Thursday, 26 January 2012

They Used to Say "Big Boned" to be Polite. That Sounds Like A Euphemism

There's been a lot of talk and controversy that I'm noticing on my social network feeds. About how skinny is not beauty, about the fashion industry and it's portrayal of size 0-4 women as being "average" sized.

First and foremost, before I go any further I'm going to stop you all right there. In no way did the whole super skinny super model come about to portray a society standard in women's clothing sizes. Any woman who looks at fashion and thinks a designer dresses only size 2 girls on his runway because of more than industry standards and expense is silly. Sure, on some level their may be aesthetics involved. On some level, designers might want a particular model for her name. But the smaller the girl, the smaller the sample being made for the runway needs to be. And the smaller the sample, the less of the expensive chiffon and Swarovski crystals are needed. Which cuts down a designers cost. If every designer were dressing "real" size women for their runway samples, they would be spending double and triple their budget for the same sample run. I'm not being callous, it's the truth. It costs way more to produce a dress for a size 20 than it does for a size 2, you need more edging to go around a size 20 hem, you need more fabric. You need to cut the dress completely differently, you need to know your models proportions and bust size far more intimately. With a size 2 girl you can count on her having little curves and a smaller bust, leave some extra seam allowance for letting out and taking in where you need to, and with that you can architecturally build the shape and curves you want with fabrics, interfacing and a little boning. On a size 20 girl you need that interfacing and boning just to ensure her décolletage is under control and she isn't going to have a nip slip on the runway. And you may not have enough fabric to let out the seams if you need too. I'm not trying to be callous, I'll make dresses for real plus sizes, and petites and whoever. And I have, so I know the difference.

Some designers will pack their runways full of only one type of girl, with one body shape. This is totally because of comfort and ease, and the speed of which someone can produce when they know they are only picking models size 2 with relatively the same dimensions. Sometimes you will hear of designers only picking Scandanavian women, or women of African descent. And this happens because fashion is art. Designers, artists. And all artists have a vision. When a designer draws up a concept, sketches out a model, and starts mocking up a new gown, he already has a type of girl in mind. She might be willowy and hippy like, with long tawny hair. She might be fierce, a warrior woman, a business woman, a girl on a night out, the girl next door -- trust me, this is all part of the process of design, whether you've been through school for it or not. Even us self taught pattern makers and sewers and designers have a person in mind when we make a beautiful garment. It's not that designers are trying to push their own ideals into society, they are just trying to show society their artistic vision.

That being said, do I agree with only using super tiny super tall girls in a runway show?

Well, if I were running the show, not at all. I would want to be able to show my diversity as a designer, which means displaying diversity on my runway.

And a lot of designers do just that! Betsey Johnson used plus size girls in the live runway she broadcast via Youtube for fashion week in NYC. Her daughter was one of the models too. It's part of her ascetic as a designer to design for women of all shapes, sizes, colours and creeds. This is why she's one of my favourite designers. Here's a picture Google tagged as a Betsey Runway model from her 2011 show. This girl is rocking it, and is considered plus size for the industry.
I know, I know, a lot of people look at this girl and say "She is NOT plus sized!"

Well, lets agree to disagree for a minute. I always kind of considered the fashion word "plus sized" to mean "plus ten" so in my head I like to call this girl a "size zero plus". Think of it. If you're a size 12, you could tell everyone you are a size 2 plus. Does it make you feel smaller or bigger to say it that way? Okay, I'm being kind of sarcastic. But, it's true. Any girl size ten or larger in the fashion industry is considered plus, whether we think that's fair or not. It's not about our own size, and a lot of girls take it personally like that. I fit clothing anywhere from a size 10 to 14, depending on cut and fit and style. Do I like hearing a size 10 girl is "plus sized"? No, not really. But I look at myself in the mirror, and I know I'm not fat or ugly, just because an industry labelled me plus. I'm not a model, I'm just a girl on the streets. People double take me, I have gorgeous brown eyes and love my curves. Am I plus? Well, if I were walking a runway, yes. In real life, not really.

Now, here's another fun thing. Sizes are not the same everywhere. Every designer has their own conventions for measurement, some only do custom work, some mass produce using a standardized chart. A European size 12 and a US size 12 are going to be different, guaranteed. Just like a department store size 10 vs a designer boutique size 10. No two sizes are going to be the same. Heck, who hasn't been shopping for jeans and put on two styles and found they needed a larger size in one pair, but in the other style needed a smaller size? It's all about standards, and their are no international standards, nor standards that run between companies. I swim in a large from Old Navy, but have to buy some things in a large from Le Château. So, to some people that girl in that picture is a plus size, to others she's not. It's all just opinion. (And really, who cares! She was in a BJ fashion show I'm really super jealous of her even if she's plus!)

This model is plus sized, probably to anyone no matter how they look at the label plus. And gorgeous, although I wish more designers encouraged their models to look happy and smile when they walk. And, the bust on this dress doesn't fit her properly. This is what I mean, this would be a reason a designer might not want a plus sized model, because you cannot guarantee that she isn't going to have completely different dimensions than the dress you designed at her size. She might have told the designer she was a D cup in bra, where to me she plainly looks larger than a D. But, not all designers are even aware of cup size, especially if they are male designers and have only ever dressed smaller women with smaller breasts.

The most important thing in design, is fit. And many designers (obviously not this one) don't know how to dress and fit a plus sized woman.

But bad fit can happen on even the smallest of models. This is a picture of some terrifying clothing that came from Project Runway. This is a standard sized model, but she doesn't look right in this outfit, because it just doesn't fit. So, before you say I'm prejudiced, I just want to let you know that bad fit can happen on any sized girl. When a bad outfit doesn't fit, it's tragic. When a good outfit doesn't fit, it destroys what's good about it.

Okay, now I'm done over explaining about the fashion industry, I do have another point to make.

All of these women, be them the "plus" sizes or "standard" sizes, are fucking beautiful. Just because they are labeled as one thing or another does not change the fact that they are unique and stunning ladies. Is curvy more pretty than skinny? The answer is NO. Is skinny more beautiful than fat? NO.

On my Facebook wall I posted this picture a while ago that some people may have taken offence too. Especially my friends who are thin, or those who would ideally be thin. My personal tastes tell me that Marilyn Monroe is the hottest woman in that image, but that's because I identify with her curvaceousness. I'm a curvy girl, I have heavy bones and thick hips, I will never look like Keira Knightly, never ever no matter how much I work out or diet. I don't think Keira isn't beautiful, that's not what I was trying to say by posting this image, although I know some people took it that way. What I am saying is my body shape could look like Marilyn, I could get rid of the jiggle and maybe have a body like Betty Paige. Without plastic surgery, I could never look like Heidi Montag, and I don't want too.

I've come to accept that I am a curvaceous girl, that I have booty, I have breasts. And I'm beautiful.

I just wonder what it is, how it is, that society seems to think woman have to conform to some kind of standard of size and shape. In my opinion, beauty isn't being thin, or being fat. It's not having pale skin or tanned skin. It's not dying your hair to be brunette or blond or blue. It's something inside, and when I say when did thin become hotter than curvy, I mean, when did anything become hotter than anything else? Beauty is beauty, and all eight of those women are beautiful to someone. Beauty is subjective, and that's the truth.

And hey, just so you know, if Marilyn was a model today, walking runway or doing stills, she'd be considered plus size too.

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