Monday, November 28, 2016

Changes for Women in Fashion/Modeling

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Killing Us Softly, a video about women's portrayal in advertising. One of the points made in the video was that women in advertising (print, runway, etc.) are always thin and have been measuring thinner over the years; these models embody shapes that are simply unrealistic for most women to obtain and do not represent the general population.

Recently, I have seen many videos, articles, etc. providing a more recent perspective on an old issue. The first (and possibly most widely distributed) is Tim Gunn's view on the American fashion industry. (Read the essay on The Washington Post or watch the PBS NewsHour clip about it below.)

Tim Gunn (a fashion industry expert and one of my favorite TV hosts from my teenage afternoons watching Project Runway reruns) states that the American fashion industry "has a lot of problems" stemming from designers' refusal to create fashion-forward clothes for all types of American women. Gunn states that the average American woman measures between a size 16 and size 18, but it is incredibly difficult to find any clothes (let alone clothes that are considered trendy or glamorous) for these women. Gunn laments that the issue is baffling because although creating fashions for different-sized women would require a bit more work on the designers' parts, more and more women fit the "plus-size" (a term that Gunn and I both despise) category; therefore, there is money to be made in creating clothing that appeals to them. I appreciated how Gunn said it's "not a customer issue," acknowledging that it's the industry that needs to change, not the people themselves.

Another recent headliner was Ashley Graham's honor as a cover girl for Sports Illustrated's extremely popular swimsuit issue. Since this announcement, Graham has used her voice to advocate for women of all sizes. Her message is that no matter what your size, you can do anything you want to do - she was able to make waves in the modeling industry, one area that is overwhelmingly dominated by tiny figures. In addition, Graham has her own line of plus-size lingerie, and Mattel even created a Barbie doll in her image.

After receiving body-shaming comments on her Instagram, Iskra Lawrence responded with a photo of her lying on a bed of potato chips (see below); as she said, it was "for anyone who has ever been called FAT." Most recently, Lawrence stripped down on a subway to educate travelers about body diversity and acceptance.

Gunn, Graham, and Lawrence are extremely popular figures, but women's portrayal is changing on other levels as well. For example, BuzzFeed did a stunning photoshoot of regular plus-size women recreating high fashion advertisements. (It was discussed here in Glamour magazine.) CBS News reported that the brand Meijer is getting rid of its plus-size clothing section and will include these sizes in their missy and women sections. Meijer is also slashing plus-size clothing prices (which are typically higher than "regular" sizes) in an effort to make clothing costs affordable and consistent. A new kickstarter campaign by Shelley Johnson of New Vintage Lady plans to market vintage sewing patterns that are adjusted to fit larger-sized women (because most vintage clothing runs four sizes smaller than our current sizes).

The lesson I have learned from my recent attention to fashion and modeling in the news is that waves are being made. I still believe that women's portrayal in advertising is dominated by models who have certain characteristics (such as nearly impossibly slim figures), but it seems like this is changing. It is my hope that by the time my children are born and old enough to understand and be affected by advertising, these "thin ideals" that we see today are a part of the past.

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