What do you think? Are fat and fashion like chalk and cheese? Or are we missing the boat by looking at this as a vanity issue rather than discussing what really matters — our health?
The most recent issue of BUST magazine quotes Kate Winslet saying, “There are two things I’ve never been offered: one is cocaine, the other is a body double.” It resonated with me. Kate has been my ideal body type since I was 16 years old. Kate wasn’t skinny, Kate wasn’t fat – just healthy.
Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that I used to weigh 82 kg. I laugh, ha – neither can I. It’s hard to see myself at that size. Four years later, I’m somewhere around 126 pounds and about a size 4. I threw out the scale years ago, knowing the number the screen displayed could never equate to my self worth.
I thought I’d achieved an enlightened state the day I tossed that foul thing out the back window of my Santa Monica home. While a milestone in accepting my body as it was, it couldn’t correct the years of negative psychological influence that media had instilled. I knew I hadreached an acceptable weight about two years ago, but the hindrance of working in an industry and living in a city (Los Angeles) where what you wear and what you look like equate to your value, you marketability and how far you could potentially go was too much. I kept going, I couldn’t stop.
A size 8 crept to a size 6, followed by a 4. Size 4 was acceptable –– the minimum. But still, I wasn’t the woman that graced the pages of Vogue. I yearned to be even thinner, that equated to marketability. That equated to being desirable. The pressure and stress left me me at 50kg. Did you know that bone (the bones of a human skeleton) weighs only 117. Too thin. I looked like death, body catatonic. I came back, size 4 okay.
Because of the idealistic forms set by the fashion industry – an industry I love, pulses through my veins on a daily basis, that causes insatiable cravings and occasional sleep loss, I’ve been damaged.
Today, I don’t deprive myself of food, I love myself too much to inadvertently kill myself. But I exercise. 1 – 1.5 hours per day, to maintain my current weight and support my food consumption. Being any bigger isn’t an option. That’s what our industry has left me with. And while I hate the ideals of being dangerously thin (yes, I disagree with Anna Wintour’s ideal of women being walking skeleton-like coat hangers), I can’t accept a woman on the cover of LOVE magazine – obscenely obese. Both extremes equate to death in my mind. We have to find a happy medium.
As fashion marketers and industry professionals: Ultimately, we have to define what’s healthy, what’s acceptable, what’s desirable – and WE HAVE TO BELIEVE IT.
In an industry that turns a deaf ear when told by consumers “we don’t want air bushed,” how can you find the definition of healthy?
Read Sarah Sternberg‘s Article, Fat is a Fashion Issue: The Business of being Obese:
- Anna Wintour’s explosive interview on 60 Minutes, in which she glossed over eating disorders like anorexia to focus on the growing problem of obesity (one choice quote: “I had just been on a trip to Minnesota, where I can only kindly describe most of the people I saw as ‘little houses’”), sparked a media furor. In light of Vogue’s uncompromising position on weight (Wintour infamously asked Oprah to lose weight for a cover shoot and put the Rodarte sisters on a diet), we started to wonder — are fat and fashion ever compatible?Contradictory trends seem to be emerging from the world of media and of retailers. Whilst established labels and stores are cutting their plus-size clothing or moving these lines online or into less visible spots in store, larger designs aimed at a younger, more style-conscious customer are flourishing, as shown by Forever 21’s decision to launch their own plus-size line, Faith.
Does this mean that fat is no longer acceptable for middle-aged women, but is being embraced by retailers appealing to the young, fast-fashion crowd? With obesity amongst children and youth on the increase, are these stores simply tapping into a new market? Or are they indirectly encouraging teens to continue down an unhealthy path by removing one of the most cited “problems” with being young and fat?Then there’s the media. While Vogue’s line (of a BMI under 21) is clear, a recent Conde Nast project in the UK, the inimitably stylish Love magazine, featured the outspoken plus-size feminist/musician Beth Ditto as the cover star for their debut issue. Were they making a statement, or simply courting scandal? While we don’t know anyone who aspires to look like Ditto, the curvy silhouette of Mad Men’s Joan Holloway (actress Christina Hendricks) is a completely different story. And even her figure is deemed “shocking” enough to warrant comment: Last fall the LA Times wondered if she was ‘too plump for primetime’ whilst more recently the Sunday Times in London celebrated her presence as a ‘triumph of curves’.
For now, it looks as if the debate will continue to rage — women’s bodies have been the subject of public scrutiny since forever. Wintour’s comments may have added fuel to the fire, but it will take more than Ditto’s voluptuous body on the cover of Love to fully extinguish it.
What do you think? Are fat and fashion like chalk and cheese? Or are we all missing the boat by looking at this as a vanity issue rather than discussing what really matters — our health?