Sunday, March 04, 2007

NYT's Sunday Styles

Some of the most putrid stuff in the New York Times is in the supplementary sections.

A seventeen year-old Australian model, Catherine McNeil is taking the fashion world by storm. She opened the Givenchy show in Paris last week, which is supposedly a sign of great favor for a new model.

Here is how Guy Trebay of the New York Times tells the story in his column Fashion Diary, which appears in the Sunday Styles section.

Supposedly "we" (and "we" is a very particular "we", it would not include me or anyone east of the Danube probably) have a long standing, virtually instinctive, Pythagorean standard of beauty, derived from simple mathematical proportions of features. "A forehead should be as high as the nose is long. The space between the nostrils and the upper lip should be a third of the length of the nose." etc.

Then the big bad corporate world, and the growth of markets in China, Japan, Korea, etc., robbed "us" of this kind of beauty. Asian faces started infesting the fashion show catwalks. Then horror of horrors, Russia, Romania, Slovakia and the Ukraine took over "70 percent" of the castings for runway shows! Designers did not want beautiful faces to draw attention away from their designs, and so were happy to use these non-Pythagorean commodities - "vacant, plain, colorless".

And now Catherine McNeil walks in, and "our" old standard of beauty has been reinstated! "She is beautiful in a way that people used to be".


The NYT columnist is clearly unhappy with any notion of beauty other than his own. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the rest of us, especially those of us not included in his grand "we", he is a columnist in an increasingly parochial and irrelevant newspaper.


Bee said...

Arun said...

I think that
1. the comment at the end of the article has great validity.

2. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all" - if fair is used synonymously with beauty, would one say complexion is more determinative of beauty than slenderness of the waist? One has to be sure that slender-waisted is not a Sanskrit shorthand in the epics.

Here is a passage:

Once in ancient times, the celestial Rishi Narada, having roamed over all the world, met the Apsara Panchachuda of faultless beauty, having her abode in the region of Brahman. Beholding the Apsara every limb of whose body was endued with great beauty, the ascetic addressed her, saying, 'O thou of slender waist, I have a doubt in my mind. Do thou explain it.'

E.g., one will find lotus-eyed extremely common as well.

3. One can look at for English translations of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

Here is a brief description of Draupadi - "She was exceedingly dark, with long curling locks and lotus eyes, and she was deep-bosomed and slender-waisted. A sweet odour clung to her body."


"And in that secluded place, he found the beautiful Draupadi, the beloved and celebrated wife of the Pandavas, standing at the threshold of the hermitage. And she looked grand in the superb beauty of her form, and seemed to shed a lustre on the woodland around, like lightning illuminating masses of dark clouds. And they who saw her asked themselves, 'Is this an Apsara, or a daughter of the gods, or a celestial phantom?' And with this thought, their hands also joined together. They stood gazing on the perfect and faultless beauty of her form. And Jayadratha, the king of Sindhu, and the son of Vriddhakshatra, struck with amazement at the sight of that lady of faultless beauty, was seized with an evil intention. And inflamed with desire, he said to the prince named Kotika, 'Whose is this lady of faultless form? Is she of the human kind? I have no need to marry if I can secure this exquisitely beautiful creature. Taking her with me, I shall go back to my abode, Oh sir, and enquire who she is and whence she has come and why also that delicate being hath come into this forest beset with thorns. Will this ornament of womankind, this slender-waisted lady of so much beauty, endued with handsome teeth and large eyes, accept me as her lord? I shall certainly regard myself successful, if I obtain the hand of this excellent lady. Go, Kotika, and enquire who her husband may be.' Thus asked, Kotika, wearing a kundala, jumped out of his chariot and came near her, as a jackal approacheth a tigress, and spake unto her these words.'""


""Markandeya continued, 'Having regained consciousness, Satyavan rose up like one who had enjoyed a sweet sleep, and seeing every side covered with woods, said, 'O girl of slender waist, I came with thee for procuring fruits. Then while I was cutting wood I felt a pain in my head......."