Although fashion week has long gone, the debate about weight within the industry continues. It is an issue which everyone has an opinion on, whether you watch the catwalk shows or not…
For a while now the industry has been divided into two camps: the super skinny and the plus size. Each of these ‘camps’ have produced ideals which are as damaging as the other; to the models themselves and the girls who look up to them. When we see the likes of Jordan Dunn and Kendall Jenner strutting along the Victoria Secret’s catwalk, the chances are they’ve been on a ten day juice diet to look that good. The yo-yo dieting of the super skinny is well documented, however, the idea that plus-size models also have to alter their natural figure is not so well known. Naomi Shimada, a size sixteen model, (speaking to the Guardian) revealed “When I moved to New York, the first thing the agency asked me to do was buy a set of padding. Hip pads, butt pads, stomach pads, foam mammary glands basically. It turns out that most plus models have a set.” And so it is clear that whatever camp you are in you will have to alter your shape and size in order to fit what is considered desirable. The body images we are presented with by magazines, retail stores, television, films and catwalks are not natural, they are bodies pushed to an extreme; stretched, narrowed, enlarged or squeezed.
A recent campaign by Protein World with the slogan ‘Are you beach body ready?’ received intense backlash, and over 70,000 signatures on change.org resulting in the campaign being taken down. It is clear that people are sick of being put in boxes just because of the way they look, and even more sick of brands attempting to use outdated stereotypes and ideals in order to make us buy their products. But are things really changing?
Some celebrities are trying to challenge the criticism they receive for being either too fat or too thin. During Milan Fashion Week Gigi Hadid received online criticism for her figure on the Givenchy catwalk, despite fitting into sample sizes. Gigi fought back on her Instagram page by celebrating the fact her figure is not that of a conventional model – “No, I don’t have the same body type as the other models in shows. … I represent a body image that wasn’t accepted in high-fashion before … Yes, I have boobs, I have abs, I have a butt, I have thighs.” Whilst X Factor judge Cheryl Fernandez- Versini suggested, in an interview with ES magazine, that attacking somebody’s weight should be made illegal after she received criticism over size during filming of the programmes latest series. ‘Body shaming has to stop,’ she said. She believes that glamourizing obesity is just as big of an issue: ‘being overweight is unhealthy – it’s actually a bad message to tell someone who is obese that they look ‘curvy’ or great’ Many may disagree with how Cheryl has phrased it, but it is true that physical extremes are not healthy.
Being far too skinny or far too big, if caused by an unhealthy lifestyle is not something that should be normalised, let alone worshipped. A recent YSL campaign was deemed ‘irresponsible’ by the Advertising Standards Authority for the model featured being ‘underweight’, but here’s a question…and it may sound controversial. Is Tess Holliday at a size 26 really less ‘irresponsible’ than the YSL model? Perhaps the real question is what do we mean by ‘irresponsible’? If campaigns are getting pulled based on the idea that models are too thin and therefore ‘promoting’ unhealthy body standards, what stops any type of extreme body type being deemed inappropriate to advertise? Starting on the 1st December, the government will be launching an enquiry into model health, it’s clear that there is a belief that the images we see in advertising correlate strongly to the message we as consumers are getting about our bodies. But surely neither extreme should be so widely used if we are worried about the level of ‘responsibility’ attached to these model’s sizes? It’s a complex subject, but perhaps one that we should consider more openly.
Celebrities speaking out against body shaming are beginning to create more of a dialogue on the subject, but are the likes of Gigi and Cheryl really sparking the start of change within the industry? Is seeing the world’s most famous role models praising each other’s different shapes and sizes enough? Personally, I don’t think so. It is going to take regular women, realising that the ideals which society force upon us aren’t necessarily right. You don’t have to look like a Topshop mannequin or a Victoria’s Secret model. As long as you are healthy and happy why does it matter what size dress you wear? It’s just a number. We need to promote eating well and exercising- if you are doing both these things and you’re a size 6, great. If you’re doing both these things and you’re a size 16 then that’s great too. With a healthy lifestyle comes the body confidence we all so strongly desire, and would love to see in the campaigns surrounding us.
Cover image – newsonia.com