MaryBeth Perrin
September 14, 2013 7:00 am

Hi,

So, I see you want more variety on the runway because when you watch those shows and see the pictures in magazines they make you feel like less of a woman. Hmmm… More and more often I am seeing these articles being reposted, going on about how fashion magazines and runway shows need to spend more time representing all types of women. These articles focus on how because the entire industry DOESN’T do this to the degree they feel they should it’s their fault adult women around America hate themselves.

Nope. Not buying it.

This is the industry I work in so please let me explain to you in the best way I can why all these blog and articles are exercises in futility. Take note, I am not talking about celebrity culture or mall retail, only the specific topic of fashion week runway shows and editorial print ads.

Part 1: The Nitty Gritty

Firstly let me speak to the realities of ready to wear women’s fashion. That constantly churning beast of a machine which is, as I write this, deciding what you’ll want to wear come February. I don’t often see people citing Prada’s Bermuda short as a reason they don’t feel worthy of a nice boyfriend and since I work in evening wear it is from that realm from which I will be drawing examples.

My question to all the angry bloggers is this, “At the end of the day do we want one token model that ‘represents’ other women or do we want a variety of shapes, colors and sizes represented on the runway?“.

Ideally, in a perfect world, we would want the latter. However, this, for so so so many reasons, is not logistically possible. I have read about people who say “They just can’t be bothered” “They don’t care about ‘real women’” “So what if it costs more, they are millionaires!” “Those runway models are freaks!”

Ahem, let me stop you right there. These sorts of comments are insulting to the character of the designers, their staff and the industry we work in but mostly they lack any insight into how things work. Throwing money into it won’t help unless you have a LOT of money to throw.  I am talking about ‘quintuple your sample production budget’ sort of money because to do so would require casting your entire lineup of models before your samples are even made and fitting each garment to each individual.

It is precisely this standard sameness of the models which allows for the casting to be done almost last minute. They can work with one Fit Model who is the size they will be making all the samples in. This way they can work on a number of dresses at a time without having to schedule 10 different models. Patternmakers can then work off one set of dimensions, draping forms don’t need to be altered with the change of each garment.

It’s efficient where efficiency is paramount.

All of these garments are being created from scratch. There are 4 collections a year just for couture, the number of garments increases significantly if you do ready to wearbridal or men’s wear It’s a long process multiplied by about 30, sometimes a LOT more with just a few months to do it in.

While they do have final fittings for the model who will be wearing the garment down the runway, those are more final edits, small tweaks to give it that final polish. A ½’ added to a hem to make the pencil skirt hit perfectly at the bottom of the knee. A little nip in the jacket to better fit one model’s slightly smaller waist.

Additionally, print ads are shot in the same samples used in the shows. If each garment was custom fit then ONLY the model that garment was made for could ever be shown in that garment whereas, now, they can use a model of any coloring. The EXACT SAME PHYSICAL SAMPLES are often also flown to trunk shows. Having a standard fit means the person hosting the trunk show just needs to find gals with those one set of measurements. So no, putting on a runway show that doesn’t hurt your feelings is not something that is plausible for most houses.

Not all houses, however, cast the same size. We use a size 8 fit model. Others use a size 4. Rarely is it a size 2. I have never actually heard of a 0 in real life as a fit size.

Here is why.  It’s a little complicated. Ready? TO WIKIPEDIA!!!!

US standard clothing sizes  were originally developed from statistical data in the 1940s-1950s. At that time, they were similar in concept to the EN 13402 European clothing size standard, although individual manufacturers have always deviated from them, sometimes significantly.

However, as a result of various cultural pressures, most notably vanity sizing, North American clothing sizes have drifted substantially away from this standard over time, and now have very little connection to it. Instead, they now follow the more loosely defined standards known as US catalog sizes.”

See? There is no standard size in the US.  More so, today’s size 0 is yesteryear’s size 14.

“Size inconsistency has existed since at least 1937. In Sears‘s 1937 catalog, a size 14 dress had a bust size of 32 inches (81 cm). In 1967, the same bust size was a size 8. In 2011, it was a size 0.” 

That’s it. Yes, Marilyn Monroe was a size 10, so a 4 now, a busty one but she was a small woman. Today she’d be a 4. A J-Lo looking 4 but yes a 4. In the end these are all just numbers, they have no consistent meaning and shouldn’t be on which one bases their self worth.

Now that we’ve covered all of that, we come to the hard part…

Part 2: It Not Up To Them.

There’s no other way to say this. It is not their job to tell you you’re good enough.  Why would it be? That’s not up to them. I know, I know, popular wisdom would have you believing everyone’s on this planet is to stroke each other’s egos and make the world a place of sunshine but they aren’t because it’s not possible to please everyone. Editorial fashion ads are flights of fantasy. It comes from a creative point of view. It’s not intended to be seen as an indictment of anything, merely to put a little beauty and whimsy into the world. The foresty Lolita Lempicka and the Casablanca-esque Louis Vuitton ads have me day dreaming. That anyone would begrudge someone to run their art in the way they are inspired to do so, well, frankly, they’re asking to be disappointed.

No one other than you has the final opinion on what or who you think looks and feels great.  When you stop allowing other people to take responsibility for that you gain a power that cannot be taken away. You gain an independent self-worth. When someone features a model with a freckled face and a gap in her teeth and I admire her beauty bc LOVE THAT!!! Now, if I don’t feel bad because I don’t have those features then why should I feel bad because I don’t have her long lithe legs or tiny waist? Why does one have more value over another? I would propose they don’t. Each part makes up the entirety of that woman as a person.

Breaking down self-worth into the assembled value of parts leaves us more like cars than humans. I simply ask you do not participate in dehumanizing yourself.

A bigger issue is why would someone seek any outside source which hasn’t been making them feel good about themselves to validate their own self worth? Take Karl Lagerfeld. Sure, he has opinions. Some of them are endearing. Some of them are ridiculous (Adele? WHAT???) When someone such as himself makes hurtful statements dismiss them as such. They aren’t worth the energy to consider.

Haute couture fashion, however, owes nothing to this idea of standardizing it’s models. Haute couture fashion is art. Period. While there has been little to no change in the size of the models walking for the long established French houses it’s not impossible and it is those shows. which you seem bomb babes like Crystal Renn and most recently our girl, Gabourey Sidibe. Haute couture fashion is custom and is always made to order. There is no size restriction and the highest end couture world has always catered to society’s doyennes who, despite Nan Kemper’s protestations have always come in a range of sizes.

My advice to you going forward, dear reader, would be that, perhaps, rather than focusing so intently on the size of the models and casting them as all that is wrong with society maybe use those moments to remind yourself think critically of the media as well as a way to remind yourself that your value lies in the content of your being, not your dress size. There are so many other exciting things to focus your energies on than how someone who doesn’t know you, does their job.

Go ? Organize a fashion show by contacting your local area boutiques. You can raise money for a women’s shelter or that high school group who won a place at national’s but can’t afford to go.

Oh, and for the love of all that is fair please stop using the term ‘regular women’. The only way that phrase should apply is if you are speaking of bowel movements.

Much love,

MB.

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