Fashion is by nature a world of extremes and exclusivity. So it’s not surprising to find the industry’s approach to weight diversity, shall we say, unbalanced. After years of complaints about jutting bones, reverse-speed bump bellies, and frying pan asses, the powers that vogue mulled over women’s concerns and reached an inevitably superficial understanding of the problem.
Faced with demand for different body types, they turned to plus-size models. In fashion logic, the way to balance very small is with very big. And of course, with big girls being so big, you only need one to balance out twelve skinny chicks.
So everyone got to rationing: Vogue Italy dedicated one issue a year to “curvy” ladies. Top designers started tossing a couple plus-size models down the runway to round out their shows. MTV practically smushed itself with self-love after releasing Chelsea Settles; one show in their lineup of Patridges and Conrads about a 324 lb girl chasing her dream fashion career. MTV will be quick to point out that their big girl weighs more than any of the big girls on ANTM. But their weighty title is challenged by TLC, who recently released Big Sexy starring five fat fashionistas.
Crystal Renn gaining weight was a dream come true. She quickly became the token plus-size model for any forward-thinking designer’s show or ad campaign. Cringing at the thought of actively casting multitudes of big girls; the industry practically grew its own in Crystal.
But just as there are shades between black and white, there are sizes between 0 and 12. What about all the women who are neither voluptuous nor bone thin? Where is their representation? The sizing for plus-size models is very stringent, just as it is for “normal” models. Tyra Banks has sent several ANTM contestants home because they weren’t quite large enough for plus-size. Kate Winslet and Beyonce’s healthy, but not big enough to be labelled ‘big’, curves are regularly photoshopped away.
Instead of changing to reflect the diversity of real women, fashion has offered up plus-size models as red herrings. But creating yet another exclusive and extreme category of models isn’t the answer. Just as few women are toothpicks, few are truly hourglasses. Millions of size 4, 6, and 8 beauties continue to be alienated. The answer to weight diversity isn’t curvy women– it’s every woman.