Earlier this week, street style photographer Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) came under fire for posting two photos (above) of Milan-based fashion blogger Angelica Ardasheva alongside a striking caption about her outfit with respect to her figure:
I loved that she’s a bigger, curvier girl than most of the other bloggers who you see in the press and tend to represent the genre.
The subtle thing she achieves so successfully in these two looks is to complement the sturdy but beautiful shape of her legs with an equally strong shoe. A daintier shoe would be overpowered but these shoes create a beautiful harmony for the lower half of her body.
Tomorrow I’ll post an image of a different young lady I met in Paris with a similarly curvy body type but a different method of creating body harmony.
…This is striking not so much because he couched his observations in a oddly cautious, possibly condescending language (“complement the sturdy but beautiful shape of her legs with an equally strong shoe”) but striking because he commented on her body at all: he seldom captions photos, and when he does they’re little dashes about color or proportion or some such.
Schuman has responded to the controversy on his blog by citing a deficiency with language:
So help me understand; what is the modern way to speak about size? I’m not married to the word curvy. I’m just trying to describe her in the best way I know how. Let’s not hide from this issue; I don’t want to be afraid to talk about it on my blog. Help me describe this young lady without using the word “normal,” but in a way that addresses her body size and still references my point about the size of her legs relative to her shoes.
He raises a fair point that we seem to bury compliments of not-skinny women in what comes off as a strangely back-handed supposition that their bodies typically aren’t beautiful. As if we can only find curvaceous women beautiful in spite of their curvaceousness.
Jezebel Jenna Sauers puts it nicely:
The problem isn’t the words he or anyone else might use to describe a woman’s body, the problem is that women’s bodies are (thanks in large part to the fashion world and its incredibly restrictive norms) widely considered appropriate subjects for public critique and commentary at all. Schuman, ostensibly a style blogger, mentions Ardasheva’s size well before even turning his attention to her outfit — and even then, he considers her outfit only in relation to her body.
While The Cut’s Amy Odell wonders:
So he wanted to discuss “the size of her legs relative to her shoes.” What? Do we ever discuss the size (meaning thickness, presumably) of a runway model’s legs in relation to her shoes? Is this leg volume versus shoe volume a thing about which points need to be made?
And Styleite‘s Verena von Pfetten mentions the larger problem of diversity in the industry:
But he did both her and himself a disservice when he made such a concerted effort to point out that she was different not only from “bloggers who you see in the press” but from women featured on his site specifically.
As for us, we weren’t offended by Schuman’s caption, certainly not to the degree that many of his 1000 and counting commenters were. In his defense, it is hard to talk about size in a way that doesn’t feel condescending (which is absurd and not his fault) and it seems like a waste of outrage to direct it at someone who was genuine in his praise of a stylish, pretty young woman, if not mistaken in how to say so.
…However, we thought it might nicely illustrate the peculiarity of his statements concerning Ardasheva by captioning a few of his other, more traditional subjects in the same style.