Nicole Klein – The Hourglass project

Nicole Klein - The Hourglass project

The Hourglass project began in November 2006. Nicole Klein was reading a flight magazine article that suggested the best business ideas are generated from self-interest. So she decided to do something about the area of self-image that concerned her most as a woman; the insistence by media, advertising and the fashion industry that the only acceptable body type is a stick-thin super model.

Nicole started by setting up a website and a linked forum and was amazed by the response and the depth of feeling that the whole area generated. Within months she’d moved from try-out shoots with friends and family to her first customers; many of whom became the founder members of the informal ‘Hourglass Girls’ community.

Nicole was particularly pleased with how powerful the Hourglass effect proved to be. When she arrived for a photo shoot her client would often be nervous, even terrified, of the camera. But by the end of the day the new Hourglass Girl would be exalted, proud of herself and to some degree changed forever by the experience. And the almost universal response to the final pictures would be a very positive ‘Is that really me?’

Several customers have come back to repeat the experience, some more than once, and most tend to become more daring in the process. From nervousness at being photographed in their lingerie Hourglass Girls have progressed to ‘Art Nude’ poses and surprised themselves with a new found confidence.

Some Hourglass Girls have even gone on to become models, and/or Burlesque performers. They’ve also taken an active part in running the forum and helped to demonstrate the concept at shows like ‘Erotica’ and ‘Passion’, at press events and performances at ‘Madame JoJo’s’ and ‘Volupte’ in London. Two who stand out are Stephanie (Stephanie St. Clair), who was Nicole’s first client apart from family and friends, and Louisa (Miss Loula Cherry). Stephanie has helped to run the forum from its start and become a model in her own right, while Louisa organises the photo shoot diary, is a model for the Guild of Erotic Artists and also the perfect promoter of The Hourglass at shows and events.

The Hourglass forum was a crucial part of Nicole’s venture from the start, and inspired meetings in restaurants, an Hourglass summer party and the creation of a group of like-minded women, often with their partners, who became friends and allies in a reformed liberation movement. Nobody wanted to burn bras or take protests to the streets but many women felt a new sense of freedom, and simple happiness, to be accepted as they were and not as the fashion industry and media dictated.

Since The Hourglass became established Nicole has widened her market by linking to suppliers of corsets and lingerie and tapping into the Burlesque performance scene. Several Burlesque artists have become Hourglass models, requested Nicole for photo shoots or modelled items for FairyGothMother, La Magia, Kiss Me Deadly, Fabulous Fascinators and other suppliers. So the enterprise has circled around and Nicole has made several appearances as a Burlesque performer herself, most notably at Vivid Soda in Northampton, sponsored and costumed by Madame le Strange Corsets.

The new Burlesque scene, TV programmes like ‘How to look good Naked’ and ‘The Great British Body’ and a re-definition of Womens’ Lib have all begun to free ordinary women from the unreasonable and false demands of an industry that tries to influence and sell through fear rather than flattery. Women are still portrayed as mindless fashion groupies by too many advertisers, and a strong whiff of body snobbery in the high street twists an ideal of youth and beauty into unhealthy obsession.
If artists have portrayed and celebrated the infinite variety of woman through the ages we should take this as the best possible example of how to see ourselves and others. So ordinary women should not be ordinary in any sense that demeans and diminishes them and the old clichés should also hold true – Everyone is unique, and everyone is potentially beautiful, if only in the eye of their beholder. Taste and fashion could find a new politeness, if that isn’t too old-fashioned an idea, and even take the gently cynical view that kindness is more effective than cruelty.
The Hourglass is about acceptance and the happy use of whatever nature has given to best effect. In that sense no one is perfect, but then no one is imperfect either. Nicole is happy that her efforts have given a new confidence to many of the women she has photographed. Maybe the best endorsement is a universal sigh of relief from partners, husbands and boyfriends; that their view of their women’s beauty has been witnessed and confirmed.

A recent addition to the services Nicole offers on her website are the very popular Pin-up Classes, where the girls can learn how to re-create the retro look that is featured on all of the Hourglass pictures themselves. In an all day class the women can learn how to do their hair, make-up and even how to pose in front of a camera.

Nicole Klein.

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