Do you remember that Dove advert with the line of models of different shapes and sizes, all wearing white underwear and looking happy, gorgeous and confident? Well the first Body Confidence awards, held in the Terrace Pavilion of the House of Commons, was a recognition of nominees’ attempts to extend the same message as that advert did: however you are, you’re ok.
It felt odd wandering through the House of Commons down William Morris corridors, past rooms of men guffawing over wine decanters and small tour groups talking about kings, because of course the House of Commons is so steeped in history – and yet this awards ceremony, held in a marquee overlooking the London Eye, was so fresh and history defying. The awards were pulled together last minute, but very effectively, propelled by positive energy, by people actually caring and wanting to get involved, rather than stall, um and ah. It felt very real and genuine – a YES campaign, unlike so many that seem to drag reluctant heels.
No one can deny that body image and confidence is a prevalent issue for our society. The room was brimming with people wanting to make a difference – girl guides, campaigners, activists, media faces, all bent on expanding ‘”the narrow ideal of beauty” as Jo Swinson, MP, articulated it, and making a new niche in “our culture of perfection” – for, as my personal dry shampoo and rain combination proved, perfection is hard to come by.
Caitlin Moran bounded onto the stage to receive the Print Award for her autobiography How To Be A Woman. She had been joking with Kath Viner from the Guardian about who was going to win, when a male friend piped up ‘the important thing is that women have won today’, putting them in their place. Vital, individual, very sharing – as her book is evidence to – and with spectacular hair, Moran seems the perfect representative of this new breed of feminism that is accepting of who we are, flaws and all. She joked about how she jettisoned the idea of just knuckling down to try and fit the model of an ideal woman that was expected of her in favour of ‘Plan 2’: making everyone else lower their standards. Moran dropped her award in her enthusiasm about washing tights with shampoo and leaving them to dry, but recovered it, demonstrating how every mistake, just like every flaw, is just another part of us, and part of the show.
Former i-D Fashion Editor Caryn Franklin presented the All Walks Beyond the Catwalk Fashion Award. As always Caryn looked effortless, all black and edge and un-aged since the Clothes Show Live days. ”We all love fashion, we all love clothes”, she began, going on to discuss the power of the body and body ideals in fashion. All Walks talks to students about the conscious decisions they make in how they promote fashion. Leading by example, one of the nominees, Giles Deacon, used a 71-year-old model Veruschka to great acclaim, demonstrating how beauty can age beautifully and that we mustn’t be so afraid of it. England seems sadly entrenched in this denial, more so than countries like France where Catherine Deneuve is still a sex symbol in her 60s. Mark Fast won the fashion award in the end, for his use of curvy as well as standard models in his shows since 2009. Fast commented: “Over the years I have been privileged to work with some of the most beautiful and shapely women in the world and it is true to say that even the most beautiful (by any standards) have moments of doubt and insecurities. Even Whitney Houston apparently never really believed she was beautiful and my goal as a designer is always to make each wearer of my clothes feel empowered and affirmed.”
So support and be inspired by the Body Confidence Awards. Fundamentally they are providing a visible platform from which to shout a very positive message – that we don’t have to fear and doubt and change our bodies to squeeze them into the impossible straightjacket we are told is attractive. There is an alternative of acceptance, wellbeing and confidence that can be embraced, and will be willingly, once it is highlighted as an option. Essentially it is about freedom to be who we are and be ok with that, as Pinkstinks, winners of the Mumsnet Award for Promoting Body Confidence in Children, asserted. Though it is ok to like pink and be thin too – these awards shouldn’t be hailed as a reaction against the skinnies – but as a boosting of confidence in all individuals, in whatever form they come.