Ladies, Embrace Your Curves!

For years, women have been asked the question: Does size really matter? Naturally, they were referring to men.

But there's another question that has long been on everyone's mind: What is the "correct" size for a woman? I laugh when I see people get upset by such talk, or make cruel comments that can hurt girls' and women's self-images.

Perhaps it sounds heartless when I say, "I laugh," but I do so because it seems to me that this topic has always been an issue -- dating to the beginning of time. And that we, as women, shouldn't let anyone dictate what is "the right size," for us, unless, of course, it's a health issue.

Times change, and the standard of beauty changes with them. The Rubenesque physique was all the rage in the 17th century, and we all know it thanks to the man behind the adjective, artist Peter Paul Rubens.

Rubens was known for his portraits of nude and nearly nude women that were not only realistic but also depicted a tangible sensuality, a ripeness -- insight into what he found attractive in a woman, that's for sure. This voluptuousness was considered the standard of beauty. At that time in history, being waiflike meant, well, being like a waif. As in a street urchin. Having a full figure was a sign of wealth, health and happiness.

I was thrilled to interview the creator of Cherished-Woman.com, a company devoted to dressing the plus-size woman. Nancy Baum is (a) a smart woman who's appealing to a growing population, and b) so comfortable with herself, and that's what it's all about. You can bet Jane Mansfield wasn't ashamed of her bodacious bod. No one should be.

There is a trend in America toward larger-size women. In fact, the plus-size clothing market is now -- excuse the pun -- big business. Over the past 40 years, the average size of a woman has increased steadily. There are variances related to the fact that average height has also increased, which has affected average weight.

A French designer overheard backstage at Fashion Week spouted "had I known that these plump delicacies would pay for high fashion, I would have catered to them years ago." A bit pretentious, but he's right.

The average woman's measurements in 1960 were 34B bust with a 24-inch waist and 33-inch hips. Today the average woman's measurements are 36C bust with a 28-inch waist and 38-inch hips.

That doesn't sound like that big of a change, but 62 percent of American women are now wearing a size 14 or larger. Women in their 40s and 50s contribute to this number, and the part of America that is not considered "average" does, too.

Many American women are looking to see a different type of model sporting the latest fashions. Nancy Baum caters to this clientele. All her fashions are modeled by plus-size professionals. And the clothes are trendy and cute, a far cry from what I see when I go to department stores with friends and relatives who are a size 14 or over.

When I heard about Baum's designer line for plus-size women, I went straight to Cherished-woman.com. Baum is smart, gorgeous, sexy, has an original sense of style and just happens to not be a size 2. God forbid, right?

Jessica Svoboda, founder and designer of Svoboda, a clothing line for "confident, curvy fashionistas" laments: "I've been plus-size most of my life and was frustrated by the lack of options for young, full-figured women. Most garments were dowdy and out of date. Just plain ugly. We go for flirty and fab, while downplaying problem areas."

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