Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ronde et Ronde We Go

We seem to have opened a heated debate about weight. Let's continue shall we?

I had a pot pourri planned for today, but this is infinitely more interesting.  As women we're irrevocably invested in this most delicate subject and there is more to say.

We're constantly pushed and pulled this way and that about those numbers on the scale. More and more of us are exercising and trying to eat well. Good for us. My experience in France is that French women do generally eat well. They include the requisite fruits and vegetables in their regimes, they walk, walk, walk and bicycle whenever they can. They drink small amounts of wine and desserts are treats. (I'm speaking from my own experience.) It is beyond my imagination to think of a French woman slipping out of bed in the deep of night to consume a carton of ice cream with a few macarons.

Forgive me for this lapse in precision, which I'm paraphrasing here without credit: Years ago I read somewhere that the question, "What do you think of when someone mentions chocolate cake?" was posed to French and American women, the French said "special occasion, a treat" and the Americans said, "sinful." Interesting mindset, non?

Of course French women take their car to the mall, but they'll ride their velo to the village shops and they weave with terrifying purpose -- sans helmet, skirts flying in the breeze, heels hooked over the pedals -- in and out of traffic in Paris. Thank goodness there are more and more bicycle lanes, but drivers often don't respect the dividing lines.

We all know that when a need presents itself, a marketing and product campaign jumps into or onto the opportunity. This translates into those hot sectors, plus sizes and the anti-aging bandwagon.

Magazines rely on advertisements to survive thus they have no choice but to address subjects they might otherwise like to pretend don't exist. Their tack is always glamor, glamor at every age and every size. 

In the French Elle edition of this week there were, in my opinion, some unkindly unflattering fashion choices for the models. They may look like "fun" in a fashion shoot with the wind machines whipping lush, long tresses in the artificial breeze, the lighting and makeup just so, but what information is this sending out to the real world? Has the benediction been given to bare all, wear jerseys that pull across the body? Once again, mixed messages. Don't we simply want to look the best we can working with our natural resources?

From the top: Tara wearing a great combination of pieces, right down to the glasses; just below French model Johanna Dray (a size 46/48, but 5'11" which makes a huge difference in proportions and possibilities) looking sleek by maintaining that famous unbroken line. It doesn't matter that the jacket hits at a potentially unflattering point, the line is the unbroken rule.

Center: Tara in the peacock chair. Thought this might stir-up the cauldron.

Finally: Tara in an adorable photograph modeling a great dress by Sandro she probably shouldn't be wearing. However, the scale of the necklace is perfect for her size. 

And, Stephanie Zwicky, 5' 6" and a size 52, wearing a Lanvin dress which I cannot believe exists in her size. My guess would be, after all the photo shoot styling I've done, that the dress was slit up the back like a hospital gown, except with less coverage. If I'm wrong, I apologize en avance. Stephanie has a blog dedicated to the big and the beautiful.

Pictures of Tara are by David Oldham, those of Johanna and Stephanie by Kate Barry. (For those of you who are Jane Birkin fans, Barry is her daughter.)


adornedunicorn said...

It's refreshing to see not anorexic models, but why not average size women? Real women?!?

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

I think these women have enourmous courage. I would never expose myself to this kind of scrutiny...they are so vulnerable looking....and I wince just thinking about it and I am a size 12.

Jacqueline said...

Oh Tish,
Don't get me started again. I have probably already offended most of your readers !!
Well, Tara in the Peacock Chair ? I'm sorry but, I don't find that beautiful at all. She is overweight and needs to loose a little weight. End of story.... and, it's no good saying they're toned or that they love their bodies (which they don't). It's all an excuse.
I want to know why we can't just see some women who aren't skinny and anorexic but, aren't overweight. Just some normal 12/14 sizes.
Being overweight and obese is becoming a massive problem and a drain on hospitals in many, if not all western countries and, showing Tara in a peacock chair isn't helping. !! Rant over !! XXXX

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Hey Tish!
Do you think I could get David Oldham to take a few shots of me?????????HAHA.I willl point out that Tara is youngish and has a smooth body........Big difference than when you're getting up in years... Bring out the air brush!!!!Maryannexo

Belle de Ville said...

I agree with adorneunicorn is asking why they don't use average size women? But, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that the nude photo of Tara in the chair is beautiful. Sorry, but she's positively "rubenesque" in the best of ways in that particular pose. She could be a model for Renoir.

Châtelaine - The Garden Fairy said...

Ok - admittedly I _am_ overweight, and not too little. And I do not love it - I am not happy in my body. BUT - and that is the point to which I have come over the years: I love _myself_ - regardless in which body I am momentary. And I try to improve health, appearance, weight and such - but as this may take more ( or less ?) time, I can as well decide to look good, chique, and even sexy, if desired. I do not need to walk on the street in a one-person-tent, ashamed of myself. No, I decided to be as pretty as I can, stand up to my figure/statue ( kind of tall germanic Brunhilde type, grin) and I have that success that I search for: People comment on my style and appearance, and comment on me making the best of my pounds. This does not mean that I do not strive to get back into shape- but it says that everyBODY can make the best visual appearance out of him/her with a little self-love. Down from my soapbox. I encourage private email answers and discussions, if desired :-)) for not to clog the "comments" section here. kind regards, Martina

Marsi said...

So what is the French reaction to the "ronde" issue of Elle? I am sure it's got people talking.


trouvais said...

I love that my 21 year old daughter is a mite bit softer around the edges than I was...prettily so. When I see how easily weight creeps up on you past 50...I fear a bit for these young rubinesques. I sort of agree with Jacqueline...there is a wide swath of healthier middle ground that should be more routinely covered. Trish

Duchesse said...

I love seeing a big voluptuous woman who is not hiding her body. There IS a point when body size obliterates shape and a woman has mobility issues, but I prefer les ronds- the 46/48 shown, to the tense, starved women with popping veins.

And the behaviours required to maintain very thin figures after they are not young (if you are not genetically a whippet)! The weapons are, with some of the French women I know: coffee, cigarettes and medication. Carine Roitfeld said in a recent interview that this is her approach, too. And people are concerned about a heavy model setting an example?

Deja Pseu said...

Jacqueline - I would never presume to know how someone else feels about their own body. Just saying.

What bothers me is the conflation between aesthetics and health that I see crop up in almost every discussion about "plus-sized" models or clothing. If you don't like how someone looks, fine. It's OK to be honest about that. But don't veneer over that preference with "concern" about their health. We don't see similar tut-tutting concern every time someone posts a picture of a model smoking a cigarette. (This isn't directed specifically at Jacqueline, but more as a general observation.) *Except at very extreme ends of the range*, making assumptions about someone's health based on their size is meaningless.

Belle makes a good point about Renoir. We just went to an exhibit of his later works and the nudes were all of similar size and shape as the model in the peacock chair. I don't think appreciation of a body this size is "encouraging obesity."

That said, I think they could've styled most of these shots in a much more flattering way.

Young at Heart said...

The heart break diet....it's the best! The post-40-fat was spreading nicely then I lost about 17lbs (well more like 17 stone of boring, middle-aged philanderer but hay....)and now am a comfortable UK12. And it's stayed off because I learnt I could eat anything....just as long as I didn't eat very much of it....

BigLittleWolf said...

"Glamor, at every age and every size..." - isn't that what we all want, really? At least a touch of it, the feeling we have? Doesn't every woman deserve that?

I went searching for the French mag of mention, here in the US, ce matin. I came home with an indulgence: Maison Française, but hélas, could not find this periodical.

And personally, I think we could ALL do with seeing nudes of different sizes and shapes. It would open our eyes to beauty that encompasses a more diverse spectrum. And perhaps the men who prefer a woman who is ronde or pulpeuse would come out of the closet as well. And they are many, but often afraid to admit it.

Dommage, for everyone involved.

FIONA said...

Tara in the peacock chair is beautiful.

There are a range of beautiful body shapes and sizes. I do with there were a few mid-sized women in this issue, but it surely beats the walking skeletons in most magazines.

Jacqueline said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa.
If you are VERY overweight you are more likely to have health issues. FACT. I am not saying that every single overweight person is going to suffer, but it is highly likely. There is extra weight and pressure on the joints, There is fat around the organs. An overweight person is more suseptible to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There is an increased risk of cancer of the colon, oesophagus, uterine and postmenopausal breast cancer and fatty liver disease. There is more chance of having sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. Is Deja Pseu saying that the medical profession have got it wrong ? Obviously anyone who is seriously underweight will also have health issues and, that IS addressed a lot.
I would like it noted that I'm in no way having a go at anyone who is overweight. I am not offended by how people look. I am purely discussing the health side of it. I'm just having a healthy discussion about it.
Chatelaine, The Garden Fairy has really summed it up in a truthful and open way. She is admitting that she has put on a little weight and isn't 100% happy, but is doing something about it and, in the meantime, is dressing beautifully. The model in your photographs looks great but, is she going to have health issues because of it ? XXXX

Beatnheart said...

Food and weight are such complex issues...it is often more about emotional problems than saying hey why don't you just lose some weight...Its like telling an alcoholic to stop drinking...Weight issues and overeating or not eating at all are rooted deeply... I have lost the same 10-20lbs about 50 times since I was 16 years old...If it was so easy Weight Watchers etc. would be out of business. Look at Oprah..all her money, personal trainers, private chefs can't keep the weight off her...because the problem runs deep. The truth in all this is that clothes look better, hang better on thin, tall models...They want to sell clothes...they want to sell magazines...I on the other hand just want to feel comfortable and attractive at any weight...

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I take your point about these models looking and feeling wonderful during an Elle photo shoot. But, what about in real everyday life? I just came in from running with Edward in the park. It is a beautiful Spring day here and Edward insisted on running really fast. I can't imagine that would have been too much fun if I had that much extra weight to carry along with me. Don't get me wrong, I'm no supermodel, but again... with me it's health, as well as beauty.

Deja Pseu said...

Jacqueline - allow me to clarify. I don't argue with the idea that excess weight is correlated with certain health concerns. I'm just saying that there seems to consistently be a general reaction to articles or pictures of "plus" size models (who are probably IRL very average in size; remember that the camera adds weight too) that jumps right to OMG UNHEALTHY! At what weight does health become a concern? That varies from person to person depending on genetics and lifestyle. For all we know, this model eats a moderate healthy diet and works out three hours a day, and has a blood pressure reading you or I would envy. Maybe not. The thing is, we don't know. Not everyone who is larger than a size 8 has health problems because of their weight, overeats, or is a compulsive eater. Maybe our definitions of "very" overweight diverge; to me this women doesn't meet that definition.

And as mentioned before, we don't see this kind of reaction every time someone posts a picture of a model smoking a cigarette (or, as Duchesse mentions, the extreme measures some women employ to maintain a thin body).

Jeanne said...

Tish...I am going to use your own words here...


Believe It Or Not
A recent poll entitled: "Les Européennes et l'Amour" conducted by Harris Interactive/Meetic reported the following findings in response to the question, "describe "la femme idéale":

1.) 57 percent want a sense of humor. (I ask you, how else can a woman live with a man unless she has a sense of humor?)

2.) 41 percent want her to be "cultivated". (I'll bet.)

3.) 35 percent want her to be "tender". (OK)

4.) 25 percent want her to be "elegant". (We're in Europe after all.)

5.) 27 percent want her to be "if possible" (aaaah), sexuellement libérée. (I'll bet.)

AND, number 6: A measly eight percent said they would like their ideal woman to be thin. (What's thin?)


Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart said...

I COMPLETELY agree with Jacqueline on this issue. Is is not strange that we see absolute skeletons on the runway and in the magazines and that Elle magazine wants to somehow balance the issue with, honestly, obese models? what of women who are ronde but not huge? sexy and pulpeuses, but who exercise, eat as well as they can, and indulge in a great dessert or a raclette, something delicious that they love to savor occasionally? do we have to emulate one extreme or the other? can we be fit and a little ronde and still "look good" in "normal" clothes? what is so wrong with a few curves, and what is so great(according to one issue of Elle) about being huge? (and they really are...this time) and being stick thin (and they really are... usually) Let's make, show, sell and publicize clothes for the average woman once in a while, and let's not create 21st century standards of beauty by idolizing skin and bones (for the benefit of designers)or making Rubens a measure of beauty (he was probably just that in HIS time) now that we know how dangerous both extremes are. End of monologue from an average ronde.

Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart said...

Forgot: Letitia GREAT post!!!

Morgane said...

i love "big beauty" blog , is the young woman size 52 . I regulary visit her blog because of her sense of fashion not because she's overweight ... The idea of showing "normal" size women should be interesting really ...
And yesterday , by my comment about my "normal weight" i hope i didn't upset anyone like "look i'm size 36 héhé" ! I just wanted to say this size is quite normal in France without being in a weight- control way ( and i'm talking as a 30 and some woman) , i know my body will change with years ...

Carmie, the Single Nester said...

This woman is absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for sharing the photos.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I too am tired to seeing skeletons on the runways. They look anorexic. I would not have the courage to pose as these women do if I were that size, but good for them. Skinny was drilled into me all of my life. I still oddly enough think of myself as skinny, although with a little age on me, I'm sadly not anymore. C'est la vie.

Semi Expat said...

For some reason not all of the photographs are showing when I go into the post but I did get the first two where I think Tara does look good - wonderful pieces... Also the Peacock Chair one... with this shot I would say that at her young age her flesh is firm and I don't find the photogarph unattractive at all - as a previous commenter said think it will be a different story when age creeps up and flesh creeps downwards !! Fantastic post and I loved the post yesterday too, Tish... x

Anonymous said...

Just saying..these obese models are beautiful, yes. But they are also young, with taught muscles, and have excellent (albiet large) body proportions of bust, waist, hips..

Proportion is extremely important in perceiving beauty. Period.

I struggle now with weight/shape. I never did when I was younger. Now I have noticed that going vegetarian is not only easy, but healthier and the weight comes off effortlessly..seriously!

I wonder how it would be to be vegetarian in France?

Great, provocative post, missy!

BonjourRomance said...

Is is safe to step in here?? My goodness Tish you have a hit a nerve with this series. Okay here's my two cents - Je suis ronde!

Personally I love the French word ronde, so much better than saying fat. My lovely Mother was quite ronde all her life. Do you want a big surprise? She enjoyed perfect health; perfect heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar (even up to the day she passed away). The doctors were mute! Unusual? Yes!

Yes I do need to lose weight, and now that I'm getting older, I need to do it now rather then later. Everyone here has made excellent points, but the most crucial lesson is to not put too much emphasis on looks alone.

Why do so many slender women want to add a bit of roundness via implants, etc.? We have to learn that what someone looks like on the outside is not necessarily who they are on the INSIDE. Looks are fleeting and certainly don't make the person(example:Hollywood...)

We must first be happy with who we are INSIDE - no matter what size.

The icing on the cake for me (not the best thing to say just now) is my other half loves me just as I am, as I do him. Fat, thin, one leg, two legs, smooth or scarred...you get my point.

In the meantime, we have to wake up each day and strive to do all we can to help ourselves and those we love become and feel healthy and happy.

That was more like 20 cents,

P.S. I promise to cut down on the macs - I'm being serious - and I think Tara looks beautiful.

Annecychic said...

Tish, thanks so much for taking on this topic. It's fascinating to read the range of comments and reactions to the photos. Fabulous posts!

Patty said...

I really agree with Jacqueline on this topic, I think people are going to the extreme with "oh my god we have GOT to use giant girls", big girls can be beautiful too but there is a limit.

A Refocused Life said...

Wow! Is this ratings week for blog comments? You have certainly topped the charts this week with responses. :) Interesting topic!

I have seen no sign of a response from James - he is most likely staying away from this issue, but it would be interesting to hear his thoughts.

I can speak from both sides of the fence. As an adult, I've been thin (size 10) and I've been overweight (size 18). I prefer how I look and feel(physically and mentally)when I'm thin. Maybe I've been programmed or brainwashed to think thin looks best, because when I see an overweight person, no matter how stylish or attractive, I always think how much better the person would look if they lost a few pounds....myself included.

Anonymous said...

What's with the outrage about the Lanvin gown that you "cannot believe exists in her size". Would that be the first time a garment has been torn, pinned, modified for the cameras? Or is modification only acceptable in a "thin" fashion spread?

The pendulum has swung too far, and needs a correction. 15 years ago when I weighed 48kg it was almost impossible to find clothes that fit me. Now at a whopping 54kg, I can't find clothes to suit me!

By the way - I have known many, many older, "fat" and HEALTHY women in my life time. They consumed very little processed food, followed mediteranean diets, and weren't frightened by cake or carbs. They stayed active and live long and healthy lives. Keep reading that research, the medical profession will figure this one out any day now ;)

Duchesse said...

The criteria of what is "too heavy" bubbles beneath the surface here. Is it the pinchable little roll even the thinnest woman has by 50? Is it the round tummy shown in the photo, or is it the leap into the plus sizes? What rankles me is how women that I know judge even the slightest amount of fleshiness as "I'm fat". We've become so thin-programmed.

Duchesse said...

Tish, I'm posting tomorrow (April 1) on this as have more to say and don't want to write a book on your Comments page. You have helped me consolidate my thinking, thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, how can we assess the health of a model jus>\t by looking at her? Not every skinny model has anorexia or bulimia or is even underweight. Not every "fat" woman is unhealthy.

I have diabetes and high cholesterol and my weight is perfectly normal...I'm a size 8. Unless that's considered fat. I also lost in the gene pool with cholesterol, only 20% of which is due to diet and exercise. Diabetes in an insulin resistance problem.

Fat is the final frontier in discrimination. We could all insult fat people and hide, as Deja Pseu said, under concern for their health.

What I think is at play here is a constant competition between women. Are our egos still so fragile that we look at someone different and feel free to let loose? Do I have the right to worry about the state of your skin if you're a regular tanner by saying that tanning causes skin cancer, though what I really mean is that you look terrible because you have deep wrinkles?

If a regular model had an artificial limb, none of this nastiness would be written or spoken.

s. said...

Hm. Whether or not these models are healthy, they do represent a significant and growing segment of the population (yes, even the french population). I am delighted to see them in a fashion magazine because every woman should have the right to see her "type" looking wonderful in Elle, even if knows she might be healthier were she to lose/gain weight; stop smoking; floss her teeth more often; drink less coffee; wear sun block daily; start a weight-lifting regimen; take vitamin D supplements; stretch 15 minute each evening; sleep 8 hours every night or practice stress-relieving meditation in the morning. After all: who am I to judge whether a woman is "sufficiently" healthy?

60 going on 16 said...

A little late for me to be jumping in, Tish, but today's Times (that's The Times in the UK) devotes several pages of its Weekend section to the subject and Mlle Zwicky's photos fill the front page. Some interesting statistics eg 42 per cent of French women are now classed as overweight or obese (similar to 1970s figures in the USA and we know what has been happening since then . . .) and France is the dreaded McDonald's most profitable customer after the US. Oh -and Italian women are thinner than French women!!

From personal observation (so not the least bit scientific), in Paris - as Janine Giovanni says in the same edition of the Times -skinny remains de rigueur (almost a religion)- but whenever I've stayed in rural France, I've noticed that many women are much like their counterparts here in rural England: plumpish and uninterested in fashion. (Novelist Helena Frith Powell, writing in the same issue, has found much the same.)

Links to articles here:
and here:

Norma said...

I'm also going to have to caution against assuming that thin = healthy and heavier = sick/unhealthy. I have been very thin (size 4) and much heavier (up to size 20). I am not healthy at size 20, but then I was also smoking a pack a day. But at size 4, I was also very unhealthy, was living on cigarettes and coffee and nothing else.

I am now much, much healthier in my 40s than I was in my 20s. I also am a size 14. Sometimes a 12 if I'm in a thin phase, sometimes close to 16 depending on where I am in my cycle. And I am super healthy. I completed a half marathon this year. I do yoga, lift weights, swim, and run. I'm muscled enough that generally at 150# I am a size 8, and at a size 14 I am around 177#, and I'm 5'7". My bp is textbook perfect, sometimes even a bit under but not dangerously so, my cholesterol is fantastic, I take no medications regularly other than vitamins, and have NO serious medical conditions even despite some foolishness in my 20s (see smoking, above).

Could I try to be a size 6 again? Sure. But I know what it takes - it means I have to worry about every single thing I put in my mouth, and I have to learn to like being hungry. Not just not-full, not just hungry before meals, but hungry ALL OF THE TIME. When I am trying to get very thin I have to learn to enjoy the little nagging tug in my stomach, and drink water to quiet it, or it never goes away. I also have to only do things like "skinny cow" ice cream bars for dessert, and candy and fried foods and pastry is straight out.

Or, I could be a size 14, not be obsessed, be able to run miles and miles and get a medal at the end of it, have great blood pressure, eat what I want within reason, and be generally in pretty great health.

My point isn't that size 14 is naturally healthy. I'm sure there are folks who are sick at size 14 and they are not at a good weight for them. But there are people who are size 6 or 8 who are also unhealthy.

I know that extreme obesity is correlated with health problems, but please check out the "health at every size" movement - there is a good deal of research that shows that not everyone is meant to be "thin" and that not everyone who is other than thin is sickly - even people who are far larger than I am.

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