Naked full bodies is another matter. Or near-naked, a la actress Christina Hendricks in a corset on the cover of New York Magazine.
Hendricks, a breakout star of AMC’s hit show “Mad Men,” is undeniably beautiful. She’s also a different body type than we’re used to seeing in the glamor factories of Los Angeles and New York.
But then “Mad Men” is a period drama, set half a century ago.
It may be relevant that most fashion designers are gay men. Thin women look more male than their voluptuous counterparts in the general population.
My recollection was that the ultra-thin trend began in the late 1960s with the iconic model known as Twiggy, and a little research proved me right. Twiggy’s measurements were 31-22-32. She even had a boyish haircut.
“In 1960 average fashion models were about 5’7″ and weighed approximately 129 pounds,” writes wisegeek.com. But Twiggy changed all that. She was 5-foot-6 and 91 pounds.
In the 1990s the twig influence made a comeback, says wisegeek. “The goal seemed to be to duplicate the look of those in the last throes of heroin addiction.” Today the average model is 5-foot-9 and weighs 114 pounds.
How times have changed. In many Renaissance portraits the women are way beyond “pleasingly plump,” no doubt because only aristocrats could afford portraits, and only aristocrats had enough food and leisure to acquire heft.
Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, but she lives on in her movies. According to dressmakers, Monroe measured 36-25-37. A bit less extreme than the studio’s official claim, but an hourglass figure nonetheless.
For much of my life, I assumed Monroe was just a neurotic, over-hyped bundle of peroxide and pills.
I realized I was wrong after watching a documentary on her life. Footage from her last (incomplete) 1962 film, “Something’s Got to Give,” proved that even at the end her life, Monroe was a force of nature.
Below is rare footage of Monroe, a method actress, prepping for her role as a back-from-the-grave mother of two children. For their sakes, she pretends she’s just an old friend stopping by to say hello.
You can watch a costume test for the film here. Clearly Monroe still had the touch. And fat? No way!
A few years after Monroe’s death, Twiggy and her imitators roared on to the scene, and thereafter the words anorexia and bulimia gained prominence.
Inkwells have gone dry exploring the topic of gorging and purging, but for me the best work on the subject is the infamous first film of director Todd Haynes, “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.”
Based on the life of the 1970s pop vocalist, the low-budget production depicts Carpenter’s career, her controlling family, her struggle with anorexia and her eventual demise.
The movie, released in 1987, was withdrawn in 1990 due to copyright infringement of music by The Carpenters. But by then the film had picked up a devoted cult following which continues to this day.
At first I was reluctant to watch a movie acted out entirely by Barbie and Ken dolls. What a gimmick, I thought. How good can it possibly be? But the voice actors and director took the topic of body image seriously. And now, thanks to the Internet and its injunction-resistant environment, the entire 43-minute film can be viewed online.
In the “New York Magazine” cover story, Christina Hendricks said she’s a little embarrassed about how people keep talking about her body.
To those people I would say: Don’t let the attractive package distract you from the prize. Hendricks is an actress of enormous skill. She understands subtlety. Her performances unfold on a high intellectual plane, and you don’t get to a place like that just by shaking your booty.
[originally published by Politics Daily in 2010]