What W Really Thinks About Women’s Bodies

This is model Lara Stone on the cover of the August issue of W.

W august lara stone 

This is Lara Stone modeling inside that same issue.
W lara stone dress

And this is Lara Stone in her underwear, also from the August issue.
W lara stone lingerie

These are some of the terms used to describe Lara Stone in the editor's letter and the article “Fashion’s It Girl”:

  • “a little meat on her bones” (W’s deputy editor, Julie L. Belcove)
  • “voluptuous frame”  (the article’s author, Sarah Haight)
  • “a mix of a warrior and Brigitte Bardot” (designer Isabel Marant)
  • “her body…a refreshing aesthetic shift away from the prepubescent boy figure that has lately dominated fashion” (Haight)
  • “big, bad and beautiful” (photographer Bruce Weber)

And this is how Lara Stone describes her own body:

“A lot of people say it’s nice to see someone who won’t break in half when you touch them,” she says… “But I am still a woman and a person, and if you’re compared and confronted with your colleagues, and they’re all half your size, you think, F—, I’m really fat! And then on other days, I’m like, Oh, I’m not that bad.”

“Not that bad”? A woman who makes money posing in her underwear is “not
that bad”?

The fashion industry—and, in turn, the fashion media—have such a warped concept
of slimness that a model like Lara Stone
is so much larger than her contemporaries that they feel
the need to explain her presence. If Stone’s body is such an outlier, what does that say about the rest of us?

Worse, the magazine saw fit to issue the disclaimer that Stone “is, it
should be noted, a very lithe five foot ten.” Why, yes, do note that! As if
there’s the slightest chance someone is going to look at these photos and think
Stone needs to, like, slow down on the Cheetos.

The article mentions multiple times that her look is a modeling-world
anomaly. And that gives editors, photographers, and designers the chance to
explain why they hired her—which is really just a whole lot of
self-congratulatory masturbation about how open-minded they are, like they have
to somehow justify (to us!) casting a woman whose ribs don't poke out above her cleavage.
Yeah, they’re real body-image mavericks. What a revolution. If they truly believed that Stone’s shape is so enviable, why the need for justification? If the “meat on her bones” is so praiseworthy, why don’t we see more models with “meat”?

Her figure may be in vogue, but the rest of us have to live with our
bodies no matter what magazines deem the ideal shape of the moment. Perhaps
the industry could stop treating Stone like a freakshow long enough to realize how very hypocritical it is to praise her curves and how insulting it is to us when they’re compelled to rationalize featuring a woman with hips and a bustline. We have
those. We get it.

Clearly, the fashion industry doesn’t.

Related: The Language of Magazines: Is “Curvy” Completely Meaningless?

11 thoughts on “What W Really Thinks About Women’s Bodies

  1. Well-written as usual!

    Fashion is so far removed from everyday life, I wouldn’t be surprised if most women didn’t react to articles like this with epic eye rolls. Just look at haute couture runways: Who would ever wear that stuff out in public?

  2. Bear with me, this has a point…

    In a talk about synthesia and the fundamentals of art (formerly on the NYAS site), Dr. V.S. Ramachandran mentioned a study done on baby birds. Normally chicks of this species feed by pecking at the red inside of their mother’s beak, causing her to regurgitate. The researchers substituted actual mothers with a variety of objects ranging from life-like bird puppets (like the ones used at wildlife rehabilitation centers) to vaguely realistic, bird-less beaks, to simple red sticks. Even when pecking didn’t reward food, the chicks preferred to peck at the highly abstracted, thoroughly unmotherlike red sticks. (I wish I could find a link to the Rama video, or a citation of the study, but alas. Maybe someday.) I think that models are one of many examples of this trend in humans: we take positive characteristics and extrapolate/fetishize them until they don’t resemble their original forms. In the search for beauty, we’ve pursued the sylphlike, youthful, thin form until it’s not even appealing, yet we keep pushing on. The whole beauty/fashion industry is obsessed with finding the next girl: younger, thinner, more exotic–whatever that means–than the last, and ultimately more exaggerated. Perhaps this is driven more by marketing than psychology, but it’s rather interesting nonetheless.

    I’m all for having more girls Lara Stone’s size in glossies. Hell, make ‘em bigger! But I don’t think that will even happen. After all, if magazines featured healthier pretty women, who would they put in their self-congratulatory, “We’re totally in touch with reality” spreads? It sells more issues and ingratiates them with their readership to occasionally hold up a few examples of “alternative” beauty and pretend to criticize the status quo they created.

    Maybe I’m just jealous, though. When I started modeling for Elite in my teens, I was 123 lbs at 5’10″. At my thinnest, I weighed 108 lbs and was constantly berated for being “too big.” Yes, I was so “big” that I developed anemia, stopped menstruating, and probably permanently screwed up my bone density. (I hope everyone sees the sarcasm there; I know it doesn’t always travel well through the internet.) The fashion industry worships starving girls, but still hires someone to airbrush out the ribs, spines and dark circles; in a way, they tacitly admit that their own ideals of beauty are ugly.

    Years later, my metabolism and lifestyle are slowing down, and I’m up to 135 lbs. My BMI finally in the normal range! Yet I look at fashion magazines or my old clothes, and I want to cry because I’m “fat.” Even with firsthand experience with just how warped and ridiculous this system is, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m inadequate….

    P.S. Lara Stone is pretty, but I’m getting bored with girls who are only notable because they look like other beautiful people. Brigitte Bardot will always be the best Brigitte Bardot.

    P.P.S. Sorry for the long rant. Reading this post and this ( http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/magazine/26FOB-2DLove-t.html ) at the same time made my head explode, I guess.

  3. Did i step into an alternate universe or something? In what fakata bizarroworld is she ‘voluptuous’ or ‘big’? She looks like plain ol’ blond tall model to me. Does not being able to readily count one’s ribs count as ‘big’ now?

  4. Uh, seriously, I DO NOT see her as any bigger than what’s normally in the magazines. Where is the voluptuosness (sp?) – the boobs? Does having boobs mean you’re fat? What the hell? Her arms and legs are stick thin and her stomach is insanely flat and she has no hips. I absolutely do not understand the difference in her body shape compared to other models.

  5. I am with Sarah-other than her chest, where is the voluptuous part? They say the camera adds ten pounds-clearly this was not on her legs and arms. This reminds me of the early ’90s when all the fashion editors thought they were “brave” to use Cindy Crawford, another so called voluptuous model. Spare me…

  6. Everyone in L.A needs to head over to Vionnet Boutique on Robertson ASAP! A HUGE BLOWOUT sale is underway for the next four days! We have Vera Wang pieces for going under $100 and even some $5 bins!

  7. Wendy – Omg, FINALLY, someone who sees they same thing I saw when I first saw Lara’s pics in W. I thought I was blind or something because uh, she still looks pretty damn skinny to me.

  8. Pingback: Vogue Takes Its Turn in the Lara Stone Sideshow – Glossed Over

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