There’s. Slim. Thin. And Too Thin. Or is there?

There’s. Slim. Thin. And Too Thin. Or is there?

I’ve sat on my skinny ass –  and on this post – for a few days now. Resisting the urge to “weigh in” on this issue for a number of reasons.

As one who herself falls into the too-skinny category and is often judged because of her weight, I usually avoid topics that involve judgement or criticism of other’s weight. But I also fully understand and support the concerns raised about the size of models selected for 2014’s (Australian) Fashion Week.

Similar concerns have been voiced year in and year out.  And as this year’s event has proven yet again that not much has changed. I’m certain sharing my own humble opinions on this topic will bear little or no consequence, but then I figured (given that I work in the same industry and with so many women of varying shapes, sizes and levels of body confidence) I would at least share my thoughts for whatever it’s worth…

Sooo…as I was online shopping for a client this week, something started to become more and more obvious. I was seeing so many examples of how lovely models who aren’t “catwalk thin” can and do sell clothes to us, the consumers. And they do it far better than those high-fashion models we’re seeing on the actual catwalks at Fashion Week!  I decided to cut and paste a few examples into a collage (above) to prove my point. Then I sat on it. Again. Unsure of whether this topic was already being done to death on every other form of social and mainstream media.

Then, a few days later, I posted!

To quickly recap…

This year, the controversy centred around a young model 21-year-old Cassi Van Der Dungen, whose thin appearance caused Marie Claire fashion magazine editor, Jackie Frank, to speak out publicly saying, “she was concerned for the model’s health”.

Designer Alex Perry has since apologised for his decision to use an extremely thin model on the runway at his show at Sydney’s Fashion Week, blaming a “serious lapse of judgment”.  He told breakfast television on Channel Nine “I looked at that footage and I recoiled from it and the images. That’s not the image that I think is a good one to put forward. It’s certainly not what I’ve presented my brand about”

The thing is, even though I totally applaud Perry’s public apology and I desperately hope this latest issue helps to eventually shift some of the destructive body image attitudes in the fashion industry, I still harbour strong doubts that much, if anything, will ever really change. After all, we’re still referring to the “average” Australian woman’s size (in the modelling industry) as “Plus Size”!  Even Jackie Frank was quite ‘frank’ (pardon the pun) about this, saying  “Look, we’re not going to be showing normal-sized women on the catwalk; that’s never going to happen; we’re not going to not retouch. All that kind of stuff is a whole other issue.”
Well, for me, it’s actually that “other issue” that I’m hoping this latest debate DOES help to address…

So, back to the photo…

All of the models shown here are – as I’m sure you’ll agree – simply gorgeous. They range in size from what the industry considers to be “plus-sized” (but I consider to be “average”), to “slim”, to what some of you may consider “thin”, to what most would consider  “way too skinny”.
2014-04-10_13-05-33Which of these models do you think we women will best relate to when shopping either online, reading fashion mags or purchasing in stores?  I say “We’ll relate to not to just one of them…but ALL of them!”  Because none of us are the same shape or size and come with our own vision of what is closest to our own body image. And there are many other beautiful models –  both larger or smaller  than I could find for the purposes of  compiling this image –  who I’m sure would easily sell the right clothes to their target market!
Women come in a diverse range of shapes and sizes, and unless the fashion industry starts to get this into their pretty little designer heads and “use a diverse range of people that cater to their target audience” nothing will ever really change for the better.
The upside to all this though? Stylists everywhere, just like me, will continue to be in business! Still trying to help people navigate the never-ending fads and trends;  exploding the myths of following fashion and then sourcing and selecting clothes for our clients that really do do justice to whatever body shape (and budget) they’ve been blessed with!
There! I said it! I feel much better now. I hope you do too:)

But back to the issue of body image…

I myself have very skinny legs, and whilst thankfully not quite as skinny as Cassie’s  I would still give anything to have a few more curves. I’m very self-conscious about my lack of weight and have been since I was a teenager.  I have health issues that have caused muscle wastage and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. I am frequently judged about my appearance (you can read more on this here in my post about Invisible Disability which was then republished on Mamamia.com.au ). Therefore, I’m the person least likely to jump on this weight-judgement bandwagon. BUT… here’s why I finally decided I would jump on board…

I really do believe the fashion industry has a duty of care. I also really do believe that the voluntary body image code of conduct for the fashion, media and advertising industries  (created way back in 2009!) is very important. Yet, still to this day, it continues to be ignored.   Feel free to share this code of conduct as you wish. If you think a label, advertiser etc isn’t following it, feel free to tell them so!  Here it is:

1. Positive content and messaging – Use positive content and messaging to support the development of a positive body image and realistic and healthy physical goals and aspirations among consumers.

2. Diversity – Use a diverse range of people that are appropriate to their target audience. When considering diversity, particular focus should be given to including a range of body shapes , sizes and ethnicities.

3. Fair Placement – Use advertising that supports positive and healthy body image behaviour. Advertising that contradicts positive body image messages will not be used.

4. Realistic and natural images of people – Do not use digital technology in a way that alters images of people so that their body shape and features are unrealistic or unattainable through healthy practices. Make consumers aware of the extent to which images of people have been manipulated.

5. Healthy weight models – Use models that are clearly of a healthy weight.

6. Appropriate modelling age – Use only people aged 16 years or older to model adult clothes or to work or model in fashion shows targeting an adult audience.

7. Fashion retailers supporting positive body image – Stock a wide variety of sizes that reflects demand from customers.

Please Note – in particular – #5 – Healthy Weight  Models –  Well daaah! Since when have you seen much of that on the runways at any Fashion Week since this voluntary code of conduct was brought in?
And also please note #2 – Diversity –  THIS is the one that I’m mainly on my soapbox about here. And why I’ve created the collage of models in the image above. I don’t think we see enough diversity on any runway…anywhere.
Thanks for reading…”Big Al” xx
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