Plus Size Coddling

Tess Holliday for People MagazineAfter France passed the Model Health Law in December 2015 to combat “excessively thin” models, something I am completely on board with, I couldn’t help but think back to six months earlier when Tess Holiday was featured on the cover of People Magazine. For those of you who don’t know, Tess is the first size 22 supermodel in the world. Do you see where I’m going with this? I think it’s a complete double standard; the fashion industry has to be held just as accountable with promoting dangerously underweight models as it is for promoting morbid obesity.

To illustrate further how arbitrary the industry really is, consider the idea behind vanity sizing; you are more likely to buy a pair of jeans that fit if they are in a smaller size because it will make you feel better; now they’re your skinny pants. Most fast fashion companies don’t have uniform sizing. They’re selling you an image and you buy it because you believe that it “fits” you.

Victoria's Secret 2014 Ad "A Body for Every Body" formerly known as "A Perfect Body"
Victoria’s Secret 2014 Ad “A Body for Every Body” formerly known as “A Perfect Body”

In an Interview on BBC Radio 2 with Lily Allen back in 2014, the editor of Vogue UK, Alexandra Shulman, admitted that: “…nobody really wants to see a real person looking like a real person on the cover of Vogue…I think Vogue is a magazine that’s about fantasy to some extent and dreams, and an escape from real life…” This got me thinking that models were not and are not intended to be the picture of health. As long as the “ideal” body remains unattainable, it is a commodity. The spectrum of health comes in all shapes and sizes and that’s a hard sell when you consider what most women’s physical aspirations are.

Vogue Spain May 2012 cover
Vogue Spain May 2012 cover

While I do agree that there is a major representation issue in modelling, is beside the point. The flaws in the system are inherent and perpetual. More “realistic” body types would suffer the same fate as plus and straight size models. Eliminating the dichotomy in favour of “healthy” would only allow it to exist on the continuum of another model body type.

Modelling, at least as we know it today, is flawed beyond repair and no amount of designations are going to change that, including plus size. Just as a label is attached to clothing, one is always going to be assigned to those wearing it. The only way to keep this from happening is to get rid of the modelling industry and to call for significant change in the fashion industry.

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