I’ve always enjoyed getting my hands on books that show the transformation women go through in searching for, and then finding, their own “style”.
Style that with a little bit of help and sound advice is based on common sense and a bit of intuitive “know-how” by people who somehow have a grasp of what “is” as far as what to wear, how to “do” - makeup and hair; and how to make the most of what you have. How do these people do it?
We had a few series on television. Susannah and Trinny (Britain). Carson Kressley, (USA) and Gok Wan (another British fashion consultant). I even saw another one on SBS the other night doing “makeovers” but didn’t catch his name.
While Susannah and Trinny and Carson Kressley “touched” upon makeovers for women who didn’t quite fall into the small and petite mould, none of them really went into the subject head-long, or feet-first!
Even some of my favourite books by Mary Spillane (Color Me Beautiful) don’t embrace the subject fully - I guess they have always wanted to be seen as being “politically correct” in not including real size plus-sizers.
But it takes someone like Monif C (USA) to show, not only in black and white, but vivid striking, dazzling, blinding colours, what cleverly designed fuller figure clothes can do for a woman. (I make no apologies for promoting Monif C time and time again, for I believe she is one person who has her finger on the pulse of what a woman wants when it comes to plus-size fashion. * I also include Janelle of Love Your Peaches in this belief, and I will be saying more about LYP a little later.)
Some time back Monif C did a presentation of “before” and “after” photographs of a selection of women wearing her garments. One thing that strikes me at first glance in the “before” photo is that ALL the women are wearing either jeans or leggings and either black or white tops. Is this a reminder that many of us try to wear the ”uniform of the invisible woman”? I’m guilty of it sometimes - are you?
The “invisible woman” - wanting to be part of the crowd, wanting to be seen as fashionable and fitting in with what the world seems to think we should dress like, and wanting to hide some of our luscious curves?
How attitudes change when you feel and look good.
Comparing the second lot of photographs to the first you’ll see more than a transformation as it relates to the colours and designs of the garments:
(i) there’s also a remarkable but subtle change in attitude of the girls. Look carefully, it’s almost as though they’re breaking out of their shell of self-protection and blossoming as proud women. Saying to the world - hey, LOOK at me! It’s VERY subtle, but it’s there.
(Mind you, I’m not suggesting for a minute that these women were not all proud and confident women BEFORE the “after” photos, but it’s there for everyone to see).
Experiment yourself - ask a friend to take a photo of you in your everyday jeans and tee shirt and then dress up and ask them to photograph you. You’ll see for yourself the change in how you look at the camera, and even how you stand in front of the camera between the “before” and the “after”.
Being a woman and loving being a woman.
I love the cheekiness these women show in their photographs - so many women have forgotten how to be cheeky. There’s an art to it (as well as being flirty without going overboard) and that’s one of the feminine attributes I often comment on, as having been lost in recent decades. OK, I’m known to be a bit of a bore and a prude, and I’m comfortable being seen as that - sometimes! Yet I believe femininity in all its many guises has undergone a toughness and roughness that hasn’t done us much good at all. In trying to become “one of the men”, too many women have lost their softness and attraction. It’s all very well wanting to be seen as “equal”, but when that route means you lose your innocence and gentleness, then you’ve lost many of your “differences”. And let’s face it, we are different, and those differences are what attracts us to each other.
But I digress.
The other thing you’ll notice in these photos is the baring of arms. We all experience the time-changes that our bodies go through - gravity plays around with us willy-nilly, and our upper arms often remind us of pelican wings as they spread them to dry in the sun. So we hide them (the arms, not necessarily the pelican wings!) Even young women hide them. The second photo shows women confident in baring their arms.
If I have a favourite amongst these women it has to be Roxanne. She looks terrific even in the “before” photo. And she has great legs!
Then let your eyes take in these two photos and see if you don’t agree with me. She looks absolutely stunning.
© 2013 Rosemary Parry-Brock
Photographs © Monif C, USA