One step forward, two steps back

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders

Designers and magazine headlines preach advancement in body positivity, but the fashion industry is far from inclusive. Although companies have made efforts to introduce plus size dresses and designs, the experiences of exclusivity still persist.

Models are in charge of maintaining a tall, slim physique in the fashion industry. For 31 year old model Natalia Novaes, surrendering to industry standards has proven detrimental to her mental health. She sees the fashion industry as the catalyst for her eating disorder, a struggle she endured for seven years as a model.

“I built this international career that I’m very grateful for, but I built it with a body that wasn’t quite natural because I was always on a diet,” she explained. “I’ve never been able to relax around food. I was always hungry. “

When Novaes was a size four, customers started complaining about her weight. “They called me balloon,” he said. “I have big hips and I think they are beautiful, but I’m not like the stereotypical model that is a straight line.”

Eventually, Novaes’ work came to a complete halt. She left her agency, Elite Model Management, which was eager to let her go. “I told my agency I was leaving and they said they were relieved that I wasn’t getting any jobs,” Novaes said.

Influence Carly Weinstein it also suffers from the effects of body exclusivity.

“There has always been a theme of looking down on people with larger bodies,” he said. “I’m a medium-sized person, but I’ve been banned from some fashion brands growing up, and still now. Abercrombie was a brand I’ve always been afraid of and so was American Eagle. It made me anxious to go into their shops. They have made progress, but most fashion brands still need to change a lot. “

And it’s not just models and influencers who feel this tension: photographers also avoid shooting larger bodies.

Body exclusivity has been the norm for a good part of my career, “said the photographer Alvin Toro She said. “Everything from fashion shows to editorials to advertisements and catalog shoots has been and still is plagued by outdated beauty ‘standards’. The 1990s brought digital image manipulation and the rise of the supermodel. With them came the unrealistic beauty standards we are still fighting against today.

By the end of fashion week, Novaes would even resort to binging.

Taurus even admits to falling into body exclusivity patterns in his own shots.

“It was nearly impossible for anyone to consider your work if the models didn’t fit the publisher’s vision,” he said. “Because of the way the industry works, advertising agencies and brands would take a similar stance.”

Fashion week in particular failed to support the inclusiveness of the body. Novaes cites Brazil Fashion Week as a toxic and stimulating experience.


“All the models are really focused on not getting fat. Nobody is actually eating, ”she said. “I remember coming back to my house with this mental exhaustion and feeling of hunger. I couldn’t eat because I had all these shows ”.

By the end of fashion week, Novaes would even resort to binging. “I was starving. It’s a stimulating environment where everyone is self-aware, “she said.

Toro is also aware of the pressures in the sector.

The shows during fashion week are very exclusive to the body, “she said.” The way the industry has developed and the shows are produced, the norm is to have the standard sample size for each garment. your entire collection in a standard size where you can fit any standard size agency model makes the most sense.

In an industry that still struggles to be inclusive of the body, it is up to models, influencers and photographers as individuals to spur change.

After years of dieting, Novaes decided it was enough. “I emailed my agents and said, ‘Okay, I’m probably going to gain weight, but I’m just not going on a diet. I don’t want to hear any comments about my body anymore, ‘”he told her.

Toro has also made great strides to show more diversity in his work.

Weinstein posts body-positive content to his 380,000 followers on TikTok. His page contains POV, motivational words and dance videos.

“I want to encourage women that it’s not just about your body. We have so much more to offer the world beyond our size, “she said.” If I dance, just showing my body represents the diversity of the body and shows that you don’t have to look a certain way to be successful and happy. “

Toro has also made great strides to show more diversity in his work. In 2019, the photographer collaborated with Hungarian fashion ddesigner Eniko Buiron of LuLu et Gigi for an editorial service in Pariswhich featured several plus size models and a double amputee.


However, some efforts to demonstrate the inclusiveness of the body are deceptive. Designers often use plus size models to tick a box and avoid criticism or controversy.

Novaes said that as plus size fashion became more mainstream, the fashion industry realized it could profit from tokenization of curvy models.

“When I became a plus size model, I was a size eight, which is ridiculous,” she said. “There weren’t many jobs for a girl like me, while now you see girls with full careers.”

TikTok star Remi Bader seems to be the face of the plus size population in the fashion industry. The influencer has been named a brand ambassador and size consultant for Victoria’s Secret Pink. She recently also announced a collaboration with Revolve that includes dimensions and is heavily involved in the design process.

Although progress has been made, people are still excluded from the fashion industry due to their size.

“Whenever (designers) want to choose someone different, they choose the extreme. They think, ‘Okay, putting this plus-size woman in makes us inclusive,’ “Novaes said. The model sees it as an indifferent situation: either you’re a plus size or you’re not, and there’s no middle ground.

The inclusive efforts of the body are seen as a rebellion against the status quo. Larger sizes are not yet normalized in the fashion industry: every curvy campaign or runway show gets special attention. Designers receive honorable mentions for introducing a wider range of sizes and it is not considered why those sizes were not featured at the beginning.

The fashion industry is introducing more body-positive movements, but at the expense of curvy models and influencers, who are being exploited or excluded altogether.

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