Vogue And Elle Have Decidedly Different Views About Plus Size Women

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The great body image debate has gained quit a bit of steam lately thanks to Victoria’s Secret’s “perfect body” campaign which outraged every woman on the internet (and then some!). Because of the pressure from people who actively voiced their complaints online, as well as responses from other brands showing VS a range of women who actually represent the diverse range of women’s bodies that actually exist in the world, the popular brand decided to change the slogan to “a body for everybody” pictured with the same range of slinky, skinny size zero supermodels.

Let’s just be clear here, this is not about shaming naturally skinny girls, as the whole fat shaming and skinny shaming arguments that should not exist at all. It’s about the lack of diverse body types in most advertising (which only caters to 5% of women’s bodies in America) and the notion that only one body type is the acceptable form of beauty.

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The other fashion blunder which also continued the conversation nicely after the Victoria’s Secret issue died down, was the news that Calvin Klein had hired their first plus size model to feature in a new campaign.

Her name is Myla Dalbesio, and in an interview with Elle Magazine she spoke about being an “in-between” model for CK’s “Perfectly Fit” campaign.

“It’s kind of confusing because I’m a bigger girl,” she said. “I’m not the biggest girl on the market but I’m definitely bigger than all the girls [Calvin Klein] has ever worked with, so that is really intimidating,” she said. Let it be noted that Myla is a size 10 US, which is actually a very average size, rather than large.

Myla says being part of the campaign alongside various other sized girls means progress, at least moreso than Victoria’s Secret.

“It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus size girls,” she says.

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Yet many people were outraged that Myla, as a size 10, was being touted as the epitome of plus size women. This is where labels start to become problematic. Sure, labels and categories are needed in fashion, especially for marketing and targeting certain consumer groups. We get it. But when it starts to affect the way women think and feel about their bodies, this has to be addressed.

The open discussion online is showing more than ever that women are ready and willing to have this conversation. Myla herself even admitted her size has been an issue in the past with certain jobs.

“I’m not skinny enough to be with the skinny girls and I’m not large enough to be with the large girls and I haven’t been able to find my place. This [campaign] was such a great feeling.”

In an appearance on the Today show after the controversy swept the interwebs, Myla had this to say about her new gig:

“I think that Calvin Klein has done something that’s really groundbreaking, which is they released this campaign with what some would say is a normal-size model, a size 10. And size-10 girls, there’s not a lot of spots for us to fit in in the fashion industry.”

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So what is the disconnect here? Literally every woman pictured on this blog post has a right to feel beautiful, accepted, and confident. Perhaps it is the use of the word “perfect” in campaigns that are throwing us off. Sure VS is promoting a lingerie line but c’mon, they knew the intent behind the message when they released the “perfect body” image. We’re so used to being told what a perfect body looks like, that we need to start seeing images of varied bodies without being told everyone has to achieve this certain look to be happy.

It’s not about “fitting in” nor fitting a certain mold. The trends and the industry needs to start reflecting us, and using appropriate wording to display their intent.

In a response to both the Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein campaigns, Vogue magazine released a series of photos taken by Cass Bird showing a group of plus size supermodels in their underwear. The group included women like Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, Tara Lynn, Candice Huffine, and Inga Eiriksdottir.

The feature which was focused on bras coming in all shapes and sizes, but yet they only featured a group of plus size models. It could be argued that they too are being just as divisive and exclusive as Victoria’s secret.

There is no doubt the changing tide of the industry becoming more accepting toward larger sizes is a positive thing. Bloggers, vloggers and social media have certainly broken down the barriers in a powerful way and democratized the fashion world where they either have to now adapt or die a death of irrelevance.

Plus size model Philomena Kwao told Cosmopolitan magazine agrees certain words come attached with negativity.

“I think the real problem is all the negative connotations people have with that term. They think, oh my god! I don’t want to be ‘plus-size!’ But people attach too much significance to terms. We can’t let these terms define us or our beauty.”

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Josh Stephens, an agent working in the “Curve” division of Wilhelmina Models said in the same article how plus size is fast becoming an antiquated term and irrelevant.

“Fashion is always evolving and the term ‘plus-size’ has meant so many different things. It used to be anything over a size 12. Then it was anything larger than a size 4, which is ridiculous. Brands realize that they need to connect with and cater to their customers in order to really make money, and someone who is a size 16 or 18 doesn’t want to marketed to by someone who is a size 8,” he said, reiterating that marketing needs to meet reality. After all, isn’t a marketing team headed up by actual humans with human bodies also?

Both sides of the coin need to find a happy medium where they understand the labels are purely for marketing reasons, and not a indication of the level of beauty or worth of a woman’s actual body. Brands need to be aware of the words and slogans they use, because just like the pictures they are strewn across, these slogans say a “thousand words”.

One thing Victoria’s Secret did get right was the “everybody” part of their change of tack. But now we need to see them following through in a big way, and joining the other brands looking to contribute to body positivity, rather than blindly continue on with that whole “fashion fantasy” BS the industry has tried to sell for so long.

We’re done with photoshop, done with excessive alteration and definitely done with categorizing bodies with their worth by using certain labels.

For the industry to truly recognize the equality of all bodies, perhaps we do need to be completely rid of the size-isms altogether. Let’s forget plus size, straight size, and normal size. The day we start seeing all these beautiful bodies, shapes and sizes alongside each other in advertising and fashion without any special mention to which section of a store you will find them in, we have a sneaking suspicion we will all subconsciously accept the diversity as normal.

Until then, let’s keep this conversation going! We are definitely on track and the fact that every one of us can raise our voice and possibly impact a large corporation is the signal of great change ahead.

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