Last week was the first time that I participated in ModlyChic’s Friend Friday series. I really enjoyed sharing my thoughts on “Blogger Privacy” and was looking forward to learning what the topic for this week was. I was absolutely elated when I found out it was “Size.”
This is a topic that has already come up on my blog a number of times. I shared some of my own thoughts early on when I wrote “Size 14 is Not Fat Either – It’s Invisible.” Then, just this past week, this post about a Cosmopolitan Australia photoshoot featuring sisters Courtney and Laura Wells really led to some great discussions in the comments. When I found out what this week’s topic was I decided to hold my own responses to those comments for this post.
This isn’t a new subject by any means, but it seems like lately it has really dominated the news. According to this recent New York Times piece by Ginia Bellafante, the shift “dates to last fall, when Glamour ran a small picture of a 5-foot-11, 180-pound model comfortably exposing her paunch. So unusual was the appearance of belly fat in this context that the magazine received thousands of letters and comments, most of them roaring with support.” The response was so great, in fact, that they began featuring more plus-sized women and printed the photo of Lizzie Miller again in their most recent issue.
A few month’s after the Glamour photo generated buzz, Lane Bryant caused a stir with their television ad for Cacique, its lingerie line. The ad, starring model Ashley Graham, was labeled as too risqué by ABC and Fox due to “excessive cleavage.” There was ample cleavage in the ad, yes, but the product being featured provided more coverage than what you’d see in a typical Victoria’s Secret spot. The problem was the plus-sized model. Both networks eventually aired the ads in some form, but not until Lane Bryant accused them of being “sizeist.
This past January, V Magazine featured five plus-sized beauties in a story entitled “Curves Ahead” in its size issue. Meanwhile, the popularity of Mad Men has resulted in the stunning Christina Hendricks gracing numerous magazine covers, including the July/August Health Magazine I just picked up.
“After recent review, we concluded there are customers who desire designer clothing in sizes that are not currently available in our stores. To meet their needs, Saks Fifth Avenue has worked with certain well-known designers, and for fall this year we will offer some designer brands up to size 18 in select Saks Fifth Avenue locations.”
Most recently, Robert Duffy, the business partner of Marc Jacobs, broke the news via twitter that Marc Jacobs would be designing a plus-sized line. Although there are other high-end designers out there who have some plus-sized offering, like Rachel Pally and Dolce & Gabbana, Jacobs would be the first major label to make a significant impact in the “plus-sized” world. Sounds like good news, no?
The New York Times article I mentioned above is entitled “Plus-Size Wars.” Although the title refers more to the roadblocks between supply and demand for plus-sized clothing, the true war zone can be found in the reader comment area. Here are just a few worth noting:
John: “Anything larger than a size 12 should only be made in sweatpants material.”
mark in Minn: “Turn off your ac, get sweaty, put down the remote, stop drinking gallons of soda pop, and go outside.”
JB: “Should we really be encouraging people to stay fat in our society by tacitly approving it by giving them more choices of what to wear?”
Sherry: Personally, I hate that society would glamorize or promote acceptance of obesity. If you can’t find clothes to fit you – exercise, eat right and hopefully lose weight… I hope the fashion industry continues to struggle trying to dress the overweight, success would only mean enabling bad lifestyle choices.
I think those are a perfect lead-in to today’s questions:
- Should someone’s size stop them from fashion blogging or having a voice in the community? Absolutely not. Size should never keep someone from doing anything, least of all fashion blogging. Despite what the fashion industry might try to tell us, being fashionable doesn’t start with a size 00 and stop at size 10/12.Regardless of your shape OR size, your voice has a right to be heard. The fact of the matter is, no matter what size you are, there will always, always, be other women out there who can relate to you. So why wouldn’t you add your own distinct voice to the conversation?
- In your opinion, can the term “curvy” and “plus-sized” be used interchangeably when it comes to fashion? In my opinion, terms like these are a part of the problem. Curvy. Plus-Sized. Straight. What exactly do these terms mean? In the fashion industry, models are either “straight-” or “plus-sized.” How on earth can there only be two categories for the endless shapes and sizes women come in? The day he announced Marc Jacobs upcoming line, Robert Duffy even admitted he doesn’t like the label “plus size.” Then again, we all know that what is considered “plus size” to the fashion industry is not “plus-sized’ by real world standards.
Then, there is the blogosphere. I admit I like to use the word curvy. I use it because I relate to it. I have an hourglass figure. I am a US size 14. And I am curvy. So I use the word curvy. I also use the word “plus-size” because it’s the real-world standard for a size 14 and above. I’ve seen other “plus-size” bloggers out refer to themselves “curvy fashionistas.” And I absolutely abhor the word “fatshionista”. Ick. I know it’s supposed to be cute, but it has an extremely negative connotation to me. Why bring more negativity to the fold? There is enough negativity around this topic without that label.
Personally, I prefer terms that describe shape. If I tell you I am a size 14, what picture does that paint? Do you have any clue what my figure looks like? No. But if I tell you that I am an hourglass, apple, pear, etc. you at least have some idea of my shape.
On the flip-side, in the real-world, someone can be plus-sized and not be curvy. Someone can also be a size 0 and have curves. Look at Scarlett Johansson. She has some seriously dangerous curves on her, but she is tiny. In addition, a Size 12/14 may be considered plus-size by industry standards but is average by statistical standards.
So – to answer your original question – no, the terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably, although they often are.
- Many people make the argument that catering to plus sized women would promote being overweight as “okay”. What do you think? Should more designers be catering to plus size women? The comments I quoted above illustrate exactly this phenomena, yet I think this argument is as ridiculous as the argument that size 00 clothing promotes anorexia. There is a different between being plus-sized and being obese. Being healthy is what is important – you can be a size 0 and not have an eating disorder, and you can be plus-sized and be in perfectly good health.The same is true for the reverse. Just because someone is thin doesn’t mean they are healthy. People carry their weight differently. They have curves in different places. They are different heights. I am 5’8 and a size 14. Most of my weight is in my T & A. Actress Liv Tyler is a Size 14 and 5’10. In all likelihood, we are both probably healthier than the 4’9 person who is also a size 14. Probably. But we all deserve to have something to wear.
There is such a stigma nowadays about being “plus-sized” and the fashion industry often makes it worse. For example, I absolutely abhor some of the things that come out of Karl Lagerfield’s mouth. When he learned of German magazine Brigitte’s decision to use “ordinary” women in their fashion shoots he said their decision was driven by “fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly”.
A 2009 LA Times piece states: “When Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld, who spent most of his adult life battling a serious weight problem, created a capsule collection for H&M in 2004, the newly svelte designer was incensed that the retailer manufactured the collection in larger sizes. “What I designed was fashion for slender and slim people,” he said. And in an interview in the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar, he sniffed, “The body has to be impeccable… if it’s not, buy small sizes and less food.”
Again, wow. Is it any surprise so many plus-sized women feel invisible when some high-fashion designers think like that?
The fact of the matter is there is a demand for these pieces.
Numerous survey results have indicated that the average size of an American woman is a 14. Yet any plus-sized woman can tell you that the availability of Size 14 and up clothing is limited – and designer pieces in size 14 and up are SEVERELY limited. Think needle in haystack limited.
The stigma surrounding plus-sized clothing lines doesn’t come from the worry that such a line would promote being overweight, or that their would be a lack of demand. It comes from a worry that it will cost the company too much to produce. The NYT piece explains that the development of a plus-size line would be more costly because the design and production process gets more complicated as proportions and body ratios change with increased sizes. Perhaps this is true, but I would argue that not all 0-2-4-6-8-10 women have the exact same body type. They don’t come from one mold. They just have much MUCH more to choose from.
There is no doubt about it: the plus-sized market is commercially viable and largely untapped. There is demand, but little supply. It’s a starving market waiting for a designer like Marc Jacobs.
- Should the mainstream fashion industry be showcasing more plus size models? Women are diverse. We come in all colors, shapes and sizes. The mainstream fashion industry should be showcasing models that represent these different types of women. It seems that this is already happening with greater frequency, and hopefully this trend will continue to increase. The beautiful Crystal Renn (a plus-size in the modeling world, but not in the real-world) walked the runway in the Spring/Summer 2011 Chanel resort show (perhaps Lagerfield is slowly changing his opinion on the subject). Mark Fast’s decision to use UK Size 14 women during London Fashion Week to showcase his creations was met with both applause and condemnation. One of his stylists and his creative director quit as a result of the move, while others lauded the runway show.
I am a huge fan of the Marc Jacobs-designed AW2010 Louis Vuitton collection and loved the images from the catwalk show. The line itself is extraordinary, and the models were different shapes and sizes. I was STUNNED to read that models Laetitia Casta, Karolina Kurkova and Adriana Lima are generally considered too plump for catwalk work. Seriously?! Too plump?
Maybe the mainstream industry shouldn’t just focus on featuring more plus-sized models – maybe they should also focus on creating realistic standards.
- For you personally, how do you view your size, the struggle with it through the years, your ideal size, etc. Again, this is something I have already addressed before, both here, and here. In brief: I am happy with my size 14 body. I know my body type can be categorized as everything from plus-sized, fat and big-boned to curvy, voluptuous and womanly. It all depends on who you ask. But I am a 34 year-old woman, not an impressionable young girl. I am healthy, self confident and I have a positive self-image, so none of the characterizations and generalizations about size mean anything to me.
I also think it is important to know your body, and to be aware of what works for you and what doesn’t. That in itself will make you more confident. I don’t have an “ideal” size. I just want to be healthy. As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t mind losing a few inches here and there, but I do eat healthy, and I do work out regularly, and it just isn’t happening. My metabolism doesn’t want to cooperate with me. So I accept the size I am right now, and if I lose some inches down the road, that will be a nice surprise. Regardless, my size doesn’t define me. Size doesn’t define anyone.
Final thoughts: at the beginning of this blog entry I mentioned that there were some great reader comments on my earlier post on Courtney and Laura Wells. Here are two of those comments to reflect on:
Fashion Butter:”What makes me sad in all of this mess is that us women seem to enjoy picking teams about everything just to tear each other apart. This mentality extends far beyond the plus size/skinny debate, I have noticed that we can be very quick to negatively label other women when it comes to almost anything in life – friendships, relationships, careers, raising children, etc. In a perfect world, I wish that we could all be a little more self-aware and be more supportive of each other.”
A Brit Greek:”…We all have it in us to be judgmental and are quick to fire an opinion about everything you have mentioned, it’s a shame the media doesn’t help much either – by labeling, criticizing, telling us what they think is right half the time. We’re all unique individuals, no-ones perfect! “Those who have not yet accepted their own imperfection are the first ones to judge and criticize the faults of others…”
Applause for these two ladies, please.
And I leave you with this quote from Sophia Loren:
than the belief that she is beautiful.”
All images courtesy of Google Images.