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Victoria’s Secret: Very Sexy or Very Scary?

Happy Friday, readers, how’s every little thing?

I’m great. Hot Latin Boy is going to be spending the evening being a Positive Male Role Model to a handful of his nephews who are in duress and need male bonding time (using MY best-seats-in-the-house tickets, I didn’t really want to see the most exciting and highly-anticipated match of the season anyway. Worst thing is it was my stupid idea. Man, I wish someone had told me sooner that human empathy was a sexually transmitted disease, I could’ve vaccinated when I went in for cholera and typhoid) so I’ve got a whole glorious Friday to myself and as soon as I clean the kitchen –by which I mean set fire to it or let one of the six hundred women who ring my doorbell every afternoon offering to clean my house actually put soap to scrubbie– I plan on running as far amok as five hours of sleep and a quarter tank of watered-down gas will take me.

The other day, superfantastic reader Katydid sent me an email about this image:

It appeared on Wednesday as an advertisement for the Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy collection in the advertising sidebar of your very own Manolo for the Big Girl, like this:

Katydid wrote:

Was enjoying your latest blog entry when my attention was completely captured by the Victoria Secret model featured in an ad on your site. I attached a pic of how it was displayed on my monitor. She may be the thinnest model I have ever seen and to me the image is disturbing!

I was compelled to share with you.


First of all, thank you Katydid and everyone else who has written over the years about potentially problematic advertising.

I’ve mentioned before, Manolo and I have relatively little control over what advertisements Glam.com or Google run. A few years ago we were bombarded with fake Louboutin sites and then it was all diet programs, what a mess.

The funny thing is, Victoria’s Secret Angel Candice Swanepoel (I’m 99.9% sure that’s Candice Swanepoel) is a pretty healthy, curvy model as far as models these days go.

In the picture she’s got her legs forward, her pelvis and bottom tilted back as far as it can go and is leaning forward from the waist. It’s an old modeling trick which even your pal Plumcake is not above using once in a while. She’s also being photographed from above, which is also very slimming.

Oh, and let’s not forget for a second all the photoshopping that went into the final image.

Here’s another shot of the South African model, taken from one of the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows:

See? Fairly generic run-of-the-milkmaid male fantasy fodder.

She would’ve been a hot non-threatening blonde in the 1950s and is a hot non-threatening blonde now. Sure, she might’ve actually had a little more in the way of pubic hair and a little less in the way of bizarre metal waist contraptions, but hey, maybe not.

The thing is, I bet a model with her body shape who wanted to go into haute couture runway modeling would be told to lose weight.

Of course it’s just another mixed message courtesy of the fashion and beauty industry. If you want to wear the best clothes, you have to look like a model! If you want guys to think you’re sexy you have to look like a totally different model!

Gosh, it’s almost as if they WANT to make us confused and insecure so they could sell us products designed to make us feel less ugly. Haha, no of course not, because that would be insidious and twisted!


In my fantasy world, there would be room for the bouncy beach babe, the androgynous waif, the size 10 girl next door, the voluptuous plus size model and the just plain round on the runway. All ages, all heights, all colors and all orientations.

Maybe I’ll start holding my breath riiiiiiight NOW.

Codie Young: Size Zero Scapegoat

Codie Young is a really skinny girl.

Do you know what that tells me?

It tells me that Codie Young is a really skinny girl.

It doesn’t tell me anything about her health, her lifestyle, anything. For all I know, the 18 year-old model whose photos for a recent Topshop campaign are causing all sorts of a ruckus about promoting eating disorders, could spend her mornings farming organic kale and her afternoons running marathons.

Or she could smoke 50 cigarettes, drown a kitten and then snort a line of cocaine longer than her own photoshopped neck, possibly off the corpse of someone’s dead grandmother. It’s anyone’s guess.

Topshop took down the offending photo and replaced it with one that hides her supposedly purge-triggering body behind a coat and offered the reading public a little bread to go along with their circus:

“Topshop is confident that Codie is a healthy young woman and we do not feel it necessary to remove her from our imagery,” said a spokesman for Topshop, “However we do recognize regretfully that the angle this image has been shot at may accentuate Codie’s proportions making her head look bigger and neck longer in proportion to her body . . . We have taken down that specific image at the earliest opportunity. Topshop is proud of its heritage of celebrating individual-looking girls who offer an alternative more unusual beauty.”

Want to see the photo? Here we go.

So here’s what really happened:
Topshop hired a very skinny model and through photography and Photoshop made her look even skinnier because that was the exact look they wanted.

They got busted and now the blame and vilification is falling on the shoulders of a teenage model who, she insists on her blog, is just naturally thin.

Now okay, let’s be honest here, after poring over Ms Young’s blog I’m pretty no one is going to confuse her with Noel Coward in a dark alley so some of her statements aren’t exactly…mature:

There are overweight/obese people who are a size 34 or 18 but know one says anything to them because you don’t want to affend them![…] And funny enough saying I’m anorexic affends me just as being called obese affends overweight people, but the differences is that im not anorexic!

but what about this?

Firstly this is very hurtful to me as I am naturally skinny; and anyone who knows me would know that I have been naturally skinny my entire life as my dad is 6’5 tall and skinny an my mum is also skinny, not to mention that my entire family on my dads side are all tall and skinny like me!

For someone like Ms Davies to say its not okay for me to be this thin ( which is how I was created) basicly says its not okay for me to be who I am!

Okay yeah, just put a gigantic sic. next both those quotes but replace “skinny” with “fat” and how many of us can sing this song from heart? I know I can.

The problem isn’t some size 0 teenager got a job modeling trickledown fashion. The problem is she’s impossible to tell apart from all the OTHER size 0 teenagers who get jobs modeling fashion, trickledown or otherwise.

Ms Young is just another very tall, very thin, faceless automaton who gets jobs because that’s what the modeling industry wants now, to the worrying exclusion of almost anything else.

so when I read this:

“Topshop is proud of its heritage of celebrating individual-looking girls who offer an alternative more unusual beauty.”

Like this, but thinner

I sound a rueful yawp. Can you have a rueful yawp? Well, whatever I did it was loud and rueful. And yawpy.

No, Topshop. No you don’t celebrate individual-looking girls. If you did, there would be more than one body type in your campaigns. YOU, Topshop, celebrate tall, thin girls with faces that are half Eastern-European automatons and half dead-eyed child nymphets. The problem isn’t her body type, the problem is you only hire girls who look like Ms Young so these girls only ever SEE one body type. THAT’S what messes girls up.

There’s nothing wrong with the way Ms Young looks, and maybe girls would feel better about seeing her body shape along side a size 6, a size 10 or *gasp* even a size 16.

Your clothes go up to a 16 so ostensibly you want that business, why not show someone actually wearing that size…or is that too much “unusual beauty” for you?

Retiring Crystal Renn

Okay everyone, I’m retiring Crystal Renn.

This has nothing to do with her ability as a model.  As I’ve said time and again, she’s a wonderful model, probably talent-wise the best of the current crop of runway walkers.

But she’s a size 10.

There’s nothing wrong with being a size 10. She’s had a tough row to hoe body-image wise and if that’s where her body is happy then far be it from me to complain.

But she’s a size 10.

That’s not plus-sized, that’s not close to plus-sized and even though I am the biggest fashion industry apologist on the planet, I just can’t pretend that she counts as a plus-sized model in any meaningful sense and therefore she deserves no more and no less press or attention than any other model who doesn’t wear plus-size clothes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted to see a size 10 on the runway and I hope she stays relevant for years to come. She’s a smart girl, she makes interesting editorial choices and she knows how to play the semi-plus-size thing in her favor (witness yet another Paris Vogue photoshoot by Disgusting Pervert Hack Terry Richardson, wherein she’s orgasmically orally fixated on pasta.)

But she’s a size 10.

I’m a big proponent for variety and I’d rather see a size 10 model as a staple than a size 20 as a gimmick every few years, but the days of breathlessly reporting on her every move as a victory for fat girl kind –inasmuch as I ever have– are over, unless you tell me otherwise.

Paris Fashion Week: Plus Size and “Plus Size” at Gaultier

Happy Monday and a Half, Campers! As most of you know, we have just wrapped up Fashion Month –the four major fashion weeks that show in September for the next spring’s ready-to-wear collections.

It’s New York first, followed by London, Milan and finally Paris and as of yet you haven’t heard a peep out of me on it. This is for a few reasons. First, this isn’t a high fashion blog. Secondly, these designers –with very few exceptions– don’t make ready-to-wear in our sizes. I’m much more likely to cover couture, which by definition is sewn on the body and thus comes in any size you please as long as you can afford it. So unless I see something major coming down the pike, I generally gloss over it.

Personally, I thought Milan was by FAR the best group of showings, although I was let down by some consistent heavy hitters: I didn’t think much of Dior or Prada or Fendi, and was pleasantly surprised by Gareth Pugh. Who would’ve thought? Lanvin gets Show of Paris for me, but there wasn’t much in the way of Directional Fashion coming down the runways this season.

There is a ton of white, white broderie anglais, battenburg (the lace, not the cake) and cotton lawn, especially at Dolce and Gabbana who sent out eighty exits and while it wasn’t QUITE All Killer No Filler, it was pretty damn good.  If you’re interesting in looking at the shows, go to style.com or to watch the models in action, go to firstcomesfashion.com.

The only plus size models I saw were at Gaultier who –after setting my face on fire for the gorgeousness of his last couture collection– left me absolutely cold with his rock n’ roll Joan Jett redux.

However, look who he anointed to open the show:

You know me, I’m the first one to call stunt casting, and we know Gaultier loves a stunt casted show –although I think it comes from a good place in his heart– but I actually think she was a great choice to open the show, which was all about bad ass rock chicks a la Joan Jett, whose songs blared and whose trademark dirty shag hair was on display on almost every model.

Including Crystal “Nipsy” Renn.

(Seriously, Crystal. I know you’d be mad to say no to a Gaultier show, but I swear I see your secondary sex characteristics more than I see my own.  Do you think that maybe at some point I could see a photograph of you without nipples or pubic hair? I mean just for the sake of novelty?)

and Mr Gaultier closed with La Ditto, as was fitting:

I think she looked fabntastic. I mean clearly not daily wear, but she’s got great gams and I hope this disproves once and for all the Fat Girls Can’t Wear Ankle Straps myth. If you’ve got a shapely ankle, and Ms Ditto certainly does, you can wear them to great effect.

Elle throws us a bone, with meat on it (see what I did there?)

So everyone else has written about it but I guess I’ve got to toss my lovely Peter Bettley chapeau in.

Fat Girl of the Moment, Gabourey Sidibe — plus-size star of Precious, in case you just got off the boat from Mars– graces one of four covers of Elle this month and people are getting their collective knickers in a twist, and for once it’s not that a fat person is on a magazine.

Nope, it’s skin lightening. Apparently Ms Sidibe’s cover shows her skin several shades lighter than how she photographs in natural and/or red carpet lighting.

Is it whitewashing?

Eeesh, I don’t know. Frankly I wouldn’t put it past Elle, but on the other hand, I really do think it’s the lighting this time. It looks like the lighting rig for that cover was pretty simple and I know from my experience my own skin shoots way way lighter (inasmuch as it’s possible for a girl who has been known to MAC face & body in WHITE as foundation to shoot lighter) in a rig like that than I do in natural light.

But I gotta say, I don’t just love Gabby on the cover of Elle. It’s a gimmick. It’s a bone to the people who complain Elle and its ilk only put thin, pretty, white women on the covers of their magazines (possibly because Elle and its ilk only put thin, pretty, white women on the covers of their magazines). It’s Beth Ditto 2.0 but even less plausible because Beth Ditto truly is interested and interesting when it comes to fashion.

Gabby, talent though she might have, is just the token fat girl 2010.

I’m fat, not stupid. I’m not getting excited over this (and yeah, don’t think we didn’t notice all the other covers are mostly body shots while Gabby’s body is mostly obscured)

Do you know what gets me excited?

When there are all manner of body shapes represented and it’s Not A Big Deal. It’s not part of a Size Issue or some nonsense about Celebrating Your Curves or Realness or (gag) Goddess blahdeblah.

For example:

Here in The Killers video Mr Brightside –which for my money ranks up there in the echelon with Express Yourself, Vogue, and Freedom 90 for Most Important Fashion Videos of All Time— you have a perfectly gorgeous luscious plus-sized woman being treated just like all the other ahem, courtesans.

Super sexy outfit, clearly comfortable with her over-the-top sexuality, she’s a featured dancer with plenty of screen time, and somehow it’s Not A Big Deal. She’s not hidden or dropped in there as a token and her skin almost certainly wasn’t lightened (the heroine’s was, although obviously that was for effect. I’ll also bet you a million imaginary dollars the makeup artist used Mac face and body in White on her, too, albeit in a heavier application than I use). THIS is progress.

And do we have to talk about how cute Brandon Flowers is in his sharp jacket (that, btw, is how a dinner jacket is supposed to fit, slim through the shoulders and arms) or how when Eric Roberts became so filthy hot? Because I am currently associated with the hottest man on the planet (seriously, you would die) and Mister R and his smoking jacket STILL make me need to take a lie down.

Random Musings on Crystal Renn, Photoshop, Etc

I’ve had a bunch of people ask me –since I am apparently the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador to Fatlandia– about this whole Crystal Renn photoshop thing in Glamour magazine.

Basically, she posed for Glamour, whose photoshoppers are notoriously shrink happy and she was shocked she got the photosuction treatment.

You know, frankly I’m just glad she’s wearing panties.

It seems like every other shot I’ve seen of her lately has been sans knickers, and whatever, it’s editorial so okay and hell, I’d let Carine Roitfeld personally style my panty garden if it meant I got an editorial spread in Paris Vogue but there is an extremely limited list of people whose trouser topiary I want to see and Ms Renn isn’t on that list, even as an extra.

Plus it’s part of my Fat Models Without Clothes problem.

You can’t just hire a plus-size model and use her like a straight-sized model (although Ms Renn IS a straight size. She wears an 10/12) you’ve got the strip them down and make a REALLY BIG DEAL about it.  “LOOK! LOOK! There’s body fat! Do you see that?! Do you see how cool and progressive we are?! LOOK THERE IS A TEENSY ROLL OF FLESH! We are EMPOWERING YOU, now keep reading so you can hate your body the way we want.


Wake me up when there’s a size 12/14 model featured fully clothed, without fanfare or press releases or *gag* the world “real woman” involved, in an editorial spread.

Anyway, I’m kind of surprised that Ms Renn, who seems like a canny girl, was shocked at her retouched image. I mean Glamour has the worst photoshoppers this side of a flyover-state toddler beauty pageant (confidential to M. Carey –you owe me one.)

Remember what they did to America Ferrera?


But it’s not even about that. She is a great model, I mean a GREAT model. I don’t mean she’s that especially gorgeous –although she’s a good looking gal– but she models like a dream and works her body like who…Verushka maybe? Incredible.


I don’t know, she’s being shot from above, and she’s working her body in “thin” ways, plus she’s lost some weight recently.  And yeah, she was definitely trimmed a bit, but I don’t think it was a photo hack job as much as some folks do.

I also don’t think Renn owes it to the fat community to be a certain size. She’s a size 10 now. So? Good for her if that’s her natural comfortable weight. She’d be a great model at a 10 and a great model at a 16.  If her body is happy at one place, shouldn’t she be allowed to let it sit there?

Yeah I’d like there to be a true plus size model or two (or twelve) out there getting big editorials, but that’s not where we are right now. Oh well.

Also ALSO, I suspect that in many cases, Renn gets shopped the other way, making her bigger than she really is. I know when I modeled,  straight size girls –about a 10– would pad their middles so they’d look bigger.  This was before Photoshop made it the work of an instant, but I still know girls pad today.

Finally, I found Nicholas Routzen‘s –the photographer who also “shaped” Renn’s photos after the shoot– blog pretty interesting (and not just because he pretty much agreed with me).

Read it for  yourself.

Six really IS the new fourteen

Remember in The Devil Wears Prada (which I liked despite being the only woman on earth apparently not in love with Meryl Streep) when our straight-sized heroine Andy is told by creative director Nigel that “Six is the new fourteen.”?

Well, life imitates art.

First, you must go and read Style Spy’s revelation.  She could be a plus sized model!

“But wait!” you say “Style Spy is a teensy tiny size 4!” and I say “I know. read on, my friends.”

Mme Style Spy posted a picture of one of Ford Models’ newest members of their plus division, Alyona Osmanova:

The new face of plus size
and remarked how they share almost the exact same measurements, except Aloyna is much, much taller.

Now, just for comparison, Ms Osmanova’s measurements are reported as 36″ 28″ 40″ and she stands at just a hair under six feet tall.

Cindy Crawford, one of the few TRUE supermodels, is only 5’9″ but her model card from 1992 had her measurements as 34″ 22″ 35″,  Naomi Campbell, same height, reported her measurements as 34″ 28″ 40″ on the Tyra show in 2005.

Once again:

Supermodel Naomi Campbell: 34″ 28″ 40″ at 5’9″

Plus size model Alyona Osmanova: 36″ 28″ 40″ at 5’11”


Say what you will about the plus divisions of most modeling agencies (get a few sazeracs in me and I will) but at least back in my day –and we’re talking the late 90’s here– the plus sized models were actually plus sized: 12, 14, 16.

But I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom.

At this point, these size categories have been so bended and skewed as to be meaningless, and I think for the fashion world, that’s a good thing.

When reviewing the Chanel Resort collection, Andre Leon Talley (whose memoir ALT you MUST read) wrote:

“Lagerfeld had cast the show with a slightly more curvaceous model named Crystal Renn, not seen on any Chanel catwalk before. This in itself was groundbreaking for the house, but there was also the return of personality models encouraged to be themselves instead of robotic look-alikes.”

What I’m excited about isn’t known fatty hater Karl Lagerfeld casting “slightly more curvaceous” Crystal Renn (and THANK YOU, Mr Talley for that bit of intellectual honesty) it’s that we’re seeing a return to personality models.

We’ve kind of been doing 15 year old Eastern European automatons for almost a decade now, and they do look like robots, and while I understand the appeal having faceless identical clothes hangers must hold for a designer who wants all attention to go to his concept, not her beauty, I think we’ve gone as far as we can go in that direction and I’m extremely heartened to see pretty models once again, some of whom might even have what are recognizably womanly shapes.

I think the general acceptance of size 6 models –and dare I hope for an eight or *gasp* ten OTHER than Crystal Renn– is a much more tenable step in the right direction in the modeling industry than plopping down a handful of true plus size models as gimmick casting.

So I’ll end this little fashion rant the same way I end all my fashion rants, with a hope that fashion will start to incorporate actual meaningful diversity, not just high-heeled tokenism, into its editorials and advertisements.

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