Monday, March 29, 2010

Ronde, Rubenesque, Ravishing

Let's set the record straight before we begin today:  
  • This missive is coming to you from France, right? Correct.
  • In France every woman worth her designer duds wears a size 38 (or aspires to, or wishes to once again), correct? Absolutely, unless she's a 36.
  • French women carefully (obsessively?) control every morsel passing through their Rouge Coco lips, any doubts about that? I didn't think so.
  • Do you know why? Let me tell you: They're disciplined and driven. That's why.
Here's something most French women know: Five kilos on their derrière equals minus 10-ish years on their face. But they don't care (!)  

They'd rather keep that derrière sufficiently svelte to comfortably slide into a size 38 than plump out those inevitable fine lines and deep creases. Trust me on this one. I live with these women, I have close friends -- seemingly lucid, absolutely thin by any standards, of sound mind and otherwise completely reasonable -- who are unwilling to make that "sacrifice."

They call it "la face pour les fesses" however most reverse the f-words for the third f- word: fashion.

Did you know that a small equals 36/38, a medium 38/40 and large 40/42? 

But, is every woman in France a 38 or a 40? Ummm, no. For that reason, I thought this post might interest you.

We all know the latest trend in women's magazines is to have the two annual exception issues -- age and weight -- or as the French so beautifully put it for the latter category, les rondes et les pulpeuses. (Pulpeux may be my favorite adjective in the language, it seems voluptuous, curvy, sensuous in the pronouncing.)

This week French Elle produced an issue with a large, red banner exclaiming: "Special RONDES 32 Pages Pour Etre Chic et Fashion. And guess what?  The editors honestly did what they promised. They didn't stop at size 12 or 14 and do the weight waffle. 

To the magazine's great credit the gorgeous young woman on the cover, Tara Lynn from Seattle, is a size 48. Because she is so lovely, and the stylists have shown her in several different looks, I thought you might like to see a few of them. Most are ageless btw. You be the judge.

She was photographed by David Oldham.

Being ronde may not be a piece of cake in a country which practically worships thin, but the market is there and according to studies it continues to grow.

In France 33 percent of the population is considered overweight, and 10 percent obese. In the United States, some 34 percent of the population is obese and 57 percent overweight. For those of you familiar with the BMI (Body Mass Index) normal weight is between 18.50 to 24.9; overweight, 25 to 29.9 and obese, over 30. If you're interested in doing the math for yourself, click on the BMI above.


Suburban Princess said...

I keep changing my mind...I cant decide if this is a good thing or a not so good thing!

Drea said...

Notice how French Elle plays it safe by using an American model for this issue... Don't want anyone thinking there are any size 48 French women roaming around out there...

metscan said...

Interesting. Over weight is increasing in Finland too. What puzzles me is, when I see young over weight girls over here, is, that is it so that the stores don´t have larger sizes, or is it, that the girls don´t want to use clothes that would be larger and maybe a bit more flattering. The model in the pictures has her size clothes, and the impression I get , is not bad at all.

Jacqueline said...

To tell you the truth, Tish, I'm a bit fed up with the obsession about weight. I have never been on a diet in my life. After about 45, I had to be a bit careful of what I ate, as when you get older,you just have to eat a little more healthier with the odd treat, now and again..... and, it should be more of a health issue than a vanity one. I think that life would be soooo boring if I couldn't eat nice food and have a drink when the occasion arose. People who are constantly thinking about their weight and depriving themselves, must lead the most uninspired lifes.
Everything in moderation is my mantra !!
Oh, and the model is very beautiful but, I think that she might need to drop a couple of pounds.... purely from a health point of view. Nothing drastic or become anorexic. Just a tad and she would look even more beautiful.
Oh dear, I hope other bloggers out there will still speak to me after that !! XXXX

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

It is a great thing that magazines are addressing all body types, as there is no perfect body.
I am surprised to hear about the weight increase in France as I have been brainwashed by the media to believe all French women to be svelte and slim and totally chic! Maybe I just wanted to believe!!
This weight obsession is on going...

materfamilias said...

While I welcome the diversity of images to which we inevitably compare ourselves (and a more reasonable range of sizes in the shops), I do worry about the rise of obesity from a health standpoint. So relieved, watching my daughters navigate through five or ten years each of the temptations on both sides (eating/looking thin for clothes) that they seem, now, as young adults in their late twenties/early thirties, to have fairly balanced attitudes toward both.

Cathi said...

I think it's great that the magazine is addressing it - like it or not there are people of all sizes out there and they should be honored. At different times in my life I have been very thin, average and a tad overweight. At my stage of the game which is in my 50's - I don't obsess about the weight but the fact that I need to keep myself healthy and eat properly. I definitely don't deprive myself and eat snacks in moderation. I sit at a desk all day, so I have really been amping up the biking and walking - as that is how I love to exercise. Great post, Tish - weight is always a hot topic! :)

Deja Pseu said...

What gorgeous pics!

My goal is to achieve a balance between living a delicious life and being able to fit into my clothing. I'll never be mince by French standards (just don't have that kind of body, blame the German/Eastern European bits of my ancestry). I love that she's wearing cuffed jeans...Yes We Can!

And don't many French women smoke? (Which also contributes to the slender figures and facial aging.)

Jaqueline - I'd bet the model's weight is within a healthy range. She looks toned and fit. Most of the negative health impacts associated with (though not necessarily caused by) weight generally present at much higher weights than what I'd guess this model is at. And statistically, people with BMI's in the 25-29 range ("overweight") actually live longest. Go figure. ;-)

Carmie, the Single Nester said...

Thanks for sharing this cover. The model is sexy and gorgeous!

Jeanne said...

Tish...very interesting! Would love to hear reactions by french women to the latest magazine spread. I am most intrigued by your comment on the balance between weight and fine lines. It made me smile as somewhere around 45 I finally got it. It is a balancing act but it is true. Some women in their quest to be super skinny after a certain age actually age in the too. Ah...sometimes it feels like you can never win at this game!

BigLittleWolf said...

I think this is terrific.

BigLittleWolf said...

It is interesting that there's no male comment (as yet) on this issue. (Where's James? Won't he weigh in?)

Morgane said...

I appreciate seeing rondes in magazines. Beauty is not only a slim body , it's an attitude .
I have to admit i'm lucky to be a size 36 without any effort and most of my friends are around 36/38 : i guess it's an average in our thirty years ... We 're not in diet , we love to eat ...
But i see "rondes" so sensuous ! And i'm living with a man who considers thin girls like no-sexy ones : curves are appreciated like all men in the world sure!

Metropolitan Mum said...

Well done, Elle! And well done, Tish for pointing this out. I am so fed up with the myth that French women naturally don't get fat. True, 90% of the French women I know are stickthin. But only because 85% are obsessed (!) with what they eat.
I'll link to this post in my next Malnourished Monday post, if you agree.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Tish, you know how to shoot elegantly from the hip....I have always struggled with my HIPS but the rest of me is thin. In a culture such as ours, the boyish figure has always been preferable, but looking at how the French are marketing the embracing of the fuller derrière is almost comforting!!! Oh hell, I just need to except who I am!!! :) MERCI! Anita

Tish Jett said...

Suburban Princess: Yes, this is definitely a subject open to wide debate. Why is the world of fashion and beauty always tugging at us to be one way or another, forcing many women to head for the extremes on either end of the spectrum?

Drea: Never thought of it that way, but wait until tomorrow when you'll see a post with a size 52 French woman. But you're right, she wasn't on the cover.

My dear Metscan, You are so right, about finding the clothes that flatter. When a woman of normal weight shops she looks for clothes that fit properly, not items that make her look sausaged in and uncomfortable.

Ooooh Jackie, I just love it when you get worked up! You are thinking like a French woman who takes care, but also knows how to indulge. The secret, as you point out: "moderation."

Dear Hostess, Remember in France "only" 10 percent of the population is considered "overweight" and that includes men. I couldn't find a breakout for women. The government is already on the case, starting with school meals, labels on snacks, etc. The consequences of serious overweight does result in costly medical care and that of course in France means more debt for the health system.

My dear Mater, I think you should be very pleased your daughters have a healthy attitude toward eating. I have two very slim friends -- one American living in France, the other Canadian living in Italy -- who partially and irrevocably destroyed their relationships with their daughters by constantly nagging them about their weight. No doubt seeing them as representatives to the world of themselves.

Hi Cathi, Yes indeed, weight is a hot topic. Honestly, what more do we want than to look attractive and BE healthy? You have a healthy mentality and that's were it all starts -- and finishes.

My chere D.P., Now that I think about it I do recall reading the BMI story someplace. I think you look wonderful, which I've said before.

As for the smoking, I see it on the street in Paris, but less and less. Unfortunately young French girls apparently smoke more than boys. I do not have one French friend who smokes, however, some of their daughters do and they don't seem to be at all concerned because once upon a time they did as well. And you are so right about the skin and smoking.

Carmie, Thank you.

Dear Jeanne, I know. It's finding the balance. I don't think magazines and advertisements are helping us. My feeling is it's all about "show me the money" -- anti-aging products, excess weight, they're marketing opportunities.

Hi Wolfe, Good question. I'd like Fred to "weigh-in" -- see what a Frenchman has to say.

Morgane, ma chere, just you wait. Enjoy your 30s. I'm sure you're disciplined though and don't eat to excess. You are an intelligent, stunning young woman.

Hello M.M., Take it and run. BTW, Cherie is always open to questions, in fact she is desperately searching questions. As you know there are myths and myths -- myths that sell books, products and other beauty and fashion paraphernalia -- but let's be clear, after a certain age when the metabolism starts to slow down and hormones run amok, there is no such thing as stick thin forever (perhaps there are some exceptions). The trick is vigilant forever and the younger one starts, without being obsessive, the easier it is when it gets harder.

Jacqueline said...

Hi again Tish,
I'm just entering into a litle healthy debate with Deja Pseu.
I think that, if this model went to a doctor, she would be told that she is overweight. If you look at the photograoh where she is in the black body, she is holding a lot of wejght around her middle section, which is the worst place to carry it. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not someone who thinks everyone should be skinny. I think that that looks awful. All I'm saying is, she looks great but, from a health point of view, she would probably be told that she would need to loose a little..... and, I think that you would be suprised at the weights for height that are considered healthy.
Also, why is it that we are told that a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, and yet you are saying that people live longer with BMI's of 25-29. Surlely, if this were true, doctors would be telling us that our BMI could be within that range ! I don't think that we should just be showing skinny girls in magazines, but we shouldn't be promaoting and supporting overweight women. We have got to educate people that it is unhealthy to be overweight and to try and promote healthy foods and discourage fast food. XXXX

Belle de Ville said...

Now that I am no longer a size 38, I'm very glad that I'm not living in France.

Tish Jett said...

Dear Anita,

We are all created morphologically unequal. Or should I say, we're all unique and then we take that singular quality and turn it into something beautiful.

Clearly you have done that in more ways than one, my dear.


Tish Jett said...

Dearest Jackie,

I think I'll add fuel to the debate between you and Pseu. Tomorrow I'll post a picture of Tara I didn't use today. She's sitting in a peacock chair a la Emmanuelle if anyone remembers that chestnut and you can see what is beneath the cloth.

At the same time I'll include a picture of a woman who has a blog called " who wears a size 52.

Are we having fun or what?


Tish Jett said...

Dear Belle,

You could live in France, you're chic and have fab-u-lous jewelry. More right on over.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh merci Tish! Merci mille fois pour tes commentaires à propos de mon théâtre! Coming from a real writer, I am honored! Have a marvelous evening! Anita

Deja Pseu said...

Hi Jaqueline - I'm at work right now and can't lay my hands on the original article, but I think this might link to it:

Marsi said...

Fashion, for me, has always been an aspirational endeavor, and fashion magazines a fantasy, an escape. As the daughter of a 425-pound woman fully disabled and institutionalized due to weight, I think I'm going to play it safe and just leave my comments at that.

I think the white outfit on the cover is a FAIL though.

Drea, your observation is fascinating.


Liz.Photo said...

Very well done by photographer David Oldham. These are a good addition for any country. I'm a little sad over many of the womens comments. We are very hard on each other. There's room for everyone.


Tish, clever clever clever. However, I for one, do not believe there are ANY fat French women. Their body structure is quite different than ours, they are very angular people, that's why they go topless...most of them don't have boobs. Anyway, it was a good thought.

knitpurl said...

Dare, double dare, any top US fashion magazine to put a ronde Tara Lynn on the cover. Bet it will never happen.

Tish's comment directed to those of you under age 50 regarding wait and see how your body changes; plus Tish's comment that the sooner you begin to eat in moderation and exercise the better your life will be are both pertinent. Take it from someone who did not heed that advice. However, I do believe that one can improve one's body and looks no matter what age, and not by spending lots of money either.

This was fun, xoxo, Carole

Julie@beingRUBY said...

HI Tish
Well i was one of those people who couldn't put on weight if i tried... and in fact i did try .. right through my teens and 20's.. back then angular was not 'feminine'... and trying to buy fashion was almost impossible.. everything just swam on me..

But then ... [there's always a but then isn't there?]... by my mid 40's it started to change and now i can't seem to shed it... The thing is.. healthy or not .. it is a body image issue... my mind sees itself as slim .. after a lifetime of being so.... when i catch a glimpse of myself or look in the mirror .. i don't recognize the person i see... and shopping for clothes is a nightmare.. .. as much as I'd like to say weight should not be important.. one needs to be comfortable in their own skin and feel themselves.. whatever that may be...

Interesting post and the model is certainly one beautiful girl... and I agree she is well toned which i think makes all the difference .. xx Julie

Anonymous said...

She's pretty but I think - what about her health? What about the stress on her ankles, back etc?
Not good.
I say practice more self control, the old adage - less in the mouth, more energy - exercise.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to debate something that has mostly to do with one of your previous posts - hairstyles. Now, I am a Norwegian living in France, 19, and back home my friends were nervous for me moving to France as we know french women - girls in particular - to be extremely jealous and rather rude towards scandinavians. Now we know that women in the South of Europe tend to have a petite figure, often brown eyes and dark hair. And so they all dye it blonde. My father says they admire the scandinavian look, but in my own opinion, the look of Coco Chanel, Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard ... women that are typically FRENCH, is so much more flattering to them. So it always surprises me when I see a mature french women with bleached hair. She can be fashionable in so many ways - but then I think that is really not YOU. Especially not with that blue eyeliner around your eyes! So why do they do this. They seem to loathe us scandinavians - even though I feel like I am certainly fitting in, getting an education here and all.

Love your blog. Excuse my English. :)

Anonymous said...

Note my comment above is not related to the plus-size model. I just wanted to leave a comment on the post where it was most likely to get an answer :)

Shelley said...

I noticed they haven't addressed both age and weight at the same time. Youngsters can get away with the flab because it's not flabby yet. She has a pretty face, but she's not going to sell me any clothes. For me, staying thin wasn't exactly tough until I hit my late 40s, so I don't know what she'll look like in her older years. Not great, I would guess.

It's a tricky thing, isn't it? You don't want everyone to go around starving themselves and smoking so they can be scrawny and fashionable. On the other hand, accepting an unhealthy amount of weight is just taking the pendulum to the other extreme. Me? I'm still aiming for the middle ground, ie middle of the healthy BMI range: 22. It manages to stay just a very stubborn 6-8 pounds out of reach! But I've not given up yet...

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Hi Tish!
Well thank God Anne Fontaine makes up to a size 5!!!!!!!I liked this she is gorgeous..I think it is all in the presentation. I like what Drea said. Good point.....Maryanne xo

Duchesse said...

I too am relieved to see women of various sizes, from slim through heavy. How precisely does showing images of heavy women "promote obesity"? If only heavy women were shown, in all fashion editorial and advertising, maybe. But they are still hardly on the radar.

sisty said...

To be clear, we're talking a French size 38, correct? Because if I've got that right, a French 38 corresponds to an Italian 42.

Not that it's that important, but I wear an Italian 46 and that model is quite a bit heavier than I am.

Tish Jett said...

Dear Splenderosa,

I must admit, I do not see many overweight French women in Paris or in the countryside where I live. They tend to fall into two categories: what we would all call "normal" and slender normal. I do not see anorexia and as I mentioned above, I mainly see teenage girls and young women in their early 20s smoking. Most of their mothers stopped years ago, and yes for health reasons. Then they fought the good fight not to gain weight.

Dear Liz, I so agree with you. We are very hard on one another, aided and abetted of course by the fashion and beauty industry which trains our eye to see beauty in a specific way.

Hi Julie, It's wonderful you think of yourself as a thin woman, most women think of themselves as overweight no matter what the number on the scale. I suspect you're beautiful.

Dear Shelley,

Loved your comment. Imagine if a magazine DARED to do age and size in one package? Wouldn't that be fun. Who knows, maybe Elle will do it. Remember not long ago it did the sans makeup black and white pictures which caused quite a stir as well.

Dear Maryanne, Anne Fontaine is wonderful.

Yes, Sisty, we're talking a French 38.

Tish Jett said...

Dear Duchesse,

You turn the subject right back at us in that intelligent, perspicacious way of yours. You're right, it's not as if we're seeing trends set here, for weight or fashion.

Merci comme toujours.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Wasn't it Coco who said, "there comes a time in every woman's life when she must choose between her face and her bum?". Actually, I think she said "ass" but, I would never, of course.

I am all for excepting oneself totally, as long as one's weight is healthy. And I must confess, coming from the states, where so many people are disastrously overweight, it's difficult to ignore the health implications. I do have to watch what I eat, but I've never been a fast food, or junk food eater, and that makes it a bit easier.

Tish Jett said...

Dear Anonymous,

Never have I heard that French women or girls are jealous of Scandinavians. Honestly, I have no idea. I think your father is right on the mark.

You, I take it, are one of those gorgeous Scandinavian blondes which means you are immediately noticed and admired -- repeat, admired. Now, this may cause jealousy, but that's not at all your problem. Studies have shown that because blonde hair attracts light, both men and women are immediately "attracted" to it, as in can't help but notice.

I know what you mean about all the blondes who aren't and have no explanation for that, but being blonde seems to have a universal appeal. As for blue eye liner, I don't see it in Paris or where I live on woman of any age.

Don't think I have answered your question very well. If you need more clarification, please write back.

Your English is magnificent. What are you studying in France?

Remember, the French do have a reputation for taking their time to open up and develop friendships. Sometimes they are misjudged as being chilly or aloof, which is usually not true.

Best regards,

Duchesse said...

I have Johanna Dray's height and shape, and want to "hold" there.

I had Jane Birkin's reedy figure (over two decades ago) and I can tell you (from more experience than I would like me to admit) that men like both as long as the woman is sexy. It is women who seem desperate to be skinny.

What do men think? My husband (who has known me at many weights) says, "Women should have curves. Why do you think they call it 'sins of the flesh'?"

lagatta à montréal said...

Splenderosa, with the same genetics as women in France, women in Québec tend to be heavier and curvier. The winter? Hearty winter foods eaten although most of us work in offices now, not cut trees or do farm chores in the cold?

I don't see as much extreme obesity here as in the US or even some other parts of Canada, but "normal" is a good 15lb more here than in la mère patrie.

(Obviously not all of us are of "pure" French stock, but that is just as true in France).

I am very much against that showing anyone heavier than an ideal body weight promotes obesity. Heavier people exist, and have a right to wear decent clothing, unless you think they should wear sausages and look like "boudins" (ill-dressed and flabby pudgy women).

Most of us, fat or thin, live far too sedentary a lifestyle. France does tend to have less suburban sprawl, so people walk more.

s. said...

Hello! Coming to you from the PdP thread... I lived in NYC for years and years and years and then moved to Paris for years and years and years. I was struck by how disciplined French women were in so many areas of their lives, including weight. But I generally found New York women infinitely more beautiful. It's easy to forget that slim does not necessarily = attractive.

As for these glorious photos, to me they demonstrate that heavy does not necessarily = unattractive. And whether or not her weight is unhealthy, I suspect if we checked every skinny model's who appears on the pages of Elle, we might discover more than a few unhealthy women.

John said...

Fashion, for me, has always been an aspirational endeavor, and fashion magazines a fantasy, an escape. As the daughter of a 425-pound woman fully disabled and institutionalized due to weight, I think I'm going to play it safe and just leave my comments at that. I think the white outfit on the cover is a FAIL though. Drea, your observation is fascinating. xoxox

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