Sophie Morrris: Forget Beth Ditto. Fat is still a fashion issue

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The Independent Online

I am so over the fashion world's obsession with Beth Ditto. The Gossip's fat frontwoman has been everywhere in recent weeks. On the cover of one magazine (naked), between the sheets in another. She might as well have been the official mascot at Paris Fashion Week. She posed with Karl Lagerfeld before squeezing into the sequinned bustier and hotpants he had designed especially for her to perform in at the Fendi party. She's been snapped hanging out with Kate Moss and front row at Vivienne Westwood. At the Jean Paul Gaultier and Loewe shows, she wrapped herself in skintight printed dresses.

I don't blame Ditto. She is clearly a cool chick and looks like she's having a great time, not to mention that upcoming album she has to promote. And no wonder she's smiling: suddenly designers are falling over themselves to sew bespoke items to drape around her reportedly size-20 curves, when before she would be lucky to find something that fitted her at all on the high street. "I love her energy," gushed Lagerfeld. "She is the opposite of everything in fashion now – she is an extreme beauty."

Of course she is the opposite of everything in fashion "now", Karl. To be in fashion in Lagerfeld's world, though he was once an ample fatty himself, is to weigh less than your own handbag and look too young to view a 15 film. There is nothing refreshing or maverick about couture's calculated embrace of Ditto. Fashion has always celebrated extremes and, creatively speaking, yes the unexpected and the avant garde sing. But telling one fat rocker she shall go to the ball is not the same as giving the green light to women who like a side of food with their champagne.

I wonder if Ditto was handed a clutch of invites to bring a gaggle of fat friends along to the shows and parties. I imagine not, as her rotundity serves the fash pack best when not diluted by anyone else with a supersized muffin top. Fashion adores a misfit, albeit a seasonal one. I'm surprised no one has thought to construct a fashion plinth in Trafalgar Square to display each month's muse upon.

When the NME voted Ditto the coolest person in music in 2006, people seemed a little shocked that a fat lesbian from Arkansas had won such an accolade, but her current love-in with the fashion brigade seems much more of a transgression – it isn't just models who are super-skinny, but also most women who can afford the clothes they parade.

Sophie Dahl began strutting her tall, size-14 body down catwalks more than a decade ago, and onlookers were similarly aghast that the fashion world would celebrate such an "outsize", though obviously beautiful, woman. Behind the scenes stylists and photographers bitched that they couldn't find clothes to fit her, and many chose to shoot her curves naked. A few years later, Dahl was as skinny as the rest of her modelling colleagues.

At least designers are making one-off garments for Ditto, but she has a personal sense of style anyway, which isn't necessarily bettered by designer add-ons. She also looks like she could cope with being last season's news once the fashion scene has tired of her quirky image and moved on.

It is easy enough to moan about the fashion world, but have other fields moved on in the 10 years since Dahl became famous? One newspaper recently sent a "fat" girl to London Fashion Week to find out. Nice idea, except they bottled it when it came down to the execution and sent a skinny girl dressed up in a fat suit.

Until fashion finds some middle ground between size zero and fat suits, it looks like Ditto will have assume this role, a mantle I doubt she set out to acquire.

Zac as High School Musical fans have never seen him

There is one saving grace for anyone forced to sit through High School Musical and its many indistinguishable sequels and that grace is Zac Efron, its 21-year-old star.

High School Musical, for all its Hollywood chintz and shallowness, is the Grease of the noughties. If you haven't heard of it you probably don't know any under-10s, but Efron has just announced his intention to cross the threshold from tweenie to adult stardom with a raunchy photo shoot in the April issue of Interview magazine, out next week.

Things could be rather tricky for Efron if the parents of his High School Musical fans catch sight of the magazine, where he is romping in the mud with a naked woman. For those of us who have sat through endless excruciating repeats of the show, it's payback time.

It takes time to learn to love radio

No doubt someone out there is lamenting Radio 4's cancellation of its children's programming, but I've no idea who.

Since Listen with Mother launched nearly 60 years ago, the station's output for under-14s has dwindled to one Sunday evening broadcast of a show called Go4it. I haven't heard of Go4it, but then the average age of its listeners lies somewhere between 52 and 55.

It is no statement about the quality of children's radio programming or children themselves that they don't want to tune into Radio 4.

Entertainment has gone forth and blossomed since 1950. We have colour TVs, Teletubbies and the worldwide web. Why would children want to sit comfortably and lean into a small wooden box when 99.9 per cent of creative talent working in the children's sector is focused on developing content for television and online, both of which engage more than one of the senses.

I didn't listen to any radio apart from whatever my parents put on in the car until I reached my teens and discovered Radio 1, but that hasn't prevented me from developing a more diverse love of radio as I grew up. Listening is a skill, but children don't need a dedicated radio show to learn how to do it.

As it turns out, there was a previous 10-year hiatus of children's programming on Radio 4 until children's broadcasting campaigners forced its return in 2001. Let's hope no one listens to them this time.