Fashion Industry Debates What Size Models Should Be

“You can’t reason with crazy, you can’t argue with stupid.” Whose quote is this? I saw it as a status on a social networking site. (I’d like to offer credit where credit is due.) Sometimes, we all are guilty of being so sure about something that there was no way anyone could change our mind about a certain topic, but when the situation is reversed and other people are the ones who are acting “crazy” and “stupid”…it’s just frustrating.

This point is mentioned because I’m not trying to “be stupid” and debate something that is supposed to be controversial, but when doing research on one of my topics I thought of that quote as I held myself back from commenting on a popular modeling site. I was less than impressed with what, where and how the argument was going amongst some models, photographers, and some other representatives of the fashion industry. Everyone has their own subjective opinion on the topic of beauty, who should be a model, and their role within the fashion industry. Models come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and experience levels, but when you get a bunch of industry professionals together and watch them chat in an open discussion online regarding Plus Size Models…watch out!

Disregarding the term “Plus Size Model” and just mentioning the topic of “Size” is a heated discussion. Some things are currently facts in the modeling industry:

• It’s not just for “pretty girl” types or “Ken-doll” males.
• It’s not just for the tall and skinny.
• You can be a successful model without being famous.
• Models work for clients and are paid to represent that hired image.
• And EVERYTHING ELSE regarding work ethic, personality, and professionalism is very much the same in the industry no matter what TYPE of model you are.

So, people who argue about the standards of what a REAL model IS should watch what they say as being a FACT that can’t be “argued” with. The bottom line is that the CLIENT or people working on behalf of the client are the ones that HIRE THE MODELS. That is a FACT. Whether it is a Fashion Designer, Corporate Commercial Client, Magazine, Photographer, Advertising Agency, etc… they are just some of the people who decide what type of model that they want. It is THEIR standard of how they want their product seen by the consumer. It is their choice.

If a High Fashion Magazine wants a tall, size Zero model for their editorial spread… that’s their choice. If they don’t attract a large group of consumers to buy their magazine because they alienate a large group of people of size then that’s their loss, too, but it’s their choice to make their brand exclusive of those consumers that are worldly, trendy, and have money to spend on their advertisers. Sometimes they forget that people over size 8 can be worldly, trendy, and have money, too.

Some of those magazines dabble with smaller Plus Sized models, so again, it is still their choice regarding size. They do it for their own reasons, but it has nothing to do with equality in modeling. Modeling is not an “Equal Opportunity Employer”. They are considered contract employees that can usually work for many different clients and are strongly hired on their looks and exposed to physical critique often. There are not too many who care that they work under sometimes harsh conditions, long hours, and no guaranteed 15 minute break or lunch hour, etc. Not many other careers would ever tolerate that intense scrutiny without threats of a lawsuit, but models are exposed to it on a common basis. With that said, there still can be a passion from models that enjoy what they do. Many models have a tendency to weed themselves out of the industry especially when they are not prepared about how the business works, don’t find their niche, or don’t make enough money and become frustrated with the industry.

Above and beyond some questionable conditions that the models are exposed to they still do it and do their personal best. If they don’t, they won’t last long complaining to “the boss”. Modeling is a choice for the individual, so if the good doesn’t outweigh the bad most of the time… maybe it’s not the right career. Models may be the center of attention, but they are not the ones that make significant change in the industry without a client giving them that chance to shine. The same choices hold true for whether or not a Fashion Designer is represented during a Fashion Week by Plus Size Models to show their line of Plus garments on the runway. Heck, many designers don’t even have Plus Size designs. They will hire whoever shows their garments in the best way. Some designers see the consumer demand for larger sizes being represented in fashion, but only a few are truly inspired by designing for this group.

Over the past decades, the industry standards regarding High Fashion modeling sizes have trickled down from size 4/6 down to 0/2. The same decline in size of Plus models from Size 14/16 down to even size 8 shows the same trend that smaller sizes and body angles that photograph well are still sought after. Models are human mannequins, or rather human “hangers”, so it’s their job to sell it. Note: Some designers simply don’t have the creative motivation or talent to develop flattering garments in larger sizes. That’s not their fault if they don’t have the passion to create specific garments fitted to an average to plus sized individual. The artistic eye within the modeling industry can have a distorted view of themselves and the things that they consider flaws in others. Regardless, models of both smaller ends of these size ranges can be hired to represent their clients, but the other left out sizes of plus models and consumers debate this as unfair. I’ve seen their argument, too, and they are just as willing to argue and demand respect, but many Plus Models take it personally when they are overlooked for a smaller model. It can be discouraging for ANY model that believes that they deserved the booking that some other model got. That alone is a common experience that all eventually face, so whether they are Size 2/4/6 or Size 12/14/16… it’s up to the client to interpret what they think represents them the best to the consumer. Nothing personal… it’s business and the bottom line.

Ultimately, modeling is a subjective career choice, so before the industry makes any drastic changes and raises the size range of models that represent them, everyone must treat this industry as a business. Just being a really good MODEL is not easy, so for those that have that talent, they aspire to finding the right work for their career. Yes, there is an artistic element to many parts of the industry, as well as image, character acting and proper posing techniques, etc., but the role of a career as a model is to be “whatever” the role that the client hires them to be. It’s not meant to be a personal insult to you as a person, but rather a lesson in flexibility to go with the flow of what you are hired to do. There are many models that give up or never find their “niche” in the industry, but there’s no need for people within the industry or the general public to “pour salt on an open wound” by making people feel that they aren’t REAL models just because they are not famous or a Size Zero.

If you are ever in a position to comment, judge, or just read about the industry… please be open-minded that it takes all sizes, looks, ethnicities and types to be in this career. The process can be grueling on a person’s self-esteem especially for the long haul as a career choice. Sometimes when you read comments and discussions about some of these industry topics you will see people who are supposed to know what they are talking about because they are models, photographers, etc. themselves. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when you see individuals that claim only one way is “right” or one type is “beautiful”… know that “You can’t reason with crazy, you can’t argue with stupid”.

A.K.A. Models is a new online industry trade magazine for models, photographers, designers, stylists, agencies, MUA’s, and anyone that seeks to research or contribute to the modeling industry.

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