When viewing Channels 4’s ‘Plus Size Wars’ this week, the one thought that almost instantly entered and remained in my mind throughout the entirety of the program was: ‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’.
For many years we have listened to and joined in the debate about unhealthily thin models, that presents society at large with a super skinny ‘ideal’. There have been public campaigns, medical disapproval complete with BMI recommendations, government debate and introspection at all levels of the fashion industry; all aimed at minimizing native health related consequences.
We applaud the growth of plus size fashion brands that enable women whose dress size is larger than size 16 to dress fashionably; they have had to wait for a very long time. However, we fervently question the use of morbidly obese models to showcase plus size clothing.
Why? All the arguments against the use of super skinny models also apply to the use of morbidly obese ones. The promotion of unhealthy bodies, super skinny or super sized, sends out the wrong message.
The depiction of very thin models and celebrities in the media has often bared the brunt of the blame and criticism associated with the rise in the number of individuals with negative body image and eating disorders. Many who idealise and try to emulate the thin ideal end up with mental and physical health issues. It does not take a genius to see that exactly the same can be said for anyone idealising/emulating morbidly obese models, as this negates the need to address their weight/health issues.
Andrew Killingsworth is Managing Director of ‘Yours’. Yours has recently teamed up with plus size model Tess Holliday (above photo). Tess is 25 years old, 5 foot 5 and is a size 24-26. When asked why the company had selected Tess; Mr Killingsworth replied:
“She is very current, she's very relevant, she is confident in her own skin and if she can pass that on to people who are less confident then that's very good.”
Subsequently, when pressed about her unhealthy weight he responded: “It is in our business you know. She's got beauty and confidence. You see a beautiful confident woman; you don't see her size”. He then asked the rhetorical question: “You don't judge her by her size do you”? Followed by, “…. we don't”.
Forgive our candour, but fashion industry heads should be making ethical integrity based judgement on the message that the chosen face/body of their company/campaign is broadcasting to the general public; particularly to people with confidence, body image and weight issues’?
To make things absolutely clear, we are not saying that larger women should not be able to dress fashionably; far from it. As stated above: ‘We applaud the growth of plus size fashion brands that enable women whose dress size is larger than size 16 to dress fashionably’.
In a nutshell; we are saying that in our opinion, the decision to promote unhealthy models/celebrities at either extreme of the ‘healthy weight’ spectrum is flawed.