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'Mad Men' actress 'big'? Them's fightin' words on the Web

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
  • Commentary on awards shows is as much about the gowns as it is about awards
  • Two New York Times posts spark backlash for commenting on physiques of actresses
  • "That's a stylist's brain talking about how a garment could look the best," stylist says

(CNN) -- Awards season can be brutal on actresses.

Commentators and bloggers may criticize outfits and the people in them, making uncomplimentary remarks about hair, makeup or -- worst of all -- weight fluctuations.

This awards season has been no different. Though the Golden Globes were on Sunday, fashion lovers are still picking at the bones of what the stars wore, issuing dictums on what was hot and what was not.

But this time some of the fire has been aimed at the critics -- most notably The New York Times, which posted two separate blog items Monday that riled Web observers. Postings about the Times entries said they crossed the boundary between commenting on style and passing judgment on physique.

The first of the Times items, written on its fashion blog by Andy Port on "The Moment," inquired whether or not some of the actresses seen at the Golden Globes on Sunday had "put on a little weight," and suggested that the evidence could be seen in their upper arms, while noting that the actresses newly developed "curves" are sexy.

In the second item, written by Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn, "Mad Men" actress Christina Hendricks was taken to task for wearing a peach-colored strapless gown that, in Horyn's opinion, wasn't a "game-changing dress that people would talk about." She also quoted an anonymous stylist as saying, "You don't put a big girl in a big dress. That's rule number one."

The controversy was compounded by the allegation that the Times ran a doctored photo of Hendricks that made her appear more squat. The Times has since posted a note that said the photo was altered inadvertently due to an error in routine processing.

Some were upset by the post, particularly by the use of the word "big."

"They bothered me because they called her a big girl, because she's by no means a big girl -- the only thing big about her is her chest," said celebrity blogger Cara Harrington. Another blogger, fashion editor Vanessa Raphaely, said that by calling Hendricks "big," the Times was "stretching the definition of the word."

The New York Times declined comment on the controversy, but style expert Sharon Haver defended the posts.

Horyn didn't break any rules by quoting the anonymous fashion stylist, said Haver -- and that's indeed how stylists talk about clothes.

"That's a stylist's brain talking about how a garment could look the best," Haver said. "[In fashion] the person wearing it is there to convey the dress in the best light. I don't think we should take it personally -- if he was selling the dress, he would put it on someone else. But, it wasn't a shoot for the dress, it was about the actress, so it's personal now."

To top it off, she said, imagine how many anonymous fashion bloggers were doing the very same thing Horyn did, which, in Haver's view, was simply state an opinion.

"I personally wouldn't say that they put on weight -- they look more toned and more muscular. But that's her opinion, and she did say sexier curves," said Haver.

Heather Blessington, who runs the body image blog, "We are the Real Deal," agreed that the fuss is likely the target of misinterpretation.

"Andy is saying, 'Wow, those women put on weight and they look great,' " Blessington said. "I think she tried to be sincere that these women put on the weight in a good way, and I think people took it and ran with it because they're sick of it, any kind of commentary that people are too fat/too thin."

Although she makes a living on watching the industry, Harrington believes that we're missing the point on why the actresses were at the Globes in the first place.

"They're no longer about who wins what; they're about the two-hour pre-show. When you go online, you want to look for who wore what and how they look in it," she said.

Part of the problem, she said, is that we've gotten used to the idea that actresses should look like models -- to the point that actresses, and not models, are prominently featured on magazine covers.

"[The media have] realized how marketable Jennifer Aniston's face is," she said, "and it's overwhelmed what they actually do, which is acting."