This article originally appeared on Styleite.
Fashion has a split personality.
On the more populated end of the spectrum, you have thin models who still need to be made thinner in Photoshop. On the other, you have the movement underway of “body positive” lines embracing the “bigger” women everyone’s been waiting for. Stranded in the middle somewhere, you have a models like Myla Dalbesio, a size 10 and one of the stars of Calvin Klein’s new “Perfectly Fit” underwear campaign.
Unfortunately for Myla, a controversy just spilled over the internet, proving how the collective “her? She’s not fat enough” knee-jerk reaction just sets inclusion back.
On Friday, Myla told Elle this:
It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus size girls.”
She went on to explain how not being on either side of this spectrum made it difficult for her to click into a niche.
I’m not skinny enough to be with the skinny girls and I’m not large enough to be with the large girls and I haven’t been able to find my place. This [campaign] was such a great feeling.”
She said she wasn’t plus-size. She said that people who are plus-size get pissed if she tries to act all plus-size. But somehow, the public jumped to the conclusion that we were all being served bullshit. Both people on Instagram and Twitter and the lazy media instantly rejected her as a skinny girl billing herself as a plus-size model. Immediately hearing a svelter-than-average dame was a postergirl for body acceptance, the Twitter SWAT team attacked.
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) November 11, 2014
Our response shows how the allergy to anything that isn’t wearing the proper label, along with our habit of speaking authoritatively about things we know nothing about, tipped the Twitter hordes against her. It was hasty, incorrect, but more importantly, it’s instruction. The insistence on rejecting women’s bodies that don’t look like ours defeats the point of putting diversity of display. We shouldn’t be so heavily reliant on the current definitions of sizes. What a size 10 really means changes over time, sizes vary depending on the store, women’s bodies change, and one plus-size will never fit all.
It’s not that I think Calvin Klein employees should be ensconced on a bed of satin sheets and have their hair stroked for allowing someone who isn’t your typical model to demonstrate the uses of underwear. I’m not saying we need to be patient for the day when fashion will look like your typical walk through life either. But we shouldn’t be this quick to label and reject humans.
Plus-size spaces like Full Figured Fashion week and brands like Evans are fantastic, but when a size 10 can feel like other models for a hot second, it’s a sign of progress. Fighting the separatism that puts women in numbered boxes is a move that should have helped Calvin Klein’s credibility. This perceived acceptance of “bigger,” not “biggest,” is about the inclusion of a range of women. The point is she was included. She wasn’t a size 16 swathed in a dark robe for publicity or the appearance of being diverse. She was standing in the company of important models because she fits in somewhere along the richly varied range of women’s bodies, and she’s beautiful.
Fashion ads are mostly devoid of “real women,” but more brands are exploring the many ways in which a body goes. When I interviewed Denise Bidot, whose splashy appearance in the Chromat show moved women to tears because they felt they saw someone like them on a runway for the first time, a commenter complained she didn’t have lumps. Runways and billboards rarely double as a reminder to preserve your self-esteem, but it’s this kind of callous rejection of actual people that’s sickening. It’s a way of evaluating someone’s size as unacceptable because you’re just making fun of fashion industry ideals. Love or loathe your size, Calvin Klein’s choices can’t be entirely responsible.
Calvin Klein gave you Kate Moss, and studies showed that people wanted the waif look. If Calvin Klein is interested in embracing at least some of the differences that mark us, then why is our reaction to say, not her? Fashion is too often guilty of weight prejudice and other trendy forms of discrimination. Unattainable beauty standards suck, but everyone doesn’t share the opinion that the face of a campaign somehow confirms or denies our personal right to exist. The next step isn’t Calvin Klein putting your doppelgänger in their underwear. It’s simply making underwear that can fit the range.
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