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Monica Bellucci on the cover of French Elle

French Elle’s “Without Makeup” Issue Embraces Trend of Natural Beauty

April 17, 2009 01:30 PM
by Haley A. Lovett
Elle’s no makeup issue, an all-black issue of Vogue, a shift toward healthier runway models and a demand for older models evince the fundamental changes underway in the beauty industry.

“Natural Beauty” Seen in European Fashion

April’s issue of French Elle will feature eight well-known European stars without makeup or retouching. The “Stars Sans Fards” issue—Stars Without Makeup—embraces the beauty of the women without their makeup, rather than pointing out their flaws, as is common practice in U.S. tabloids.

Last July’s issue of Italian Vogue set out to disprove the myth that “black models don’t sell” and featured only models of color in the issue; it sold out in four days. Among the models gracing the pages of that issue were supermodel Iman, and Toccara Jones from “America’s Next Top Model.”

A year ago the French fashion industry made waves when a voluntary charter was signed between the French Health Minister and fashion houses, advertising agencies and the media, to ban “images of people, in particular youth, that could contribute to promoting a model of extreme thinness.” In 2006 Madrid forbade models with a body-mass index below 18.5 from walking the catwalk during fashion week. New York and London chose not to put any restrictions on model size.

Background: U.S. fashion world may be moving away from the unreal

In the United States things have been slow to change in the fashion world. Tabloids are quick to point out cellulite on candid photos of celebrities at the beach, and most magazine covers feature heavily made-up, heavily airbrushed photos of models or celebrities. But the attitude of U.S. consumers may be on the move toward a more realistic model. 

Baby Boomers in the United States have changed the type of models in demand, looking for faces and bodies in advertising that more accurately reflect their own self-image. Models such as Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington and Claudia Schiffer—all in their late 30s—are preferred to 20-somethings for campaigns aimed at more mature women.

In 2002 Jamie Lee Curtis pulled back the curtain behind the myth of a perfect body when, at 43, she posed for More magazine sans makeup, fancy clothes or flattering light. She criticized editors who allow lots of retouching after the shoot, thinning out models and smoothing out any imperfections. “The fraudulence really has to do with perpetuating something that isn’t real anymore,” she told More.

With retouching once a very expensive last resort option, it is now commonplace in the fashion world. But other stars since Curtis have chosen to pose without the security blanket of makeup or retouching. In 2007 People Magazine did an entire photo feature of celebrities looking great without makeup; Drew Barrymore, Eva Longoria, and Rosario Dawson were just a few who bared it all for the cameras.

Opinion: Debates rage over airbrushing and Dove’s “Real Women” campaign

But the claims of “no airbrushing,” “no makeup,” or “no photoshopping” are not without controversy.  Claiming to feature models without makeup or touch-ups can put advertisers in the hot seat if doubts arise. And that’s exactly what happened to Dove when it released the “Real Women” campaign.

In May of 2008, noted photo retoucher Pascal Dangin did an interview with the New Yorker in which he mentioned that he had been responsible for retouching those photos, which according to Dove had not been retouched. “It was great to do,” he told the New Yorker, “a challenge, to keep everyone’s skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.” 

Later Dove denied the claim by Dangin, saying that he was merely a printer and did not retouch the photos. Dangin himself later retracted his statement about the retouching, but not before the campaign had taken a real blow to its credibility.

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