As a passionate fashion professional who dresses women of all shapes and sizes, I would LOVE to see a fashion and style world that is accepting of all body types. I’m sure that you share this wish.
Although the fashion world is nowhere near to being adequately representative of all body types, things are changing for the better. In my opinion we have the blogosphere to thank for a lot of that. Fashion bloggers of all shapes and sizes showcase their fabulous outfits and look beautiful each day. I love that and it’s extremely encouraging.
You don’t need a model’s body to be stylish, because style is not a dress size. This is a common mantra in the blogosphere and long may it continue! If you’re caught referring to someone as unstylish because they are not model-thin then the blogosphere will put you in your place pretty darn quickly. This is a good thing. After all, women who are shorter and larger than regular sized models represent the majority of the population.
So here’s the thing I’m not happy with: Somehow, amid all the talk about body acceptance, it has become acceptable to discriminate against skinny women. It is so common to hear comments like “who wears size 0 and 2 anyway?”, and to hear people making assumptions about eating disorders when someone is slim. I often hear average sized women making a comment along the lines of “wow, do you eat?” to a skinny friend, but imagine the consequences of asking one of your larger friends, “wow, do you eat a lot?”. It is a double standard.
Sure, the fashion industry may be projecting skinny as an unrealistic ideal, but that doesn’t make it acceptable to make snide comments about someone who is thinner than average. After all, skinny women are not all part of a secret society that is conspiring to keep the fashion industry obsessed with their body type. They are mostly just women who are naturally thin. Body types have a distribution, just like most things in nature, and there will be examples at both ends of the spectrum.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing is the phrase “real woman”, used to describe women with body types that you don’t see on the runway. Skinny women may not be the average size, but they aren’t freaks of nature either. They are just as real as the most curvy woman among us. Yet this phrase is used frequently in the media and the blogosphere. Even by me! When I was writing this post I looked back at old posts and found myself using it once or twice. I can’t remember the exact moment, but at some point in the last couple of years it occurred to me that this wasn’t ok.
I really don’t want to sound judgmental of people who use this phrase today. In fact, many of my favourite writers and bloggers do so all the time. I’m absolutely certain that the last thing they would want to do is make offense. On the other hand, I do know women on the thinner end of the distribution who are taking offense. So I think it is worth raising the point that whenever one uses the phrase “real woman”, one is implying that if you aren’t in the body shape majority, you aren’t real. We need to find a different way to talk about fashion that doesn’t only target the runway ideal.
All women are real and that includes skinny models and slim women who wear really small sizes. There is no such thing as a ridiculous size. Size 0, 8, 16, 24, or whichever size fits, that’s the reality of the body you’re in. Style is beyond all sizes, which is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about what I do. And as I far as I can I will protect all women from unkind comments as far as their size is concerned.