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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Square Peg/Round Hole: The Dilemma of the Plus Sized Model

The involvement of plus size models in fashion shows are on the rise, but at times I unsure whether to be exhilarated or enraged. Diversity is key to showcasing designs for customers, but I am completely against it being done solely for the sake of notoriety. It reeks of exploitation and commodification, and also an extremely condescending attitude towards the minority being represented.

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Take for instance the Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2007 Ready to Wear Show. He casted a size 20 model and then trussed her up as some sort of Valkeryie sent to consume the souls of fashion's fallen. She looked absolutely awful and extremely out of the place when juxtaposed with the looks that proceeded as well as followed her on the runway. A real statement to me, would have been to create a look that fit with the collection and also looked stunning on her. Instead, we get smug commentary on how the plus sized just does not mesh with the scenery of traditional fashion. The whole thing overall smacks of exploitation and also relied on heavy stereotypical imagery of plus sized women in fashion.

What do I mean by this? Well, have you ever wondered why is almost every plus size shoot either naked, in lingerie, or covered with a bed sheet? I mean take the shots of Christina Hendricks who is just a tad bigger than the majority of Hollywood starlets. I swear I have seen her in her knickers more than well myself lately!

Not that there is anything wrong with shooting curves with appreciation, but the real reason these shoots are so common is the sizing issue. Simply put, sample sizes are holding back shoots do to their restrictive size ranges. Thus, a twisted cycle perpetuates itself further and discrimination becomes customary.

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There are some designers like Mark Fast that are trying to be more inclusive. He just showed his latest collection at London Fashion Week, and unfortunately all he deserves for this gesture is a golf clap. This is because after viewing the collection I was left with the following question: If the intention was to include plus size models from the beginning THEN WHY ARE THE GARMENTS NOT FITTING CORRECTLY?

I was lucky enough have interned at a brand where I was present from the initial design process to when the clothing walk down the runway. So, I feel that I am qualified to say that there is no way this would have happened if Mark Fast's intention was to include plus size models from the beginning. If the original samples made for the show were intended to be worn by plus sized models then there is no way the pinching that you see here would not have been addressed during model tryouts. I mean what designer in their right mind would want months of work go down the runway imperfect?

Once again, it is clear that this designer was subverting the plus size model as a means to their own end. In this case, it was all about publicity and I just do not think it was worth it to me as plus size shopper. This is because I much prefer underrepresentation than overexposure of the wrong type of imagery. Hopefully, this will not always be an issue and one day plus as well as straight sized models will walk down the runway arm in arm without notice.

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