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1. The Reincarnation of the Hourglass Silhouette:

In the last few years in both the public, the media and professional contexts the power of a certain va va voom curvaceousness has taken over from women’s previous attempts at being taken seriously by playing down overt physiognomic femininity.  In fashion the first significant moment of this resurgence was the spectacularly successful Roland Mouret Galaxy dress in (2006), hotly followed by Christopher Kane’s bandage dresses and more recently Stella McCartney’s Octavia or ‘Optical Illusion dress’ (2011) that literally draws out the hourglass shape on the body with abstract colour-blocking reminiscent of Jean Arp’s surrealist painting. With these designs, both the press and female consumers have been newly seduced by the hour-glass as the fashionable silhouette of choice. These dresses have the effect of creating curves where there are none (for example Victoria Beckham’s almost  painfully strict aesthetic) and exaggerating and training them pneumatically where they already exist (for example Kate Winslet’s triumphant display of grown-up female power in the Octavia dress at the Golden Globes in 2011).

As a stylist and as a cultural commentator on gender and image, I am aware that the visual game being played out in the new curvaceous or ‘body con’ styling is an old one and it has a distinctively retro mid-century modern feel. The iconic popularity of the character of Joan Holloway (played by improbably physically endowed actress Christina Hendricks) in the American retro Drama Series ‘Man Men’ sashaying across the office floor, as one character puts it ‘like an ocean liner’, ’ has sealed the deal on s-shaped curves as the de rigeur sign of high profile femininity. Gorgeous and affirmative as it appears to be as a cultural image this retro sign for womanhood needs to be picked apart a bit. Because it is always possible that where there is nostalgia and retrospection there is also regression. As women we may actually not be moving on in our newly re-found love for the hourglass silhouette and this might potentially be a problem.

It does not really have to be stated, we all know it, but the visual game being played here is called - ‘DESIRE ME’. . . . and the significant sign of that desire is an apparently random silhouette easy enough to draw with a biro on the back of the toilet door or in fact type on this keyboard. . . not unlike an algebraic equation:


)(+;-)= $$$£££


)( exists is in sharp contrast to the triangular lines of the sign for woman on the front of the toilet next door - the one that simply says ‘women enter here’ . This supposedly neutral sign appears to carry no desire, no power-play and no sexual economics. Compared to this the hourglass silhouette is whole lot more obviously weighted. . . 

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