Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Plight of the Curvy Woman, by Ashley Balding

This week's paNASH Style blog is a special one.  paNASH welcomes guest blogger Ashley Balding, a fashion design student at O'More College of Design and her take on the plight of the curvy woman.  Welcome Ashley and I hope all my readers out there enjoy her story and her tips as much as I did!

paNASH Style

The Plight of the Curvy Woman

By Ashley Balding 

For at least the last decade, it seems to have become a trendy topic to talk about curvy women in the media.  For generations we have been bombarded with the idea of the perfect body and the perfect appearance.  The Nineties gave us the starvation-style-Kate-Moss-esque, stick-thin models with bones poking through their paper-thin skin.

I have never been a stick.  Even when I was little I had curves.  Nobody ever made fun of me, but I always felt out of place.  My legs were fleshy when other girls’ were twig-like.  I was wearing women’s jeans in middle school, when the “cute” girls were still shopping at Limited Too.  I remember in elementary school we had to gather in the cafeteria every morning.  I would only sit in one certain position (on my knees with a jacket sitting on top of my legs) because I did not want anybody to think my legs looked fat. 

The big, bad F word.  I hate that word.  I despise it.  Not just because we all feel it sometimes, but I hate the connotation.  I hate the way it makes me feel.  I hate how it eats away at you little by little until all that is left is an inhuman nub of negativity.  And everybody deals with this.
Now when I look back at childhood pictures, I know that I was definitely nowhere near fat.  I was simply normal.  I wasted so much time worrying, even as a ten year old, about what people thought of me.  And I know young girls do the same these days.
Thankfully, there is consistently more attention on the curvy girl image in the media.  But my problem with that is I don’t want someone in my magazine that is the token “plus-size girl” to represent my supposed normal size.  I hate opening a magazine and seeing skinny girl, skinny girl, skinny girl, and then one huge girl, who looks even huger because she is plastered next to the skinny girls, with big red flags saying “look at me I’m plus-sized! Give this magazine some credit!” That, to me, is worse than having all boney models.  It's as if the magazines think that by simply including one big girl, it's going to appease all the women out there. WRONG!
The closest thing to “real” that I think I have seen thus far is the model Lizzie Miller, otherwise known as “the girl on page 194.”  Miller is considered a plus-size model, but looks nothing near overweight (at least to me).  Glamour featured her in a 3x3 inch picture that took the world by storm when its September issue hit the stands last year.  Miller has gone on to appear in more editorials and talk about her experiences on talk shows.  Miller is a beautiful woman who truly represents a normal physique–one that we can all attain. 

What I don’t get is that she is called plus-size.  If there is one term that I hate more than “fat” it is “plus-size.”  Who decided that plus-size would be a great way to describe women?  Last time I checked plus-size wasn’t the same type of compliment as “you are stunning.”  That’s not true in all cases, but I know that if a man (or woman) walked up to me and said, “Wow, you are plus-sized!” I would NOT take it as a compliment.  It has a negative connotation to it, and I really don’t believe that we need to attach that term to ourselves.

Whatever happened to the days when a woman’s curves were not just celebrated, but a normal characteristic, anyways?  In the classical Greco-Roman age, women’s bodies were depicted as round, muscular, fleshy, and curvy.  This represented beauty, strength, and fertility–all things that women should be and are–the NORM.

As someone who hopes to one day make an impact in the fashion industry, I struggle with this concept of “normal” body types.  When the media is so skinny-girl-laden, how are women supposed to even know what to put on their bodies?  This is something that I think about every day that I get dressed.  There are several celebrities out there who are curvy, womanly, and beautiful, and I often channel their style in moments of frustrated outfit contemplation. 

Kate Winslet has always been one of my style icons.  She is classy and beautiful in that understated, Old Hollywood kind of way.  She is fierce and feminine, two qualities that I admire and desire to be a part of my persona.  When I look at her style and how to translate it into my wardrobe there are a few key elements that can be incorporated:

  1. Stick with classic styles—cardigans, trouser pants, pencil skirts, tailored blazers.  Feel free to play around with prints, patterns, and bold colors, but stick to simple styles that are structured in the right spots.
  2. Don’t be afraid to stand out—Speaking of prints, patterns, and bold colors; never be afraid to use them! The right print can fool the eye and make your body look flawless.  Put bold colors on parts of your body that you want to draw the most attention to.  If you love your legs, wear a tomato red pencil skirt.  The eye will be directed toward your favorite spot. 
  3. A little sex appeal never hurt anybody—be proud of your body. Kate is a pro at showing a little bit of skin, but not too much.  It’s usually just enough to give off an air of sex appeal. 
  4. When in doubt, throw a little retro in—Kate embodies that Old Hollywood, glamorous feel.  Vintage styles encourage a curvy figure and are always a win in my book.  Try wearing a full skirt with a wide belt and a fitted top.  Be sure to always show off the smallest part of your waist.  Proportions are everything!
  5. Red lips can save you—There are some days when nothing feels right, and you just can’t get your fashion mojo to line up, with or without Kate’s help.  On days like this red lips can give you just enough oomph to make you feel sexy, classy, and lady-like.  Kate does this perfectly all the time. 
These are just a few tips to get you going on those mornings when you’re standing in front of your closet, without a clue as to where to start.  I know I find myself in that spot far too often.  Remember that no matter what, love the skin you’re in, and dress accordingly.  There are so many women out there to look up to, whether the fashion industry is promoting it or not.  As fellow females, we need to combine forces and be proud of who we are.  It’s time for a beauty revolution, and it can start with our choices standing in front of that closet every morning!


  1. This is fabulous! I have been waiting for more discussions like this. Thank you Ashley!

  2. Thanks Natalie. You may also be interested in some of our past entries on related topics including "It's Not How You Look, It's How You See" (1/25/11), "Empowered by What NOT to Wear" (1/10/11), and "How's That Working for You?" (2/8/10).


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