- İrem Güler
Size-zero models to plus-size models: The extremes of the fashion industry
Modelling isn’t just portraying a dress or showing a product. It’s a million dollar industry that women all over the world look up to.
For years models didn’t represent everyday women, they represented what everyday women must look like in order to be considered attractive. Our beauty standards were created by models, they were what we saw in magazines and whom we wanted to be. Size-zero models ruled the fashion world, fashion legends like Karl Lagerfeld even said “No one wants to see curvy models. Only fat, patato chip-eating mums hate thin models” clearly indicating that real women had no place in the runway. Normal women didn’t deserve any representation in the eyes of the King of High Fashion... Ed Razek, CMO of Victoria’s Secret, said the VS fashion show was an “illusion” therefore they wouldn’t put a trans or an overweight woman onto the runway. Although the brand put Barbara Palvin to the show as a “plus size model” because she was a Euro size 38 at the time. Her size was as healthy as it gets, she was truly a "medium" but in the eyes of fashion professionals she was “extra large for the runway”.
The industry’s love for size-zero models started in the 60s and carried on till late 2010s.This unrealistic standards didn’t just effect everyday women but it also effected the models in the industry. Many of the were reported as having eating disorders, few of them even dying from anorexia. The modelling industry recruits models from a very young age, most of the time they are forced to diet by their agents and manipulated into thinking this is the only way to become a “top model”. Even eating healthy and having muscles was an issue because it would look to “masculine”. The industry needed starving models to represent a fairytale that they were trying to sell to everyday women. In 2007,Prada put a ban on size 0 models after the scandal of deaths and almost 10 years later LVMH group put a strict ban on size-zero models.
Late 2010s were quite shocking as a new sub-industry started to rise: plus-size models. They represented the
women who never saw somebody that looks like them on a magazine cover. They quickly became popular,n ot with high fashion brands but with fast-fashion and mid-luxury brands, and their popularity quickly raised eyebrows: Were these plus-size models encouraging obesity? The debates began and they haven’t stopped. The plus size industry is so new that even themselves didn’t really come to an agreement regarding the definition of “plus-sized”. For some brands it represents women who are healthy and over the bmi of 24. And for some brands it’s everyone who is considered to be overweight by "normal" beauty standards. Do obese models push/encourage girls into obesity like size-zero models pushed girls into eating disorders? I highly doubt it. The reason why this industry exists is to put an end to encouragement and start representation. Plus-size models represent the ones who look like them. REPRESENTATION is the key word.
Are skinny models and plus-size models the only representation the women get? Of course not! Online fashion brands with big revenues like Pretty Little Thing, Missguided, Asos etc. built their entire usiness on representing the body types from tall to petite,thin to plus-size. Their clothes that are on display are first represented by a model who is usually a 5ft6(167 cm) and wears a size euro 36-38. This clearly shows they are trying their best to represent the average, everyday women. Not just online fashion brands but also well-established brands like Topshop started taking this initiative and started to put UK size 10/euro size 38 women upfront.
However, sizing is still an illusion. It varies from brand to brand. One brand’s small is another brand’s large. Sizes even differ within the same brand, due to the fabric or design. So like they say, we shouldn’t care about the size on the tag, it’s just a number.
Although we passed the age of size-zero models, it doesn’t mean eating disorders and young girls taking models as role-models have stopped. Will it ever stop? Who knows... what we know is that we, as strong and self-aware women, deserve every bit of representation from brands that we spend our money on and most importantly we don’t need to create a standard for beauty anymore.