Body confidence is something we are told to feel daily. ‘Be comfortable in your own body’ the ads scream at us, yet turn the page and we’re bombarded with images of 'perfection', usually airbrushed, plumped, filled, botoxed, or post-yoga with a green juice in hand.
Personally, these conflicting images make me feel on one day, great about myself. Yay, they’re using a plus size model, a term I struggle to use to describe a woman who is a size 14 and upwards. Why is that deemed ‘plus size’? Approximately 30% of women in the UK are a size 14 and around 40% size 16 and above. That doesn’t leave a huge margin for those a size 12 and below, now does it?
What the fashion industry tells us with these stats is that any woman who wears a dress size over a UK 12 is a 'plus size'. Doesn’t do much for the morale does it to be beaten down at the start? I have curves and a fairly large bust, also a mummy tummy and shapely legs from years of dance in my early twenties. I could lose some weight, yes, but to what gain? To fall below the fashion statistic and be in the 30% of regular sizing? No thanks.
"I’ve started life-modelling for art groups.
Yes, completely stark naked in front of a room full of strangers."
I have presented for fashion brands on television and I hope that I was chosen to head up those brands because I look like their demographic, forty plus, with curves. I definitely don’t look like a fashion model, and I’m 5’2” so even if I were a sample size I’m still at least six inches too short.
Oh, what a start to our mornings, when before we’ve even opened our bleary eyes and had our morning coffee, we’re already feeling negative about our bodies before getting to clothing options.
As a single woman of fifty-one I may have found a way to combat this negativity, but you do need some nerves. I’ve started life-modelling for art groups. Yes, completely stark naked in front of a room full of strangers.
It has never been something I had ever thought about doing. Usually, if a date has gone well and we’ve moved to the stage of ‘your place or mine’, as soon as we are through my front door my lights are dimmed so low you can barely make me out, the view in my mind being much more flattering in soft focus than harsh reality. But, it was a suggestion, possibly made in jest by an artist friend, that planted a seed. As my eye caught my flabby bits in the mirror and tried to tuck them all into my clothes, I thought about artworks I might see in galleries. Do I see slim beautiful women? Yes. Do I see full figured beautiful women? Absolutely yes.
An artist is looking at a form, not with a critical eye but with an artistic eye, and uses these classes as an opportunity to draw anatomy in 3D from life, not from a photograph or image.
I was nervous and apprehensive the first time. Like everybody I’ve been naked millions of times in my life, and standing in front of a group of people with easels was not my norm, but having them look at my body without criticism, just to draw a human form, was incredibly liberating.
Seeing their work afterwards, their interpretations of me in different styles and colours was fascinating, and exciting. I didn’t spot my flaws and my rolls, I saw lines, curves, technique, and well, beautiful pieces of art.
I definitely recommend giving it a try, and if anything, a great dinner party story.
Cat Cooper is a fifty something, single mum who lives in North London with her ten year old daughter. She is writing her first book about the roller-coaster ride that is online dating, post millennium and post her own break-up. Life’s curve balls can really throw you, and starting over has certainly been a journey of self discovery. It wasn’t until her girlfriends who enjoyed her stories so much and encouraged her to write them down, that she decided to share them. The dating research continues...