Fashion + Body Image

How do we define the perfect body?

As we all know, Victoria’s Secret is a women’s brand famous for its sexy beauty products and perfect body models. However, it seems this brand breaks its own ‘rule’ this time. In October 2019, Victoria’s Secret hired its first size-14 model – Ali Tate-Cutler.

Cutler posted photos of herself modelling the Bluebella lingerie and announced she has made history as the brand’s first size-14 model on her Instagram. In that picture, Cutler’s hair falls softly on her chest and confidence is brilliantly shone in her eyes. With her flawless skin and lace jumpsuit, clearly, she is following the footsteps of the convention for Victoria’s Secret. Her body, however, does not fit the ‘stereotype’ of this brand – her limbs are not that slim and her waist is not particularly curvy. In general, there seems to be no way to associate such a body with the ‘angels’ on the catwalk. Just like what Cutler posted on Instagram, it’s a great step in the right direction for bodies.

Cutler has caused a heated discussion among people. Obviously, some people think her body has deviated from the common understanding of Victoria’s Secret. And groups of people might feel glad about its breakthrough. The average size of women in America is now 16-18. In this sense, this launch of Victoria’s Secret is not far off the beaten track. On the contrary, this launch gives audiences, the whole society a chance to reconsider the definition of the perfect body.

The definition of the perfect body is changing

In my opinion, the definition of beauty, and the perfect body is manufactured by the understanding of aesthetics in different ages. That is, there is no rule for aesthetic definition. Cutler, is the first size-14 model in the 20th century. However, in Chinese Tang Dynasty, Yang Guifei, as one of the four greatest beauties of ancient China, her chubbiness was regarded as beauty. It could be said that Yang’s image is definitely not close to contemporary aesthetic.

Moreover, even under the same age, different individuals from different regions could have totally opposite understandings of beauty. I once asked one of my friends about the differences of aesthetics within different countries. A girl from France told me that French people prefer darker skin tones, so that’s why they fancy to go to the beach on summer days to lay under the sun. Instead, in China, even in most Asian countries, a lot of people think brighter skin is the symbol of beauty. There is a saying in China, ‘一白遮百丑(yi bai zhe bai chou)’, which means you are able to cover up your one-hundred ugliness once you have a fair skin.

Another thing which caught my eyes is that Victoria’s Secret choses Zhou Dongyu as its China Ambassador. Indeed, to some extent, one could say that Zhou is a not-particularly-curvy woman at all. She is more like a general Chinese girl with a charming smile and featureless body. On the contrary, I think it’s sexy. Zhou’s body is undecorated, authentic, and ordinary. This seems to be a body that ordinary people, not only celebrities, can have. In the official promotional video, Zhou says, dressing comfortably is the sexiest.

Again, this sparks discussion on changing beauty norms – ‘we should see more diversity,’ people say. ‘It’s not just women such as supermodels who can represent underwear.’ However, this action of Victoria’s Secret is also in controversy – ‘I don’t mean to body shame, but in my impression her figure has always been like a child’s,’ one user commented under a post on review site Douban. ‘This endorsement is too confusing. Is Victoria’s Secret going to debut a line specifically for girls?’

Accept the diversity of beauty and love yourself

Nowadays, the definition of beauty seems to be limited by some mainstream aesthetic. People could see thousands of girls sharing almost the same photos on their social platform – they all have thick lips, slender arms and legs, plump breasts and hips. Some young girls are even willing to spend several hours or more to retouch their face and body to produce a perfect image. On these girls’ perspectives, only this kind of photos are worth a ‘like’ on their Instagram. This manufactured beauty implies the lack of confidence and the fear of unacceptance. Unfortunately, this tragedy is not only caused by some particular people, but also is caused by the entire social environment.

It seems that instead of telling the girls what is beauty, the more important lessons which need to be taught to them is how to accept the diversity of beauty, and how to accept themselves. Sharing the ‘perfect’ face or body on the social platform could be understood to some extent because getting likes is the reason why the social platform exists. However, one should never stop loving themselves due to imperfections. No one is able to define whether your body is perfect or not. You should believe the uniqueness in yourself.  

The world needs toleration. If there is something that needs to be changed, it should be the surroundings, not yourself. I always believe that beauty involves something more than appearance. Beauty is produced by one’s morality, capacity, and experience. Once you understand the broader meaning of beauty, you will not be limited by the surface or other’s perspectives. Confidence and acceptance make you beautiful at heart.

Under the context of this era, people seem to have more and more extensive demands for diversified aesthetics. More and more people will accept the diversity of beauty. Thus, you might see more types of body confidently show up in public. This is one of the best things ever. For each of the girls, please follow Bluebella’s ethos – self-love, self-acceptance, and championing individuality.

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