(tail! like a mermaid? get it? anyways, on with the article…)
When I think of mermaids, I think of mysterious, beautiful and often animated people that elude humans and look pretty shining in the sunlight. Thinking back to my childhood, the knowledge of mermaids was pretty standard.
I remember a magpie-like creature singing about being part of my world and wondering why on earth she would give up her life to live in my boring world when she had the might have explored the ocean. But it seems the grass always seems greener on the other side as celebrities and brides alike wear mermaid dresses, to accentuate their curves and have a mermaid-like silhouette.
Mermaids Through History
The myth of mermaids populating our shores has existed since before human recording, with mentions from all around the world sprouting from long lost tales like wildflowers, rich in beauty but their origins wrapped in mystery.
In west, south and central Africa many tales exist about a spirit called Mami Wata, a water spirit whose name means mother of the water. The spirit is worshipped for both their benevolence in offering beauty, healing and wisdom, and as a way of warding off natural disasters. Mami Wata’s legacy continued and grew globally during colonialism in the 1600s and remained a way for African communities around the globe to reconnect with their heritage and roots.
Greek folklore claimed that Alexander the Great’s sister, upon her time of death was turned into a mermaid who protected his empire. It was said that when ships would pass her, she would ask “is King Alexander alive?” and that any other answer than “He lives and reigns and conquers the world” would anger her so much that she would conjure a storm and doom the vessel and the sailors on board.
In modern day, Mermaids are a charity dedicated to helping Transgender, Non-Binary and gender diverse Children since 1995. Beginning with parents simply wanting to keep their children safe in a Transphobic and Homophobic world, Mermaids have grown to become the UK’s leading LGBTQ+ Charity.
The Mermaid iconography is used as the mermaid had no physically identifiable binary gender due to having no genitalia, they can simply choose how they wish to identify without the physical boundaries many Transgender people experience.
Overall, the symbol evokes power, with Mami Wata worshipped as a deity, Alexander’s sister being feared for her powers over the sea and Mermaids allowing LGBTQ+ youth to take power in their identities.
The Mermaid Dress
The idea of power is translated into the mermaid style dress in terms of empowering women. The dress style was invented in the 1930s by Marcel Rochas, a wonderful designer who also was the first to add pockets to skirts!
The style became popular in the 1950s, when fashion celebrated curvy figures like Marilyn Monroe, and the mermaid dress hugged each curve and then created the illusion of another by the feet. Due to fashion’s cyclical nature, the style resurfaced in the 1980s and then again in the 2000s and 2010s. This showing off of curvy women’s bodies is hugely important in the quest toward inclusive fashion and allowing people of all sizes to enjoy fashion, not just focussing in on the body types deemed to be fashionable at the time.
Taking empowerment into their own hands, many inspirational celebrities have worn the Mermaid cut dress, including but not limited to Kate Beckinsale, Eva Longoria and Cameron Diaz. Perhaps the most famous mermaid dress fan is none other than Beyoncé, who wore the style to the 2006 Dream Girls Premiere, the AMAs in 2007 and the 2012 Met Gala!
Given that this was a while ago, almost ten years, you would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps this is now out of fashion, but this was wildly changed when fabulous Singer Lizzo wore a short Mermaid dress to show off her curves to the 2021 Grammys.
Embracing all figures is a brilliant way to show inclusivity, and Lizzo, being Plus Size, showing off her curves is incredibly empowering for plus sized people watching; her size has not impacted negatively on her huge success, but rather, some may say, added to it.
Next stop… Mermaids in Boardrooms!
Mermaids are consistently powerful in the stories told about them, whether that be granting beauty and grace, or summoning terrible storms to drown sailors. They emit mystique and power that has swum into fashion and meaning that form fitted dress accentuate women’s curves in their bodies instead of trying to hide them.
From swimming in the Ocean blue to walking the Red Carpet, the curves of the mermaid cut dress are timeless and classic, empowering women of all shapes and sizes.