Sunday, November 19, 2006

Resizing the standards

While perusing the Parade magazine that comes stuffed in my Sunday Chronicle. Yes I read the dang Parade because I am so sophisticated. I digress, as I ate my really yummy but not quite what I think of as a bialy, I read a question in the "Personality Parade" section that just stuck with me.

Spanish fashion designers have banned excessively thin models from their runways, but German designer Karl Lagerfeld says the models are not too skinny. Who's right? Parade answers: We tend to side with Lagerfeld. No one wants to encourage a trend toward anorexia, but the fact is that designer clothes hang better on slender women. Readers, do you think models are too skinny? Tell us at

I am not so sure they would want to hear my response. Lagerfeld's quote here, on the reason for his weight loss, which some deemed excessive and offer that he now looks emaciated and unhealthy, is telling. Not only are the clothes he prefers not produced in his old size but they are not modeled by men his age. Leaving aside the tempting arena of what is age appropriate clothing, let's go back to the Parade tidbit.

What is too skinny for a model? Parade doesn't want to encourage "a trend toward" an eating disorder? Oy, my head hurts. By hurt I mean it is threatening to implode. At my height, just a smidge of five feet, a modeling career just on that fact alone was never in my future. Parade says the clothes hang better on stick bodies that pass for women. I say, that is because that's how they are made, not because clothes can't hang deliciously on larger (and by larger I mean oh, say a size 6 - a size I haven't seen hanging in my closet for about 20 years!) body.

On an episode of Project Runway (a HUGE guilty pleasure of TGF) the contestants had to design an outfit for another contestant's mother. Few of these mothers (or in Vincent's case his sister) were slender and a few were clearly "plus" sized. Robert Best, who I liked despite his whiny voice and "boring" designs, complained about the size of his "model" stating he didn't know how to design for larger sizes. Well who's bloody fault is that? People like Tim Gunn (who I just adore for his wry commentary) that's who! It's infuriating. A very long time ago (like when I was 13) I toyed with sketching designs, and then had school assignments to do that even more. (I did not graduate from that high school, but did from this one.) While in high school, though by reasonable standards I was a "good" weight, given my body shape and lack of height, clothes shopping was a pain in my (even then) ample ass. Hence my first fantasies of designing clothes by shape rather than arbitrary sizes. I sewed more in these days, but infrequently made clothes because I wasn't very good at it and again, the patterns needed so much damn adjustment.

Over time I began to look at most things that come down a runway as art but infrequently clothing precisely because they are designed to fit about 2% of the women in this country. I will leave aside the absolute impracticality of actually wearing some of these things even if it were made in your size. All of that helps to quell the bile that rises when I read things like what were in Parade, or uttered by Robert Best but does not change the overriding status quo in this country of unrealistic body standards for women, or how hard it is to find fun, sexy, flattering clothes if you are not 5'8" and weigh 130 pounds or less.

It's almost enough to get me to unpack my sewing machine. Almost.


Jbeeky said...

I hear you sister! Even on a smaller size most clothes are not made for the real body. That may want a fucking slice every now and then.

Anonymous said...

that mom episode was so painful.

the only reason i've never cared too much about this is i never cared for the modelling fashions. but i totally hear and agree you about unhealthy standards for weight. that stuff can really fuck people up.

Jennie said...

I'm still in shock that high schools like that exist. Wow!

goblinbox said...

The first time I wore an outfit made specifically for me -- it was a costume I wore in Bye Bye Birdie I couldn't believe how well it fit and how great it looked on me. I'd been sent to a seamstress, who took about twelve million measurements, and produced a fitted cocktail dress for MY BODY. It was a freakin' revelation, after wearing off-the-rack clothes my entire life.

Jeri said...

That is exactly why I've made my own clothes since I learned to sew at age 15. They might not be totally fashionable, but they make me feel good and I can add features like pockets which are essential to me! Being 5ft 2 with big bust and short arms, I never can find things that fit correctly, and now that I knit, I have the tools to make stuff I can wear also. I wish I were better at designing, but the more I try the easier it gets.