Darlings, I am a fat Black woman. I am considered short (although I’ll argue average), I have large meaty thighs, muscular calves and a large round belly and not much of a waist. I an not conventionally considered beautiful in the western world that I inhabit. I have always been considered fat, even 100 lbs ago, as much for my body type and mass as for my fat. I have always been short with large thighs, muscular calves with a round belly, not so much of a waist, and I have concluded that at my most fit I will continue to be all of those things.
I have over much time accepted the reality of my unique body shape, as well as my dense bones, thick skin, stretch marks and the massive dimple in the right cheek of my bottom. Regardless of what society has ever had to say I have never let this stop me from being a glamour queen, a style fanatic and a snazzy dresser. So I never really viewed my love of fashion and lifelong pouring over the pages of Vogue and GQ as encumbering to my sense of self worth. But perhaps it wasn’t until today when viewing the slides from Paris Fashion Week that I truly realized that my love of style and styling and good design in the circus of fashion had indeed deeply affected my body image in some way.
For the first time ever, as I write this I am tearing, I saw women who in some regard looked like me on the runways of Paris Fashion Week. Rick Owens a master of “minimal” geometric design, chose to feature models who “defy” conventional standards of beauty. His models: average bodied, short and stocky, some with heavy touching thighs in their splayed stances, others with soft bellies gently protruding from beneath their fabulous clothing. They were mainly Black with wild, “undone” hair and skewed faces. They did not glide down the runway with pretty pouts, but were Stepping, an old African American college tradition. The models actual American college students who were part of Step teams on their campuses.
On his models, Owens says that fitting each woman was a good exercise for him on body types. Perhaps more designers will take the opportunity to stretch their skills.
I won’t lie, it was a shock to the system to see. A shock to my expectations of Runway shows at fashion week. But a marvelous type of Shock and Awe it was. Because there is nothing but beauty in Rick Owens’ presentation. Aesthetics can have depth and meaning. The superficial valuing of beauty in the limited scope that the taste makers of society have showcased is something that we need to all be reflecting on. And Rick Owens has won a whole new respect from me in his Spring 2014 presentation. Not for his clothing which as usual is fabulous, but from his conscious effort to reflect the beauty he saw in these women and their art form.
Just a week ago I was ranting on my personal Facebook page about the absence of average shaped women and larger women among well known runway designers who actually make collections for plus size women. And how what they produce in those collections don’t in fact compare to their runway designs of their straight size women’s collections. Essentially how we are not worth selling the fantasy to. Here we have Rick Owens making US the fantasy. Less remarkable than long overdue. But still, it feels pretty remarkable.
I love and admire many traditional aspects of beauty in the world, but I see the beauty in so much more than what we are spoon fed. I think, the beauty in truth is what we should all be attaining for. What do you think?
Source material and Images courtesy : The Cut NY Mag