Body positivity and fat acceptance have never been an integral part of the fashion world. When an industry is built to thrive from shame, it often reflects the current societal expectations from the majority. Stores everywhere cater mostly, if not entirely, to women of “straight sizes.” That is, women who fit into sizes 0 to around 12. Trying to find trendy, affordable styles for larger women is a quest that often seems impossible. Most of these stores order very few pieces of clothing in the upper ranges. Even plus sized models that are used in their ads or campaigns look to be more on the smaller side when compared to the diverse body types of the American woman.
Professionals are trained to eliminate fat where it exists because it is not considered marketable. For instance, Target recently opted to use a pregnant model in order to show off plus size wear, instead of just hiring a plus size model. The American obsession with thinness is so rampantly widespread that “fatshaming” is becoming a cultural norm. Young people are being bombarded with billboard campaigns insulting and degrading overweight children. Young girls are constantly flooded with edited images of their favorite stars, giving them unrealistic measures to attain. When children’s anti-obesity ads are created, they often use a lot of children of color as well, even going as far as Photoshopping thin child models to look as if they were overweight behind demeaning advertisement text.
In a recent interview with Barbara Walters, straight sized actress Jennifer Lawrence stated “I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat.” I believe the main issue with this statement is that it perpetuates the stigma that “fat” necessarily equals “bad.” We are facing consequences of being culturally ingrained with this mindset daily. Going to any store and being able to find your size represented is an example of thin privilege. Being able to say statements like the quote above is an example of thin privilege. As another thin woman, we do not have the authority to deny or dismiss words that aren’t meant for us. Fat isn’t/shouldn’t be a bad word, but Lawrence is inherently saying it still is unacceptable.
On the bright side, there has been a lot of recent movement towards reclaiming the word “fat”–not as an insult but as a positive identifier. The fashion world has been steadily advancing the availability of cute and quality plus size clothing to be distributed to the masses. Eden Miller became the very first plus size designer to have her own runway show at the 2013 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York, showcasing models sized 12 to 24 in her collection of bold printed dresses. Rick Owens’ fashion show in Paris showcasing his 2014 Women’s Spring/Summer collection featured four step teams to model the line. This gave a new diverse and genuine look to the fashion industry that has never been represented before, as most of the models were Women of Color ranging in all sizes. Rockstar and fashionista Beth Ditto walked in designer’s Jean-Paul Gaultier’s 2010 Spring/Summer runway show and has even launched her own edgy clothing line for women sized 14-32 that was carried by the plus sized clothing store Evans. In Manhattan, Full Figured Fashion Week, a concept developed by former plus size model Gwen DeVoe, finished its fifth year with a bang. It drew attention from hundreds of fashion bloggers and some lesser known celebrities who would occasionally walk in the runway shows.
Visibility and representation of body diversity in the fashion world and the media, as a whole, is too important. Without which, many women who are unrepresented in the media available to them will continue to feel less than other women. We are making small steps towards body positivity and acceptance and hopefully, we won’t stop now.