What exactly is "curvy"?

Every so often, a story will hit the press touting “The Return of Curves!!!” Usually, this is accompanied by a picture of someone like Kim Kardashian (now a Size 2, according to US Weekly) or Whitney from America’s Next Top Model. And then we "real women" rejoice, because it means that maybe, hopefully, one day we can all toss our worries out the windows and eat what we crave with our hearts, not our scales (fruits and veggies plus chocolate and frosting) and workout WHEN we want, not because we have to, and we can stop comparing ourselves to impossibly twig-like fashion models. Or maybe it means that we don't have to put ourselves on "More to Love"-style dating shows for non-Bachelor-type bods. Return of Curve stories are like little rays of body image sunshine, showering us with faith and optimism.

But there’s a catch.

“Curvy” doesn’t exactly mean soft and round all over. It means you can have hips, but they need to be topped off by a teeny waist and toned stomach. There should be no cellulite on those luscious hips, or else said lusciousness ceases to exist. Your chest can heave forth unencumbered by doubled-up sports bras, but your shoulders should still be toned, your triceps defined and, hey, if you can still see your collarbone, that’s a bonus.

But isn’t this all genetically impossible? If you have enough (p)hat to pad your caboose or grant you DDs, a corseted waist or jutting collarbone is pretty much guaranteed to be obscured, no?
I started thinking about this while reading a story in the Times Online called “The triumph of curves.”  Author Shane Watson writes:

“It’s taken roughly 15 years, but at long last, after a couple of false alarms, we are officially over skinny. And here is how you can tell: women have started to envy other women, not for their jutting hip bones and the amount of daylight visible between their thighs, but for their soft and shapely bodies….Whippet-thin is the standard body type of the high-maintenance woman with a husband in corporate finance, and those sharp shoulders jutting through cashmere have started to look decidedly last year…Now a real figure looks a lot more appealing and sexier than a starved one in the same way that driving a Hummer seems hilariously out of touch with the mood of the times. In Hollywood, it’s already noticeable: the likes of Jennifer Aniston have got a bit more flesh on their bones, and the disciples of Rachel Zoe (the Zoebots) are no longer setting the agenda.”

First of all, if Jennifer Aniston has even an excess ounce of flesh on her bones then either (a) I’m blind or (b) we’re all going to hell in a Jenny Craig-logo’d handbasket. That said, Watson rebounds by acknowledging that “the curvier figure has to obey certain rules”:

“Every time Christina Hendricks (Joan in Mad Men) is interviewed and photographed in contemporary clothes, you are reminded that casual, undone and edgy do no favours for the hourglass figure. In that early 1960s look, with asset-packing sheath and immaculate up-do, any woman would die to look like her. But in a thigh-skimming asymmetric number with a frill down the front or, God forbid, jeans and T-shirt, she looks like the big girl who doesn’t quite have what it takes. “

Precisely. So “curvy” is good and all, but only if those curves are Jessica Rabbit-esque, packed into a skintight gown and overflowing out of a VS Angels bra. In leggings and a sweater, you may just be branded a “bigger” girl.

Do you smell what The Rock is cooking?  What IS “curvy”? Is it your sweet, round little grandmother? Is it Beth Ditto? Is it Kim or Khloe  Kardashian? Is it Scarlett Johansson? Or is it (gulp) Jennifer “I do yoga 8 hours a day” Aniston?

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