I blame the fashion industry for the eating disorder I had 9 years ago.
Why do I blame an entire industry for my eating disorder?
Here's why: The day I decided to become a model was the day I started obsessing about food. The day I quit modeling was the day I started to recover.
There was a clear beginning and an end to my eating disorder and it all directly relates to my participation in the fashion world.
I acknowledge that there were other factors. I used my eating disorder (and modeling) as an outlet for perfectionism, people pleasing and to feel important. I had a teenage brain with very little life experience or long-term perspective. The adult version of me would never put my self worth in 1/2 an inch of fat around my hips. But, the teenage version of me allowed the rigidity of those impossible beauty standards to dominate my thoughts.
Thankfully, almost a decade later, the industry is taking steps towards body diversity.
When the diversity reports came out this year, I was pleased to see that there were 26 plus-size appearances. This is a great leap forward in comparison to the Fall 2016 runways, which only had 4 plus size appearances.
Major respect to the designer Christian Siriano, who is accountable for 10 out of the 26 plus size appearances for the fall collections. Here are some photos from his show:
Take some time to revel in that information because now I'm going to burst a few bubbles. Here's another side of the truth.
1) For the modeling industry size "diversity" really means two body types. To walk the runways you can be a size 0-2 or a "plus size" 12-16 (with "perfect" hourglass proportions of course). Forget the sizes in-between. Forget being short. Forget the varying shapes beyond thin/ sleek or va-va-voom. Size diversity should not be a this-or-that phenomenon. And here's a truth bomb: when plus size models are accepted into the fashion world, they're expected to be super sexy to make up for being fat. We should defniitely celebrate "curve" or "plus size" models, but we need to remember it's still another standard being put in place. So, three cheers for size diversity! Ahem, ahem.
2) The gold standard hasn't changed. To be a "traditional" female runway model, you must be 5'9'' or taller with 34-24-34 inch measurements (or very close to that). Whenever an agent pulled out the measuring tape I'd hold my breath and pray that I'd fit the standard. If the measuring tape read any bigger, I'd feel replaceable and useless. I just checked models.com for the first time in years and I expected to see a "curve" or "plus size" model ranking but there was nothing. I did a quick skim of the other rankings and saw Ashley Graham appear on the "trending" and "sexiest" lists and saw two other "curve" models on the "sexiest" list (of course). Other than that- nada. Maybe I missed a few but even so, the size diversity is clearly not there.
3) We still aren't viewing models as human- To be a model, I was not allowed any "diversity" in my personal size, especially as an industry newbie. If i gained an inch around my hips I would have been replaced or just left there to rot on the "development" board with no jobs. The 34-24-34 standard is strict, unforgiving and leaves no room for being a human. If you look at the modeling agency websites, those standards have not changed. Being over 5'9'' with measurements of 34-24-34 is still the expectation. On an industry level, size diversity is crucial. However, size fluctuations on an individual level need to be expected and accepted. We need to honor and respect the biology of being a human with a changing body. Models are not marble statues.
4) There is almost no size diversity for men- I was recently talking to Ryan from Confessions of a Binge Eater. During our conversation, Ryan brought up a good point- besides a few "Brawn" models, there are really no plus size men on the runways. Honestly, I'd never given size diversity for men much thought until that moment. Why does nobody talk about this? I can speculate as to why this is but I'm not sure. Is this due to the male ego and shame? Is this due to lack of participation in the fashion industry? I wonder if putting plus size men on the runways would help women's body issues. Perhaps having tolerance for male body diversity would increase tolerance for all female bodies.
Bottom line is: Despite media hype, the fashion industry is still being exclusive and weird about size. It's a step, but it's not enough.