Each year around Fashion Week, people discuss how far we have come with regarding to racial diversity, as well as how incredibly far we still need to go. Indeed, the runways certainly still lack women of color; last year, Jezebel reported that nearly 80 percent of models were white for the Fall – Winter 2012 season. But what about body diversity?
The models above walked in runways the past few days for, from left to right, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Reem Acra and Victor de Souza. All these women looked gorgeous, all wore the clothes wonderfully, all did their jobs well. Sometimes, we take for granted the general “model look” when it comes to Fashion Week because it’s just sort of assumed to be a representation of the industry as a whole, and the industry is blatantly biased against women who are non-standard sizes. But that is exactly why Fashion Week is the venue in which body diversity needs to take place most.
New York Fashion Week is what sets up the next season. It’s what people follow to find out what will be coming ahead, where fashion is going and who is going to be both the faces and names attached to it.
By no means am I saying that we need to force designers to use a certain number of plus-size models or that there has to be women of specific sizes because those are better than the standard-size ones. I simply believe that designers can design things to be worn by women who are not 5’10” and a size 2 — if they can’t, then they’re probably not very good at their jobs. The majority of us have to bend and flex and meld to our jobs with the changing of markets; fashion designers can, as well.
I understand where the age-old argument of “clothes look better on skinny people” comes from. I get it: the thinner the model, theoretically, the less she distracts from what’s being worn. But if clothes can easily be designed to look fantastic on a woman who is a size 6 or 10 or 16, and why shouldn’t they be? Considering America’s population is, on average, not a size 4 — and neither is a big chunk of the rest of the world’s — it would only make sense that designers should do some designing for women who are of “average size.”
Of course, it is entirely up to the designers and industry itself. While a painter may be able to draw with pencil, she may never touch the tool as she prefers to work with brushes. If a designer is exclusively comfortable creating clothes for standard size models, attempting to force him or her into making garments for larger or differently-shaped models would mean interfering with the creative process that designer has evolved into and honed.
I have also heard the odder argument that the point of being a model to be “exceptional”; to fit in that category that measures several inches higher and weighs 23 percent less than the average American woman. But that implies that women who are not thin are not capable of being exceptional, which is ridiculous. Modeling, despite many opinions, takes a great amount of skill, self awareness and talent — all of which can be found in a woman who is not a size 4. If “exceptional” is a word purely with regard to body fat, then why aren’t all tall, thin women successful models? Beauty, talent and exceptionality can be found in women of all sizes, from 0 to 12 to 24.
We don’t need average- and plus-size models simply to create diversity and give people something new to look at; we need to include a huge variety of body shapes and sizes because people — especially the youngest ones — need role models. They need examples to look at and say, “Hey, that kind of looks like me” or “Oh, all those women look amazing,” which could absolutely help evolve the idea that women should look a specific way in order to be pretty. It could help bullying, it could help fat shaming, it could even help the fashion industry itself considerably by encouraging women who are not particularly thin to feel like the clothes are more accessible and therefore worth purchasing.
While I do not absolutely love everything about the fashion industry, one of my favorite aspects of it is its ability to reinvent itself. The colors may be repeated over the years and the shapes, the textures, the hairstyles…but it is always able to make something come back alive by adding something new in. For the future, let at least one of those new elements be an alteration in the sizes of women. Let body diversity exist during Fashion Week, thus setting the stage for everybody else to pursue that same newness.
If art reflects life, then let it reflect all the sizes and shapes that women come in. Because for now, if life really were to reflect art, women would wear frequently bizarre clothes, don lots of eyeshadow and be under a size 4. The fashion industry may not bear tons of responsibility for the choices others make, but one can only hope that it might be part of the solution.
Photos: Jeff Grossman/WENN.com, Kyle Blair/WENN.com, and Jeff Grossman/WENN.com, V Magazine.