When did we start to challenge the white-skinny-ableist fashion hegemony that big fashion houses and editors had been contributing to since the beginning of the industry?
Well, unfortunately it wasn’t until the 2010s that we started to see some sort of diversity whether it’d be with plus size collections or models who came from different ethnicities, at least on the mainstream level. With Bethann Hardison forming the Diversity Coalition, Ashley Graham’s modeling breaking through and Chromat’s First Runway Show, we encountered some serious action toward a more inclusive industry. Isn’t it surprising, realizing an industry that existed since the 19th century had just started looking around to realize that the real life bodies are very different than the one-zero-size-fits-all image that they have been creating over the course of years.
Big fashion houses have always known the world wasn’t solely consisted of “the kind of women” they represented. They simply didn’t care. The fashion world was a very privileged sphere on its own. All the glamour and excess that you saw on runways were reserved to a very specifically targeted clientele. It was the celebrities, the socialites, Wall Street brokers and of course, the kinds of people who liked to play golf over a pretentiously named cocktail in VIP-entry-only gentleman clubs. So whether or not these brands had fans (who wouldn’t be able to afford their items, anyway.), they continued to manufacture their clothing pieces according to the silhouettes and sizes of prestigious names.
When you look through your old fashion magazines, you will instantly see an interview with a designer as follows:
Journalist: Who do you design for?
Designer: I design for the elegant women who carry themselves gracefully.
And when you browsed through their collections you would only see that the biggest size possible for that graceful skirt you liked was a size 38. In this narrative, people who are larger than that can just, piss off I guess? Reading between the lines, you see that big fashion houses catered to skinny women and skinny meant graceful.
However, with the rise of activism and consciousness, high fashion brands are slowly trying to turn their ethos into a more diverse one by including plus size models on their runways and promotional campaigns. Thank God, it was about time. Questioning if brands are taking these actions to stay on top of the consciousness trend or not isn’t called for. Each little step toward a better industry where people feel more included and represented is a step much needed even though it starts out as a marketing strategy.
Versace Runway Show at Milan Fashion Week Image source: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/lifestyle/plus-size-models-versace-fashion-show/
Seeing all these fashion campaigns and shows might make you think that we surpassed the need of discussing body image matters as big names in the industry started rooting for plus sized models. You couldn’t be more wrong. The fashion houses began to show us that your body type doesn’t stand in the way of looking fashionable but are we ready to take in that information?
Even on the platforms like Tiktok which is considered to be heavily Gen-Z dominant, fat-shaming seems to be a constant issue. The comments on the Tiktoks of outfits that people would wear and film themselves in would change according to the body type of the person. If it was a skinny girl, it would always say “Amazing outfit.” However when it was a fat person who assembled a similar outfit, it would go “I love your confidence.” As if the people who don’t have a zero size body should hide in shame forever.
When you look at Hailey Bieber for instance, you see that she is considered to be one of the most stylish models of the new generation. Although she has some amazing outfits, some of the ones that I have been seeing all over the “inspo” Pinterest boards just… doesn’t makes sense. A white crop top, baggy jeans and boots. Now who couldn’t do that? What do you need the inspiration for? The body or the outfit? When you see an outfit you like, on a celebrity you like by getting rid of the “cool girl” narrative can you understand the root of your fondness? Is it actually a good fit or a fit body?
The word “fat” carries so much negativity and shame. Even though big brands are taking actions in the right directions, fat phobia and fat shaming still plague the industry. As much as we need to educate ourselves about different ways of being, the fashion industry should be taking an equal amount of accountability as they turned into an ally very recently whereas they were the ultimate counter-actor for years and years. Vogue and other “iconic” fashion publications have created a generation of teenage girls with eating disorders and mental illnesses related with body image. Well, it doesn’t matter if you look graceful at the end of the day and can fit in a skirt I guess.
Cover Art: Ana Felix