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Sculpted Bodies: 3 Designers challenging body norms in celebration of the female form

Sculpted Bodies: 3 Designers challenging body norms in celebration of the female form

Beauty in the bulges

Text: Kelly Lim

Image: Michaela Stark
Image: Ottilie Landmark
Image: Sinead O'Dwyer

What if a body's natural curves, soft spots, and stretch marks were not hidden but celebrated?

Across history, fashion has dictated to women how their bodies should look. From 18th-century corsets and the qipao to the sculptural gowns of haute couture, society's obsessions with clothing sizes and idealised shapes are most evident throughout the changing styles of clothes that influence the way we perceive our bodies. And while the last decade has seen a movement towards more representation, the "perfect", fashionable body remains an embedded cultural construct that needs to be challenged if we are to reach a real acceptance of body diversity. Luckily, there's a new generation of designers who are pushing the boundaries of fashion to shift our perceptions of the female form and carve out a space for all women to feel represented, seen and accepted.

Read on for the designers creating clothes that reassert women's bodily autonomy by celebrating all our different forms and sizes: 

Sinéad O'Dwyer

London-based Irish designer Sinéad O’Dwyer first gained recognition for the sculptural garments of her graduate collection in 2018, which presented vibrantly-hued bodysuits moulded from the bodies of her friends and muses to explore the relationship women have with their bodies. Sitting between fashion and art, her silicone bodycasts trace every fold of flesh to manifest in the form of 3D skin and celebrate every part of the natural body-–including the bits we've been conditioned to hide. Since then, she's translated her ongoing exploration of the human form, alongside issues of body dysmorphia and body elitism, into new, more wearable contexts for the past few seasons. Bodysuits and leggings gently move with the contours of the body in her now-signature textured stretch fabric, while tailored looks unpick unconscious biases we have around specific garments and reimagine them for women with larger busts––suit jackets, leather coats and cotton poplin shirts come with darted cups to hug and enhance curves through creative construction. 

Michaela Stark 

Australian couturier Michaela Stark deconstructs the meaning of couture to challenge the industry's long-established rules and societal ideas of beauty standards. Instead of engineering garments that focus on hiding certain parts of the body as couturiers typically do, she creates extraordinary lingerie pieces that accentuate and emphasise perceived imperfections of the body such as back rolls, love handles, back hair, uneven features and more in a radical act of body acceptance and self-love. Soft, delicate materials like lace, organza and chiffon are used to create corsets, bustiers and bloomers that re-shape the body into diversely different silhouettes to subvert expectations of what garments should do.

Karoline Vitto 

Inspired by the likes of Azzedine Alaïa––the king of cling' himself––Brazil-born designer Karoline Vitto creates clothes that highlight and enhance rolls of fat on the body in the most literal way. Founded in 2019, her namesake label offers made-to-order dresses, knitwear, tops and bottoms that contour the body in unconventional ways, where flesh often becomes one with clothing. Striped matte and transparent panels warp in different ways according to different body types, while cut-outs and structural elements including metal wires frame curves of the body in comfort. 

Read more stories on body positivity here