. I notice that, no matter what age, she had beautiful eye makeup and a neckline that flattered her. I pay very close attention to necklines, as I have a short neck and can quickly look…stumpy. I also love to do up my eyes so they are the star of the show.

    I also think her attitude about beauty and being sexy is wonderful. Here are two quotes from her:

    “Beauty is how you feel inside and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.”

    “I think the quality of sexiness comes from within. It is something that is in you or it isn’t and it really doesn’t have much to do with breasts or thighs or the pout of your lips.”

    Of everything about her, I want to mimic her ATTITUDE.

  5. Kate K August 17, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

    My style icon, my role model and my “What Would Jesus Do” equivalent is Rosie the Riveter. It’s slightly problematic to make your role model a woman from a poster but the whole concept of Rosie (and the real life Rosies) is something I love. In that famous poster, she’s strong, big, and bold. She understands the importance of a good crisp collared shirt and she works the accessories (the buttons, the head scarf) and she knows that it’s good to have polished make-up and groomed eyebrows. (I also love the Norman Rockwell Rosie–she’s so fantastically curvy and cool in her dirty manly clothes)

  6. Abby August 17, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    Well I have two really disparate style inspirations. The first is true bohemian artist types such as Frida Kahlo and the Pre-Raphaelite women. Weird, I know, and generally not very translatable for everyday wear. But I’d still like to live in their houses. Of course in the sixties and seventies everyone was inspired by this look and it has been terribly watered down, but I still love it done correctly. I’m with the band? Juliette Greco is another inspiration along these lines, and she and I both have pretty nice eyes, if I do say so myself.

    The other is a monochromatic, Joan Holloway-esque making the most of your curves fifties kind of look that lots of women can pull off. I’ve definitely got the hips for it. The problem is making it modern.

  7. pamici August 17, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    My icon/inspiration hybrid is a Lauren Bacall-Lauren Hutton-Katherine Hepburn combo. Tough broads who were hot and glamorous and not at all fragile. I’m a little too curvy to pull off a true homage, but I do my best.

  8. BrooklynShoeBabe August 17, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Thank you for this post Plumcake. I love Audrey. I adore her style and life. I have several coffee table books with her. For several years, I tried to emulate her style and Grace Kelly’s, but then I realized I couldn’t because I’m not graceful (wasn’t when I was thin and still not as a fat girl) or gamine like. I also feel very uncomfortable in dresses, turtlenecks, and ballet flats (no arch supports, lol). I did realize though, Katherine Hepburn was a better style icon.

  9. Geogrrl August 17, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    I’d agree with you about Audrey Hepburn.

    I don’t know if I have a particular icon, my style is a mish-mash. Of any, it’s probably closest to Katherine Hepburn. Non-fussy but good, tailored clothing and a strong personality.

  10. Sharon August 17, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    I guess I should stop using Carolyn Chute as my style icon. Dang. And it was so easy.

  11. Julie August 18, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    I think I could pull of the British singer Adele’s look, but first I need to find a fabulous nude lipstick.

  12. smili August 18, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    Mae West, all the way – even though I am tall and brunette. :)

    She wrote all her own material, too, in addition to her fabulous clothing and enormous moxy.

  13. Nicole August 18, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    Eddie Izzard is one of my style icons mainly because he makes the clothes he loves work on his body beautifully and he has such an air of confidence. I’m also fond of Niecy Nash–we actually own a lot of the same dresses and I record Clean House just to check out what she’s wearing! The other person that immediately comes to mind is Lucille Ball–partly because I have lust in my heart for fashion of the 50s but also because she always made an effort. I strive to radiate my personality through my style and those three individuals have really inspired me!

  14. Retna August 18, 2010 at 4:10 am #

    Has anyone heard of or better yet seen Chantal Biya? 1st Lady of Cameron/Cameroon. Woman dresses the way she wants and wears it with panache. While I wouldn’t attempt most of what she does, have to give her props. She is not gamine, birdlike and fragile. Anyone who can outshine Carla Bruni Sarkozy when they are together…

  15. Plumcake August 18, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    @Retna, of course they La Chantal has been featured on our very pages. http://manolobig.com/2009/10/31/have-a-happy-halloween/

  16. rebecca August 18, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Debbie Harry…punk, uber-cool, and completely confident…plus, loads of mascara and eyeliner…I try to translate that into my own zaftig style via vintage tees, jeans, boots, big, shiny accessories…but the most important part, I think, is the BadAss, I Know I Rock attitude…

  17. Harri P. August 18, 2010 at 10:07 am #

    I don’t model myself after anyone else, but if I did it might be good old Jane Russell, who was much funnier than Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. And she did bra ads for “full-figured gals” when I was a kid. Way more my style than the deeply annoying Audrey Hepburn.

  18. Thea August 18, 2010 at 12:54 pm #

    I’d have to go with a Marilyn/Grace Kelley/Liz Taylor cross. Grace is a better look for me for work because it’s a more classic demure look, even tho I don’t have her figure. My coloring is closer to Marilyn’s and I like her look for evening but I always loved the way Liz Taylor adorned herself so perfectly for her coloring. Always the perfect earrings, necklace – and we won’t even get into the diamond rings…

    And Txbunny – I think we’re related. I had the same women in my family and I was told to ‘put your face on, ya look dead’ when I was 13. The training was Geisha level in attention to the most flattering styles, colors, heels, accessories and makeup.

    My Mom, Aunt and I used to stay up and watch old movies so we could analyse how ‘figure flaws’ were dealt with by Edith Head and the rest of the fashion pantheon. That’s when I learned about Stanwyck’s short waist, Crawford’s shoulders and how they worked around Taylor’s unfortunate legs

  19. ang4avon August 18, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Angelica Jolie. She’s thin, sometime’s too much so…but she’s strong and independent and You GO GIRL.

  20. Kai Jones August 18, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Not my icon, but the woman I think of as the Audrey Hepburn for big women: Lynda Carter. She was fabulous as Wonder Woman on TV. She’s statuesque, but has that same elegant poise and beauty.

  21. anon August 18, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Pardon my ignorance, but what does “gamine” mean? I’ve asked this before but I need a better answer than “like Audrey Hepburn.”

  22. theDiva August 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

    for me, a mashup of Sophia Loren and Anjelica Huston. I am not pretty like Sophia but I have the Italian hourglass thing going, and I really like Anjelica’s jolie laide vibe.

  23. Plumcake August 18, 2010 at 2:31 pm #

    @anon: Here you go.

  24. Lonz August 18, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Brilliant post! =) At the moment, I’m a huge fan of Christina Hendricks as a style icon. I know that occassionally her stylists seem to struggle with the apparently monumentous task of dressing a women with *gasp!* breasts, but I think she is gorgeous, classy, and ridiculously feminine. And she is not exactly a twig. We’re about the same age, and I have the red hair and big boobs going for me, but my skin isn’t quite as flawless, much to my intense disgust. =}

  25. SusanC August 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    Notice how the wikipedia entry does indeed feature Audrey Hepburn as the poster child for “gamine.”

    Myself, I gravitate towards the other Hepburn, with a healthy dollop of Catherine Deneuve thrown in.

  26. myrtle August 18, 2010 at 10:06 pm #

    this is slightly crazy, but i’ve always admired the fearlessness of mrs. slocombe from “are you being served?”. hair, makeup (including lashes), heels, jewellry…i don’t do the garish colors, but i do make the effort to put myself fiercest self together everyday. she put miss brahms in the shade.

  27. Debs August 18, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    The glimmer twins: Mick and Keith. Not to emulate literally, or all the time, but for dressing up. Long dramatic jackets, straight legged jeans and fancy boots. This look is surprisingly ageless, much more so than attempting a lady-like look. For casual, I do grunge. Flat boots or pumas, straight pants and a men’s designer flannel shirt and vintage motorcycle jacket. I’m tall, broad-shouldered and over forty. Feminine make up and hair a must!

  28. Geogrrl August 18, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    @myrtle:

    Totally agree! I always loved how Mrs. Slocombe did herself up. One of the best parts of an episode was seeing what new hairdo she was sporting. And she took no crap. I also loved the way Mr. Humphries dressed.

  29. Josie August 19, 2010 at 6:10 am #

    Barbra Streisand. I always think the majority of women who love a particular icon fall into 2 categories – Audrey (elegant, petite, beautiful, in need of rescue, quirkily humoured and a little kooky, in the most elegant way possible, of course) or Marilyn (stronger, sexier, somehow more real, pretending to be less in need of rescue, but still hopelessly vulnerable). It’s the character you play at being in your daydreams and both are designed to be viewed through male eyes.

    There is a third way! Barbra – a character actress. Strong when strong and weak when weak but doesn’t need to be viewed through male eyes to validate her. Unapologetic and fabulous. And still beautiful.

  30. The gold digger August 19, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    I find Audrey Tatou equally annoying. What’s up with these helpless, overbiting women?

  31. Rebekka August 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    I’d never heard of Jane Russell, but wow. She worked it.

    Plumcake, military/uniform inspired jackets on fat girls? OK or Not OK?

  32. raincoaster August 19, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Are we the same person? I’ve been blogging about this over at raincoaster.com for years, and just did a post about Audrey last week. It’s a beautiful look that should be appreciated on its own merits, not for its applicability to anyone else.

    For me, I guess my icons would be Angie Dickinson:

    http://raincoaster.com/2008/01/22/rip-suzanne-pleshette-angie-dickinson-youre-our-only-remaining-hope/

    Mylene Farmer:
    http://raincoaster.com/2010/08/14/icons-of-chick-power-mylene-farmer/

    And long, LONG in the past, Vanessa Paradis:
    http://raincoaster.com/2006/10/25/the-most-perfect-little-rockstar-in-the-whole-world/

    Honorable mention, because I still find her weak and dependent although she did grow up, Marilyn Monroe:
    http://raincoaster.com/2010/08/15/and-another-thing-2/

  33. La Petite Acadienne August 19, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    I’ve always admired the style of Jackie O., and I think a lot of the elements CAN be translated to any size of girl. The big shades, excellent tailoring and good fabrics. The clean lines to the clothing and lack of trendiness. The impeccable accessories. Pale trousers with a dark top, topped with a camel coat. The good haircut. A discreet spritz of Joy.

    I think that might be part of why her style was so admired…it appeared to be inaccessible at first glance, but was actually very attainable.

  34. Thea August 20, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    La Petite – I think what you said about Jackie is what I meant about Grace Kelly as well. Most of their clothes with the clean classic lines would adapt well for any size girl.

    I’m an extreme hourglass and as one of the gay boys told me in college “Honey, keep the lines clean and severe and let the curves do the talking” On me, any sort of ruffle or fluffery is just overkill. I end up looking like Dolly Parton’s chubby sister

  35. Sara Darling August 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    Another echo for Joan Holloway on Mad Men — clean lines, not too busy/often monochromatic looks, and emphasizing rather than masking uber-feminine curves. Hems at or just below the knee.

  36. Living 400lbs August 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    People forget that Audrey Hepburn was originally a ballerina. Her son attributed her figure to spending WWII in occupied German-occupied Holland and starting to smoke early.

    There’s a reason she did so much work for UNICEF.

    The problem is everyone feeling that they have to look like Audrey Hepburn. Silly in most respects, with Hepburn, I can’t help but wish people would support the causes she supported instead of trying to look like her….

  37. Fabrisse September 3, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    Most of the people listed here have a sense of chic. I think that’s what we’re really looking for when we look to Audrey and icons from the past; it’s not just a sense of style, but a sense of rightness.

    I also like Sophia Loren’s uniform in her forties and early fifties — dark trousers or skirt, good shoes, something bright near the face, good make-up , strong earrings, and a great hair cut.

    @Living 400lbs — I agree with you about being like Hepburn from the inside. She ran errands and gave recitals for the Dutch resistance in her early teens. From what I can tell, there was never a time in her life when she wasn’t involved as a volunteer for something.

  38. Joy September 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm #

    Love this post and the comments! It may sound strange, but I always admired Eva Gabor on the TV show Green Acres. She unfailingly looked fabulous in her dresses and jewelry, no matter what zany things were going on at the farm. Definitely a fashion icon for me.

  39. Rosalind September 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    It’s interesting that you mention Dolly Parton, Thea, because she’s actually my style icon. She’s kinda goofy, and she knows it, but she always seems to be having FUN. But she tends to do sweaters and skirts with belts and amazingly awesome hair (I spent six weeks with Dolly hair once, just for fun).

    The thing is, she’s as far from chic as one can get, but she’s always smiling, and, really, isn’t that what matters?