Has the Fashion industry changed? Or is it still the era of the size zero?


“You’ve got to be s******* me, Zara!”


This exaltation of frustration came from the Irish Radio presenter, Muireann O’Connell, at the beginning of last month. Her tweet was sent into the stratosphere with retweets and likes that are usually allotted to memes of Salt Bae or Meryl Streep. What was her frustration? Zara’s ‘love your curves’ campaign. I’m sure everyone by now has seen the controversial piece; the internet, to say the least, had a field day with images of irons, pencils and chopsticks everywhere.


Like O’Connell, media outlets, including Buzzfeed, The Telegraph, even Perez Hilton, were quick to jump on the bandwagon of shaming the Spanish retail giant. Nevertheless, the company is yet to give a statement. This is not the first time Zara has come under scrutiny for its less-than-acceptable campaigns and lines – lest we forget the swastika handbag of 2007 or the Holocaust-esque sheriff top for children in 2014.

flickr; http://tinyurl.com/mnq4e42
flickr; http://tinyurl.com/mnq4e42

On March 1st, O’Connell was interviewed by the Irish radio station, Today FM, where she stated the main danger of the presentation of ‘curvy’ causes the “normalisation of a body image that is an idealised body image that cannot be sought, you can’t get that for most people”. Audrey O’Neil, from Plusmodels.ie, was quick to weigh in with her opinion, arguing that: “curves mean shape, and although they are beautiful young girls and they are gorgeous, there [are] no curves … they’re very very straight.”

However, these women are not skinny shaming; O’Connell resolved that she understood that people are naturally slim and get flack for it, but that the ad is not about embracing who they, the two models, are. It is idolising and normalising a figure that not everybody will have.

This all got me thinking: has fashion really changed in accepting all body types? Are the days of size-zero Kate Moss a hangover, slowly clearing thanks to some well needed salted crisps? The go-to plus size model, who is taking the fashion world by storm, is Ashley Graham. She was the first plus sized model to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, 2016, and in 2017 she became the first plus size model to appear on both the cover of British and American Vogue. She has been part of many ad campaigns, for example, for Levi. Her CV is the envy of many models, and it just keeps growing and growing.

She is a US size 16 (UK size 12), like the illustrious Marilyn Monroe – easily the biggest sex symbol of the 20th century. Her amazing curves, totally natural, and promotion of loving who you are, seen in her lingerie and clothes lines covering sizes 4-24, gives a beacon of hope that the fashion industry has realised that, as women make up half the world’s population, we do have more than one body type.

My other go-to example is the infamous Kardashian-Jenner clan. Say what you like about the Kardashians, bar Kendall, none of the sisters are high fashion models, yet they endorse many brands from Balmain to Puma. These are the women the fashion world wants to have seen wearing their clothes; they are the current “it” girls. Moreover, excluding Kendall, none of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters embrace an overtly skinny frame. Kim, Khloe, and now Kylie are famous for their bums and curves. And yet, like their slender sister, they have designers wanting them to endorse their clothes.

pinterest; https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/bf/bf/1b/bfbf1ba30b7fad1b89e4d75ccb84806f.jpg
pinterest; https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/bf/bf/1b/bfbf1ba30b7fad1b89e4d75ccb84806f.jpg

Although they are controversial figures, it is important to acknowledge that they promote the idea of altering your appearance to look good, and are far from body/life role models. My point isn’t about discussing their fame or the platform they promote, but to show a point of comparison to former “it” girls. Paris Hilton is the apt example as the Kardashian predecessor. And here it is clear that the kind of women young girls now want to look like, and the celebrities which get the best designer endorsement deals, has rapidly changed within ten years.

But, they do bring danger of creating a fake idealistic image of what curves are naturally, and might lead to reverse shaming of those who don’t have them. Sadly, the majority of models used in mainstream fashion ad campaigns do not break the mould; Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner, both stunning women, adhere to the image of the traditional white, and skinny, model. Not only that, but it is these women who are used to promote sports brands; Karlie Kloss for Adidas and Bella Hadid for Nike.

There are no major female athletes who, would be perfect for promoting these brands; as they use the ranges for their actual purpose (exercise, if you’re wondering), although fashion suggests otherwise. Instead of girls seeing women who have achieved amazing things through physical endurance, and therefore embrace how an athletic build truly looks, they see a girl who only wears the sports clothes for her yoga sessions and trips to Starbucks.

However this can be forgiven; despite grossly misrepresenting what athletic women look like (oh look that idolisation again), it can be brushed off that brands use these models, as people recognise them and want to look like them. There is no point having a female athlete when no one knows who they are… Jessica Ennis who?

So yes, the fashion industry’s models are changing; yes there is better representation of plus size women in the modelling world, coupled with brands progressively making their lines more accessible to these women – see our article Does size matter? Nike says No with their new plus-size sports range – on how the sports brand is part of the move to expand its range to curvy women.

And yes, the women who have the supposed body goals and are idolised by young girls are not size zero. Then yes, from this it can be concluded that, instead of a single idolised version of femininity being shown to young girls, a greater showcase of womanhood is being demonstrated.

However, change will occur only until women like Ashley Graham become the norm in modelling, and not the exception. When the Kardashians, whose curvy figures are far from natural, are not seen as the pinnacle of an amazing body. When love your curves means just that, and not love your disproportionate representation of curves, and the size zero is one of many, and not the dominant, body size of women in fashion, will the era of size zero finally end.
Edited by Emily Young

1 thought on “Has the Fashion industry changed? Or is it still the era of the size zero?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *