Fashion

Editor Miranda Purves On Ideal Beauty & Dressing For Comfort

How Christina Hendricks, FLARE's May cover star, gave Miranda a new appreciation for different versions of beauty

Missoni for Holt Renfrew

Photo Courtesy of Holt Renfrew

I’ll admit it, I was late to the neo-bombshell craze. As a follower of fashion since as long as I’ve been conscious of being conscious, slenderness has always been the object of my envious admiration. (Before anyone jumps down my throat, not unhealthy gauntness, jut the genetically long, lean bodies that look so good in structurally inventive garments.) When Kim Kardashian started popping up all over the place, her frequent media presence didn’t make me irate the way it did some; I just didn’t notice her at all. She wore clothes I couldn’t relate to, and nothing about her suggested someone who might be called Dovima or who Cecil Beaton would want to shoot in 1953. But then I started noticing Sofía Vergara in Modern Family. She perpetrates all the clichés, but she also transcends them by making everyone in her orbit look mundanely two-dimensional. I began thinking: there’s something to this old-fashioned idea of a woman of whom you say, “She broke the mould!” or “Whatta tomato!” But it really took what our cover subject Christina Hendricks has done with her character on Mad Men, Joan Harris, to widen my limited perceptions of female beauty.

Everyone goes on and on about Hendricks’s figure, and it must be annoying. Dan Levy (who interviewed her for FLARE) and I agreed we didn’t need to broach it because there’s so much else happening in her life and career. But as a symbol, it’s important to discuss. If there’s one mode of being I can’t stand, it’s being in denial, and to suggest that a fashion magazine that presents images of women isn’t sending messages about our bodies one way or another is just crazy town. You can’t get away from it. Hendricks’s curves bring that to the fore.

What I love about the counter-argument she and Vergara and the Kardashians present to an industry that revolves around sample size as the earth does the sun, is that it calls into question the notion that we have to work for fashion, whether it’s to be at our ideal skinniness to look the best in it, or the hours we have to put in to afford it. This discipline is valuable, but sometimes it’s nice to watch clothes bow down to the wearer, which is what they must do when confronted with a body that just won’t quit (who thought up that great phrase?).

While, admittedly, both size zero and curvalicious are different versions of ideals, for me (laugh if you will), even allowing for one new version of what constitutes gorgeous has lead to a meaningful inner shift. I’m suddenly appreciating multiple versions of successful style. And it’s also helped me resolve some personal wardrobe dilemmas.

In “Screw Balance,” Kate Carraway writes on the newly appropriated concept of self-care. In my new approach, clothes need to take care of me, and not the other way around. So, for instance, I’ve inherited my father’s dislike of clothes that bind— clinging under the arms, grabbing around the middle. (He’s a prof, so wearing loose corduroys and extra-large button-down shirts is office-appropriate.) I used to waste a lot of time in the morning thinking that I should wear more tailored clothes to work, to look professional, or tighter clothes at night, to look sexier. But the minute I got home I would tear them off and put on something that less-forgiving people might call sloppy. These house outfits consisted of knit cotton pants I got from the Tweeds catalogue in 1993 that were covered in paint from some old furniture project, and giant, moth-eaten crewnecks. (My poor husband!)

But as a practitioner of radical fashion self-care, I’m investing in wonderful wide-leg velvet trousers, exquisite floral tunics printed on the silkiest cottons, voluminous midi skirts with pleats and pockets(!), and cardigans to layer, but in singular fabrications, such as neon pink spiderweb lace. Basically, I’m developing a nicer version of what already feels good on. We encourage you to comb through this issue that we’ve put together for you at your leisure, and decide what delights instinctively, right now.

Remember: fashion should work for your body and mind, because your body and mind work hard for you.