Rock the Runway
The fashion industry is notorious for favoring slim body types, whether by employing models who can barely support themselves and further by photoshopping these models down to inhuman proportions. And then there’s the rest of us.
But why shouldn’t the industry prize these unattainable body types over the normal (and healthy) average? After all, many disciplines have their requirements: Football players need to be strong, fast, and large (for the most part), many dancers have to stop practicing ballet if their bodies don’t grow into the height and form demanded, and celebrities are either naturally beautiful, or otherwise they possess a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them stand out from the rest, that, or a killer team of stylists.
Maybe it’s our fault. Instead of merely appreciating people for their innate or hard-earned talents and skills, we prize beauty and grace to the point of marginalizing ourselves. After all, the models we see on the runway, in ads, and on TV have very specific body types that are simply unrealistic for many grown adults. The majority of us can’t even fit into the clothes and styles we see on the runway, so who are these people really modeling for?
As body-shaming becomes ever more pervasive, celebrities and regular people are starting to reflect on the images and expectations we’re projecting.
Now, the fashion industry is making a change.
How Did We Get Here?
Are we to blame for setting—and maintaining—these lofty, so-called “ideal” body types?
According to 2010 statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics, the average American male is 5’9″, 195.5 pounds, and the average American female is 5’3″, 166.2 pounds. This past September, the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education published a study that found that the average American woman’s size is larger than expected: Most women are now wearing a Misses size 16-18.
And yet models are nowhere near that. The British Association of Model Agents (AMA) states that “girls should be at least 5ft 8ins tall (1.73cms) and proportionately around 34-24-34 (86cm-61cm-86cm).” Note that it says “girls” and not “women.” This is because many female models have a younger body type, far slimmer than how women’s bodies actually develop. In 2012, PLUS Model magazine reported that the average model weighed 23% less than the average woman, and that in the world of fashion, a size 6 was already considered plus-sized.
How does this add up?
What It Means for Us
Take unattainable body types, turn them into the crème de la crème of society, fashion, and entertainment, and voilà! You’ve projected some seriously negative body image on millions of children, teens, and adults.
A 2016 study showed us that appearance and weight directly correlate with personality, self-esteem, and satisfaction; it also found that some 15% of men and 20% of women were either very or extremely dissatisfied with their weight.
Now, more than ever before, you hear about body-shaming both in the news and in person; young children are concerned about their appearance and body before they even begin puberty. Interestingly enough, body-shaming comes in all shapes and sizes, with people being insulted both for being too thin or for being too large, too tall or too short, too pale or too dark.
Donald Trump was recently called out for innumerable comments he’s made against women in the past, including against Alicia Machado, the 1996 winner of the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned at the time. After she put on weight, Trump referred to her as “Miss Piggy” and “an eating machine,” and the Clinton campaign used her story against him.
Do you make judgements, even subtle ones, against others? Against yourself? Perhaps this way of thinking is natural to the human condition, so how do we stop it?
Well, for starters, the fashion industry could address the problem. And now they’re starting to.
Fashion Week Fads
In the fashion world, Fashion Weeks around the world are a highlight. These are the stages where upcoming fashions are introduced en masse, and where the most talented and promising designers and models gather to flaunt their bold looks for the world to see.
At last month’s New York Fashion Week, there was something else on the runway that garnering attention, and it wasn’t the clothing: It was diversity.
In fact, this Fashion Week was the most diverse yet, largely thanks to designers who were dedicated to changing the looks on the runway. Designer Christian Siriano, whose fashion line debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2008, said “I just wanted to have different sizes. That’s all it was. But it’s great that it made such an impact.”
His spring 2017 runway show included five plus-size models. In a separate
interview, Siriano said they typically stock up to a size 14, but that he would like to have up to size 20 and 22 in stores as well. Though he admitted it can be a huge expense, especially for smaller brands, he said he has a solid clientele base who request larger sizes.
Another fashion label taking a major stand against body-shaming is Lane Bryant. Just watch the video above to see their latest campaign.
But the size diversity wasn’t the only revolution on the runway this year…