News, Culture & Society

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Please stop weighing in on body size, Victoria! 

Victoria Beckham made headlines last week with her comment that wanting to look really thin is now old-fashioned.

To put this into context, she was discussing her new range of VB shapewear. Slip into a piece of VB Body and voila – yours is a flat stomach, a peachy derriere and a streamlined but curvy silhouette.

Victoria herself is extremely slender and maintains a rigorous approach to diet and exercise. She looks great and perfectly healthy. But does she really think that thin is old-fashioned? I doubt it.

I wish that were the case, but it’s not really true and her comment was PR fodder. Victoria would not previously have expressed such a view because it’s only recently that fashion, or at least some fashion, has decided to embrace curves.

Victoria Beckham made headlines last week with her comment that wanting to look really thin is now old-fashioned

Not the fashion of Gucci, Chanel or Louis Vuitton, whose models are still super-thin, but the big-bottomed fashion of Kardashian- land which is arguably the more influential.

All those years back, in 2009, Kate Moss made news with the phrase ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, which, it turns out, was a version of the less pithy ‘nothing tastes as good as being thin feels’ from a book by American writer Elizabeth Berg.

Berg did not make headlines but Kate did, because when it comes to body size, celebrity opinions count.

The strange thing is that it’s blindingly obvious that being neither too thin nor too fat is a good idea, but for some reason this never makes the news.

Despite the terrifying obesity figures – last week researchers predicted that by 2030, Britain will have more obese people than those at a healthy weight – there is a whole movement dedicated to encouraging women to accept themselves being heavier than can possibly be healthy, all in the name of body positivity.

Meanwhile, most perfectly healthy women are obsessed with losing that extra 7 lb.

The Kates and Victorias of this world have made their fortunes through their appearance and it’s natural that their thoughts on body size would be considered relevant.

But I wish it were different. If only women as successful and famous as them could use their voice to tell the vast majority who are not at the extreme ends of the weight spectrum: ‘Don’t worry what size you are, it’s more important to focus on what you know and do.’

That’s what would be really helpful. Though whether it would be news is another matter.

A centre parting is such sweet sorrow

I know the centre parting is deemed style of the moment – after all, we saw it on two very dissimilar women last week: Rebekah Vardy and the Duchess of Cambridge. But personally I think it’s grim. It always reminds me of the terrifying Mrs Danvers in Hitchcock’s film of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca.

She wore hers accessorised with a pinched face and a braided bun as she plotted the heroine’s downfall. Indeed, it’s possible to find elements of similarity with the behaviour of which Mrs Vardy is accused – although I can’t come up with any between Mrs Danvers and Catherine.

Even so, that precise white line running down the scalp, particularly with dark hair, just looks unappealingly stern and unforgiving.

Kissing goodbye to extravagant hellos

This weekend I’ve been invited to two big birthday parties. I can’t remember when that was last the case. Tents on the summer lawn, women wafting in party frocks, men togged up in pale jackets. Possibly Pimm’s? It’s positively nostalgic.

Returning to a normal social life is wonderful post-pandemic and all the more treasured for having lost it for so long.

But it will also be hugely improved by no longer feeling that we need to fling our arms around everyone we come across.

I’ve always hated the whole double-kissing thing and if there’s an upside to the past few years, it is that we can be more restrained in our greetings without looking rude.

I’m planning to finesse the Bill Clinton approach. No not that one… but the hand clapped on the other person’s shoulder while maintaining steady eye contact.

It’s a comradely manoeuvre –friendly but just a bit distanced. It seemed to work brilliantly for him so why not give it a go?

I was meant to be in New York for work last week but got a horrible bug

I was meant to be in New York for work last week but got a horrible bug

The one time I wish I’d caught Covid

I was meant to be in New York for work last week but got a horrible bug. 

I loathe cancelling anything I’ve committed to and my greatest fear, having dropped out of the flight, was that I might find myself better and feel hugely guilty.

It’s the only time I’ve tested for Covid in the hope of seeing that positive pink line which would make it impossible to travel.

I want to see the future, not fuchsias

Forget the Chelsea Flower Show opening this week. 

The queue I’m joining is for the Elizabeth Line. 

I can’t believe it’s finally due to open and can’t wait to experience 21st Century London Underground travel.

Forget the Chelsea Flower Show opening this week. The queue I’m joining is for the Elizabeth Line

Forget the Chelsea Flower Show opening this week. The queue I’m joining is for the Elizabeth Line

The men who are too pretty to care

The BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Conversations With Friends is getting a mixed response. I think it’s terrific and top marks to Joe Alwyn (singer Taylor Swift’s boyfriend) who succeeds in the difficult role of Nick.

Unlike the powerful characters of the three female leads, Nick is, in the words of his wife Melissa, ‘pathologically passive’ and unwilling to commit to anything much, seemingly just riding the slipstream of the women around him.

While they are vivid, compelling and opinionated, he just mooches around being pointlessly good-looking. It’s not easy to portray such a piece of damp blotting paper but he’s helped by being so easy on eye.

Conversations With Friends may be a TV drama but there are many men in real life who behave in exactly the same way as Nick because of the effect of their looks. They are used to the fact that their mere presence has an effect on the women – and men – around them.

Unlike men with less obvious physical appeal, they simply stand still and just let stuff happen. Or not. They sort of don’t really care.