Anything but A Zero

Thisanjali Gangoda

Plus-size women on the runway, you ask? Yes, please, and it’s about time. This week during New York’s semiannual Fashion Week, designers like Marc Jacobs, Prada and Alexander McQueen had female “plus-size” models grace the stage in this season’s latest styles. For decades, size 0 models have dominated the fashion industry in the United States, while nearly 60 percent of women in America today are size 14 and above. Despite this, designers and sellers have ignored these facts and marketed their fashions solely on thinner female models, limiting their clientele and alienating more than half the female population. However, the outlook on fashion is changing with the belief that curvy, big-boned women are sexy, and that you can’t define beauty by existing standards.

At the New York Fashion Week this Wednesday, fashion model Lizzie Miller will take to the stage in the first ever show featuring only plus-size models. Ms. Miller gained international fame and admiration after being featured in the September 2009 issue of Glamour magazine in an article about embracing different body images. In the article she is photographed sitting naked with her body turned at an angle, her face smiling big with happiness and the contours of her stomach clearly visible to the reader. There was no airbrushing or photoshopping involved; it was just Ms. Miller in all her naked glory. Immediately after the release of the magazine, the photo went viral over the Internet and became a huge sensation and topic of discussion. “I thought, ‘It is so small, no one will probably see that.’ Those were famous last words. It really was crazy what then started happening,” she said.

I don’t think it’s crazy in the least. She is a real woman with real curves, and in the modeling world it helps that she’s gorgeous and kind as well. What is crazy are the terms we use to define ourselves as women, and the blind willingness we have to accept adjectives like “plus-size” as being appropriate descriptive words. What does it mean to be “plus-size” anyway? According to the fashion industry it’s anyone who is a size 12 or more. Since 63 percent of women in the United States are considered to be overweight due to unhealthy lifestyle habits, these are the same women clumped into the category of plus-size. In essence, the conception of the plus-size woman is dictated by the fashion industry and reiterated by our society.

And yet, on top of all that we are continuously bombarded with advice on how to be happy with our shape, size and weight from the same institutions that promote the opposite. This in no way betters the situation of distorted ideals of female body image and self-acceptance.

The commercial, political and fashion world generally have it against us women when it comes to forging our own path of self-worth and pride for our own bodies. But do we really need these corrupt establishments to redefine what they’ve already defined for us? It’s time for women like Lizzie Miller to take a stand and say, I am doing this for me and no one else. We must address the balance between healthy living and having healthy ideals of how to be, but on our own terms.

Since 2007, The Council of Fashion Designers of America has been looking at the issue of “unhealthily thin models”, reevaluating what they can do to encourage healthy lifestyles and find better model representation for the female population. Though this is a great step in moving towards female empowerment of body-image and beauty, I don’t think a panel of elite fashion designers has enough of a say, or should have that much sway in these issues. It’s the men and women of the world that need to take a stand for all women just as they are— beautiful.

Thisanjali Gangoda is a political science and applied conflict management major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].