columnfinal.jpgGemma Cartwright writes...

It must be January. All the exercise DVDs have all gone back up to full price on Amazon, Holland & Barrett are shifting more herbal supplements than ever, gyms across the land are tempting us with free trials and Weight Watchers online keeps emailing me to ask if I want to re-join.

I always begin the year in the vain hope of ending it much slimmer. It all begins well, giving up booze, chocolate, pub lunches and Krispy Kremes, not to mention buying new trainers so I can actually go to the gym. But sooner or later I fall off the wagon and that mythical size 10 (um, or 12) slips even further from my grasp.

So what does this have to do with fashion? Well...


We all know that, regardless of what people try to do to change it, high fashion and being slim come hand-in-hand. Designers don't make their clothes to fit women like me (despite the fact I'm almost bang on the UK average in terms of measurements). The fact is, it's far more difficult to cut something to flatter a bigger woman, so why bother when you can make them feel bad by making things that they can only aspire to? Fashion thrives on aspiration and desire, after all.

Now, I don't want to lead a miserable life just so I can shop at sample sales. Life is too short to give up all the things you love. But I do want to be healthier this year. I'm not advocating being overweight. I'm aware that just walking everywhere doesn't constitute an exercise regime, and I also know I can easily cut out half the indulgences I currently enjoy, drop a few pounds and still not feel like I'm missing out.

But I don't want to be skinny, and I still take issue with the industry standards of beauty. It's one thing to strive to be healthy and fit, it's another to consider skeletal the only option. Yes, some people are just naturally tiny and find it just as hard to put on weight as I do to lose it, and I feel for them. But I'd wager most people who're intent on being size zero are putting their bodies under just as much strain by dieting as I am by overindulging. A body can't survive on a couple of hundred calories and 20 cigarettes a day, just as it can't survive on mountains of pizza, pasta and Pinot Grigio.

When I saw a comment describing Kate Moss in the new Versace campaign as having an 'excess of curves', I despaired. Is there really such thing as an 'excess' of curves on someone so slim? The voluminous clothes of recent seasons have been created to add curves and create a voluptuous shape (think Roland Mouret's figure-hugging dresses, tulip and puffball skirts, corsets and girdles, cinched waists and even bodycon bandage dresses from Herve Leger). Surely that's something we should celebrate? After all, our hips, boobs, bums and waists are what make us women in the first place!


Curvy girls: Marilyn Monroe and modern-day bombshell Christina Hendricks (Joan in Mad Men). Contrary to popular myth, Marilyn Monroe wasn't a size 16, at least not as we know it. Her measurements were reported as being between 35-22-35 and 37-23-36. In modern sizing, that would make her around a US 8 (UK 10-12). She may have worn clothes with a 16 label in back in the 50s, but sizes have changed a lot since then.