Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Velvet Aboveground

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?


disordered girl said...

It's interesting. Last weekend her picture was the one being emailed around, and this week it's the one of the completely sick, emaciated-looking model used in another show.

I think Gautier did it for shock value purposes only, but in a culture where such extreme thinness is getting so out of control, maybe it takes an act such as this to bring things back to a more reasonable middle ground? One can only hope, anyway.

flowerchild said...

It makes me crazy that there is so much focus on what people look like. Why do we even care how thin or fat people are? Especially models.? or movie stars.
We need to get over ourselves.
We've got thousands of people
dying every day in Africa, North Korea detonating nuclear weapons, child sex slaves in every country in the world, and way too many nuts with way too many guns killing way too many people. Maybe if we focused on something other than ourselves and tried to make a positive difference in the world (small, big...whatever) we might be able to live outside our bodies for a while.
I'm just mad. My ED keeps me self-centered and selfish and I hate it. It is such a waste of my humanity.

Haley-O said...

I think it's great! It's provocative and gets people talking. It's the fashion industry, right? So, good to get them thinking and talking. How very arty of Gautier. I really think it's interesting and all good. Great post, by the way! I hadn't heard this story!

Anonymous said...

I'll reserve any judgment until I learn more about Gautier's motives. If he's sincere in trying to make a statement that larger women are beautiful too, or even better, that the fasion industry's proclivity for stick figures has gone too far, then I'll appalaud him. If he did it to exploit Velvet to draw attention to himself, I'll have nothing but scorn for him. One thing that will tell is whether he ever designs clothes for a larger woman.

I am not holding my breath.

Debstar said...

Velvet is living proof that the larger woman can be beautiful and sexy. Wish more people got it. Velvet certainly has.

ps22 said...

I agree with anonymous...my skepticism and disdain for the fashion world clouds my usually optimistic style. As for Velvet, girlfriend knows how to strut her stuff. The idea of walking a catwalk (no matter what my size or attire) sounds like pure hell to me, so many props to her for owning the stage no matter what the designer's intent.

drstaceyny said...

dg--maybe, and hopefully. Thanks for reading. . .

fc--you're probably right--thanks for the perspective.

haley--if nothing else, it DID get people talking. Thanks!

anon--either am I, though we'll see. . .

ds--she certainly strut her stuff (as ps writes below)!

ps--good point. I'll get in line behind you for the catwalk.

Emily said...

Unfortunately, I don't think that turning plus-sized women into role models is the solution. People think that "eating disorder" = too thin, but overeating is a disorder as well, and there is nothing healthy about obesity.