By now, you’ve probably heard about Velvet D'Amour, a 39-year-old model and actress who took Paris Fashion Week by storm. As part of his 30-year anniversary show, designer Jean-Paul Gaultier offered his unique spin on the recent Size-0 controversy in Spain (and in New York, where fall fashion week models were anecdotally judged to be more emaciated than ever before) by casting Velvet in his show. While the rest of his models donned workout gear (sweats, hoodies, etc.), Velvet, among a roaring crowd, pranced down the catwalk in a satin corset and negligee. None of this is really surprising, unless you’ve also heard about Velvet’s, um, weight. Reports indicate that voluptuous Velvet is 5’8”, weighs 291 pounds, and wears a Size 20 (see below). Velvet is decidedly plus-size.
By today’s standards, a plus-size model is defined as one who wears a dress size of 14 or higher (irony aficionados take note: that’s the average dress size of women in America). Emma Melissa Aronson is described as the first (barely) plus-sized model to gain widespread appeal. Really? Can you picture her? Funny thing about Emma—50% chance says she’s your size or smaller. But now, everyone seems to have a mental image of Velvet.
The model herself offers some perspective on the hoopla surrounding her recent job—Velvet’s quoted as saying: “If you tell me somebody's too thin, if you tell me somebody's too fat, you're still being prejudiced. The point is diversity.” That might not dampen the requisite backlash from those who haven’t gotten the point. In a New York Post article, Velvet is described as a “massive model” wearing a “barrel-sized corset and enough lace to outfit the entire Moulin Rouge.” A caption states: “The colossal catwalker at Jean Paul Gaultier’s Paris show looks as if she could swallow whole the stick-figure model [pictured next to her.]” Even removing the fat-is-bad lens from the equation, it’s still pretty far from praise. Hopefully, Velvet’s thick-skinned.
No one’s ever accused Gaultier of being subtle, but has he crossed the line, going overboard for publicity’s sake? Is Gaultier’s decision to use Velvet revolutionary, a pendulum-swinging act away from the disappearing model-star, or is she just the latest pawn in our global size wars?