Recently, popular Instagram account, hfconfess posted an anonymous confession submitted to their account, regarding how obesity fits in high fashion.
The post illustrated a monochrome high fashion image of a plus-size (not obese) model, in a black one-piece swim suit with overlapping text that questions if obesity in luxury fashion is inspiring an unhealthy image.
Plus-size doesn’t mean someone is overweight and being overweight isn’t the same as being obese. Plus-size in high fashion is sizes 8 and over. In ready-wear it is sizes 14 and over, despite 14 being the average size of women. Sizes of clothing are set to certain measurements. This means if you are fit and healthy but have wider shoulders for example, you would more likely wear a garment in a larger size to accommodate your body structure (Beck 2014). A larger size or greater weight doesn’t necessarily mean more fat cells. Muscle is denser than fat and the number on the scale is not always correlated with fat (Sukala 2016). Plus-size clothing caters to people with larger frames than what is considered a ‘normal’ frame .
Plus-size fashion and models are more representative of the buyer and are no more unhealthy than other models. When it comes to lifestyle diseases, ‘skinny’ people are also susceptible to Type II Diabetes for example. Type II Diabetes is caused by high sugar intake. High sugar intake may prevent someone from producing glucose, regardless of how fast it is burned. Therefore, anyone of any size/metabolic rate can develop Type II Diabetes and other lifestyle-related diseases (DiabetesQueensland 2016).
The above image of obese model Tess Holliday projects her as sexy, fun and confident as she sports a colourful bikini and black stilettos.
“Obesity traditionally has been defined as a weight at least 20% above the weight corresponding to the lowest death rate for individuals of a specific height, gender, and age (ideal weight). Twenty to forty percent over ideal weight is considered mildly obese; 40-100% over ideal weight is considered moderately obese; and 100% over ideal weight is considered severely, or morbidly, obese (Medical-Dictionary 2016).”
Obese people deserve representation and inspiration just like any other subculture. There is a call for democratic fashion, ‘where every day people in the urban environment absorb the rarefied vision of the designer or stylist in interpretations of fashion that are framed by the quotidian (Berry 2011, 1).’ To dismiss a sector of society from an industry based on physical attributes is discrimination. Some argue obese models promote being unhealthy but it is important to remember many weight gain cases are directly linked with anxiety and therefore should not be stereotyped as promoting laziness or being unhealthy (AnxietyCentre. 2016). Other obese people see these models and are inspired to take pride in the way they look, not to eat poorly, and taking pride in the way one looks leads to confidence, meaning healthier self-esteem.
Whatever people find inspiration from when viewing obese models in high fashion, it’s up to the individual, not the fashion industry or anyone else to decide for them. Nobody has the right to tell someone who or what they should or should not be and to say that you do have the right, is controlling, egotistical and superficial…but then again, one could argue that is the definition of luxury fashion.
Written by Sarah Channer.
AnxietyCentre. 2016. Weight Gain Anxiety Symptom.
Beck, Laura. 2014. Is this what a plus size model should look like? Cosmopolitan. Last updated 11 January. http://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/a18375/plus-sized-models/.
Berry, Jess Dr. 2011. Street Style: Fashion Photography, Weblogs and Urban Image.
DiabetesQueensland. 2016. Who is at risk?
Instagram. 2016. hfconfess. Last updated 4 October.
Medical-Dictionary. 2016. Obesity.
Sukala, William R. 2016. Ask the Personal Trainer.
Vogue. 2015. Tess Holiday. Last updated 4 February.
Vogue. 2016. How Ashley Graham stole the show at the VMA’s. Last updated 29 August.