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A Plus-Sized Change

According to the Social Issues Research Centre, “Recent experiments have shown that exposure to magazine photographs of super-thin models produces depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity, body dissatisfaction, and increased endorsement of the thin-ideal stereotype.” The SIRC also stated magazines like Vogue and Elle are “banned in many eating-disorder clinics, because of their known negative effect on patients’ body image.” Although fashion media is considered a main source for body issues among teens, the fashion industry is taking action to reverse the problems by being aware of what is printed in the media, having industry professionals and models be aware of what a “real” woman looks like, and by bringing diversity into the industry standards all around the world.

The first problem that the fashion industry needs to address in order to take a step in the right direction is to be aware of what is printed in the media, and how the message comes across. Ros Reines wrote an article featured in the Hobart Mercury (Australia), which read, “Whether or not plus-size models do become an accepted part of the fashion industry and not just a novelty act depends on the way they are treated in the media.” If the women used in runway shows resembled the average women’s body type, the women featured in the media would also change and resemble that silhouette as well. It has been said that specific “advances in technology and in particular the rise of the mass media has caused normal concerns about how we look to become obsessions.”

With small changes, such as models wearing clothing that is two sizes bigger than average models do right now, the self-esteem of women and teens could be altered in a significant and positive way (SIRC). The director of the eating disorders program at Toronto General Hospital, Dr. Mario Olmsted, said, “Just seeing different sizes in a fashion show can have profound effect on a woman’s own body image.”

Now that the industry has addressed what could be changed in order to make a positive change, it is all up to what the consumer’s desire. Kelly Cutrone, owner of People’s Revolution, which is a company that produces fashion shows all around the world, was quoted in an article written for USA Today that stated, “If people decide thin is out, the fashion industry won’t have thin models anymore. Have you spent time in fashion people? They are ruthless. They want money.”

Editor in chief of Glamour magazine, Cindi Leive, announced a permanent change for the magazine’s reputation. She said (describing the magazine), “We do not run photos of anybody in the magazine who we believe to be at an unhealthy weight. We frequently feature women of all different sizes. We all know that you can look fabulous in clothes without being a size 2.” 

So if consumers and industry professionals decide to make a change and follow in Glamour magazine’s footsteps with who they feature in media ads and fashion shows, they must be aware of what an average women’s body type is and how to flatter that style. Industry professionals are starting to recognize this curvy silhouette and embrace it. An article written for CBS news showcased the first ever plus-size runway show hosted by OneStopPlus.com to take place in New York Fashion Week just this year on September 15, 2010. The article featured interviews with plus-sized models featured in the show as well as full-figured audience members. One particular “fashion icon and one of the top earning plus-size models, Emme, who is also the brand ambassador for OneStopPlus.com, hopes the event will open doors for plus-size women in the future during Fashion Week.” Emme told CBS her goals and opinion of the show stating, “I think there is going to be a ripple effect from this fashion show to all of the fashion community saying ‘sixty-two million women are a size 12 and above; why hasn’t this been done before?’”

Another plus-sized runway show that took place at the LG Fashion Week in Canada this year as well presented the clothing line, Joe Fresh Style. Joe Mimran, the brain behind the clothing line, explained his use of the full-figured beauties by saying, “We felt that (using diverse models) is always a big topic out there, and we just thought it would be fun to engage in it.” The show included the current fashion “it girl” plus-sized model Crystal Renn who is “a size 12, a far cry from the typical size 0 to 4 usually seen on the runways in Toronto, London, Milan, and Paris.” While industry professionals embrace these diverse women’s curvy figures, the media will begin to follow along with the trend. Dr Marion Olmsted from the Toronto General Hospital also stated, “Designers using a whole range of models to reflect real women instead of very thin runway models is a wonderful step in the right direction.”

Katie Ford, chief executive officer of Ford Models believes “the trend next year will be to move toward more womanly figures.” This trend proved to be true as plus-sized runway shows were the big hit at fashion shows features in Canada’s fashion week, the Rosemount Sydney Fashion Festival in Australia, and in New York fashion week. Models were seen wearing women’s sizes ranging from 8–12 and showcasing lines that include sizes 12–44. That is a drastic improvement from the average size runway models wearing a 2 or 4. These newly featured “super-sized models are part of an international trend on the runway as a way of trying to combat eating disorders. It’s all about getting women to feel good about their bodies, whatever their shape.” Now that the trend is in high demand, it is important to reiterate that “while it’s great to embrace your curves, always ensure that you remain healthy.” 

The fashion industry is considered a main source for body issues among teens but is taking action to reverse the problems by truly considering what is printed in the media, being able to define what a “real” women looks like, and by bringing diversity into the industry standards all around the world. This has been proven by Glamour magazine attempting to change their reputation by featuring women of all sizes, industry professionals and fashion lines creating clothing for “real” figures, and changing the standards in many different countries to help combat the outbreak of eating disorders and relay the message that being comfortable with your body is the chicest trend to follow. Former Victoria’s Secret model Frederique van der Wal believes, “Women come in lots of different sizes and shapes, and we should encourage and celebrate that.” Jeanette Jelinek, plus-size model for Torrid said, “So now that curves are in, I hope that society can see bbw (big beautiful women) are here, and we are not going anywhere!” Although these positive changes will not happen overnight, the industry is taking the right steps in order to alter the industry forever and truly complete a plus-sized change.

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