Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Beauty is as Beauty Does: The Changing Face (and body) of Fashion

Is ugly the ‘new’ pretty? Is chubby the new skinny? Along with ushering in a brand New Year, are we also ushering in a new standard for beauty? Not only has the year begun with more and more (quite deserved) attention being focused on the problem of unhealthy, unnatural, and life threatening skinniness (especially in terms of the fashion industry, emaciated models, and the way in which their impossible to achieve ‘look’ influences and impacts on the public who looks up to them and seeks to emulate them). But perhaps we are ushering in a new, far more forgiving aesthetic that will have far reaching impact.

Not only is the fashion world being pressured to rethink their aesthetic in terms of body weight, but following the recent Golden Globe Awards and the crowning of ‘Ugly Betty’ and its star America Ferrara, much has made of the fact that ‘Ugly’ is the new ‘Pretty’. A recent ABC News article that appeared online, “America Ferrera Makes ‘Ugly’ Beautiful”, observed, “America Ferrera has made it cool to be "ugly." The Golden Globe-nominated actress has won fans and accolades for her role in the hit ABC show "Ugly Betty." She recently told ABC News' Robin Roberts that she couldn't be happier about her Golden Globe nomination for best actress and for best show.

"We've worked so hard, and now we can celebrate it together," Ferrera said. "It is a wonderful cast and crew and show to be on. Everyone is so excited." Though some people were appalled by the show's title when it first came out, Ferrera's confident that viewers now get the message that "ugly" isn't meant to insult.

"I think we knew the title would be a little jarring. But once you see it, then you know," she said. "You get it. You know there's irony in the title and it's a commentary on the definition of what ugly and beautiful is."

That said, no title was ironic and more ‘right on’ in terms of acting as a commentary on the definition of what ugly and beautiful is, than “Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women”, written by Michael Gross. But regardless, all of this new awareness and ongoing debate couldn’t have come at a more perfect time since New York Fashion Week and the international round of showings are approaching in the near future.

In fact, it seems that that the eyes of the world (especially the fashion world) will be more focused on and interested in the weight and health of the models than the fall 2007 offerings being proposed by designers. Of course, it should be pointed out that the fall winter season is not necessarily the best indicator of models’ body weight since the clothing is by very nature, covered up, layered, and quite forgiving, so protruding collarbones, bony knees, and rail thin arms are far easier to be hidden under wrap (literally). So the true test will really be in September, for the spring 2008 shows, when the models will be strutting their stuff (or lack thereof) in bikinis, short shorts, minis, and strapless dresses.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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