I have always loved fashion. As a little girl, you could barley pry me away from the T.V. when FT came on. Runway after runway, I soaked in the beautiful colours, fabrics, lines and textures – but there was an unwelcome and unconscious side effect to my love of fashion. In my quick and malleable 9 year old brain, I started to associate fashion & beauty with thinness. I used to scour second hand book stores for old copies of Vouge, Glamour and Marie Claire – got made fun of at my small town school for wearing patterned socks with strappy sandals & at 13 started to diet. I didn’t realise it at the time, but my inborn passion for fashion took me by the hand, and led me into a very hostile environment for a 5’3″, 120lb teenager.
I’ve come a long way since then, I’ve stopped dieting completely, exercise out of a love of movement, rather than a need to punish myself or loose weight and I have come to deeply, truly love and accept myself – exactly as I am. I don’t think this shift was something that happened in isolation – I think the whole culture and climate is shifting around body love and size diversity within the fashion industry. Consciousness tends to work like that – one you have an idea, a thought, an insight – it’s out there. Pema Chodron says that this is part of the collective unconscious – and one of the reasons that changing our own thoughts, beliefs and feelings can have a profound impact on the world we live in. I choose to focus on the positive, and the work being done to embrace diversity in fashion.
A huge part of this shift has come from ‘straight’ labels using ‘plus size’ models in their campaigns. There is a lot of controversy around what does and doesn’t constitute as ‘plus size’, and I have seen a tremendous amount of body shaming on Instagram and Facebook under the guise of upholding such labels. In the fashion industry a model above a size 4-6 (US) 8-10 ( AUS) is considered plus size. In the real world, plus size seems to be more along the lines of size 12 and up ( US) 16 and up ( AUS). Whatever the controversy, I think that it’s incredibly positive that ‘straight’ labels are starting to incorporate women above a size 6 (US) and 10 (AUS) in their work. I would love to see it taken one step further, and drop the size ‘straight’ and ‘plus size’ labels all together.
Real changes comes when designers, editors, and change makers look past size as a discriminating factor in their choice of models. As designer Zana Byne puts it “The most important thing for me when figuring out the casting was a seamless integration of all types of models. It wasn’t political or making a statement like ‘Everyone should do this’—I just want a cohesive collection to showcase on different bodies.”
In the last few years there has been a different climate taking hold in the fashion industry , as women of all shapes and sizes ARE starting to be celebrated – but we, as consumers also have a role to play. We vote with our dollars, as well as with our likes and comments on social media. Can you let go of labels and instead see the beauty in someone regardless of their size? You have a choice to promote positive body image in yourself and others by the blogs you read, the people you follow on instagram, the magazines you buy and the designers you support.
So in my bid to do my part to bring fashion + size diversity together in a positive and inspiring way, I am going to share the work of designers, models, magazines and bloggers that have started to create body positive waves in the fashion industry, or that have personally inspired me on my journey to love + accept my body exactly as it is. This week I thought I would start with Designers + Editorials that are doing really great work on the front lines of fashion + size diversity as this is where it all starts!
1. IMG ( one of the worlds top modelling agencies ) signed 5 plus size models to their general roster in 2014. These models are not segregated into their own ‘plus size’ division, but will sit along side models such as Kate Upton and Gisele Bundchen. Managing Director Ivan Bart told Cosomplolitan – “With this new way of thinking, I can tell women who work so hard to get into the sample size, ‘Eat! Be yourself, just be the best you can be — exactly how you are!’ For us, as long as the talent is at a healthy weight that he or she and his or her doctor believe is right for them, and they’re exercising, since that’s a healthy way of life, then the industry should reflect that.”
2. This year ( 2014 ), in the the Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week Chromat featured a wide variety of models in all shapes and sizes, seamlessly alternating between many different body types throughout their runway show.
3. Calvin Klein’s latest underwear campaign features a size 10 model, Myla Dalbesio – not as a ‘plus size’ model, but among models much smaller sizes – representing size diversity without labels.
4. Last month ( November 2014 ) Vogue.com released an article The Best Lingerie Comes In All Sizes featuring models that represent size and shape diversity with stunning black and white photos.
5. In the December 2013 edition of Cosmo Australia ‘plus size’ model Robyn Lawley was featured for the second time in their summer swimwear spread. I am a huge fan of Miss Lawley, as she is literally paving the way for a new era of body acceptance in the fashion industry – so you can expect to be seeing much more of here in the coming weeks.
I sincerely hope in some small way this article can help us ( as a collective ) let go of the labels and focus on celebrating beauty at every size and shape. On an individual level I hope it helps you celebrate your unique beauty and individuality. And personally, I wrote this to remind me that my love of fashion & my love of my natural body can co-exist.
As adults we do have some control of the images and messages that we allow into our minds & hearts. What will you choose?
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