This was an editorial article I wrote for my fashion module in my final year at uni which I’m pretty proud of because it received a high mark. An article like this would probably be featured in Marie Claire or Cosmopolitan so I kept that in mind whilst also trying to slip in quotes from my interview with Violet Loveless (name was changed due privacy reasons). Oh also, my article didn’t include any photos because we were told to just write the content so I incorporated photos in for this blog post. Hope you enjoy reading it!
“A designer is never going to look at a body type like mine and be inspired.”
Gigi Hadid was slammed for being ‘too curvy’, Ashley Graham co-hosted the Oscars red carpet with E! and waist trainers are becoming the most wanted accessory. The fashion world seems to be heading in a variety of directions by promoting larger, healthier models as well as also encouraging weight loss. Lola Ameri.
During the 1950s when Marilyn Monroe was known as a ‘sex symbol’, size zero and four didn’t exist. Although she had the famous hourglass figure that was adored by men and envied by women, many claimed that she was a bit on the ‘large’ side even though she was a size 12 (UK size 8). In the UK, the average dress size is 12, whilst in America it’s around 12-14, yet we’re still encouraging women to lose weight. When Gigi Hadid had to vent out her feelings on Instagram after labelled ‘too curvy’ for the modelling industry, what hope is there left for the rest of us?
Models are constantly pressured to remain thin so they can be booked for high end runways. We’re still seeing size zero models strutting on the catwalk and printed on big billboards. As we drool over the luscious bodies of the Victoria’s Secret Angels, we sometimes forget they achieved these figures through unhealthy eating habits and intense daily exercise. The Angels are restricted to small portions of protein and long sessions of Pilates, yoga and working out with a personal trainer. Some of them even work out twice a day. As encouraging this is for women to stay fit, it can also lead to eating disorders if not dealt with correctly. With women constantly featured on magazine covers for their looks and style, it’s no wonder that we feel pressured to always look good. You could be enjoying a large pizza but in the back of your mind, you’re considering not to eat the following day or to gather up the courage and actually attend the gym you signed up for three months ago.
However bad we feel about our weight, there’s always someone who feels worse. Beauty brands are encouraging self love such as Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’. Their campaign features women of all shapes and sizes who are learning to appreciate their body. This opens the door for high street brands to encourage a plus size range. ASOS has had it’s plus size range ‘curve’ for many years and it welcomes a variety of fashionable styles. When speaking to 26-year-old, student Violet Loveless, who has been struggling with obesity her whole life, she expresses how she feels about the introduction of plus size ranges: “There’s so many plus size ranges in high street stores like River Island recently and Dorothy Perkins. New Look has been absolutely fantastic. But there’s still so many stores that don’t carry a plus size range which is so disappointing because you go online and find clothes but they’ve used size 14-16 models. So you have no idea how it actually looks on a bigger size.” Size 14-16 may seem large to the high-end fashion designers; however, it is still seen as an average size for women. Plus size ranges usually start from size 18 but aren’t modelled by women with larger figures.
The Kardashians are known to empower the hourglass figure, and this has pushed women to hit the gym and start putting on weight in all the right places. The Kardashians clan may have brought back the Marilyn Monroe look but with over exaggerated features. No one naturally has a bum that big with a thigh gap. We all dream of it but it’s impossible. Although the voluptuous sisters may be encouraging girls to hit the gym, they’re also promoting false dreams. We can’t all afford a fairy Godsurgeon like Simon Ourian to zap our excess fat away into all the right places. With the limelight on the Kardashians, men are lusting over curvier women again and girls are learning to appreciate their lovely lady lumps. However, they’re still not promoting the encouragement of plus size women. Kim Kardashian West may seem like she’s on the large side, but she’s actually quite petite. Her waist and bust measurements are pretty similar to Marilyn Monroe’s, except she has a larger bottom half. Pun intended. The Kim we see in photos is very much airbrushed to seem slimmer with smoother skin. A woman like her surely has stretch marks, but they’re Photoshopped away, which contradicts her message to young women.
While the Kardashians may seem to encourage women to embrace their curves; they’re still not promoting all body types. Kim used to promote slimming teas and pills as well as protein shakes. Surely if they love their curves, they wouldn’t want to slim down or go into hiding after giving birth, right? Soon, Kylie Jenner started promoting waist trainers when she was just 17 years old. Kylie doesn’t exercise yet she’s posting pictures of herself bandaged up in a waist trainer just for the promotional income. Pictures like this on Instagram are sending out the wrong message to many girls. In fact, it was proven that the waist trainer alters the body’s organs over time, which can be quite dangerous. The obsession with these ‘body goals’ on Instagram is creating three sub categories of ideal body types: size zero, exaggerated curves, and plus size. Young women are now willing to go to extreme lengths just to fit in either one of these categories in order to feel appreciated and happier with their body.
Late last year, Essena O’Neill, a teen Instagram star quit the app as she felt the pressure of social media taking over her life. The Australian 18 year old with over half a million Instagram followers spoke out about her life as an Instagram star and the strain it has caused on her life. Essena admitted to fabricating a lot of her images and skipping meals just so she could capture her petite figure for an Instagram photo. She never wanted to be seen carrying a ‘food baby’, unlike the rest of us who are pregnant with a large pizza. The social media star was paid for promoting tiny outfits and faking smiles just to display a happier lifestyle, which was subconsciously pushing girls towards losing weight. Its no longer just models like Jordan Dunn that are encouraging size zero, Instagram ‘famous’ accounts like Essena’s are contributing as well. Violet agrees: “these women are not representative of the British public or women in general. I do think that some models are really beautiful but they’re literally there to be a coat hanger.” They aren’t forcing women to lose weight; they’re just doing their job. Smaller sized women are known to be inspirational to fashion designers, simply for the way clothes fit on their figure. For centuries, petite women, especially ones in Europe, inspired fashion and that has remained the ideal figure till now. It will take a while before the fashion industry can adjust to a larger size range. Violet expresses her views on this: “a designer is never going to look at a body type like mine and be inspired. I accept that but I do wish I could see more clothing for my range. I would definitely buy more fashion magazines if they promoted clothes I could actually wear.” You may be thinking “well, Kim Kardashian walks around in designer outfits all day”, but those are altered and made for her because she has the money and connections for it. A regular size 18 woman can’t walk into Chanel and expect to walk out with any item of clothing. High-end fashion will always reject average women.
But it’s all slowly changing. Tess Holiday and Ashley Graham are representing plus size women in the modelling world. They’re encouraging designers to appreciate women of other sizes and to allow them on the catwalk. Ashley has helped to shine a sexier light on bigger women by designing and modelling her own lingerie line as well as reporting the Oscars red carpet alongside Kris Jenner at E! Not only is she becoming a role model for women to love themselves, she is also getting her name out there in the fashion world. Some people may think that Tess and Ashley are encouraging obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. When speaking to Violet, she opened up about her anger surrounding this issue: “I feel like I’m judged all the time. In a supermarket I make sure there’s a proportional amount of vegetables in my basket because so many people assume I’m this size because of what I eat , when in fact I’ve been struggling with obesity since I was a kid.” These women aren’t doing campaigns for fast food chains or encouraging girls to grab a burger every day. If you were to look at it as from a promotional aspect, then they’re promoting brown hair or blue eyes just as well as a bigger figure. It’s a state of being, not propaganda. Plus size models are breaking boundaries in the fashion world and persuading women to become happier with who they are.
With the involvement of plus size models entering the blogging and fashion world, the public is developing a more open view on different body shapes. Designers will still hunt for their muse amongst skinnier women because some rules in fashion will remain the same. But this could open up the opportunity for new designers to get creative with plus size figures and create things that they can purchase straight off the catwalk. The problem is teaching yourself how to be happy with who you are without bringing others down. It’s wrong for women to be promoting ‘Skinny Tea’ and eating less just for likes on Instagram or for other women to caption their images with ‘real men prefer meat, not bones’. It’s becoming a battle of body types with no one really encouraging a healthier lifestyle. That doesn’t mean you should just eat salads all day. You can enjoy a burger whilst hitting the gym every day and working hard to love your body. Whether a woman wants to put on weight or lose it, it should be her choice as long as it’s done in a healthy way and it provides her with the confidence she needs to love herself rather than being influenced by social media. Plus size or size zero, the fashion industry is starting to show off both, but that doesn’t mean we have to all fit either one of those molds. Your happiness comes from within, and maybe from a slice of pizza. Don’t kill yourself to fit the ever-changing standards of society, have that slice of pizza and learn to appreciate yourself for who you are.
We headed out to the public to see what their views are on this topic. Is the fashion industry still promoting size zero models?
“In magazines like Vogue, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone that weighs more than a twig so I think it’s (size zero) still a huge thing for them. Even in other magazines, it’s always about how much weight a celeb’s put on or how great they look on the beach with their skimpy figures. It’s never like ‘oh she’s probably put on weight because she’s just had a baby’ or ‘she looks too skinny because she’s suffering from an eating disorder’. No one cares for the reasons.”
Barbra-Rose, 25, sales assistant, London.
“I can never expect to get something off the runway or in style but it is changing and growing in the right direction so I am excited to see what the future of fashion holds. I know I’m only size 16, but it’s still hard to find stylish clothes that would look good on me without making me look larger. But I’m optimistic that one day designers will have girls like me walking down the runway.”
Maryam, 22, student, London.
“I actually enjoy seeing the size zero models in the fashion industry. I think the clothes hang on their body much better than someone a lot larger. I know it sounds harsh but a lot of those models still eat fast foods but work their butts off at the gym so they’re lucky that they don’t put on weight easily and I envy them. They’re sort of like mythical creatures.”
Nadine, 32, hairdresser, London.
“I’ve just always assumed that people would be used to the whole ‘size zero models’ thing by now because we’ve seen it so much. Honestly, I think the models look better than they did before when the anorexia phase was ‘in’. I still think the healthier models were back in the 90s with Cindy Crawford’s clique. I enjoy looking at them but I don’t expect the women I date to look like them. That would be irrational.”
Michael, 31, engineer, London.