But What About the Normal Women!

NY Mag weighed in on the V Magazine’s Size Issue. Rather light on debate, its author seems to conflates a civil tone with holding an alternate viewpoint. There is the familiar chow chow of “What about the normal women?” However, in this case “normal” means sizes 4 – 10 and those of us existing outside these parameters are shit out of luck.

A London stylist states:

It’s such an extreme response to the size-zero hoopla.
I think all women want to see images of healthy girls, not women who are emaciated. But, realistically I don’t think many women aspire to be a size 18, either. I don’t think using outsize models is really the way to change perceptions — it’s just an extreme volt-face.

A pretty bold statement from someone too shy to give their name. On a seemingly unrelated note: my parents did in fact name me Snarky’s, but I’ll confess “Machine” is a stage name.

Anyway, back to the post currently in progress …

No, no, no, Anonymous Stylist, you’ve got it all wrong. They’re selling carrots, not strings. It’s the carrot does the enticing not the string it’s attached to. And by carrots I mean wealth, health, romance and acceptance. String fixation is wonderful bonus. But make no mistake they’re in the carrot business.

The author steps up to the mic:

Fast’s show wouldn’t have gotten the same publicity without those girls. And of course big can be beautiful — the industry has shown us that in many ways for years. But can average girls be beautiful, too? If designers used normal-size 6 or 8 girls in shows and magazines shot them for editorials, would it receive the same publicity? Or perhaps not, because the difference wouldn’t be striking enough to warrant it?

Clearly the real victims here are the “hollywood chubby”. Those unsung heroes of sizes 4 – 10, who are being dismissed courtesy of an industry that’s really hot for exploration of the extremes at the moment.

Has this author not seen what size six looks like on a 5’2 person? Clearly, there is a warped perception of what those sizes look like on variety of bodies. All the hand wringing is a waste of effort though. Believe me, you put a 5’0 size stretch size ten hourglass shape next to a 5’9 model and the difference is going to be “striking”.

Trust me, I’ve done the legwork.

Of course that’s not what’s going here. Framing the issue in this manner still vilifies fat bodies, but with a clever twist. Now fat bodies act in collusion with thin bodies to push all those “normal” sized bodies out on their “normal” sizes asses. Fat bodies given serious consideration in fashion editorials are still viewed as provocative and the editors are still accused of resorting to “gimmicks” – a valid criticism in some cases, but often works just as well as a distraction – so the likelihood of this author’s nightmare vision of fat and thin rising up against the “normal” seems pretty ridiculous.

Do we need to see everything on the size spectrum? Of course, but I take issue with the notion that sizes in the so-called “normal” range lack representation. They are represented – hello, that’s what the term “normal” implies based on its use here – and if this author feels otherwise, then perhaps a new label to describe them is in order. Of course not manufacturing a new class of “victims” from a group who enjoy a fair amount of privilege as it relates to size would probably be a better idea.

175 thoughts on “But What About the Normal Women!

  1. It still baffles me that the media can decry the vast “obesity epidemic” one moment, and then in the next breath talk about how such body sizes are an abnormal, marginal slice of American consumers. I wish there’s a way to get the message across: “Either claim our whole society is turning fat, or else that a tiny fraction of weird people are actually fat–but don’t expect me to believe you that both statements are true at once. Or at least don’t act surprised when I subsequently fail to trust you to have the slightest clue of what you’re talking about.”

  2. I also wonder what a “volt-face” is – is it that expression of shock you get on reading bilge like that article?

    Reading something like “normal size 6 or 8 girls” (well, if they’re prepubescent, that may well a normal size) makes my blood boil. You could at least get your facts slightly right when wanking on about “normal” (average?) sizes.

  3. GAH, so many thoughts!

    1) No, size 4-6 girls would not get the same publicity, but neither will size 12s after a while. It remains to be seen whether we’re witnessing a sea change or a fad. If it’s the latter, then everybody goes back to very thin models after a while. But if it’s the former — if people in the industry really ARE thinking “Huh, these women look good, and I’d like to hire them for a normal shoot,” that might very well open a door for all the women in between as well. (I mean, of course, all the conventionally beautiful, very tall, well-proportioned women in between. And of course, women who wear above a size 12 are still fucked.)

    2) I am not, however, holding my breath that people in the industry are having a big old change of heart. A) The question is, will these models still get hired so much after everyone gets sick of the hype (which should be any minute), and “plus-size model” no longer equals “automatic publicity”? B) The industry is still full of people who think size 4 is fat, size 12 is unfathomably fat, and consumers only want “aspirational” images of women they could never look like in a bazillion years. A wave of publicity for a handful of “plus” models isn’t going to break down that thinking overnight.

    3) Reality check on what’s “normal” here. Crystal Renn says she’s 5’9″ and 165 lbs., which puts her BMI at 24.4 — i.e., not even “overweight,” and lower than 2/3 of the population. She wears double digit sizes mostly because she’s tall. (When I had the same BMI — around 133 pounds at 5’2″ — I think I generally wore an 8 on the bottom, 6 on top.) So let me heartily second “not manufacturing a new class of ‘victims’ from a group who enjoy a fair amount of privilege as it relates to size would probably be a better idea.”

    I’ve probably got more, but it’s early and I need more coffee. Oh, but kootiepatra, right the hell on. Are we a nation of fatties who need “aspirational” images to encourage us to lose weight, or are fatties too small a market to count, so there’s no reason to use larger models? Oh, wait, either way, very thin models are the clear choice, so who cares?

  4. Yeah, isn’t the average size for the American woman more like 12 or 14? I don’t know exactly, but putting the cutoff for “normal” abound 6 or 8 seems…well…obtuse.

  5. Ms. Renn apparently wears a size 8 &, from recent photos I have seen of her, appears to have lost some weight. The models in this shoot were between size 8 & size 12, not at all representative of actual plus size women, but some people are carrying on as if this is a fat revolution. It doesn’t qualify as one for me, not unless I actually see FAT people being portrayed as normal & beautiful & acceptable.

  6. My head is swollen and bruised from the way I keep smashing it against the keyboard. I’m so tired of constant arguments about how we should look, and what really PISSES PAINTMONKEY OFF is how it is always women debating it – never (it seems) men. It seems to me that we are always are own worst enemy – so paralysed by the urge for acceptance that we can’t even establish that its ok to be how we all are, whatever the farting fucking nora rides a bike that is.

    Shit….I really need to have have a sit down and a nice cup of tea – perhaps a chocolate biscuit or five. By the way, my parents really did name me “Monkey”, I just added “Paint” to titivate an otherwise awkward name.

  7. Well, if they’re only showing tiny size 0 and 2 models and then size 12 and up models, there IS a pretty significant chunk of women being ignored. And I think that every size needs to be represented accurately.

    But they don’t need to be dicks about it.

  8. Seriously, what planet are these people living on? If Crystal Renn or any of those women walked past them the last thing they’d be thinking is, “Why is she so PLUS SIZE?” Cuz they’re not plus sized! Size 12 isn’t Plus Size! Size 10 isn’t Plus Size! Oh, and by the way – the fattiest of all fatty tv personalities? – Oprah Winfrey – she isn’t plus size either!

    It’s really disheartening to see people adopting the “industry standards” as their mindset – have they lost all touch with reality? Or do they just live in Los Angeles? Don’t even get me started on the whole “but what about us ‘normal’ sized women?” This shit runs way too deep.

  9. Liza, I agree with you, but the women in the “normal” category are still going to be 5’9 and up and therefore are not going to resemble the women they will supposedly represent. I mean when they are talking about ‘well proportioned’ size 14, they aren’t talking about me. They are talking about someone about nine inches taller than me and probably not shaped anything like me.

    While I might be considered an “inbetweenie” on the fat spectrum, I’m definitely not read that way by the fashion industry.

    I think a clarification of terms is in order. Crystal Renn, while being a plus sized model, is probably not a plus sized women. The terms get used interchangeably, when in reality they often represent two entirely different groups of people.

  10. Yeah, I’m not sure how they get from “average American woman is size 12″ to “women like Crystal Renn aren’t normal!”

    Oh, wait, I know! Because they have to keep adding more women to the “fat” category!

  11. snarkysmachine is making a very good point about height as it relates to dress size. To that I’d add body shape. I’d probably be pretty close to the “normal” woman whose size is being ignored by the new trends, and in one sense, this is true. The covers are Gabourey Sidibe and Dakota Fanning.

    What’s missing is any variation in body shape, especially height. The average American woman is 5’4” and what, 144 pounds? Crystal Renn is heavier than that average, but she also has five inches on it. Clothes that flatter her won’t flatter the average size woman any more than the clothes on Kate Moss. They’re both just as unreachable as aspirations, and I think that might have been what the article was responding to.

  12. vision of fat and thin rising up against the “normal”

    Well yeah if they’re advancing the notion of superiority by dint of being neither then I’m in favour of a strategic alliance with Naomi Campbell.

    The clue is in the word ‘normal’, people may not ‘aspire’ to be fat, but few aspire to be normal either, I certainly don’t (to be honest, I’ve tried and it appears futile).

  13. The notes about height remind me of a personal anecdote: after finally accepting that my weight is probably not going to change a whole lot, and dieting is not an option for me or my sanity, I was reading the fatshionista community. I saw someone who listed her weight, her height, and her size. Our weights were the same, our sizes were quite different, and I coveted the clothes she was selling. I had finally learned not to think, “Maybe I’ll go on a diet.” Instead, my brain came up with, “Maybe I can grow a little taller!” I believed it for a moment before reality entered in. *headdesk*

    (Note that I’m 27, and thus definitely not growing any taller.)

  14. Melissa, I’m where you are on this — if people are going to write articles about this, can’t they at least get their facts fight? I love the sizes 4-10 are average/normal bit, whereas in the real world, the average/normal size in the US is 12. Which is almost a 10 (but just as close to 14), but veeeeerry far away from 4.

  15. But, realistically I don’t think many women aspire to be a size 18, either.

    Wow, even though I know that this person is a total douche, as a size 18 that totally stung me… the lowest size I ever was was a size 11, never even “average” according to this person. I’d really like to stop being considered an womankind’s anomaly. Can I just be part of the diversity of bodies in the human race?

  16. The thing that I’ve never understood about fashion magazines is, why would I want to buy a piece of clothing that is being worn by a size 0, 6 foot tall model? I want to get an idea of what it might look like on ME. I’ve learned a lot about clothing styles from the show “What Not To Wear” because it features women of all shapes and sizes. But I’m not going to take style tips from a magazine that only features models with 0% body fat. In fact, the only time I find myself “paying attention” to the fashion industry is when somebody on this blog writes about it.

  17. Well, clearly, young girls will now grow up looking at pictures of teh icky fat people and be brainwashed into thinking that they are actually beautiful. (Iknowright? As if any normal person could ever consider a fatty beautiful without brainwashing).

    And then those girls will actually want to be fat, and they will eat to much and there is already an obesity epidemic and OMG, why wont anybody think of the children?

    *headdesks*

    On a slightly related note: The most influential woman’s mag here (influential in that they have actually been part of feminist activism in the past and include political and social topics) started using only lay models this year. I was xcited about the idea, even thoug I knew all those lay-models were bound to be very conventionally pretty and ideally proportioned, as well as likely not fat. Still, progress, right?

    Yeah, not so much. The big headline on the cover was that they had a huge multi-page-spread about their reccomended new diet.

    *sighs*

  18. I think what bothers me about this is the way it divides women into different, somewhat antagonistic groups. That the needs, wants, and desires of thinner women are opposed to those of so-called “normal” women who are opposed to those of larger women. I like seeing a diversity of shapes and sizes irrespective of what group I fall into. People who look like me, but also the wide spectrum of shapes, sizes, colors, styles that exist naturally in the world.

    Breaking it down into divisive groups pushes people to take sides. Add in the fact that the groups are defined as aesthetically ideal but unhealthy, generally healthy but aesthetically lacking, and that great scary Other that might even be contagious. It’s so easy to casually get riled up without realizing that the structure of the argument is all wrong.

    I could go on for another two angry paragraphs about how much I’m annoyed by the idea of “aspirational” models. For one, no amount of aspiration and no amount of money spent on beauty products is going to make me 5’9″. Mostly, though, it makes us look at our bodies as objects that need to be manipulated.

  19. Ms. Renn apparently wears a size 8

    By “apparently,” do you mean you heard that somewhere, or you’re judging by looking? Because if it’s the latter, the subject of whether you can accurately guess a woman’s dress size by looking at her has been well covered on this site, and the answer is no. It’s entirely possible that she can fit into some 8s, sizing being what it is, but what she’s said on the record is that on average, she’s about a size 12. (And as I said upthread and others have echoed, that’s at least partly because of her height.)

    No, that’s not “plus sized” either way in the real world, only in he fashion industry, where “plus sized” models start at 6. And as I also said upthread, Renn is in the “normal” BMI category, which means 2/3 of the population is in a higher category than she is. I’ve written a LOT recently, here and at Salon and at Jezebel, about how I don’t think a few pictures of a few women who wear the low double digits constitutes a big fatty revolution, and it’s part of what everyone else is discussing right now, so I’m not sure why you seem to think the audience here hasn’t noticed that, Patsy.

  20. The whole concept of a “normal” size is just ridiculous. Even if the average size of a woman in America is 12 (or 14, as I’ve heard elsewhere), it’s not the mode – the most common size. Correct me if I’m wrong, but calculating average by adding everyone’s sizes together and dividing by the number of people provides a meaningless result in terms of “normal”. It just means that there are as many people over that size as under it.

    To say that sizes 4-10 are normal makes exactly the same amount of sense as saying that sizes 16-20 are normal. It’s just that people count down from the average and call it normal, because otherwise… FAT PEOPLE ARE NORMAL! Oh nos!

  21. Dear world: could we possibly stop describing women by what size they “wear”? She wears an 8, she wears a 4, she wears a 28, she wears a 16, it’s all bullshit and I’ll tell you why.

    I wear an 8, a 10, a 12, a 14, a 16, an 18, a 12W, a 14W, a 16W, a 13, a 15, an M, an L, an XL, a 0X, a 1X, a 12 Really Curvy or a 10MT depending on what company makes the garment, what kind of garment it is, what part of my body it’s for, and how it’s cut.

    Those are only the places I actually shop at, and the garments I actually buy.

  22. I wear an 8, a 10, a 12, a 14, a 16, an 18, a 12W, a 14W, a 16W, a 13, a 15, an M, an L, an XL, a 0X, a 1X, a 12 Really Curvy or a 10MT depending on what company makes the garment, what kind of garment it is, what part of my body it’s for, and how it’s cut.

    Ding. Ding. Ding.

    I don’t know many people who wear only one size, regardless of their weight/height/body shape. Most people’s closets reflect a range of sizes based on the cut of garment, type of fabric and where it was purchased.

  23. @Kate: tangential to your point, but I tried to look it up and got that she either wears an 8 or a 12.

    I don’t really have much to say on this topic since pictures of conventionally beautiful women — no matter what size they are — further airbrushed into perfection make me feel pretty inferior most of the time.

  24. @Dolly–I’m with you, too. The lowest size I’ve ever been since puberty is a size 18. The last time I dieted, after a year and a half of spending 75 minutes exercising a day and counting every miserable calorie, I reached size 18.

    Most importantly, that number means nothing, as slythwolf wrote. But the assumption of–nobody aspires to look like THAT–is awful. I worked hard (and now, of course, wish I hadn’t, but still) to look like that. Indeed, I cannot live a healthy life and look like that: my size, when I eat according to my bodies cues and move my body as is pleasurable and builds strength–is higher than that. So, humph.

    My aspiration? I aspire to be THIS size, whatever it is.

    Numbers are triggering and will always exclude someone, in a potentially hurtful way, seems to be the point. They are other-ing.

  25. The “humph” was to the statement that nobody aspires to “be” an 18. My humph was not at all about my natural size. With that, I am (mostly, and always working to be) well pleased.

  26. As I understand it while there are international standards for clothing pattern sizes there are absolutely none for manufactured items. Which is one more reason size is irrelevant.

  27. LivingTheQuestions, you awesomely said,

    Numbers are triggering and will always exclude someone, in a potentially harmful way, seems to be the point. They are other-ing.

    I would only add that they are also fundamentally reductive. The bullshit moralizing connotation of talking about sizes comes through loud and clear in the diction. People say things like, “I’m a four, maybe a six,” and this sort of statement implies that one is a four, or a six, or (horror!) a sixteen in the unutterable core of one’s being, and that one’s placement on the spectrum relative to other women is somehow indicative of one’s personal worth. All normal-this, or too-this, that, and some other damn thing.

    The HELL with that. This makes very clear to me why I enjoy buying products (tights, stockings, etc.) with the height/weight charts on the back that have non-moralizing numbers or letters. Am I going to wear a 4 or a C/D in these particular tights? Sure. Why? Because they are likely to fit me. NOT because I have to sigh and silently admit, when I hand clothes to the cashier, that my entire being is reducible to a very bad score in Body Tetris, no matter which way I rotate it.

  28. The reason of the emphasis of sizes 0 to 4 is based on standard sizes.

    The fashion industry is the only contingent that knows true sizes. Retailers stopped using them because they discovered they made more money if they fudged the sizes.

    A current size 0 is a standard 6.
    A current size 2 was and is still the gold standard 8
    A current size 4 is a standard size 10.

    That is the reason for this strange, wacky Fashion industry obsession for sizes 0 and 2. And 4 is considered a borderline size. They are still using standard charts, we are not. We are kept ignorant of them to our detriment.

    It would be a lot easier to buy clothing knowing that a standard size will be the same across the board. The system we have now is incredibly wasteful.

    Anyone can access the standard size charts through Vogue Patterns, Butterick etc.

  29. melponeme_k: I’m guessing that you work in the fashion industry, and what you’ve described is very interesting, and confirms some suspicions I’ve had (I collect old Vogue pattern books), but it opens up some more questions for me, questions that maybe somebody can answer!

    OK, I get that multi-size patterns are designed off a single size, which is then adjusted and perfected with the help of a fit model. But why, prey tell, is that size “2″ or “gold standard 8″ (which is SUCH a loaded term, by the way)? Is it harder to start larger and then adjust smaller than the other way around? Why not start at the middle size of the intended pattern range (ex.: starting at size 12 for a garment marketed for sizes 4 to 18)? If designers cut their original patterns at different set points, wouldn’t that just result in a wider array of fit model sizes and, by extension, a wide array of “sample sizes” for a wide array of catwalk/print models of different body sizes? Or am I just delusional? Too expensive? Too difficult?

    Ugh. Thinking. It distracts me from my rugby. (Just saw Invictus – I was rooting for Chester, too!)

  30. Hi,

    I work in fashion, too, and melponeme_k is right. It is somewhat easier to scale a pattern up than it is down, though patternmakers/tech designers do both, ultimately. Not every size gets a fit model – just the sample sizes are fitted on an actual human in a fitting before manufacturing, and those are the “standard” sizes that get samples made, and scaled from there for other sizes. The samples are sent back and forth between manufacturer and design company until they are right, and then the line gets run in all the sizes that are purchased by the store we sell them to. Usually you have one for each category – we have a size 8 fit model and a size 18W model, though our higher end lines have a size 4 model and 16W. The fit model is there to fit the clothes onto, but also to give us feedback on fit and comfort and the like – she’s a body but also a person with a valued opinion. The models that are seen by the public – in a catalog or in a show – in our case are hired by the stores we sell to, because we are wholesale and not retail.

    High end designers, it’s worth mentioning, never went in for “vanity sizing”, so if you walk into a couture design house, you’ll be a completely different (larger) size than in ready to wear.

    Anyway. I have no idea if this is interesting, or useful, information to anyone. I am an avid reader of this site, and comment…basically never, but maybe that will change. I’m having a meeting Monday with a designer who has a bad attitude regarding another of our lines that has a large plus-sized segment, and has been vocal about it. I am trying to be a change agent. I have been almost every size it’s possible for my frame to be, and try to bring my perspective to the workplace.

  31. The V covers were talked about yesterday on Celebitchy too and I was pleasantly surprised with the way they talked about Sibide, even the comments were not too bad. I don’t usually read, just followed a link from somewhere else, and expected to see the usual bingo (don’t follow the link to Just Jared though, irk). With all the negativity out there, it was really great to see somebody calling BOTH covers gorgeous!

  32. @KC: reductive… indeed! Yes!

    @melponemek: the language of “true” sizes and even “standard sizes” (though less so for that one) makes me squirm, often. Because it seems to me that often, when people talk about how sizing has changed (“vanity sizing”?) there is something in the tone and often in the content of what follows that is all about the whole OMG Obesity Crisis! thing. Wherever sizes “started” wasn’t inherently true or standard, plus it seems that human bodies continue to evolve (we are heavier and taller than we used to be). The whole idea of sizing clothes like this is relatively recent, anyway, yes?

    I don’t know that it’s your use of the words–but they get my hackles up because of how they are used elsewhere.

    And, universe: I’m so sorry for the absurd typos that riddle my writing here! Ugh! Thank you for looking past that to the content of what I’m trying to say.

  33. Living the Question

    It isn’t about sizes. Its about measurements and saving time/money when buying clothing. All countries except the US follow the standard size chart. The stores that still hold to the standard are Walmart and Target for some reason, which is why most have to size up when buying their clothing.

    Sizes are for the convenience of store buyers. Its easier for them to order a size 6 rather than give their suppliers whole lists of different measurements. The only thing we should worry about are the measurements and if the size reflects them well. Right now they don’t because every store has different suppliers who use different fit models etc.

    No size is better than any other. However the Fashion industry has always been about stick thin models. If you look at the models of the 50′s there isn’t a big difference in body types against today’s models. They are all about a standard 6 or 8 (today’s 0 & 2).

    What is wrong is that the industry labels anything larger as inhuman. Especially when the body types they fetishize are rather anomalous.

    Nothing is wrong in labeling a piece of clothing a true size. If you sew your clothes, know your measurements and the standard charts of every major Pattern supplier label it size 6,8,10,12 etc…that is a true size. It will be that size no matter which pattern you buy, no matter what company and no matter what year the pattern book was published. If you sew your own clothing, you can’t be in question as to what pattern you need to follow. It has to be standard.

    Krishji, The standard size 8 was always considered a nice middle ground in body type for whatever reason. So companies always used that as the perfect sample size to fit clothing.

  34. Sizes are for the convenience of store buyers. Its easier for them to order a size 6 rather than give their suppliers whole lists of different measurements.

    Why is it that this is evidently done for the “convenience” of women, but men seem to get along reasonably well with clothing labeled in actual set units? Women’s clothing is indeed often harder to size than men’s, since we’re usually curvier, but instead we are given less information on whether something will fit us. Men at least have a circumference and a height to go by when they buy pants, even if it doesn’t account for differently shaped rears. We have a number. A number doesn’t refer to anything, even other pants by that number.

  35. Men at least have a circumference and a height to go by when they buy pants, even if it doesn’t account for differently shaped rears. We have a number.

    I was just thinking about this — I know my waist and inseam, and that’s all I need to get in the ballpark for finding pants that will fit. Similarly I know my neck and sleeve sizes and that will get me a nice dress shirt. But I suspect the tradeoff for the greater variety in sizes is that men’s clothing tends to have fewer styles than women’s.

  36. Just to let you know, all of this talk about sizes might be triggering for some people.

    That said, I want to share how impressed I am with the women on this thread who expressed their satisfaction with their bodies. I so, so, so wish I were there. I have moments after yoga class or when my husband compliments me or when I’m wearing a cute outfit, but it is such a struggle for me. I believe that society has most women so focused on sizes that we won’t throw our considerable energies into standing up for ourselves. Someone upthread spoke about dividing us–I completely agree. Isn’t that what oppression does? It gets us to question our worth and value? It gets us to point fingers at each other and say, “at least she is fatter (or poorer or uglier) than I am” in order to keep us from uniting.

  37. When it comes to buying clothing, I’m up the proverbial creek. I’ve given up trying to find clothing that fits nicely, and settle now for clothing I can wear. I’d love to wear clothes that showed off my figure but such clothes don’t exist – even if I make my own clothes, the patterns aren’t shaped for people like me. Sizes are next to useless – they’ll tell me, more or less, whether there’s enough fabric to go round my waist. But that’s it, and my waist is a very poor indicator of the rest of my shape.

    Redlami: Men’s clothing does tend to have fewer styles, but personally I’d rather be able to buy one shirt that fits than six that don’t.

  38. It’s been my observation that men’s sizes can be wonky too. I have pants of the same waist/inseam measurement from two different retailers that are not at all the same. Not even close.

  39. Thanks, Ktans and melponeme_k! I am always starving for knowledge; my huaband has informally diagnosed me with binge learning disorder.

    Ktans: GOOD LUCK with your meeting on Monday! Sending lots of courage and blessings your way. Don’t let somebody else’s bad attitude derail you, you’re doing a great thing.

  40. You know what’s kind of funny about this article? I’m in her “normal” range (5ft 2 1/2, size 6) and to my eye, the models in the V size issue have bodies that look much more like mine than the body of the average non-plus model. So, in fact, I’d argue that even if we were to agree with her logic, plus models still better represent the “normal” woman than what we’re used to seeing in magazines. In fact if you take height into account, well, a woman who wears a 12 or 14 and is 5ft 9-6 ft like most models actually IS about the same size as what she’s calling “normal” for a woman of average height. So if there’s any actual problem with “representing the normal woman” here it’s that models of the straight or plus variety tend to be really tall. To be roughly the same size proportionally as the average model, a woman of average height would have to wear a size that literally does not exist – I have a good friend who’s a size 00, and she doesn’t look nearly as thin as the average model, because she’s 4ft11.

    So basically all this is bullshit. It’s a smokescreen, a way of putting a more acceptable face on saying “I don’t want to see women like that in magazines”. If it really was about representation for the “average” woman someone would be complaining about the fact that models are much taller than average. But no one is.

  41. Also RE kootiepatra’s point – yeah. Either everyone is getting fat or most people are actually thin and fat is so rare as to not be worth representing. Pick one, media people, because to claim both are true is a logical paradox.

  42. “volt-face”
    Ah … no. It’s too easy.

    Besides, everyone knows if you’re not a single-digit size, in the 21st century, you’re still fat. Especially in L.A. Except if you’re in the South, in which case you are ugly because you’re “too skinny“.

    *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

  43. I went through a several-year period of buying the exact same pair of jeans from the same company over and over and over. Recently I went nuts and bought a different wash in the same size and style. Imagine my surprise to find a size 7 light wash to be considerably shorter and tighter than a size 7 medium wash of the exact same style! Also, there was the time I grabbed two size sevens and found, no lie, a full inch difference in the waist bands when I laid them on top of each other.

    And that, shapelings, is why I did not buy jeans in-store for many, many years.

  44. @ melponeme_k – It’s not true in my experience that the US is the only country not still following the old system. I now wear a smaller size in British sizing than I did in high school (in the 80s), and I haven’t actually gotten any smaller in terms of measurements. Old clothes in the old size that I still own still fit just the same as the new clothes in the new, smaller size. The only places I’ve encountered sizing that doesn’t seem to have shifted at all are Italy and Japan, since in both cases I wear the same size in their sizing system as I did before.

  45. Here’s the weird about LA, from my experience. It was the only place I’ve ever lived where I didn’t diet and I didn’t obsess about my body. At the time I was roughly my same size as now, though in my 20s so things were in their original positions.

    It has been the south and the east coast where I battled my body and felt the most pressure to be conventionally attractive (as defined by the dominant beauty standards) and first felt I wasn’t worthy “as is”.

    But your fun to monkeys ratio may vary.

    Sometimes conflating “LA” with “Hollywood” isn’t really useful, though more often than not, it probably is.

    In the south and east coast, body policing has its ties to racism and classism and I have found that to be a lot more challenging to resist and dismantle to vapid adherence to beauty memes. There is probably some of that going on in LA but it plays out differently.

    Granted, I’m an inbetweenie and that relative privilege definitely shapes the way in which these things are applied to me.

  46. “But your fun to monkeys ratio may vary.”

    Always.
    I’m sure it was the cooler peoples who invited you to hang out with them.

  47. “classical music nerds”

    Well, see, there you go.

    I’m an oboist.
    (Well, used to be. If you don’t have your own knives at home you’re automatically DQ’d from the Double Reed Mafia, I think.)

    Never assume you don’t draw the cool ones.
    I’m sure it has something to do with your writing prolificity (yeah, she’s making up words again) in addition to your POV.

  48. I wish women’s clothing were like men’s in that it’s based on measurements not bullshit vanity sizing. I don’t know why people get so hung up on sizes when someone can fluctuate from being a size 14-18 at different stores. I get so frustrated with shopping that I honestly wished I paid attention in Home Econ and learned how to sew so I wouldn’t be a slave to any store’s selections (well the few plus size stores/dept stores with plus sizes).

    The fashion industry is so sizeist that I hate that i’m supporting their BS by buying their clothes/shoes etc. It would be empowering if we all knew how to make our own clothes and could just give the fashion industry a middle finger as we’d all be able to create well fitting, figure flattering/enhancing clothes.

  49. I hate sizes and size tags. I cut all the little sods out as soon as I buy clothes, whether they be small or large. It depresses me to be hounded by a piece of material the size of a finger nail. Cut the bastards out, then things are simply paintmonkey sized.

  50. It’s been my observation that men’s sizes can be wonky too. I have pants of the same waist/inseam measurement from two different retailers that are not at all the same.

    That is odd. I find that I can simply pick by the measurements and the clothes will fit, always. I may not like how they fit, preferring looser or closer fitting ones, and may adjust for this by choosing something larger or smaller than my measured size, but I’m not one size for one manufacturer and another size for the next one. Like designs from different makers will fit the same, even.

    Until I get something with a letter size. I suspect that these are vanity sizes for men. I wear the smallest or next-to-smallest measurement-based numbered sizes and my undershirts (of a brand and style the same as the ones grandfather wore) are size ‘S’ but for shirts I am always size M or L, and S does not exist at all, and M is a little close-fitting for my tastes.

  51. I’m so glad you guys posted this today. I actually came here specifically for a dose of sanity after reading the comments on another blog post about the V size issue, one of which basically said “I keep hearing that 12 is the average, and I will NEVER accept that being a size 12 is healthy!! Being thin takes WILLPOWER and SELF CONTROL and BLAH BLAH self-hating self-righteous moralizing crap” (she went on to say that she knows it takes self control, because if she doesn’t stay on her diet and exercise every day, she can go up from a size three to a – GASP – size nine.) it made me so sad and frustrated and pissed off, not necessarily at her (because from the sounds of things, she’s got her issues too…), but eesh. And then the commenters & writers here are so so lovely. You give me hope.

    I was wondering what you thought about this article? I thought it raised some good points about fetishizing plus size models…
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/fashion/14CRYSTAL.html?pagewanted=1&8dpc

    and thank you to whoever linked to the plus size fashion bingo card – I now have another fashion blog to read that won’t give me an attack of keyboardslammingitis. I love thinking and talking about personal style and “offbeat” fashion, but fashion as a whole is so often full of fail (sizism, racism, classism….) that it gets really frustrating.

    (apologies if any of this is incoherent, it’s a long story why I’m awake at 5:30 AM)

  52. I actually did read that Ms. Renn is a size 8, & I was not suggesting that readers of this blog are unaware of anything. I am tired of seeing the size 8/10/12 models displayed on fat blogs with celebratory screaming & praise, as if this means anything for the advancement of acceptance of actual fat people or shows how fat people look in clothing. I am not saying that these women are not beautiful (even if they are so photoshopped that their own mothers would not recognize them from the photos), that they should not be models, or that we should not have models of ALL sizes, because I fervently do believe that all of us should be represented…all sizes, all shapes, all body types, &, oh yes, all ages & levels of physical ability too. It is simply that I hate seeing women who are average to slim in build called plus size & to be told that I should be grateful for being shown clothing on someone who is so much thinner than I am that I could not get one leg into what she is wearing. I think it is great if women who are built like Ms. Renn can see themselves represented, but I would also like to see someone built like me represented, as well as women who are much larger than I am; the only time I see anything close to that is when I get a new issue of Making It Big catalog &, to a slightly lesser extent, Junonia. And, no, I don’t care what the number says on a garment, only that it fits, nor do I think that I, at 20/22/24…whatever size some designer or manufacturer decides I wear in a certain garment…am better than a size 8 model, nor do I personally think that there is anything wrong with being fat, but women who wear 8/10/12 are definitely NOT fat & the majority of fat women I know cannot identify with them or see themselves in those photos. I think that women who are 8/10/12 should definitely see themselves represented, but so also should women who wear a size 18 or 28 or 38. And no one is actually being fooled either when someone labels certain plus size clothing as size 0, 1, 2, 3 etc. I am currently wearing a size 6 Right Fit jeans, but I know that I am not a size 6.

    I am not a fashion fanatic or maven; I live in jeans & t-shirts & that is how I like it. My biggest fault about fashion is that I want every cute pair of jeans I see. I don’t read fashion magazines, nor do I want to do so, but I would like to see fashion magazines just admitting that they are, for a lark, showing models who are somewhat larger than their standard models without claiming that they are starting some kind of ‘plus size revolution.’

    If that does not explain my position well enough, then I am sorry. I should have learned my lesson long ago about reading &/or trying to participate in discussions on this blog.

  53. @Patsy Nevins, I agree very much with what you’ve said here (until the last paragraph–whatever frustration you are feeling is not where I am). And the thing is, that it really does matter so much that we see pictures of women of all shapes and sizes. These images are so, so powerful. My antidote lately has been the Museum of Fat Love, and I think that if one little slide show of fat people happy and loved has me returning over and over for sanity checks and hope, then what incredible damage is the insistence on such a narrow range of sizes (1 – 12, even) doing to me and others? How rarely I get to see happy, thriving images of women who look like me. (Junonia’s helpful to me, too–and I’ll check out Making It Big.) I was looking at an Ulla Popken catalog, at how baggy the clothing seemed on all of the models (which may just be the look they want), and wondered why they hadn’t used plus sized models: then I realized, of course, that they had–but the size 12 variety of plus sized model, or something like that. Which is fine, except… except size twelve is their smallest size offered. How much more likely I would be, truly, to buy their clothes if I saw larger women wearing them in the catalog.

    (I will add this, though: in those V magazine spreads, how much I adored seeing roles of fat portrayed as beautiful. I don’t care what size the models are, that felt somewhat revolutionary to me, and I loved it. In working to see beauty in my own fat body, the hardest work has been to see the fat itself (not when covered up by clothes) as beautiful. And sometimes, I manage. To see it in V helps.)

    And the most important point here, of course, is that–while yes, of course, women of all sizes should be used as models–celebrating the inclusion of size 8 and 12 models is just probably not part of a road towards using size 22 or 32 models. And that perhaps a magazine patting itself on the back for using them, celebrating that as FA at work, could be dangerous… we’re settling for the inclusion of a few, while the horrible discrimination against so many marches on un-addressed.

    We’re going to need activism, legislation against the discrimination of fat people, better guidelines for doctor concerning how to talk about weight, and so forth.

  54. I should have learned my lesson long ago about reading &/or trying to participate in discussions on this blog.

    Patsy Nevins, whatever lesson you think you’ve learned about participating here, I’m pretty sure ending comments with passive-aggressive sniping was not the answer. If you don’t like how we do things here, that’s fine. But what do you expect to accomplish with that kind of comment?

  55. My own experience growing up near L.A. didn’t seem to do much for my self-esteem. I always felt like I had to be ultra-thin and high-maintenance (of which I am neither) to be attractive. It also seemed like just about every other place where I visited or lived, I had better dating prospects than in SoCal. And generally, the guys I did date in SoCal weren’t originally from that area.

    classical music nerds, goths and the chunkerbutts were my pack when I live in LA.

    For whatever reason, I befriended several goth-types when I lived up in northern CA (Humboldt Co.). They were cool.

  56. Okay, I apparently have yet to discover how to properly italicize. The website I referred to was wrong! Erghhh.

  57. I will confess in a moment of weakness here, I would probably be ecstatic to be back to a size 18 on the bottom. Of course, I wear a 20, 22 and 24 size pant right now depending on who made it, so take that admission with a hunk of salt.

    If you look at the models of the 50’s there isn’t a big difference in body types against today’s models. They are all about a standard 6 or 8 (today’s 0 & 2)

    I take issue with that statement. I’m not an expert on fashion history, but I’m fairly sure there’s been documented research on the way average weights of fashion models has gone down significantly since the middle of the 20th century. That’s not a cosmetic change to sizing, it’s actual changes to the body shape and weight. No matter what has been done with sizing, models are thinner now than they used to be.

    snarkys – I had a different experience in LA, but there were a lot of other factors feeding into the depression I felt there. Of course, when I was out being fat about town, I felt kind of like I was rubbing it in everyone’s faces that I wasn’t one of the beautiful people and I was still out in public! (I lived in NoHo so everyone around me was either an aspiring actor or worked in the porn industry, so there were a lot of interesting bodies floating around.)

    I also agree this whole separating of anyone between sizes 2-8 as some sort of new “normal” group is just another divide and conquer method. Whenever I’ve been involved with a group of people discussing fashion models, everyone of every weight seems able to agree that the models are too thin, the aesthetic they promote is unhealthy, etc. Of course, the clarion call for “healthier” looking models goes on for a while before some pious soul says hesitatingly, “Wellllll, that’s true, but… we don’t want to promote obesity!” In other words, unity of “normal sized” women and plus sized ones against the “too skinny” fashion models exists when those are the only dividing lines. However, if you put the plus sized over 10 folks in their place out on the fringes, then you can spin the “normals” off against both the uberthin and the fatties!

    Cause let’s face it, it’s a lot better for women to be arguing about who is the right size to aspire to than worrying about things like the Stupak amendment, etc.**

    ** – I know, most of y’all do worry about things like Stupak, etc., I was abusing sarcasm.

    DRST

  58. Sometimes conflating “LA” with “Hollywood” isn’t really useful, though more often than not, it probably is.

    Thats a very good point, Snarky. I live in the area (West SF Valley) and I find myself generalizing that “everyone is so sizist and classist here”. While I have found it to be largely true, its not necessarily productive to make a huge blanket statement about such a large region of people.

    That being said, the kind of stores I gravitate toward, indie boutiques etc, rarely have above a size 8 or M stocked on the sales floor, perhaps a token 10 now and then. Very triggering, even before I reach the dressing room. I don’t go in those stores anymore, for both practical and political reasons.

    I worked in the fashion business for many years, and that era reinforced severe dissatisfaction with my natural inbetweenie body. My experiences in that arena as a thin person and as an inbetweenie (a 5’6″size 4/6 S versus 10/12/14 L) were very, very different, regardless of the quality of my work and productivity. Yes, I found that they are as vapid and sizist as you imagine. How I achieved a 4/6 body is best saved for a different post.

    I often fantasize about moving to a different city on the West Coast. One that is not as focused on superficiality and appearance-(all of it-labels, youth, weight) This environment is often toxic to me and counterproductive to my FA journey. I really want to get the hell out. But who knows If doing a geographical will make any difference. After all, it is an inside job.

    I really appreciate this blog and all the insightful comments.

  59. I should have learned my lesson long ago about reading &/or trying to participate in discussions on this blog.

    Specifically, the lesson you should have learned is that passive-aggressive sniping, as Sweet Machine put it, and complaining about what you keep reading on “fat blogs,” as opposed to this particular blog, will get you called out every time.

    I agree with this statement: “I am tired of seeing the size 8/10/12 models displayed on fat blogs with celebratory screaming & praise, as if this means anything for the advancement of acceptance of actual fat people or shows how fat people look in clothing. ” Although I’d say I’m more tired of seeing it on general women’s interest blogs than fat blogs, since fat blogs are about the only place you will see people saying, “Yeah, this really isn’t such a revolution.”

    There is nothing in this post, and I daresay nothing on this blog, celebrating the “plus-size” model fad as anything more than perhaps — perhaps — a tiny baby step toward more general acceptance of body diversity. I can think of one post by Sweet Machine that involved a personal anecdote about finding that images of Kate Dillon had a positive effect on her body image when she was younger, but it was hardly, “Plus models make everything better for everyone! Hooray!” And the discussion there included lots of people saying basically what you’re saying, and what Living the Questions said right after. Some people are excited about seeing slightly larger women than usual represented, some people aren’t impressed, and both kinds of people are welcome to comment here as long as they’re respectful. (ETA: I also happen to think it’s a win if a woman you wouldn’t consider fat, but who herself has felt fat all her life, sees someone built like Crystal Renn or Kate Dillon and feels a little less bad about her body. No, it doesn’t necessarily mean much for fatter women, but since body shame affects women of all sizes, I’m happy when anyone starts to break free of it.) But this is categorically not a blog that talks about plus models with “celebratory screaming and praise,” so if you want to complain about that, maybe you should try doing it at one of the blogs that actually does. Because you know what I’m really tired of? People taking out their issues with “fat blogs” on this particular blog.

  60. I’ve been fascinated by the discussion of the V issue, mostly because my own reaction to it wasn’t positive at all — seeing those photos made me feel lousy about myself, as all fashion photos do. I think I’ve figured out why:

    1) I’m just sick to death of the pressure I feel to think about my appearance all the time. I don’t care if magazines start showing models of every size possible — the message will still be that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her, that men are allowed just to be people, but women have to be pretty things. So, of course, the answer is for me just to ignore fashion magazines, which I do, except when they’re brought into discussions like this one. But, still, I have to deal with the results in society — the way men just ignore me because I’m not hot. I work in a field dominated by men, so it genuinely disadvantages me that about 50% of the men I meet look right through me like I’m not even there. It doesn’t matter how great my ideas are — I’m not worth looking at or talking to. Not all men do this, of course, but a fair number do.

    2) Leaving aside the issue of whether women should be judged on appearance so much, adding size diversity to the fashion world just doesn’t help me out that much. My problem isn’t my size — it’s everything else. I look at the models in the V issue, and here’s what I see: they have long, thick, shiny hair. I have thin, stringy graying hair (I’m allergic to hair dye, so can’t change that). They have symmetrical faces and clear skin; I have a very crooked face covered with freckles and age spots. They’re tall; I’m short. They’re curvy; I’m shaped like a tube (no matter what size I am). It wouldn’t matter how much I worked out or what size I was; I will always count as ugly by this society’s standards, and perhaps by all societies’ standards (because they say symmetry and a good waist-hip ratio are the universal requirements for beauty).

    So, in the end, I just don’t think the V issue is revolutionary in any way. It doesn’t question our standards of beauty in any deep way, much less question the the requirement that women be beautiful. The fact that these photos are seen as revolutionary by so many in the media just tells me how far we’ve sunk as a society.

    I don’t know. Maybe what I need is not fat acceptance but ugliness acceptance. Ugly people of the world unite!

  61. (I lived in NoHo so everyone around me was either an aspiring actor or worked in the porn industry, so there were a lot of interesting bodies floating around.)

    Van Nuys Blvd representing. Oh man, I definitely think being tucked away on the West Side and WeHo shaped my experiences and I probably should have mentioned that in my post.

    Also, I’m sure I was discriminated against in a huge (no pun intended) way, but I guess my point is not to get caught up in the idea that there are places where fatties get driven out of town with torches, because I do believe every place is like that for some particular fatty.

    I have heard long and hard about supposedly accepting the South is regarding fat, and I definitely did not have that experience. But then my version of acceptance doesn’t include being shoehorned into specific kinds of employment opportunities, relationships and lifestyle choices based on my body size, which is what I felt happened quite frequently there.

  62. “(ETA: I also happen to think it’s a win if a woman you wouldn’t consider fat, but who herself has felt fat all her life, sees someone built like Crystal Renn or Kate Dillon and feels a little less bad about her body)”

    Agreed. I find it wonderful to see women like that and at the same time, profoundly sad that they arent already represented every day in advertising and magazines and everything else.
    I saw a weightwatchers ad last night on tv which featured a very slim fit woman leaping on to the scales which read 140lbs. That will probably terrify and alietate half the people who were thinking of going, so even Weightwatchers hasnt got the brass balls to actually show a larger woman in their ads…..GGGRRRRRRAAAAHHHHH

    I really need to chill out. I woke up this morning with actual toothache from night-time gnashing of teeth and jaw clenching….

  63. @Amy – ugliness acceptance is the new frontier. I have thought about that a lot over the years. I wonder if the answer lies in recognizing the prejudice (just like we need to own our unfavorable gut reactions based on race, age, size, etc), and then take care NOT to *act* according to those prejudices.

  64. @Karen – I like to completely deadpan that my goal height is 5’7″. I mean, it is – if I could wave a wand and be any height at all, that’s the height I’d be. And it usually takes people a second to be all “wait…goal height?”

  65. See, the problem here, Snarky, is that you’re using common sense; a trait which is completely and utterly lacking in the entertainment and fashion industries. And, more and more, in journalism.

    BTW, when I was a size 6-8, I was in the throes of an ED. Like you say, saying any one size range is “normal” is, well, stupid.
    There’s that darn common sense again!

  66. @Amy – I hear you. Most of my life I have heard how “gorgeous” and “exotic” mixed race women are, yet as an “invisible” mixed race woman I certainly have not had those standards applied to my looks. It took me a minute to realize when they say, “mixed race” they meant mixed with white in a way that is obvious and nothing to do with how my various ingredients came together to create my looks.

    That said, one of the things I have experienced in my own life as a person who isn’t supposed to be included in the dominant society beauty discourse is that in some ways there is a lot less pressure on me to adhere to those standards. This doesn’t mean I am not bound by the standards to a certain degree, but it does mean I don’t have a patronizing little league coach in my head saying, “Good eye!” whenever I fall short of what’s expected of me.

    In some ways being completely ignored can be a gift, though like many gifts, its value is entirely dependent on its usefulness at the time of receipt.

  67. I am fat. I don’t go to malls. I don’t buy or read magazines (other than two or three, prized for their literary and investigative values). I don’t watch TV. I don’t care about fashion (clothing or otherwise). I don’t eat at restaurants. I avoid almost all shopping that is not necessary or is not online.

    I avoid/ignore these things because I tend to feel happier when I’m not over-exposed to ignorant, annoying people. Definition: Adults who wouldn’t recognize critical thinking skills or research biases even if the fate of human existence depended on it.

    But. Wait. It. Does.

    Barring some miraculous, wide-spread reversal in the organization, socialization, and education of our species, we are screwed. There is no driver behind the wheel of our “bus” and we are careening faster and faster downhill, without brakes, on a narrow winding road with deep canyons on both sides.

    So. Maybe I’m derailing here. I hope I’m not, but ultimately that’s not my call. The perspective I am sharing here, however, is a sample of how I, personally, deal with fucking capitalist, racist, sexist (etc, etc, etc) bullshit rhetoric about (and images of) fashion model/clothing sizes. For instance.

    This point of view may sound depressing. I’m not saying you should try it. For me, it has been liberating.

    I gotta lot of living and loving to do.

    I don’t need to be stopping every other block to make an ATM withdrawl from The Bank of Inhumanity & Crap. The fashion industry is a capitalist institution operating much like any other (such as the business of medicine, for example.) Thus, it is about stirring up the same old shit and convincing folks to buy the same old shit in a brand spanking new color (or taste or odor or style…) But it is still the same old shit. I prefer to walk around the pile of shit when I can–and I point the shit out to the person walking behind me, if it appears that they too might wish to keep their feet (ankles, calves, knees, thighs…) less shitty. Hauling shit around gets cumbersome and exhausting.

    Anyway. Thank you! Thank you for regularly pointing out some of the shit you encounter, and thank you for suggesting ways to avoid stepping directly into it. For that, my life is a bit sweeter. Dare I say: the lives of my loved ones are a bit sweeter, too, as I share with them your observations.

  68. @Amy,

    Exactly. I think that is a big part of why I hear the ‘everyone is beautiful’ and feel uncomfortable.
    Because everyone isn’t. And they don’t need to be .
    And there are many, many wonderful things to be that are completely unrelated to how you look.
    And almost all of them are MUCH more important than being ~any one’s~ conception of beautiful looking (a thing completely unrelated to having a beautiful heart, soul, or mind).

  69. Most of my life I have heard how “gorgeous” and “exotic” mixed race women are, yet as an “invisible” mixed race woman I certainly have not had those standards applied to my looks. It took me a minute to realize when they say, “mixed race” they meant mixed with white in a way that is obvious and nothing to do with how my various ingredients came together to create my looks.

    In addition to the load of racist bullshit there, it’s totally interesting how across the board, certain characteristics are talked about as intrinsically “beautiful,” to the point where they become shorthand for a whole package of conventionally attractive attributes.* For instance, what do you picture when you hear “blonde hair, blue eyes, hourglass figure, big tits?” Barbie, Marilyn Monroe, a Playboy bunny, etc. Now, what do you picture when you hear “Short, fat, acne, big nose, weak chin?” Someone distinctly unattractive by conventional standards. As it turns out, both descriptions apply to me. And as it turns out, I’ve been called beautiful, fugly and everything in between — and I’ve personally gone from being miserable about my looks to pretty happy with them, by changing almost nothing but my attitude. A list of characteristics tells you absolutely nothing about what a person really looks like, much less how attractive you’ll find them, since so much of that comes down to presence and chemistry. And yet, we read and hear those lists — and make them ourselves — all the damned time.

    My favorite description of a fictional character EVER was in the Geoff Nicholson novel Bedlam Burning, which I wish I had handy right now, but since I don’t, I’ll have to paraphrase. Basically, the female romantic lead enters the room, and the narrator says something to the effect of, She was beautiful — and I’m not going to tell you any more than that, because what’s beautiful to me might not be beautiful to you, and if I get into specifics, you might get hung up on that image and fail to appreciate the point, which is that she was completely fucking breathtaking to me. So, you know, picture whatever YOU find breathtaking, and you’ll understand. (It’s a very funny and well-written passage, but you get the gist.) More and more it drives me fucking nuts when I see heroes described as white thin, blonde, with button noses and perfect teeth, whatever — and worse yet, seeing villains described as dark, fat, hairy, with pockmarked skin, etc. It’s lazy, and it reinforces not only the idea that certain physical characteristics will automatically render one pretty or ugly, but that they’ll automatically render one fucking good or evil. Grrrrrr.

    *Which is not to dismiss the privilege that does come with any of these individual characteristics — blonde hair, blue eyes, an hourglass figure and big tits all definitely make me more culturally acceptable. They just don’t mean that anyone will ever mistake me for Barbie, and that’s the type of woman one pictures upon hearing those words with no other context.

  70. Exactly, Kate. My heritage includes Brazilian, which definitely conjures up an image that has nothing to do with my looks. While I don’t think I’m ugly, I’m certain there are plenty of folks who would disagree with me. But more importantly, I don’t care. What other people think about my looks is their business.

    This is why I actively seek to resist the cultural training around beauty. Not so one day I’ll be considered hot and be afforded all the privileges it comes with, but rather so one day a list of physical attributes won’t define anyone.

  71. What Kate just said really resonated with me, about certain characteristics used as shorthand for a huge number of conventionally attractive attributes.

    I went on a blind date recently that was set up by my roommate. The only thing my roommate told him about my appearance is that I was a “skinny blonde.” Other than that, he had no idea what he looked like. Well, in the days leading up to the blind date, we talked on the phone some and texted back and forth. He was acting super excited to meet me and seemed to like my personality. But, when I met him for our date, I got the vibe that he was at least somewhat disappointed in how I actually looked. Because I’m sure when he heard skinny blonde, he envisioned someone who also had perfect skin, perfect facial features, tanned skin, no glasses, etc. I’ve grown to appreciate myself more and more – in part thanks to this blog! – but it still stung a bit. I wish my roommate hadn’t told him anything about my appearance because then maybe he wouldn’t have created this mental image that probably didn’t resemble me at all. Of course it didn’t help that after that, my roommate suggested that the solution was to dye my hair bleach blond – as opposed to my current dirty blonde hair – and go to a tanning salon, because in her view I am unacceptably pale.

    In saying all that, I don’t want to seem like I’m ignoring the privilege that comes along with some of the attributes that I do have. It was just the way Kate described the “shorthand” made so much sense to me in light of my recent experience and that distinct look someone gives you when you know you’re a letdown in their eyes.

    Also, I agree with what someone said above about fashion magazines seeming to forget that people have different body shapes and heights as well and the models they feature whether they are deemed “thin” or “plus size” all seem to have the same basic body shape and height. It would be great, especially for shopping online, if stores featured models of different heights and shapes as well as different weights. I don’t understand how stores think I am supposed to buy articles of clothing online if I can’t see how it would look on someone who is at least somewhat more similar in body shape/height/weight to me?

  72. Wait, wait — so did that stylist just inadvertantly admit that all those images of unrealistically thin models are supposed to be aspirational? Because, if I remember correctly, that’s always one of the first thing denied whenever an editor or whomever is asked about whether such images might contribute to eating disorders or body image problems.

    I’ve heard people give the excuse that images and fashion spreads of extremely thin models are “just fantasy,” or that there are practical/design reasons why the models are so consistently thin (to fit into sample sizes; because clothing hangs better, etc.) — not because *gasp* anyone is supposed to be ASPIRING to achieve a body type that only ever occurs in a minute fraction of the population.

  73. Also, if she believes that fashion images are supposed to be aspirational, and she also genuinely believes that size 4-10 is the norm, then if people followed her suggestion and made that the standard size range for models, how would that then be aspirational, if it was in fact the norm? The word aspire suggests that one is reaching for something that one does not currently possess and possibly one never will. Is she actually slyly admitting that that sz 4-10 isn’t actually the norm or is she just not thinking her own argument through at all?

  74. Oh Cassandra. There you go with the earth logic again.

    (I had a parallel to make with Kate’s remarks about “standout” features and under what circumstances they’re perceived as “ugly” or “beautiful”, and what I was saying earlier about being perceived differently in different regions at the same size, but watching Gonzalez play is addling my brain. BRB.)

  75. “I take issue with that statement. I’m not an expert on fashion history, but I’m fairly sure there’s been documented research on the way average weights of fashion models has gone down significantly since the middle of the 20th century. That’s not a cosmetic change to sizing, it’s actual changes to the body shape and weight. No matter what has been done with sizing, models are thinner now than they used to be.”

    I believe the jump in body size story is false in regards to fashion.

    The last time high fashion celebrated full bodied women was in the Diamond Jim Brady days. As soon as the first super model (i.e the Gibson Girl) took hold of the imagination, models became extremely thin. The models from the 20′s through today are all the same body type. There was a big difference in body size between Dovima (super model of the 50′s) and Marilyn Monroe.

    The fashion industry has different categories of models. High Fashions were always thin. Now models who posed in catalogues and other advertisements were a bit larger than they are today. Now we have the super model creep into that category. And models who were meant for the male gaze…Monroe and Page… were larger still (as in too large for high fashion).

    We women are fighting against a whole lot of ridiculous categories in body types.

  76. @Kate, lilpocketninja, et. al. – Wikipedia has Crystal Renn’s measurements as 38C-30-42, which makes her a 12-14 in standard sizing, but probably closer to an 8 in vanity sizing. For what it’s worth, I generally wear around a size 12 and my measurements are a bit bigger than hers.

    @Alyssa – Size 6-8 was also my super disordered eating size. I’m not any healthier or less healthy at three sizes and 40 lbs. heavier, but I’m certainly much happier.

    @Snarky – I find that whole “exoticization” thing weird and disquieting, particularly because I get it fairly often (the assumption is that I’m European + Indian/Lebanese/Persian or something like that) when I am, in fact, of entirely Eastern European heritage. It seems to make people think that they can question me about my ethnicity in ways that are none of their business.

  77. “It seems to make people think that they can question me about my ethnicity in ways that are none of their business.”

    I have taken to answering the odious “What are you?” with a cool “Mostly human. Some Vulcan.”

  78. Meems,

    I always smile and say very sweetly, “well, I’m American”.

    And if they ask me where I’m ‘from’, I say Connecticut.

    It isn’t enough that they’re rude and inavasive, they want me to HELP them be rude and invasive.

  79. @littlem – hahahahaha

    @holls – “Where I’m from” often invites even more questions, since I’m from a very Irish/Italian city and am clearly not either. I usually just walk away…though looking “exotic” did cause one guy on the subway to ask me to be in a porno… *sigh*

  80. @Meems, littlem : Story of my life!

    I often get stuck in those wonderfully rigged conversations with strangers*about where I’m “from”. No, really, where I’m *really* from…**Perlasmash**

    Once, someone insisted to me that mixed race people are either “really pretty or really ugly.” OK, so not like NORMAL** people then!

    *Any answer other than exactly what the inquisitor wants to hear in the most deferential tone possible=you, or all Asians are “rude”)
    **I can’t italicise, so I used upper case.

  81. I get the “where are you really from?” a lot too even though as far as I know I’m just a plain old white girl. (I say as far as I know because my grandfather was a foundling, left on the steps of a church as a baby, so we really have no idea what his background was) It’s particularly lulzy when I say “Scotland” and people follow up with “but I thought that was in England”. Um, no, and also you are a dumabass on so many levels.

  82. LOL, Cassandra. I like the way you spelled it. It’s like a new dub/trance derivative or something.

    I might put it on a t-shirt and see if people can tell the difference.

    I’m sure the ones who think Scotland is in England won’t notice.

  83. *splutters*
    Thank you. If I wake up my neighbors choking on my own laughter, it will be your fault.

    I have a friend from Scotland. She is just like you. You ladies scare me, with your voluptuous liquor-soaked holiday ham and your Andy Murray.

    (I’m watching the AO. I should be napping, but I got caught watching DelPotro while waiting for Rafa’s match. Leave me alone.)

  84. If you think the ham is scary, I urge you to avoid the haggis. It is one of the world’s most terrifying foods.

    Also, the oatcakes. World, on behalf of my homeland I apologise for giving you a snack food that resembles a hockey puck.

    Then again we did invent a soup called Cock-a-Leekie, so I think that should count in our favor.

  85. Well, the ham was just scary because there I was, eating and enjoying, like, you know, a normal person (lolz this conversayshun is not OT), and all of a sudden I was drunk, which I thought was unusual even for my usual sudden slippage into altered states, as I’d been imbibing no liquids but seltzer and water for the entire week previous.

    “Also, the oatcakes. World, on behalf of my homeland I apologise for giving you a snack food that resembles a hockey puck. “

    The longer I live, the more I think most cultures have their version of the hockey-pucklike snack. I mean … scrapple?

  86. A lot of traditional Scottish foods are sort of Pratchett-like, aren’t they? I’ve gotten drunk on whiskey truffles before – I believe in other countries it may be customary to burn off the alcohol, but in Scotland not so much. I’ve always felt that my being able to get drunk on two glasses of wine makes me a source of shame to my people.

    And yeah, everywhere I’ve ever lived there’s been at least one snack food that’s made me scratch my head in confusion. A friend from Iceland claims they have pickled shark there, which sounds even scarier than haggis.

  87. “I’ve always felt that my being able to get drunk on two glasses of wine makes me a source of shame to my people. “

    LOL. That shame can come from anywhere (though that does contrast you rather sharply with my other friend, who was the source of the drunken ham recipe).

    I’ve always felt the same, as one of my degrees is from the Big Ten and one from from an Ivy, both of which pride themselves on spewing forth graduates whose campus-acquired abilities “should” include a neat freestyle stroke through the odd reservoir of alcoholic beverage.

    Also, she didn’t tell us before we began to eat!
    The whole table started to look like a dreamscape before I asked what was in the recipe, at which point she began: “Mead, brown sugar, whiskey, anise …”

    I forgot what she said after that.

    “A lot of traditional Scottish foods are sort of Pratchett-like”
    LOL!

  88. amy – yes. Absolutely. I never had either the genetic fluke of being a ‘beauty’, or the manic interest in ‘beautification’ that seemed to form the basis of the lives of some women and girls I came across, but I spent much of my early life struggling to establish the fact that I might be a valuable person for any other reason. I’d hoped we’d start getting our priorities right, but now it seems that the rule is ‘Yes, a woman can do anything she wants as long as she’s thin and cute first.’ When we get away from that, maybe we’ll see some real progress.

    CassandraSays, I’ve seen that a lot in these debates – people saying ‘Ah, well, size 16 may be the averagesize of a UK woman but that’s not normal, because the ordinary women are all fatty fatz – the thin models are normal!’ In other words, ‘normal’ is whatever the observer happens to find attractive, and it’s highly likely that the views of the observer as to what that is have been affected by the preponderance of models who are unusually thin compared to the population as a whole.

    Actually, size 16 was the average size of an adult British woman back in the 80s, as I recall; there may perhaps have been a change in dress sizes since then, but the same applies – more so because in the meantime, the models have almost certainly gotten thinner. Aspirational (the thin model) has become normal in some people’s eyes, and normal (the rather larger average woman) has become pathological.

  89. “But what about the poor menz? Especially the middle-class educated white menz? All this focussing on extreme frige groups is forgetting them.”
    `
    OK, I’m going to try to tread lightly here, because I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’m going to have to repeat some unpeaceful things *in order to deplore them*, and I hope it’s clear that I do deplore them. So here goes:

    Anytime anybody anywhere who is not of the dominant group gets *anything* positive, you can count on some crybaby (or several crybabies) to complain about it, as though every walk of life were an all or nothing proposition.

    Is a person of any ethnic or racial minority in the news because they’ve achieved some sort of success? “OMG, Those People [if you know who I mean] are taking over!”

    Does your town have a gay mayor, city council member, etc.? “OMG, They’re going to give us all The Geigh!!”

    Is there one woman who is not as thin/young/white/surgically altered as the current “fashion” body type dictates, but is somehow presented in a positive light? “OMG, The Fatz are going to get their fat kooties all over the rest of us! Won’t someone think of the boners!”

    I have *never* heard anyone say, “OMG, the corporations are going to bankrupt the country!”, or similar (even though, come to think of it, that actually happened). It’s always some (excuse me) token member of some outgroup that’s going to bring about everyone’s downfall by getting an extra crumb from the table.

    Elementary math for crybabies: Running only 99% of everything instead of 100% is still running everything.

  90. A friend from Iceland claims they have pickled shark there, which sounds even scarier than haggis.

    My understanding is that this is far, far worse than just pickled. The shark is buried and allowed to rot for a year, which reduces the urea content to the point where it is no longer poisonous.

    I wonder which American foods are considered bafflingly disgusting to people from other places. Twinkies?

    Sorry, /OT contribution.

  91. My understanding is that this is far, far worse than just pickled. The shark is buried and allowed to rot for a year, which reduces the urea content to the point where it is no longer poisonous.

    Anthony Bourdain did an episode of No Reservations in Iceland, where his reaction to this was pretty priceless.

  92. Van Nuys Blvd representing. Oh man, I definitely think being tucked away on the West Side and WeHo shaped my experiences and I probably should have mentioned that in my post.

    Oh yeah. Several of my single, female friends lived or still live in West Hollywood, largely because it’s safer than most other neighborhoods (“Gay men and the Russian mafia” as one friend puts it). But it is definitely not the ritzy area of the basin.

    my point is not to get caught up in the idea that there are places where fatties get driven out of town with torches, because I do believe every place is like that for some particular fatty

    Indeed. I’ve actually felt more like I blend in here in West Virginia because there are an awful lot of fat white people around. Except I hate NASCAR and don’t wear a trucker’s hat so that does leave me feeling a bit outside of things. (Joking. Mostly. I’m in a very rural, very conservative part of the state and sometimes cliches become cliches for a reason.)

    melponeme_k “The models from the 20’s through today are all the same body type.” Body type is different from body size. Yes, models have been thin for a long time, but not this thin. Also you’re now breaking “models” into categories like models appearing in advertisements don’t count, but you didn’t state that earlier, you just lumped them all together. I wouldn’t consider the women appearing in advertisements, who are the ones most people see, to not be models. If you’re going to make an argument that models aren’t any thinner now than they used to be, you should probably try to be more specific about which models you need. Also, numbers would be nice.

    Tessie – I think you may have missed the epic sarcasm in the original comment.

    DRST

  93. @Tessie: “Won’t someone think of the boners!”

    That cracked me up! We do seem to act like men’s arousal is the most important thing in the world — something we must all work very hard to promote at all times.

  94. LilahMorgan: Oh dear lord. Words fail me.

    I dress frumpy (frumpily?) for work because I’m teaching 19-year-old boys and I have large breasts. My students do better in class if I wear baggy sweaters. But they’re nineteen; they’re not even finished with frontal lobe development yet. Their executive function isn’t supposed to be at full strength. But grown men? And, poor things, they’re “wired” that way? And would change it if they could? Give me a fucking break.

  95. That article is bizarre. I was under the impression that women who dressed frumpily didn’t exactly meet with office-place approval, and the business-formal women’s clothes I’ve noticed (not that noticing people’s clothes, except for shoes, is something I’m much in the habit of) are figure-emphasising.

    I had no idea that ‘no man’ can tell a woman that her blouse is cracked open and giving him an eyeful. I’ve done that. I wonder what other mystical powers I have. Can I kill the Witch King?

  96. Also, the oatcakes. World, on behalf of my homeland I apologise for giving you a snack food that resembles a hockey puck.

    But aren’t oatcakes the basis of Hobnobs, one of the most delicious cookies in the world and what I filled my suitcase (along with cheese OF COURSE) on a recent trip to England?

    RE: the “What are you” question. My response to the race question on the census form and on my marriage license was “human.” I got away with it on the census, even though someone called me to get more information and I refused to give them any more, saying my race was none of the government’s darn business. The clerk at the courthouse, however, refused to give us a license unless I gave an answer more specific than “human,” which made me mad enough that I wrote to my state representative about it. Honestly. This information is necessary why?

    Boy. Have I strayed off topic. Bad commenter.

  97. Word to your whole post. Size is not even remotely telling of body shape, thinness, etc. I’m a size four. And because I’m short (5’3″ and a half), this also means that I’m by no means skinny. And that’s fine. But touting everything as it relates to clothing sizes oversimplifies shapes, heights, different bodies, proportions, etc. It’s frustrating.

  98. “Tessie – I think you may have missed the epic sarcasm in the original comment.

    DRST”

    I was hoping to agree with it, although I seem to have had a clarity fail. I wasn’t chastising the person who sarcastically posted “butbutbut what about the ruling class menz?”, but expanding upon the comment (or trying to anyway).

    The sort of “what about the [fill in crybaby overdog group here]?” discussion that pops up in the mainstream media every… single… time… an underdog or minority group member gets ANY-thing good out of life (see Obama, Barack, or any review for the movie “Precious”) is akin to that one relative that everybody has, whom you can’t mention [fill in controversial subject here] in front of, lest they have a heart attack and spoil everybody’s Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. NO-body ever says, “Listen, Tessie isn’t a big church-goer, so whatever you do, don’t mention religion in front of her” — oh, no — it’s only MY opinions that are the problem.

    *harrumphs to self, smooths ruffled feathers*

    Similarly, there’s never a lot of anguished hand-wringing about the people who *really* have privilege (at least not in any mainstream media outlet that I’m familiar with), regardless of whether or not they cause actual problems — it’s only ever the fats/blacks/gays/people who say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas”/whoever that must be kept out of the popular kids’ lunch table, lest they bring about the downfall of civilization.

  99. DRST

    Look at the photos of models in the 30s, 40s, 50s until present day. They are extremely thin. As thin as models are today. Its just in those days, women weren’t protesting the overly thin images being presented to them as ideals.

    Check the clothing. There is no one on this site that would be able to fit into a standard size when companies were still using the chart. The fashion industry NEVER stopped using standard sizes. Which is why they emphasize sizes 0 to 2. There was another poster who actually does work in the fashion industry who stated that this is indeed the norm.

    We have to be honest about sizes and how they are presented in this industry. By arguing falsely that women used to be larger in the fashion industry when they weren’t is not helping anyone.

    I dare anyone try to argue that these women were larger than the models today. THEY AREN’T
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/vintagevogue/page2/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/vintagevogue/4246801833/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/vintagevogue/4229869788/

    I was wrong to assume that everyone knew that there were categories of models. It isn’t only high fashion. The models who work in catalogue, editorials and advertising are in the product modeling department. They were once a bit larger because they were supposed to reflect the average woman. That isn’t the case today. On the flickr site I linked to does show larger sized women. However those women are mostly actresses and society women. They do carry a bit more weight.

  100. About the idea that models haven’t changed in shape/size since the 20s or whatever…um, anyone remember Cindy Crawford? When was the last time you saw a model with that body type on the cover of Vogue or whatever? Even since the 90s the average body type and average weight of models has changed considerably, if you go back to the 80′s it’s a dramatic change, if you look at the 50s models then wouldn’t even be recognisable as fitting our current concept of “model”, but then there was that period in the 60s where Twiggy was massively popular…so what I’m saying is, the ideal shifts constantly and so do the models chosen to embody it.

    (BTW, yes, HobNobs are sort of oaty but they’re not at all like traditional oatcakes, which in my family at least are served with nothing but butter on them and aren’t really sweet at all. The whole salty oats business seems to be a Scottish thing – my father finds it distressing that I put brown sugar and raisins in my oatmeal. Also, Volcanista, RE the American version of perplexing snack foods…I dunno, angel food cake baffled me the first time I encountered it. I was all…OK, it’s cake, but it’s not really sweet, and there’s no frosting or anything, and it’s sort of rubbery…is this something you feed your children when they’ve been bad?)

  101. @cassandrasays – I’m totally with you on the angel food cake thing. I don’t understand it. It’s like eating foam. And why would I want to do that?

  102. There is no one on this site that would be able to fit into a standard size when companies were still using the chart.

    Uh, what? Do you have a magic window onto every person reading this blog? If not, please stop making assumptions about the bodies of our readers.

  103. melponeme_k, I will DARE to argue that the models from the 30′s – 50′s are larger than the models today. Are they thin? Yes, but not emaciated. Models back then were also older than the models used today and not as tall.

  104. Sweet Machine, A vanity size 8 is the equivalent of a standard size 16.

    No popular retail fashion store would be caught dead with a size 16 on their shelves. Which is why the vanity sizing craziness.

    Again a vanity 0 is a standard size 6. I doubt very few women reading this site would fit into the same standard size as they do the vanity sizes.

    This is just intellectual honesty and facing up to what has been entrenched in the fashion industry for decades. We aren’t fighting something that is new. Its a way of life for this industry.

    Cindy Crawford was an anomaly. So is Crystal Renn. They are allowed to be exceptions for a time. Its like the industry choosing a May Day fool.  But the fashion industry always goes back to the very thin norm.

    Paula, those models look pretty emaciated to me. It was just covered up better with make up and clothing drape.

    I’m pretty old now and I remember the 70′s and 80′s. And I remember girls and women dieting insanely to be the lowest size on the chart. Everyone wanted to fit into the smallest size jeans on the shelf. That wouldn’t be so if the Fashion industry was celebrating models with an average sized body.

  105. I wonder which American foods are considered bafflingly disgusting to people from other places. Twinkies?

    British and German acquaintances of mine have opined that peanut butter and wintergreen are both perplexingly un-tasty. The Germans also thought that putting salted butter on sweet pastry was weird…American desserts often do that salty-sweet thing, which is evidently less common in Germany. Though then Japanese snacks do salty-sweet-fishy, which I find just bizarre.

  106. I dare anyone try to argue that these women were larger than the models today. THEY AREN’T

    Um, yeah they are. that picture of Marion Shilling? I can’t see her rib cage. You look at fashion models today and you see ribs and bones in their shoulders and arms, visible collar bones, etc. I don’t see that in any of the pictures you linked. I’m not sure why you’re still arguing this anyway. You can’t point to any actual data or evidence proving that no, models still weigh exactly what they did in the past, and since this isn’t my field of expertise, neither can I. You’re not going to convince me, or probably anyone else, and the blanket statements you’re now making about the body size of the people reading here are drifting into attack territory. This would be a good time to agree to disagree and walk away.

    DRST

  107. DRST

    I’m just pointing out that there was never, never a time in the Fashion industry when it celebrated the average size body.

    It has always emphasized the willowy body type that is out of reach for the majority of women. And social history shows that dieting has been with us for decades.

    I’m not sure why you are still arguing DRST since you don’t point to evidence either.

    I’m not attacking anyone’s body size. I’m just pointing out the use of standard charts that the industry uses when making clothing and any person who sews their own clothing also uses. The fashion industry doesn’t look at a 0 as a real size, they see it as a standard 6.

    What I’m trying to make clear here again, is that this industry has always emphasized the thin body. There was never a hallmark time in which the industry used an average sized female model. At least not in the time I’ve been on this earth. By not being honest about this fact doesn’t help us in the fight against the emphasis on thin body types. Since we are fighting a culture battle with an industry that has dictated what our bodies should look like for a very long time.

  108. Again a vanity 0 is a standard size 6. I doubt very few women reading this site would fit into the same standard size as they do the vanity sizes.

    I don’t understand this statement. Obviously no one wears the same size number in dressmaker sizes as they do in “vanity”/mass-market sizes. And I think everyone here fits into both a dressmaker and “vanity” size.

  109. @melponeme – I can’t disagree with anything in your last post. I also believe that Americans have gotten larger in the last couple decades. I don’t see anything wrong with that, though. We’ve also gotten taller. We’re more ethnically diverse. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things. The fact that the fashion industry hasn’t adapted is problematic, however. It’s like a wealth/poverty stratification. The gap between what is common to the average person and the ideal is widening.

  110. Again a vanity 0 is a standard size 6. I doubt very few women reading this site would fit into the same standard size as they do the vanity sizes.

    But this isn’t what you said that SM was quoting. You said that no one on this site would fit into a standard size, i.e. everyone here is too fat for standard sizes. But this blog has a very varied readership.

    It is possible that people’s hackles are raised because you’re yelling a lot. Also, DRST responded to your initial blanket statements with reasonable skepticism, because you hadn’t backed those statements up with more than pictures. There’s no reason she should have to back down from saying that you are making a lot of unsupported statements when, you know, you are.

  111. Volcanista – I’m in the UK, and every Brit I know who’s tried Hershey chocolate (which they do sell in a few places over here) deems it disgusting compared with Cadbury’s. ‘Like soap’ is one description I’ve heard. I don’t see that much between them, but I prefer seeking out local little chocolate brands, here and in the US.

    Myself, I don’t think I’ll ever get my head round candied sweet potatoes.

  112. No Volcanista, I have not accused anyone of being fat on this thread. Not one person. And I have never equated standard sizing with fatness.

    But I think many who have argued with me are projecting that assumption on me including yourself.

    However the Fashion Industry does think that anyone above a vanity size 0 to 2 (standards 6 to 8) are fat. And that is what we should be concentrating on.

    Yes, hsofia, racism plays a big part in the fashion industry’s definition of fatness.

  113. Volcanista – I’m in the UK, and every Brit I know who’s tried Hershey chocolate (which they do sell in a few places over here) deems it disgusting compared with Cadbury’s. ‘Like soap’ is one description I’ve heard. I don’t see that much between them, but I prefer seeking out local little chocolate brands, here and in the US.

    This American agrees with that 100%. The worst thing is that the Cadbury’s they sell in the US is made by Hershey’s too. Every time anyone I know travels to the UK, I make them stock up on Cadbury’s for me.

  114. melponeme_k, the fact that many people here, including one of the mods (hello!), don’t understand what you’re arguing and feel you’re coming across as hostile, means that you are probably not communicating what you think you are.

    But this isn’t what you said that SM was quoting. You said that no one on this site would fit into a standard size, i.e. everyone here is too fat for standard sizes. But this blog has a very varied readership.

    Volcanista got my objection right; this is exactly what it sounded like you were saying. “Accusing people of being fat” isn’t the problem, since we don’t view fat as bad here; I just do not appreciate it when people make blanket assumptions about the bodies of our readers.

    I suggest, since this is not going well for you, that you step back from this thread for a while.

  115. My point since the beginning is that the Fashion Industry is not using the same standards that are being given to us. Which they are using against us in a culture war. Which they are using to label the majority of women as overweight.

    I don’t considered fat as bad and I haven’t stated anywhere that different body types are bad on this thread.

    Many here on this thread have been hostile to me but they are not being asked to step back. I find that highly interesting.

  116. Many here on this thread have been hostile to me but they are not being asked to step back. I find that highly interesting.

    Ahem:

    Most of our moderation work goes on behind the scenes — every first-time comment has to be approved, which is why you almost never see a drive-by fat-hater here anymore — but when an approved commenter starts driving us batshit, it’s out there for everyone to see. And we’re okay with that, too. We think about our responses, and we own them. But they’re not up for negotiation. We only get bitchy after we’ve perceived a consistent pattern of disrespect for the comments policy and/or the spirit of the blog. If you don’t perceive the same pattern, then one of two things is happening: you haven’t read all the same comments we have, or you have different standards than we do. Either way, it’s our call, and arguing with us about those calls is far more likely to get you on the shit list than change our minds.

  117. LilahMorgan – Oddly, my hubby found the US Cadbury’s in Walgreen’s, and he said that while the texture was ‘grittier’, the flavor was much the same as its British counterpart. He still prefers Dove bars, though. I wonder if the Kraft takeover of UK Cadbury’s will make any difference.

  118. I’ve kind of avoided all topic on all forums on crystal renn because there are always a handful of people everytime sniffing about how she’s some freak anomaly that represents NOBODY because “normal” women are (insert personal notion of, mean averages, and so on of normal here). I’m a 5.10 female with 38c-30-42 as her measurements (but a 29″ inseam vs a torso that’s off-the-charts). She represents me (with longer legs and shorter torso) and seeing her in advertisements makes me happy, helps my esteem and so on. So when this topic comes up and I see body-isolating comments in regards to Renn I’m not sure if I’m supposed to apologize for my body or that crystal renn accidently represents me or what.

  119. Rebecca, I’m 5 feet tall with a 29″ inseam, 30G rack-of-doom and “vanity” size 4 pants. My body type has been described as “cartoon character”. None of us are “normal”. Maybe that means all of us are. Who the hell gets to define “normal”, anyway?

  120. Sorry, I’ve been meaning to chime in again but can’t find a second away from my job in the fashion industry to talk about my job in the fashion industry. I used to work in entertainment before fashion, so I fear that to some I’m the Axis of Evil on industries people dislike, but really I just get excited about how clothing is put together and sourced and designed and all, and decided to maybe work somewhere where I was interested in what was going on around me. Uh, anyway, not to get off topic…

    The industry is very divided – the companies that use the old standard sizing are high fashion houses, where few people can afford to shop, including me. I don’t work for that kind of company – I work for the kind whose clothing is found in department stores, both moderate and more high end (i.e, JC Pennys vs. Bloomingdales). We use sizing that is determined by us – we decide what a size 8 looks like for us, hire a fit model based on those sizes, and that becomes our standard. We do a lot of “vanity sizing”, meaning that I wear a 12 at, say, the Gap, but can fit into a sample size 8 at my own company, and need a 14 at other places. When I was a size 16, I fit into our sample size 10s, and when I was a size 24, I shopped almost entirely at Lane Bryant and Avenue because no one else ever seemed to carry anything that was truly business appropriate and not business-casual.

    Anyway, the point is, vanity sizing is the industry’s way of adapting, at least in its own mind. Each company determines sizes based on their own standard, and they sometimes get adjusted. It’s not a perfect system, but neither is the couture designer’s policy of holding onto an unrealistic size standard (though they aren’t aiming for mass appeal, like we are.)

    As far as models go, I’m not sure whether we’re talking runway models, which are always tall and thin and the classic “walking hanger” stereotype, or catalog/print models, which are also different from fit models, which are different from…etc. They have different body types associated with them. Modeling is one of the few jobs that has a discrimination exemption when hiring – you can discriminate based on physical attributes, etc., because that’s part of the job description. Sizes and looks and even geography change over time (Cindy Crawford was part of the 80′s American supermodel thing that was popular then, but it made way for the androgynous thing which made way for the Brazilian model influx, which made way for other things…

    But, yes, models have always been thin, and on the smaller size of the size scale. Some companies are snobbish about their customers, and some (like mine) generally aren’t, and are genuinely trying to create attractive and cost-effective stylish clothes for a variety of sizes. The problem is, the companies are full of people, and people are flawed, and sometimes judgmental, and sometimes just lazy.

    Um, to answer one last question above: the reason they start with the smaller sizes as a “standard” is because skinny bodies have straighter lines, which means the fabric hangs pretty straight and requires less fitting, darts, extra panels, etc. The larger the body, the more curves to fit the clothes onto. So they start smaller and size up, for the most part, adding fit and adapting as they go. “plus-sizes” have different requirements entirely – patterns need to be scaled, the body shape is different, etc., so you get a new template and size up again from there. Petites work the same way.

  121. i-geek: I hereby define fashion normal as “just like me.” I therefore anticipate being able to find clothes which fit next time I go shopping.

    Sarah: Nevermind about the Brits who won’t eat peanut butter. You know some Brits eat Marmite. I ask you!

    Ktans: Please, why do they so steadfastly refuse to label women’s clothes with actual measurements?

  122. I know we’re talking high fashion, but as far as models *always* having been thin, Raphael’s weren’t. Nor were Alfred Lord-Tadema’s or Frederick Lord Leighton’s. . .those images were “aspirational”, too, and were a record of what was fashionable and held in high esteem. I think we’re missing the big picture when we say “always” and are really only talking about the last 70 years or so.

  123. i-geek: I hereby define fashion normal as “just like me.” I therefore anticipate being able to find clothes which fit next time I go shopping.

    Would that it were so, Ailbhe. I’d just like to be able to walk into a store and buy a bra in my size. Apparently I don’t exist, according to US bra manufacturers. It’s rather curious; I appear to be corporeal.

  124. @aliciamaude – I think there’s an important difference between artist’s models and fashion models, namely that the latter are selling clothes (which has bearing on some of the industry practices that Ktans references). It would be interesting to look at what contemporary painters are doing … I’m not familiar enough with contemporary art to know what the trends are in painting or sculpture.

  125. Ailbhe: I didn’t know the answer, so I just went and asked the head of the department in charge of fitting clothes. She said it was for several reasons – 1. Women are curvier than men, and so they require more than just waist/length measurements to fit clothing well, 2. Men like their clothing to hang straight, whereas women prefer clothing to be more fitted, generally, which again requires more adaptation of garments, and 3. (and I’m going to say this exactly as she said it, and yes, I recognize the issues here): “women are vain. They don’t want to fit their actual measurements, they want to fit into something smaller, so they’re more likely to purchase a generic-sounding number rather than copping to actual measurements.” In other words, because we sell more clothes when we do it this way.

    I remember when Lane Bryant came out with those Right Size jeans or whatever they were called, and at the time I was a size 4 Red or 4 Blue, or something. I was maybe a size 20 at the time and the girl next to me was a 8 Blue I think, and she had a whole chat with me about how she was jealous that I was a 4 Red. I was a good two feet taller then her and a different race, body type, etc, and comparing us was crazy, especially on these weird new jeans numbers that had just been invented and which we had learned about two minutes before. Also, she rocked those jeans. But that extra level of obscurity from the numbers game worked – LB couldn’t keep those jeans stocked, and I saw them on everyone.

  126. What annoys me about this “industry” talk as though it’s all so codified. It’s definitely not at the haute couture end of the spectrum. Oh sure they might have very thin models parading that stuff down runways, but you’d better believe there are chunky, wealthy ladies who lunch who actually do the purchasing of haute coutre and it’s doubtful the same designers who vocally diss larger sizes aren’t the same ones making them “big” clothes for their wealthy patrons.

    Of course this means access, which is an entirely different subject.

  127. Ktans: Surely skintightness of fit is a matter of style rather than sizing, so that waist, arse and leg-length measurements would be a good starting point? Because one of the things I hate about shopping is that I can’t tell what size I am in a given style in a given shop until I’ve tried the damn thing on, which gets really boring really quickly. I could be any of six different sizes in one shop, but my arse and legs stay the same pretty much all the time (my waist increases significantly when I’m pregnant).

    I think it’s got a lot more to do with selling shit than proper fit, myself.

  128. About art models: you can’t use artist’s models as an example of a culture’s view of women and size-ism. This is for many reasons, 1. Artists make a lot of social statements or are trying to change problems in cultures so they aren’t going to go with whatever is hot on Madison Ave. we like to be edgy ;) 2. Different pieces and compositions require different sizes, as does symbolism within a piece, skinny doesn’t work everytime and neither does fat 3. by the time you’ve done all your life drawing with nude models (who are mostly fat, schools choose them for the shading and shapes not for “sexiness”) the stigma is pretty much gone, it opens you up.

    These are generalizations, but still you get the point. Sorry for the more terrible than usual grammar.

    However, when you’re talking about the artists mentioned upthread, you can use them as an example of the culture’s view of women because art then was like what magazines and TV and computers are now.

  129. hsofia, true that those painted in those earlier eras weren’t trying to sell dresses. I definitely get that–But those earlier images had in common with contemporary fashion photog in that they were often meant to depict what was fashionable and what was “ideal” at the time. (And painters who were being paid for portraits were expected to make those they were painting fit that ideal, even if it meant painting them in a way that was not very much like what they actually looked like—kind of like a really early photoshop.) So, they weren’t trying to sell the dresses, but they were still “selling” an idea of what other people should strive to be.

  130. “However, when you’re talking about the artists mentioned upthread, you can use them as an example of the culture’s view of women because art then was like what magazines and TV and computers are now.”

    Yeah, that’s what I was getting at, Alibhe. And I would add that not all artists were working to make statements. Some of them were working to make money to pay for food—there’s so much portraiture out there that was intended to preserve certain moments for posterity, but can still provide us with rich commentary on the cultural capital of the time. And I was just trying to point out that (sadly) the advert above does the something similar—it’s not the intended purpose but it sure does tell us something about the status of women in our culture. (And I’m not strictly speaking about size here, although that’s one element.)

  131. Are these UK or US sizes? I ask because they are quoting a London stylist. Size 6 or 8 in UK sizes is even smaller than it sounds – that would be size 2 or 4 in US sizes. Definitely not average but depending on height, not necessarily either emaciated OR chubby. Maybe that’s what they meant by “normal” rather than average?

    Quite right that height is a missing factor on many of these so-called analyses. For example, “plus-size” model Crystal Renn is a UK size 16 (US size 12), according to a profile I’ve read of her in The Guardian. The average woman’s dress size in the UK is size 16. But the average height for a woman in the UK is 5’4” and Renn is 5’9”. Hardly average.

  132. On labeling women’s clothing based solely on waist measurement and inseam:

    I understand that there are more curves in many women’s bodies than in men’s, but the numerical sizing system doesn’t take this into account, either, so it seems like a moot point to me. I mean, I have a 12 inch difference between my waist and hips and a 10 inch difference between my waist and bust. This means that I’m technically three different sizes, since most women’s sizing charts account for only a 9-10 inch difference between waist and hips and far less between waist and bust.

  133. @ Emerald – Brit who lives in the US here. Hersheys = sweetened earwax, in my opinion. It’s not just a flavor issue, there’s something odd about the texture.

    You can get fabulous American-made chocolate, btw – if you’re ever over here I highly recommend Lake Champlain – but Hershey’s is pretty bad.

    Also @ melponeme_k, I stand by my statement that you can tell just by looking at pictures that models have gotten thinner over time. They were never big, this is true, but they’re a lot thinner than they used to be. Models like Twiggy used to be unusual, now they’re the norm. Also obviously no one is the same size in vanity sizing as they are in the old standard sizing so…what was your point exactly there? But I’m not sure why you’re pointing that out as if people are denying that vanity sizing exists. No one here has denied that.

  134. Plus, I still hold that the main purpose the hullabaloo over vanity sizing in our society serves* is to bludgeon women with constant reminders that they are fatter than they think, or even if they wear a “small” size they could still be fatty fat fatties, because OMG, VANITY SIZING, so they shouldn’t go around thinking they are okay.

    For this reason, I tend to get my hackles up when someone comes onto an FA blog and gives us a detailed account of how vanity sizing works.

    * Yes, I get it; it’s mildly annoying to have to try on multiple sizes of clothing. It’s also mildly annoying to have to try on multiple styles of shoes to find one that fits your feet right or to have to check several different travel websites to find the best deal on hotel tickets, but nobody goes all “DESTRUCTION OF SOCIETY!” about that.

  135. well, I was hardly trying to get anyone hackles up, though I totally understand your frustrations. I usually lurk here – this topic just seemed more relevant to what I do every day. I have never, in my entire time working here, heard any woman’s body or size referred to as “fat” or “normal”, and we have a lot of meetings on how to make better clothes in all sizes that will sell. I’m also trying to figure out where the disconnect sets in – and obviously there is one.

  136. Oh, I wasn’t addressing my comment to you Ktans; apologies for the confusion. I was going back to melponeme_k‘s comments, which I should have stated more clearly since so much had happened on the thread since then.

  137. CassandraSays, I wholeheartedly agree with you on both points — both about sizing, and about chocolate. They started adding wax to Hershey’s chocolate bars decades ago, because it makes the bars keep better when shipped overseas to troops.

  138. “I wonder which American foods are considered bafflingly disgusting to people from other places. Twinkies?”

    I’ll have to confess that I’ve never eaten one of those, the idea of a food that never spoils is… disgusting. Also… Spongy cake and cream? Am I really supposed to pay for and enjoy air that never spoils? The industrial origins of the Twinkie (obviously so if you read the ingredient list) make it less baffling, but still off-putting.

    Other contestants for things Americans talk up but I find kind of gross: Cheese in a can (WTF???), fake whipped cream in a can that collapses into paste in seconds, any product that ends in -whip. If it requires a factory to make, I’m not interested.

    I’ve seen Swedes freak out at the amount of sugar in American cream cheese icing, and Jell-O. Jell-O salad is probably also pretty unique.

  139. Twinkees can spoil. I’ve seen it. The little places where you can see the filling at the bottom can get moldy.

    …I cut around those bits and eat the Twinkees anyway.

  140. Cheese whizz is pretty horrifying to me, personally. Also, American Cheese. Also pork rinds. ???? SPAM. And corn dogs. I didn’t realize until I was about 20 years old that a corn-dog wasn’t just feedback you gave to your brother after he told you a bad joke. And jello salad, as someone else mentioned. Also, my stepdad told us about grits with “red-eye” gravy (blood) in it. I learned to like grits, but I’ll pass on the red-eye.

  141. An American friend sent me some Twinkies once. They were… different. I hesitate to say artificial-tasting, because to me that implies a judgement I’m not making – I eat British junk food and don’t freak out about the ingredients. So maybe it’s not that the taste was more artificial, but artificial in a different way to what I’m used to.

    After all, I happily munch on crisps (potato chips to you) in flavours that make said American friend go cross-eyed. And yeah, there’s always the Marmite. That doesn’t go off either, or not that I’ve ever noticed.

  142. LOL!

    @hsofia: Your stepdad was pulling your leg. Red-eye gravy is made with coffee, not blood. I’m not a big fan of the “white gravies” myself, even having grown up with them, but red-eye is IMO one of the better tasting versions.

  143. @Tricia – *Gasp* I can’t believe it!!! All these years he’s been telling us kids that … Wait till I see him next!

  144. Thanks so much for this, as always. Something that I find interesting about the sizing-through-the-ages debate- don’t people ever think about how much nutrition has changed in the past century? Face it, people used to be skinny and tiny because they were freaking malnourished. Bones are bigger today because people drink more milk. Muscles are bigger because people exercise specifically to develop them, and because we eat a lot more protein. Breasts are bigger because of hormones in milk and whatnot. Without TEH OMG DEATHFATTS O’DOOM OBESITY PANIC even entering into it, people are simply BIGGER all-around because we aren’t all anemic, calcium-and-protein-deprived Victorian gents and ladies-bigger bones and muscles and boobs mean bigger sized clothing are necessary for even the “healthy” skinny people. Seriously, as a peruser of vintage clothes, I’ve seen women’s dresses with a 24-inch bust measurement, which I’d be willing to bet even the skinniest, flattest-chested woman with the smallest ribcage today would be hard pressed to fit into. That’s another thing that irks me about sizing and models that’s rarely mentioned-your bone structure is just as immutable as your height. I don’t have a 37-inch bust because I have huge boobs-I have a 37-inch bust with barely B’s and a really, really wide ribcage. I’ll never be a willowy wisp even if I starved myself down to 90 pounds, because of my ribcage and large hips. So how is the stick-straight, super thin model any kind of an “aspirational” image for me? Am I supposed to “aspire” to bone reshaping surgery or something? ‘Cause outside of that, slender/willowy is really, profoundly not an option for me.

  145. Speaking of processed cheez foods (I heard a comedian remark once that that sounds like something you would feed to cheez), I may have told this story here before, but I once substitute-taught a class that went on a (Simpsons-esque) field trip to a processed cheez factory. They gave us samples of the stuff after it was all mixed up, but before they added the orangey-yellow. And it was clear, people. CLEAR!

    The horror.

  146. @volcanista – Ew. I thought the waxy texture was due to some other sort of chemical something going on, not actual wax. Yuck. Is that even safe to eat? I’m just kind of stunned that the FDA allows that, as wax does not in theory sound like it should be considered a food item.

    Also I agree with Jamie’s point about frames. In fact, that may be what’s happened with models. It’s possible that they have the same measurements as they did 50 years ago, but on much larger frames, which would indeed make them appear much thinner visually. I actually know a guy who fits into that category (tall, large frame, very thin, very low BMI) and he does sort of look like your standard female model body-wise (in terms of how limbs look etc).

    It really is odd to me how many people seem to believe that a person’s actual frame is/should be mutable. I mean, for example, even when I was anorexic my hips never got under 36 inches and my bust never got under 38. Bone thin I still wore a 36 band size on my bra. People honestly don’t seem to grasp the concept that dieting can’t shrink your bones (I know I didn’t as a teenager, I was convinced that I could make myself delicate looking if I just tried hard enough). It’s really profoundly wierd that people honestly seem to think that you can change your basic body type via diet and exercise. That’s the whole idea of “aspirational”, right? But if you weren’t born with the genes to be tall and willowy you never will be.

  147. Face it, people used to be skinny and tiny because they were freaking malnourished. Bones are bigger today because people drink more milk. Muscles are bigger because people exercise specifically to develop them, and because we eat a lot more protein. Breasts are bigger because of hormones in milk and whatnot…. Seriously, as a peruser of vintage clothes, I’ve seen women’s dresses with a 24-inch bust measurement, which I’d be willing to bet even the skinniest, flattest-chested woman with the smallest ribcage today would be hard pressed to fit into.

    Okay, a lot of this is bothering me. Sure, more nutrition is more widely available today, and so people are bigger and taller. I don’t think you can go much farther than that, though. Breasts are bigger because of hormones in milk? I’m skeptical that there’s scientific support for that statement, though if you have a citation I’m willing to be wrong on that one.

    And while 24 inches is very small, there are probably some women alive who are as small as that and whose existence and experiences you’re disappearing with that last statement.

    Wax is perfectly safe to eat. Just basically flavorless and not very interesting.

  148. Wax is perfectly safe to eat. Just basically flavorless and not very interesting.

    Honeycomb is pleasantly chewy, and tasty when it’s full of honey. One of my favorite treats as a child.

  149. On the V site, I noticed this alleged “One Size Fits All” link.

    Having read backwards in time, I just went through all the comments on the creepsville American Apparel ad. Is it just me or, in this V photo, does it look like the skinny girl is posed in a “here’s my vag, do what you want” kinda way? She looks so empty, like she’s not enjoying anything. At least Crystal Renn looks sensual and like she’s having fun, even if her pose says she’s ready for a romp in the hay with whatever observer.

    And one size fits all is total bullshit.

  150. @Gingembre – Real corn dogs are a delicious treat for me…as long as I can find them made with all beef hot dogs. I still can’t deal with eating pork. I think it’s some weird, residual Jewish/kosher guilt, though I’m totally fine with shellfish.

    @Volcanista, I’ve heard about milk hormones causing earlier breast development, though I don’t know that that necessarily means larger, but it’s a fairly tenuous connection (http://www.doublex.com/section/health-science/younger-girls-bigger-breasts-are-chemicals-blame). I expect that an increase in the number of women getting implants may have more to do with larger breast size…

  151. Volcanista: I thought that fluoride in the water was supposed to turn us all Communist? (Of course, by the “Better dead than Red” standards…)

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