The zen of the survival of the prettiest

As I said before, I’m not entirely in agreement with Phaedrus (_zen…_) with regard to quality which he simply defined as beauty; an inherent beauty no one can name but all can recognize. Similarly, the definition of quality has evolved qualitatively a great deal since. Still, there’s a beauty you can’t deny _the zen of motorcycle maintenance_, so which is true? Perhaps this is why reading _survival of the prettiest_ by Nancy Ectoff was -in a circuitous way- a potential rebuttal to all that Robert Pirsig wrote. I loved her book, still thinking she’d disprove the quality-as-beauty debate but this was not to be. Her closing paragraph:

As women and men seek that wider circumference in their own lives, it is wise to remember Eliot’s words: “All honour and reverence to the divine beauty of form! Let us cultivate it to the utmost in men, women and children-in our gardens and in our houses. But let us love that other beauty too, which lies in no secret of proportion but in the secret of deep human sympathy.” We cannot wait for beauty, we must bring it forth.

It’s a hopeful book, and it’s about all of us, who we are, what we value and why. In reading the book, you learn that how we feel about beauty and act upon it, says more about ourselves than we’d ever care to label. If you are a fashion designer -or want to be- I’d designate this as a must-read. If you are targeting the wealthy elite, this is definitely required. If you’re interested in demography shifts and long term trends, there are ideas to explore here. I’ll be quoting portions of the book over time as it relates to defining one’s target demography and specific anthropometric standards and studies mentioned therein.

>cough< Etcoff's book also -unfortunately- tends to fuel some of my irritations, for example, how the word "curvy" has been co-opted to mean "fat". Curvy does not mean fat. Curvy means a hip-waist differencial of .8 or lower. It's harder to draft for large differences over smaller distances than it is to draft for smaller differences over longer distances. Using the right words matters when talking to technical people regardless of how you feel about it. We can’t be expected to be up on all the latest social connotations. You might think this is no big deal but if curvy now means fat, then how can we describe women who really are curvy in spite of the hijaked social connotation? You couldn’t describe these women as “sticks” since it’s not true in anything other than a comparative (but not technical) sense and amounts to beauty-bashing; the latter saying more about the one who employs it than the one it’s being used against.

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  1. La BellaDonna says:

    God bless you. You are absolutely correct about the differences between “curvy” and “fat”, especially since each results in different types of fitting problems. I wish “fat” could be un-demonized; it’s a body component. Brain, blood, bone, muscle, skin, fat. All body components, all necessary. “Fat” is just a component, a necessary component. It also contributes to some remarkably individual shapes, which require very specific fitting. But a fat woman with a small bust and a thick waist is, potentially at least, less tricky to fit than a woman with a very large bosom, small waist, and full hips – especially if she is, for instance, short through the waist.

    And more people should remember that the curves in women are shaped by fat as well as muscle.

  2. mc says:

    “The Glass Castle: A Memoir”; the mother says something to the effect of “when a girl feels pretty, she feels good”. So obvious and simple, but it needs to be written out to be realized. The concept of beauty is totally subjective, but a niche consists of the diehards for a particular look/feel. It becomes second nature to separate and organize consumers if you’re exposed to diversity.

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