Excluded from fashion runways, 'average'-size women are speaking up


By AGENCY

Social media is determined to shine the spotlight on average-size, or mid-size, bodies, rarely seen on runways or in advertising campaigns. Photo: AFP

Has fashion really become inclusive? While there's no denying that progress has been made in recent years in terms of identities, body types or ethnicities, the industry still seems to exclude certain criteria from runways and campaigns.

One of those is midsized figures, the famous US size 10. But, although mid-size bodies have long been overlooked by the industry, they're now on a mission to find their place in the fashion world.

The struggle to find one's size in a clothing shop is more common than magazine ads and editorials would have us believe.

It affects many women, including those whose size is the "average" of a market.

The continued lack, even absence of models of more representative sizes on the runway or in advertising campaigns is enough to discourage – and even aggravate – many women, essentially all around the world.

They're fed-up and taking their indignation to social media platforms where the hashtags #midsize and #midsizefashion have now racked up over 4.2 and 2.7 billion views.

A movement is underway to put an end to the invisibility of women of average size – because they aren't ashamed of their figures.

While the body-positive movement – which aims to foster acceptance and recognition of all shapes and sizes of bodies – got its start in the mid-1990s, it has only recently truly gone mainstream.

And it still hasn't seemed to have made much of an impact on the fashion scene world, with very few major ready-to-wear brands taking these mid-sizes into account in their communication.

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Still excluded from fashion

In recent years,runways have become more diverse places, with progress made in featuring models of different ethnicities, for example, but also with different body shapes and sizes.

In France, a 2017 charter, signed by two French fashion giants, banned size-32 (US size-0) models or models under 16 years of age from catwalks and campaigns.

Then the body positive movement, driven by social media, paved the way for the appearance of larger models, with curvier figures over US size 12 now better represented.

And while this progress should be welcomed, women with midsize figures are still largely excluded from fashion shows. Because models sized 8-10 (EU40-42) are not very common on the runways, as Alexandra Van Houtte, founder of Tagwalk, pointed out to the New York Times.

The database of the specialist fashion search engine so far lists only three midsize models – US size 8-12 (EU 40-44) – compared to more than 80 so-called "curvy" models – with sizes above size 12.

The last round of fashion weeks, held in September and October 2022, was criticised for having returned to a certain cult of thinness.

Something that is not unrelated to the return of the fashion of the 2000s, and therefore the body types that represent it, to show off the low-waist cuts, miniskirts and crop tops in vogue during this decade.

Meanwhile, the ultimate influencer, Kim Kardashian, who admitted shedding several pounds to fit into Marilyn Monroe's famous dress for the Met Gala, and whose figure has changed considerably, could also have a role to play.

As a result, according to the Tagwalk founder, more than half of the shows did not include models who did not fit into size 0 or size 2.

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Fighting back for a place

If plus-size or "curvy" models are now more represented on the runways of the biggest fashion houses, it now seems necessary, if not essential, to highlight the bodies of another majority of women.

Dutch model Jill Kortleve contributes to changing the situation.

The young woman, who has long tried to fit with the standards of luxury fashion, was once considered by the major houses and designers as a plus-size model, despite wearing US size 8-10.

She now forms part of the very closed circle of models favoured by these world-famous brands, regularly walking for Chanel, as well as Jacquemus, Alexander McQueen and Coperni.

But she's still one of the few exceptions that confirm the rule.

On social networks, and especially TikTok, resistance is slowly but surely mounting.

Through hashtags dedicated to midsize, there are videos in the form of tutorials to help women find cuts and pieces suited to their bodies, but also many angry voices.

Some of them talk about complexes linked to the invisibility of size 8 and 10 (EU 40 and 42) in fashion, while others talk about the difficulty they have in finding these sizes in certain stores.

And then there are those who talk about all the clothes in their wardrobes that don't fit their figure, simply because they've felt too ashamed to buy items in US size 10.

These many issues prove that fashion is still not done with stereotypes and exclusion, despite proclaiming its transformation to becoming more inclusive. – AFP Relaxnews

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