Fashion, Fat, Other Stuff We Read, Self-Image, Sweet Machine

Becoming visible

Lesley at Fatshionista is posting scanned pages from her epic archive of MODE magazine, a fat fashion magazine from the late ’90s. MODE’s run corresponds almost precisely with my time in college, and my dorm had a subscription for a while (thanks to FJ, I believe). I remember almost nothing about the written content of the magazine; I assume it was on par with your standard women’s magazine, but with fewer diet tips (which is no small feat, I acknowledge). It wasn’t quite aimed at me, demographically speaking — I didn’t have the same “My people!” feeling I did the first time I read BUST, for example — but I loved reading it anyway. Because what I do remember about MODE is simple: Kate Dillon.

Kate Dillon amazed me. She was so lovely, and she was all over MODE:

On the cover:

Kate Dillon in MODE
Kate Dillon in MODE

In the fashion spreads:

In hats
In hats

And even in the ads:

In swaths
In swaths

I had never seen anyone like her in magazines: she had a rack bigger than mine, for one thing, and she had substantial thighs and upper arms and somehow she was still allowed to be in magazines because that’s how damn pretty she was. I found her completely entrancing and I had a huge crush on her and even now, ten years later, she’s all I remember about MODE.

I say this not to diss MODE — I don’t remember enough of the content to know if it would pass my feminist sniff test now — but to illustrate how much of an impact diverse media images can have on individuals. There is a line between me gaping at Kate Dillon’s hotness in MODE and me writing here. It’s not a very direct line (it has to pass through Susan Bordo and BUST and several weight changes and LJ fatshionista first!), but it’s there.

I think this may be why people are so fucking delighted when they see an image they relate to in a magazine or a movie or tv show or what have you. We are bombarded by images every day, and almost all of them portray people who look nothing like us, whether because of size, shape, race, ability, gender presentation, class markers, or just plain photoshopping. This, I imagine, is why many people seem blown away by actresses or models like Christina Hendricks, who is clearly conventionally stunning but whose hourglass figure hasn’t been (or maybe can’t be) dieted away. Most of us don’t look anything like Hendricks — but we might look more like her than like Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston or the model in the billboard across the street.

When Glamour recently ran an image of a white blonde woman in her skivvies who is conventionally beautiful in every way except for a few stretch marks and a bit of a pooch, readers fell all over themselves to thank them.  The model in the Glamour photo, Lizzi Miller, says of the reader response:

“When I read them I got teary-eyed!” she says. “I’ve been that girl, flipping through magazines trying to find just one person who looked a little bit like me. And when I didn’t find it I would start to think there’s something wrong with the way that I looked.

Seeing Lesley’s MODE scans brought me back, momentarily, to being that girl myself: sitting on the couch in my dorm living room, flipping through magazines, and seeing Kate Dillon looking back at me, looking just a little bit more like me than anyone else I’d ever seen in a magazine.

66 thoughts on “Becoming visible”

  1. I feel the same way when I get flyers from our local fat-fashion stores. Yay, fat people! Looking awesome!

    When I used to live in a rooming house, I would leave them downstairs in a ‘communal’ pile of other household mail/papers for the perusal of any other residents who might be interested (all others were thin, but one of us was a fashion design student). I’ll never forget the landlady seeing my brochure full of happy fat women, and screaming at me to take ‘my stuff’ up to my own room, as if its presence among the other fashion magazines and adverts was somehow shameful. (She, incidentally, felt the same way about my own fat presence in the household, and I was basically harassed until I moved out.)

  2. Kate Dillon is all I really remember about Mode, too. So beautiful! Just looking at the photos here is giving me a lift.

    She wrote an essay for Body Outlaws (originally called Adios, Barbie) that I loved. I wonder what she’s up to these days?

  3. I’ve never been fashion-minded and my body shape doesn’t fall along the lines of the stereotypically fat (I don’t have big boobs or a big hiney), but I devoured Mode because at least it featured photographs of women who looked SOMETHING like me and articles that weren’t all about dieting and trawling for men and all the other usual hoo-hah found in Cosmo, Vogue, etc. I’ll never forget a photograph of Camryn Manheim in a bustier and top hat and Alan Cumming with his arms wrapped around her middle, resting his head on her stomach.

  4. I had forgotten all about Kate Dillon and how lush she is. I do find myself looking and rooting for people who look “more like me” in ads and magazines. I look nothing like Kate, but I feel prettier just seeing these photos here today. :)

  5. I’ve never commented here but I’ve read along recently. I basically look like Kate Dillon’s body shape and had been having a bad day confidence-wise but seeing her and thinking “Oh, she’s so lovely and gorgeous!” made me feel better about myself so THANK YOU!

  6. I remember coming across someone’s tossed-out copy of Mode in my dorm junior year of college, and having my mind blown. I truly had no idea that fat girls like me could look like that, look so great. I had never seen a picture of anyone who did. That issue (and one photo of Camryn Manheim in Glamour around the same time) was probably my first baby step towards less self-hating, and towards throwing out my dad’s enormous flannel shirts that I thought were the only things I could wear. I can’t remember the articles either, but Mode will be forever Awesomeland in my mind for that.

  7. Remember when I also used to have pictures of her taped up on my wall? Seeing Kate Dillon for the first time was like a landmine in my brain.

  8. Hey that looks like the Visconti-Sforza Wheel of Fortune Tarot card she’s holding there in her elegantly gloved hand. I wonder what kind of revolution she’s plotting?

  9. I remember my mother reading MODE, but I was too young to be interested when it was running. However, I remember they tried to start a similar magazine for “big girls” who were teenagers, which my mom got me all excited about until we got to the bookstore and found that the first issue was all about tall teenage girls, and had absolutely nothing to do with being big overall. I felt ashamed, and there was a tiny part of my brain that said “well of course they wouldn’t have a magazine about fat girls, you’re not normal.” Ah, teenagehood…

  10. while I can only second the hotness of Kate Dillon, it always wierds me out seeing Christina Hendricks described as big because I keep thinking of Saffron in Firefly-she was tiny. I can’t say if that was smaller than her set point and currently she’s where she feels comfortable or the opposite, I don’t know. But it just seems odd to me.

  11. You know, kb, I watched that episode a few months ago with that in mind, and she is tiny in some sense — she’s a small woman, and she’s got very delicate bone structure! But she’s also definitely very curvy (though her clothes are not as sexpot-ish as her Mad Men clothes). And I did notice that while she’s nekkid, you can actually see a flesh fold where her hip meets her waist, if that description makes any sense. Not a roll, exactly, but flesh, you know? I was really excited to see that.

  12. I’m soooo excited. I just got a flyer from Lane Bryant and they’ve got a more upscale line called Icon–still rayon/poly/spandex for the most part, but one piece is real silk, and the styling is much nicer and more adult than their other stuff. I can see Kate Dillon wearing it, for sure.

    The thing I liked best about Mode was that it highlighted manufacturers that extended their size ranges, as well as shops like Lane Bryant et al., like Due per Due, Marina Rinaldi, Emme, Ralph Lauren…. and styled them well. Today, the best plus size fashion spreads I can find are in O magazine from time to time, and that is pitiful, especially given Oprah’s experience!

  13. Funny, I was just thinking about this today because in my home-to-college bus regular route there is a lingerie store billboard of a lying down headless woman without photoshop. It’s a small shop, they probably just couldn’t afford a photoshop artist, but I don’t care, it’s amazing and I can’t help but stare at it. She’s not a fat woman, she’s thin but curvy, and I you can see the different textures of her skin, and the tiny roll that everyone gets around the hip on a thong, and the small crease at the waist because of the position. Small normal details, but that are always photoshopped and blurred out until even the thin and conventionally beautiful look like plastic dolls.

    I love that billboard, I’ll see if I can snap a picture of it one day.

  14. I know exactly what you’re talking about, Sweet Machine. It was such a breath of fresh air to see that fat fold, not on the “fat friend” or on someone who has body issues to overcome, but on a sexy, scheming, confident female character. It remains one of the few times I’ve related physically with someone on TV who wasn’t supposed to feel bad about their body.

  15. Also in Firefly Hendricks was often standing next to Nathan Fillion. Which will make most actresses (exceptions include Gina Torres and Stana Katic, although they always put the latter in ridiculous heels) look teensy-tiny.

  16. Ha! It turns out Kate was writing about something really similar at the same time.

    But this is such a lovely counterpoint to my whining that plus models are still too damned pretty for most of us to relate to! (Also, dude. November Glamour. Kate Dillon. Naked.)

    I SO vividly remember that issue with her on the cover up there, in part because I, too, was blown away by her hotness. But then, I also went right to thinking, “But I’m fatter*, and she’s like a foot taller than me, and she doesn’t have acne, and her face is symmetrical, and she’s not lumpy, and this article about her says she’s a black belt in tae kwon do or some shit**, so basically, I have exactly NOTHING in common with her except boobs and red hair.***”

    Now, certainly, it’s true that I look nothing like Kate Dillion. But then, I also think I was just so completely self-loathing that there was no way I could equate “beauty” with “looks even remotely like me.” Now, I’m a much bigger fan of plus size models as baby steps toward real body diversity, but I still remember looking at them and thinking, “Well, I guess it’s possible to be fat and hot, but not too fat, and NOT IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME.” So those memories totally informed what I said over at Jez.

    *Which I may or may not have been at the time.
    **I’m making that up, but I know the article said she practiced martial arts.
    ***Which I did at the time.

  17. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I’d only heard of Mode very recently in life. There’s a small chance I had heard of it back in the day but either I didn’t pay attention or I have forgotten. But that woman is GORGEOUS. I can totally see how I would’ve had a major crush on her back then.

    And Christina Hendricks. Wow. It still blows my mind to see such amazingly beautiful women who are shaped so much like me on TV, in magazines, etc. I still get transfixed just seeing beautiful fat girls in ads for Avenue, Lane Bryant and the like. I don’t have too many days anymore where I’m feeling down about my appearance but seeing those women definitely helps my confidence and reminds me that I am sexy and helps get me out of my funks when I get them. Also, this place, fulfills a different part of me that makes me feel beautiful and confident, even without photos. Just knowing there’s this thriving community of funny and hellasmart women out there that look like me. It makes me feel really good.

  18. Oh, Mode — I miss it so much! And how upset was I that the fashion magazine in the show Ugly Betty is called Mode? SO UPSET! Because it’s not at ALL what the real Mode was. Sigh.

  19. i too had a huge crush on kate dillon. as if she weren’t cool enough already — she went on to get a masters at harvard’s kennedy school AND works in international development in a do-gooder kinda way, in addition to still doing some modeling.

    i wrote a bit for Mode back in the day. as i said on lesley’s blog, i don’t think the writing was memorable (uh, even my own). it was all about the images — back then we couldn’t run to the web to see pix of fabulously dressed fat girls (and it was even rarer to see them beautifully, non-cheesily photographed and styled). it felt momentous. i was so sad when Mode disappeared.

  20. I had a charter subscription to Mode, which is odd because I am NOT fashionable at all. What I liked about the magazine was that it seemed to have a very positive, affirming editorial message – you are great the way you are, and here’s how you can project that greatness to the world. I still have a little piece of advice that I snipped out of Mode on my corkboard, and I’d like to share it, because it’s so very important:

    Stop inviting insults. Cease associating with people who make you feel bad. Do not share your dreams, hopes, and foibles with someone who always tears you down. Stop asking for his or her advice and seek your own counsel. If I am not for myself, who will be?

    Words to live by.

  21. I loved MODE magazine. I embraced it and was so saddened by its loss. Even when GRACE began it just didn’t fulfill me like MODE. Another model I love, Tami Fitzhugh-Thompson. There were some gorgeous women in MODE. There were great pictures in MODE. I miss it.

  22. i wrote a bit for Mode back in the day. as i said on lesley’s blog, i don’t think the writing was memorable (uh, even my own)

    But so much of your other writing was! I’m having a total fangirl OMG YOU’RE COMMENTING ON MY BLOG moment right now. (Have you commented before? If so, I never clicked through the name before and put it together.) Eeeee! I just got my review copy of Hungry and am totally psyched to read it.

    *composes self*


  23. @marjorie – I have to second Kate’s fangirling since HOLY SHIT I REMEMBER YOU FROM SASSY. Owing to the precision of my memories for all things Sassy-related (which was for me, as for so many, the bible of my teenage years) I think I even recall what you looked like.

    I saw your comment on my blog as well but didn’t click through to your site until I got over here. Ha! This is awesome.

  24. I carry my fat on my stomach – my waist is very close to the same circumference as my hips, if not the same. I have C cup boobs – not small, but they don’t stick out nearly as far as my stomach does in profile. I *never* see anyone who looks like me in media, because even if a fat woman is portrayed, she always has the conventional hourglass figure.

    There’s no point to my comment, beyond me just feeling sorry for myself for a moment. That said, Kate Dillon is *gorgeous*. Rawr.

  25. Mode drove it home for me in a way that BUST didn’t — something about its very mainstreaminess, maybe? And the breathtaking images. Oh how I loved Mode.

  26. “I *never* see anyone who looks like me in media.”

    Same with me — I have a droopy tummy roll and an extra-large lower abdomen. The only time I see women in the media who look even the slightest bit like me, they are headless fatties in sweat pants demonstrating how hideous gluttony will make you. In fact, for years I half-thought I must have experienced some mysterious and blocked-out virgin pregnancy or massive tumour or something, because I never saw representations anywhere of a nulliparous woman with a prominent panniculus. While I love the representations in Mode and the like, they certainly don’t feel like they encompass–or even approach–my body type.

  27. I know exactly what you’re talking about, Sweet Machine. It was such a breath of fresh air to see that fat fold, not on the “fat friend” or on someone who has body issues to overcome, but on a sexy, scheming, confident female character. It remains one of the few times I’ve related physically with someone on TV who wasn’t supposed to feel bad about their body.

    If you haven’t seen Carnivale, Netflix it. The sexiest women on the show are fat, or as one character puts it, “that woman is built like a brick bean oven.”

    I miss MODE. I never did subscribe, but I bought off the newsstand frequently. It was such a breath of fresh air. I also liked the feature where they showed you how to get a designer look by having clothes made by a dressmaker from a Vogue designer pattern.

  28. Marjorie! <3 <3 <3 If I remember right one of the writers here posted a link to a great article by Marjorie about talking to her children after they commented on a woman being fat.

    I'm 28 years old, when I was 12-13 I read Sassy. I don't think I need to say much more about that age and how much Sassy meant to me and how much I needed it at the time. I remember Marjorie's stories especially well.

    And I think Shapely Prose does have one thing in common with Sassy in that it offers encouragement to keep your head high. It's pretty much music that's done that for me since 1995, but words and images can be powerful on their own, this site and Sassy are proof.

  29. In fact, for years I half-thought I must have experienced some mysterious and blocked-out virgin pregnancy or massive tumour or something…

    Yup, me too. Still sometimes wonder about the tumour but the doctor doesn’t seem concerned and she’s pretty awesome so I guess I’m just fat.

  30. I loved Mode SOOO much. I still have like, the last 4 issues. If I’d known they were going to fold so soon, I would have saved them all. It was such a great magazine, beautiful images, just beautiful. It was the first time I’d ever seen women who weren’t traditional models styled up and gorgeous. I loved their lingerie spreads, it was so refreshing and sumptuous and wonderful to see.

  31. I forgot all about Mode until I read today’s post. Thanks for bringing back such good memories. I LOVED that magazine!!

  32. Yeah, Marjorie from Sassy is here!! I loved your work back then and I really like your recent stuff, and OMG you have a book coming out in less than a week!! Thanks for the update on Kate Dillon, too.

  33. Thinking of Mode actually usually just pisses me off because it was freakin’ important to me back in the day and it FOLDED. ‘Cmon, whyyyyyyyy??? I mean, I know why literally, but, whyyyyyyy? Why can’t I have it? I know others want it too. Whyyyyyy?

    Whiny, but honest.

  34. Carre Otis was my Kate Dillon. And also, when she first appeared in the Guess ads, Anna Nicole Smith.

    I didn’t read Mode, but I did read Sassy and I loved it. I think I still have several issues stored away with some other memorabilia.

  35. I’ll never forget a photograph of Camryn Manheim in a bustier and top hat and Alan Cumming with his arms wrapped around her middle, resting his head on her stomach

    Me neither – that picture was up on my pinboard for years!

    Moving swiftly along, (though it was one hell of a picture), I have to introduce a voice of dissent here. I didn’t like Mode all that much – although the fashion spreads were fabulous and I bought it to show my support for as long as I could get my hands on a copy because, hey, anything is better than nothing. But I never got the impression they were addressing women who were actually fat, just larger than the cultural ideal, especially since it stated “for women size 12, 14, 16 … ” or some such on the cover.

    For instance, unlike BBW, which featured a diversity of shapes and sizes in their fashion spreads and even had a regular section devoted to “life beyond 3X”, Mode’s models always conformed to the Emme/Kate Dillon body-type – basically tall, flat-stomached amazons with wide hips. Occasionally they might showcase some fat mover and shaker, (like Camryn Manheim) in a profile piece but generally the only fat I ever saw in Mode featured in the occasional ad for some small, independent plus-size retailer. The fact they were willing to take the revenue from those ads yet, editorially speaking, didn’t seem to want to acknowledge the portion of their readership forced to shop from these advertisers struck me as a bit hypocritical.

    I imagine, Sweet Machine, the reason you don’t remember anything about the editorial content of the magazine was because there wasn’t much to differentiate it from that of any other mainstream fashion magazine beyond the lack of weight loss advice. The kind of fat we chew over here was notably absent, as was the F word itself. It just came across as feel-good candy floss for inbetweenies to me. I guess I wanted Bust but didn’t know it.

  36. And how upset was I that the fashion magazine in the show Ugly Betty is called Mode? SO UPSET!

    Me too! I was so appalled that the fictional magazine that was all about the thinnest humans possible was called Mode. I felt very proprietary about the name.

    (I stopped watching UB for other reasons, though.)


  37. I never did see Mode, but I loved Sports Illustrated for Women. It wasn’t that I had any interest in sports, at all, period, or followed any professional sports. It was just that (unlike every single fitness magazine ever) they seemed to completely ignore exercise-to-look-skinny. The athletes were all incredible–something about world-class athleticism, right?–but they cheerfully profiled Tiny Little World-Champion Rock Climber, and then a women’s football fullback, and there was no difference in the attitude.

    I loved that. The 47 year old kick-ass mountain biker woman didn’t give skin care tips, because she was kicking ass on her mountain bike. The football player didn’t anguish about her weight, because it was one of the reasons she was rockin’ awesome at her sport. It was like HAES had its own glossy mag.

    In college, I remember doing the stairclimber thing in the gym and looking at the woman facing me, who had this ferocious expression of hatred on her face. It seemed to me that she was trying to exercise herself down to nothing. (Of course, hello, that was me projecting my own issues; she was probably thinking about her ex-boyfriend.) But SI for Women seemed to be the exact opposite of that attitude: sports and activities and exercise as a way to celebrate the awesomeness of the body, instead of a way to punish and subdue it.

    When they folded, I got a nice little postcard from the publisher, telling me I’d get the remainder of my subscription transferred to Shape. Greaaaat. Thanks a lot. Does anyone know any other fitness/sports/whatev mags that might, for example, conceivably profile the world-class female weightlifter Cheryl Haworth (26 years old, 5’9″, 315 lbs) like the world-class athlete she is, without making it about her weight? Because I could cheerfully go the rest of my life without reading a single piece of advice on exercises to target my “problem areas.”

  38. @ zuzu I haven’t thought of Carnivale in ages! That show definitely had some strong and sexy women on it. Thanks for the reminder, I may have to revisit that show tonight.

  39. After several months of FA, I can now look at a model of Kate Dillon’s proportions and think to myself, “Hot… voluptuous…” and so on and so forth, RATHER than recoiling instantly and thinking, “She needs to lose weight.” Which naturally carries over to my own body. I think, “So what if I have a belly? And plump thighs? Goodness knows they didn’t disappear with stringent exercise, so my body must be built to host them.” Accompanying this [surprisingly positive–for me, at least] self-talk is the vow to never diet again, and to exercise for the sheer joy of moving my body rather than to fit into smaller clothes. Why does society want women to take up less space, anyway?

    My body image is far from completely happy – and yet I find that I feel more positively toward my body, now that I’ve accepted its proportions (curvy!), than do some of my much, much thinner classmates.

    Man… Kate Dillon makes me wish I were gay, and she were single, and I were single, and there were a bar that she and I both liked to frequent, and she happened to order the same drink I was drinking, which sparked a conversation, which…

    ….just my train of thought after reading this thread.

  40. I remember Kate Dillon well. She was everywhere when one of my best friends was doing plus size modeling with Wilhelmina. Whatever happened to Kate Dillon? Bring back MODE!

  41. I’ve never seen that mag before, I don’t think it was published in Europe. Kate Dillon looks rather delicious. Oh, I wish there were mags like that over here instead of the usual crap about diets and how to snag a man!

  42. I love MODE! holding in my hands the first four editions, which were put out seasonally, starting with Spring 1997. the first line after Premier Issue says “It’s about time!” so geeky that I cut out interesting pages from months of the issues after and put them in the seasonal editions, knowing that i could return again and again each season to MODE and a life that is normal for fashion inspiration. i love fashion but i hate fashion magazines because they focus virtually exclusively on the super thin and the nitwit designers who won’t design for all of us. Marjorie, thanks for writing words for that wonderful magazine.

    my motto regarding designers, if they don’t make clothes that fit us, don’t buy their bags and shoes….

  43. omg you guys thank you. i tried to comment here once before when someone was talking about crystal, and it didn’t post, and i thought “wah kate things i’m a self-promoting fuckwad.” i am a DEVOTED reader of both shapely prose and fatshionista (and there are shout-outs to both in Hungry — coming NEXT WEEK from simon & schuster!) as well as to The Rotund and a couple other size-acceptance blogs). (and to pre-empt people who say “crystal IS NOT FAT! GRR!” — pls read the book before you roll your eyes. we do talk about that, and the book IS informed by health at every size. i can’t control the publicity for the book, but i know what crystal and i wrote.)

    ansa, thanks for reminding me of the name of the demoralizing mag Mode turned into — Grace was such a downer after Mode! barely literate, rife with copyediting and grammatical errors…and the design was full-on catalog-y cheese, not that delicious high-fashiony sumptuousness that was Mode.

    zuzu: “brick bean oven”! love.

    MA, thanks for the nice shout-out about the “that lady is FAT” piece. and i agree that SP and some other blogs have taken over where sassy left off. plus b/c they don’t have to survive in an old-school print publishing world, they aren’t answering to multiple masters the way we were (kara jesella and marisa meltzer’s book about sassy gets into some of that stuff). and look, we were SO not as enlightened about a lot of shit back then as we could have been. it was groundbreaking for its time, but we still had and have a long way to go, and i don’t think any mainstream mag will ever be able to go there the way a great blog can.

    i ramble! lesley and kate i am CRAZY WITH JOY that you knew my name — i really do LOVE LOVE LOVE your blogs. (and lesley, i also went nuts over your desert boots with adorable frock a while back. check the comments. :))

  44. I’m glad I’m not the only one old enough to remember the original BBW and their super-size sections! That was the only part of any fashion magazine that *ever* had anything in my size. Every now and then I look on ebay for issues but anyone who still has any is holding on tight.

  45. Hi–coming out of the woodwork after a good half a year of driving everyone around me insane by doing all my commenting out loud in RL (boyfriend–largely converted!).

    I want to thank you for this thread as a sort of nice complement to the (totally reasonable) doubts about a visibility project in the comments to the Newsweek post.

    I also wanted to mention, re: the lovely Christina Hendricks, that I have a friend who got the opportunity to meet her, and whose subjective report was that she was not at all tiny but quite tall and really, truly, curvaceous, and that seeing her walk around with other more typically waif-like TV people was like night and day.

    I didn’t have any facts to back it up (I, sadly, did not meet her), so I went Internet hunting and found the following report of a similar nature on a messageboard:

    “You know,Hendricks is listed at 5’8′-but I’ve been in the room with her. If she’s 5’8′,I’m shrinking……….LOL She’s probably closer to 5’10’,they tend to round down when listing actresses’ hieghts unless they’re really short.

    She told me in the brief conversation we had that she couldn’t buy a job in Hollywood before “Mad Men”-they kept telling her she was too fat. ”

    None of this is to say that she wouldn’t be equally gorgeous if she were in fact tiny in real life, or to say that she still isn’t tiny in comparison to many people, but even if 5’8″ is the more accurate height it’s still refreshing to see someone medium-sized and tall along with the 5’0″ pixies.

  46. The second picture, with the feathered hat and gray suit and leather gloves, looks so much like my late aunt that it hurts. My aunt was not clued in to fat acceptance or HAES at all, except in one way: clothes and makeup. Whereas my mom and grandmother were more interested in pretty clothes as a reward/motivator for losing weight, my aunt firmly believed in getting high-quality clothes that looked good on her. If she’d had the internet and were still alive today, she would be a fatshionista.

  47. I completely agree, Sweet Machine. Even if it’s just one model on page 194, or one magazine years ago, it is like a window bursting open and letting in a gust of fresh air, if only for a moment. I was too young to enjoy MODE, but it sounds like I would have thoroughly.

    I don’t read Glamour, but when I saw Lizzi Miller’s pictures over at Bitch and Feministing, I actually squealed. Not only does she look like me (I wear a size 8 usually; she has same thighs/stomach that I do), but as a queer lady I also thought, “She is one smoking hot real woman, hell yes!”

  48. “I *never* see anyone who looks like me in media.”

    Me either and this is an area where I always run into a dilemma. No matter how much anyone tries to ‘redefine’ beauty, I will never ever make the cut. This doesn’t depress me in the slightest, though I’m constantly told it should. I’m actually fine with being ugly (and even if I weren’t, there’s nothing to be done about it). Sure, I occasionally dream about being beautiful, but in much the way I dream about winning the lottery; a nice thought, but not likely to happen.

    I’m sure for women who are just a one tiny feature or a few extra pounds away from being conventionally beautiful, seeing someone like them in a magazine is a big deal, but… well, those are beauty magazines and they’re never going to have ugly people in them. Truth be told, I’m utterly fine with that no matter how narrowly or broadly the editors choose to define beauty.

    Frankly, the only time I get really pissed off at the media is when someone like Camryn Manheim comes along and they go on and on about how she “radically changed” our notions of what’s beautiful. Seriously? She’s an utterly conventionally beautiful woman (straight white teeth, symmetrical features, small straight nose, wide set eyes… the whole bit, right on down the line to the hour glass figure) who happens to have a little more fat than most Hollywood stars. I’m thrilled that people can see past her fat to the fact that she’s beautiful, but there’s really nothing radical about it.

    Its great that women who are beautiful and also fat can be seen as beautiful. I’m just not sure that all this messing around on the edges of the definition of beauty does me, or those that look more like me than like Camryn, any good… if that makes any sense to anyone.

    I guess I’d just prefer that beauty be seen as just one of many unique and wonderful qualities a woman might have, rather than the be all and end all of her worth. Otherwise, I’m forever screwed.

  49. Holy frak, it’s Marjorie from Sassy! My teenage-girl world ended a little when Sassy turned into just-another-teen-mag. I…that magazine meant so much to me. I was such a little oddball compared to many of the other girls around me and Sassy made me feel like I had a place somewhere. Thank you for your part in it.

  50. Has anyone seen Burda Moden or Burda Plus?
    Both are fashion magazines with dozens of patterns enclosed.
    Moden is published every month with a straight, plus, and petite sections.
    Plus version comes out twice a year with really beautiful, trendy, European styles. That aren’t polyester crap. Everytime I pick one up, I wish I had a tailor or stronger sewing skills. The magazine is German, but there’s an English version.

  51. Great piece! Quick question: Is it fair or problematic to use terms like “in-between” as a descriptor for women with body types like Christina Hendricks?

  52. I had NO IDEA who Kate Dillon was, but my little adolescent self saved as many pictures of her as I could. She’s so beautiful. I have this picture of her as Eris, with this wild crimped red hair holding an apple, and I was just so blown away the first time I saw that picture.

    Thank you for bringing back that fused-neuron feeling of “I look … almost like HER…. does that mean I’m … not ugly?!”

  53. So I guess it’s time I pimped my blog to all you MODE fans then? It’s called “Every Body Is Beautiful” and it’s at

    I have just scored a huge stack of Modes from eBay and will be scanning them IN ENTIRETY and putting them online. There is already over 100 posts on there for you to look at, including a MODE cover gallery.

    My blog is more an archive or library than a soapbox, and I’m always looking for more material….hope to hear from you!

  54. I’m sitting here watching Supernanny and feeling the same way about Jo Frost. She has a very similar body type to mine and she is gorgeous. It’s just… it feels good.

  55. My friend just pointed me toward the Guardian coverage of the Lizzie Miller photo:

    I love Firefly and think Kate Dillon was a highlight of the show. However, I rarely, if ever, read fashion mags. One reason is because they (generally) don’t feature women that I identify with. I don’t look like any models a) because of my size and b) because I’m multi-racial.

    Another reason is, well, I’m not very into fashion. I hate shopping because it’s incredibly difficult to find clothes that fit my breasts/hips/height. I do try to find outfits that are cheap (very important to this poor grad student) and stylish (in my sense of the word), but it’s always such a struggle.

    And my last reason for not being into fashion magazines is that I usually veer toward sci-fi books for my leisure reading (if you couldn’t have guessed by the Firefly love). :)

    So, I’m not sure if including more multiracial, fat models would entice me to put down Dan Simmons and pick up Glamour, but it would be a start. And it would be great for the multiracial, fat women who are more into fashion than I am!

  56. I have nothing particularly articulate to say other than, shit, she is fiiii-iiine. I love her “I’m here, bitches!” expression on the cover.

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