Home > Social Issues > Big is Beautiful – Prejudice is Painful

Big is Beautiful – Prejudice is Painful

The Aussie department store, “Myer”, hosted a ‘Big is Beautiful’ show during Sydney’s Fashion Festival yesterday, during which they, unsurprisingly, used plus sized models. After all,  it was a ‘Big Is Beautiful’ show, right?

Damien Woolnough responded with this ‘bitchy’ little piece  in “The Australian“;

BIG can be beautiful but fat should not be in fashion.

At yesterday’s plus-size runway show at Fashion Festival Sydney, curvaceous women replaced their leaner peers to showcase Myer’s size 16 to 24 clothes.

The models were gorgeous, the clothes were unremarkable and the message about health was dangerous. Professional models, including plus-size pin-up Robyn Lawley, strutted and pouted alongside 10 winners of a competition run by Myer and The Australian Women’s Weekly. Most of the models looked healthy but some looked obese. While most fashion festivals ban models for being too skinny, why is it OK to see fat women on the runway?

There is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media, as seen by the positive response to a plus-size shoot with Lawley in this month’s Vogue Australia, but obese models send just as irresponsible a message about the need for healthy eating and exercise as models with protruding clavicles and ribcages.

Fashion models should not be confused with role models, which is difficult to avoid with the attention given to the fame and fortunes of Jennifer Hawkins and Miranda Kerr. There are no rallies for plus-size male models or complaints that Dior Homme does not make size 40 waist jeans because most men have escaped this cultural curse.

Models have always been thin and tall because clothes look better on them.

Fashion is a world of fantasy carried out by smoke, mirrors and significant retouching, often to make models look bigger rather than thinner. The smoke cleared and the mirror cracked yesterday with the plus-size show delivering a confronting reality.

When it came to the clothing, there was little to aspire to, with basic linen dresses, capri pants and forgiving jeans.

Fashion Festival Sydney is about selling clothes and the plus-size market deserves to be represented but let’s not add another double standard to the fashion industry by celebrating people being overweight.

Women of all sizes are savvy enough to draw inspiration on how to dress from healthy, thin models. Perhaps that’s why the Sydney Town Hall was only half full for the plus-size show.

Here are some of the “plus size” models…

One has to wonder at Woolnough’s  degree of insight into the modelling industry. And not just modelling, but the media, entertainment industry and even in professional, business, and political fields – where women are constantly judged by their appearance and size. Men are hardly ever (if at all) judged by similar standards.

Until now, many (if not most) catwalk models looked like this;

Not only do these women look emaciated, but it is the normal standard set by the fashion industry for their models. So it is little surprise that many young girls end up with body-image problems and low self-esteem.  And just recently, the fashion industry set a whole new “low” by employing a model who was only ten years old; Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau.

This steadily-worsening obsession with thinner and younger models is a nasty, insidious attack on women. It is the subtle,  Western equivalent of putting women into a burkha or niqab. Men do not have to put up with it – and they wouldn’t. Not for a moment.

Woolnough says in his article,

“There is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media, as seen by the positive response to a plus-size shoot with Lawley in this month’s Vogue Australia, but obese models send just as irresponsible a message about the need for healthy eating and exercise as models with protruding clavicles and ribcages.”

Well , if  “there is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media” then why invalidate that statement with a “but” caveat?

And how does society fight back against ubiquitous,  unhealthy, unrealistic, images of women except with striking polar-opposites that challenge our perceptions   formed over the last few decades?

Woolnough may believe that he being honest when he demands, “why is it OK to see fat women on the runway?”

The answer, Mr Woolnough, is in your own question. Why is  it a remarkable thing to be seeing “fat” women on the runway? Why is it a matter that demands anyone’s attention? Why do you think it was necessary to mount a “Big is Beautiful” fashion parade in the first place?

Because, Mr Woolnough, it is such a uniquely unusual occurrence that it has drawn our attention. And because you think it is so unusual that it merits your critical comment. And because your attitude is precisely the problem that people in society – especially women and young girls – are confronted with every day of their lives.

I wonder, Mr Woolnough; when is the last time someone judged you for your body’s  appearance? My guess is probably never. In which case, you have no stake in this issue. None of it matters to you except in a conversational way.

We need more such fashion parades. Many, many more. Until the day comes when no one bats an eyelid or feels it worthy to comment. That day will be when there are women of all sizes in the fashion media.

And no one adds a “but” caveat to it.

  1. Deborah Kean
    26 August 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I really don’t think that any of those women above count as obese! No way…
    Thin and tall may look good (although I don’t think so) and as someone who is unwillingly thin and short, I have to say I wish I looked like the woman in the first picture! She’s awesome.

    • 26 August 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Absolutely, Debbie!

      In fact, the first woman (who is also #3, I think) reminds me of “Wonder Woman” from the American comics-subculture!

      They definitely look better and healthier than the models in the last three pics. To me those three are only an infection away from being admitted to hospital.

      As for Damien Woolnough – I saw him interviewed on morning “Breakfast” TV and I was immediatly repulsed by his comments. To me, he is attempting a subtle (?) reinforcement of current fashion-industry trends, toward thinner and younger models. The sub-text of his statements is that anyone even remotely “plus size” should not appear on the catwalk – or else risk denigration and attack.

      And as usual, the negative comments came from one of my own gender! 😦

      How does this differ, I wonder, from those men who insist that women must wear a burkha? Grrrr!

  2. Deborah Kean
    26 August 2011 at 5:28 pm

    “How does this differ, I wonder, from those men who insist that women must wear a burkha? Grrrr!”

    That’s an interesting point! Not significantly, I think.. as it’s all about men saying what they want to see (or not see.)
    Luckily for me, I have never been fat, not even a little bit – but I can imagine that it must be terrible to battle against public perception as well as the inner nagging voice that says “boys won’t like you”… when you’re a teenager.
    My mother said, truly, to my sisters “Boys don’t like clever girls, make sure the boys think you’re empty-headed.”
    Mothers now (or worse, fathers, as girls get the idea of how men see them from their fathers) saying “boys don’t like tubby girls, are you sure you want that potato?” don’t seem to realise the damage they’re doing!

  3. echo08
    1 February 2012 at 3:27 am

    Non of those women are obese in the first set of pictures. They’re healthy and proud.

    • 1 February 2012 at 9:09 am

      Indeed, Echo… And they seem considerably happier than their emaciated sisters underneath.

      If I wanted models for clothing I was showing of, I’d be wanting happy ones that ordinary women could relate to.

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