Measuring Fashion’s Body Image

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Fashion has been a skinny girl game. Well, it appears that way. Through editorials, models, and runway clothing, the fashion world prides itself on its thin appearance. In reality, those who shop and wear the latest fashions look entirely different. The average woman in the world is far from the size zero models we see in photographs.  This disconnect between the industry and reality was addressed in the New York University exhibit, “Beyond Measure: Fashion And The Plus-Size Woman.

The exhibit explored the social, cultural, and retail reaction of the fashionable plus-size woman. “The fashion industry has played an undeniable role in enabling the stigmatization of larger women’s bodies,” reads the exhibition’s website. “Despite consumer needs, plus-size fashion has traditionally been given little sartorial energy. Yet women of all physiques have had to clothe themselves, and thus have stood somewhere in relation to the fashion system.”  Also discussed is the historical change of the ideal female body in fashion over time. From fetishization to a blatant dismissal by the fashion industry, the exhibit shared both the hardship and now growing presence of women sizes 12+.

Visitors to the exhibit were introduced to images of ‘Nettie The Fat Girl,’ a sideshow character who was fetishized for her size to Ashley Tipton, a winner of the American reality television show, “Project Runway.” Tipton is regarded as the first plus-size fashion designer to win the show.

Aside from the exhibition, other signs prove that plus-size women are gaining a more prominent voice in fashion. Models like Sabina Karlson, Laura Wells, and Ashley Graham have been featured in high fashion magazines and commercial advertising. Barbie has even embraced a more natural figure with their line of curvy dolls that are a part of a diversity-focused collection. “They’ll all be called Barbie, but it’s the curvy one,” remarks a Time article, “with meat on her thighs and a protruding tummy and behind—that marks the most startling change to the most infamous body in the world.”

Change is an important word to note. Although this is a movement towards inclusivity, it could also be just another turn in the history of the ideal female body.

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