(Girlie alert!)

Milan Fashion Week, which kicked off yesterday after the so-hip-it-hurts crowd moved from New York’s Lincoln Center to London and now on to Milan, started with a very telling stink.

The fashion house of Elena Miro, which has been given the opening slot for runway shows for the past five years, was denied that opening spot this year because:

Head of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion Mario Boselli told the AFP, “Some labels just weren’t in line with what ready-to-wear week should be. We wanted to champion the values of creativity to reaffirm Milan’s role in the world.”

I can only wish it weren’t true.

Elena Miro, for those who don’t know, is a super-deluxe fashion house based in Milan, where you’d think they’d have that down to a very Italian art form, that caters exclusively to ladies above a US size 12/UK 14. In other words, the rest of Planet Earth not endowed with the ectomorphic fashion ideal. Women who look like women, as opposed to supermodels.

The standards of Elena Miro conform to the workmanship, care and quality you would expect of any high-end fashion brand. The cut is flawless and the clothes themselves are classy, luxurious, even opulent. More to the point, they’re every bit as stylish as anything else you would expect to find at Gucci/Prada/Dolce&Gabbana, and not only that – they celebrate the female form. If you’ve gone through your life cursing the sorry fact of your boobs, your butt, your all-round shoddy, non-conformist carcass that is so hard to clothe, look no further.

Which, I rather suspect, is precisely why they weren’t allowed their usual opening spot in Milan Fashion Week. Either that, or they refused to pay the bribe demanded to keep that opening spot…

Bodily curves are dangerous, subversive things. They interrupt ‘la ligne’, as they say in Paris, that uninterrupted line of cut and tailoring, cloth and design that constitutes fashionable attire. No one ever told that to Christian Dior, back in 1947, but that was a long, long time ago. Have a little – boob, a little butt, but not too much, or else the rest of us shall forever suspect that you lack the ability to control your appetites, control your body, control – yourself. Don’t forget – there’s an entire industry out there to bring you down should you ever get to the point – heaven forfend that idea – where you think you’re perfect as you are. If diet and exercise get you down to an acceptable size, then we’ll find something else to gnaw at your insecurities with – your skin, your teeth, your less than perfect hair, your less than perfect age.

There are runway models, women who are stunning by any standard, who have died from anorexia, forcing the fashion industry to conform to certain standards – no model below the age of 16, no BMI below 18 (which is still technically underweight) – and even so, I don’t see much in the way of change on the runways, not in New York, not in London, not in Milan. I don’t see too much of anything that would look good on a body that dares to live beyond the age of thirty. I certainly don’t see too much that would look good on me, presuming I even had that kind of cash.

Karl Lagerfeld, chief designer of Chanel and Fendi and his own eponymous label, famously declared that no one ever wanted to see “real women” in fashion magazines, prompted by an editorial change at the German fashion magazine Brigitte that decided to show fashion spreads on real – read, not model-thin or even model – women. He dismissed it as being tailored to “fat mummies eating potato chips in front of their TVs”.

On a popular TV show recently, one main character was forced to masquerade as a runway model. She was slim, gorgeous – everything you have to be to act on TV, in other words. On the show, the designer confronted with her said the immortal words: “So where is this girl? Is she hiding behind the fat chick who just walked in?”

It would be funny, if it didn’t smart of a real truth behind it.

They say that times are changing, that the fashion industry is coming around, getting real to the fact that women in general in the Western world are not getting smaller, but larger. The average clothing size in the US is now a size 14 – unlike certain of those New York/Paris/Milan designers whose clothes are only available in single-digit sizes. They say that the popularity of Christina Hendricks of ‘Mad Men’ – surely a textbook bombshell if I ever saw one – is one such sign that even in the perfectly flawless world of TV, things are slowly but surely beginning to shift.

Recently Christina Hendricks featured in an ad campaign for London Fog. Good for her. She’s freakin’ gorgeous. If a trenchcoat would make me look that good, I’d buy it too, even in leopard print. Alas, they didn’t think she was…good enough for the photo. They retouched her waist and hips smaller in the print ads.

So much for changes in attitude.

Even in Milan, even in Italy, supplier of va-va-voom bombshells since the days of Silvana Mangano, Gina Lollabrigida and Sophia Loren, the industry view of womanly is still restricted to the ectomorph, long-limbed, long-waisted ideal, the one without hips or breasts or other distractions. It’s about the clothes, people, the clothes, that aspirational business of sartorial perfection promoted by walking clotheshangers.

At least if you ask Mario Boselli.

But if you ask the customers of Elena Miro, who buy their stupendously beautiful clothes to the tune of 150 million € a year, if you ask the standing-room only audience at their runway show yesterday, if you ask the legions of bloggers and commentators who jumped at the chance of a little controversy, and even if you ask nobody, worthless me, the owner of definite T&A, a nonentity so poor I can’t even afford to window shop at the Salvation Army these days…if I had the opportunity, the expendable cash to buy her clothes – would I?

At the drop of a hat or a platinum Visa and in a Milan millisecond, and with my extended middle finger to the likes of Mario Boselli!

Even nonentities, even non-conformists, even the non-conforming like me simply want to look beautiful. Thankfully, someone out there agrees!


Source: The Curvy Fashionista
Image: Elle, from the Elena Miro Spring-summer 2011 collection

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