This photo is not what you think it is…

model vs model
...no matter what you think it is

When I first saw the photo I honestly thought that it was a mother and daughter embracing.  Then I realized that neither of them was wearing anything other than the ring on the left hand of the “mother” and that their faces were not really shown.  Maybe an art photo of some kind?  Certainly not porn, right?  Then Geoff, the one who showed me the photo to begin with, explained the context of the photo and it all made sense.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a “plus sized model” on the right and a “normal” model on the left.

Scroll up and look again, I’ll wait.

As you may imagine if you’ve ever met me in real life, I spend a lot of time looking at plus size models.  Everything I buy is worn by them as I’m a plus sized fat woman myself.  That photo came from this article on Salon.com.

This was the quote from the Salon article that really struck me.  “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8 percent less than the average woman. Today she weighs 23 percent less,” and “Ten years ago, plus sized models averaged between size 12 and 18. Today, the majority of plus-sized models on the agency boards are between a 6 and 14.”

For those of you playing along at home, the average plus sized model isn’t plus sized at all.  Plus sizes, for those of you who don’t know, start at size 14.  In fact, if you check sites like Ideeli.com and MyHabit.com where they list the measurements of the plus sized models so that women like me can get an idea of how a plus sized garment will fit, the average plus sized model is about 5’10”, wears a size 12, and just happens to have hips and breasts.  And, she’s beautiful.

The article on Salon is actually a critique of an article at a plus sized model magazine.  It goes into greater detail about the huge discrepancy between real women, the women we look at to model our clothing, and the great lengths clothing designers and fashion houses will go to to make sure that, above all, it’s the clothing that looks good on the runway and the hanger, consumer be damned.  (Photoshop anyone?)

So where does that leave women like me?  Women with taste for quality, style, good prices, and unwilling to be consigned to the basement of Fashion for Fatties that is mostly muu-muus, huge ugly prints, and clothing that is uncomfortable and doesn’t fit?  It leaves us with stores Layne Bryant, Torrid, and Avenue and designers Calvin Klein, Marina Rinaldi, Ralph Lauren, and if we’re lucky, with Tim Gunn.

How many people do you know who’d be willing to limit themselves to shopping at only 3 stores at the mall?  How many people do you know who have to plan weeks or months in advance to find the right dress or pants to wear to a function, wedding, or work related thing because there’s just nothing out there on the market?  You can’t take it to a tailor to get it worked on if it doesn’t exist in the first place.

I suppose it is an improvement that the conversation is happening and that people like Tim Gunn are standing up and making an issue of the fact that it isn’t OK to simply opt out of this market because you, the designer, only want to dress the beautiful people.  If you make a ready to wear line, you pretty much give up that right.  Also, note to designers: just because you’re thin doesn’t make you pretty/trendy/hip/whatever.  One has only to look at whatever the most recent dead died-in-an-embarrassing-way celebrity was wearing to wonder exactly how that designer felt when the body was discovered.  Then again, all publicity is good publicity, right?  *eyeroll*

I’ll end before I get too annoyed and bitter and tell you this.  I think that the woman on the right in the photo at the top is beautiful.  I thought that the woman in the photo on the left was actually a girl, a child.  I am afraid for our culture when we infantilize “the ideal” to such a degree that she looks like a 12 year old girl.  What does that say about us as a society?

~Kelly

2 thoughts on “This photo is not what you think it is…”

  1. Word UP.

    The original article’s pretty interesting – and there are other terrific photos as well, including one of the primary “plus-sized” model in a gorgeous yoga pose and a smile. (Terrific not just because I like to look at them but also because they are GORGEOUS and UNSKINNY.)

    1. I thought you’d like that article, etc. It took me a long time to write that post because there is so much to say about it and I had to figure out what I wanted to say without getting too angry or preachy. I think I ruminated on it for almost a week.
      Good to talk to you tonight. 🙂
      ~Kelly

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