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Aug 8, 2010

Should models look more like you and me?

Before I get started, friends, WHO do you think I was like two feet away from -- twice! --  last night at Lincoln Center seeing the Mark Morris Dance Group?   Isaac Mizrahi!

There I stood in my near perfect summer shirt and flowered pants, just hoping he'd notice...hoping...and oh, readers --


Then again it was dark on the balcony of the New York State Theater, and Isaac was chatting with friends...and he has famously poor eyesight anyway, doesn't he?  Doesn't he?

If you're a reader of Male Pattern Boldness, Isaac, please feel free to comment anonymously.  I'll know it's you.

Moving right along...

So I've been reading online quite a bit lately about plus-sized fashion and how department stores like Saks have begun selling plus-sized designer offerings from big names like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Valentino. 

But here's the thing: apparently they're not too eager to advertise the fact.  According to, Chanel has been curiously tight-lipped about it.  The suspicion seems to be that publicizing their plus sizes will tarnish their image.

Scanning reader comments, I noticed one commenter, in particular, was unsurprised.  She (he?) says:

I once did a consulting gig for a far from high end clothing catalog whose customers were primarily women well over the age of 60. They would get complaints from time to time about the models being too young and/or too thin; however, as part of their regular business practices the catalog tracked sales by model, and every time they used models who looked older than around 40 or were truly plus-sized, sales nosedived for those items.

Overall, fashion is aspirational. While many people in the industry certainly have unhealthy and even downright gross attitudes about larger people, the reality is that consumers are usually drawn to buy expensive clothes because of the dream that they will be younger/thinner/sexier/happier or in whatever other way BETTER if they do so. So designers and retailers sell the dream - after all, people who don't care about these things have many inexpensive choices for covering up their bodies before they leave the house. 

I started to wonder: is this true?  Do we really -- whether we admit it or not -- prefer seeing clothes on young, sylph-like bodies?  Or do we want our clothes modeled on people who look more like the average person?

Would we be more likely to purchase clothing or any fashion-related item (say, make-up or perfume) if we could see them presented on someone who looked just like us -- about our age, about our body type?  Or less likely?

For a lot of these items (especially perfume) aren't we just buying an image, a fantasy, that appeals to us?  I mean, there's a reason these things are named "White Shoulders" or "Youth Dew"  and not "Laundry Day."

It would be hard to find a person who buys less clothing than I do, but I have to say that when I look at men's fashion magazines or advertising -- and I do -- I sometimes get tired of seeing guys who look emaciated, or the other extreme, have bodies like something out of a vintage muscle magazine.  And are just shy of 20.

But among men I think there's much more variety in both age and body type than there is for women, though there have been female exceptions too.

What do you think, readers, honestly?  Do you want to see clothes modeled on people who look more like you do -- assuming, which I shouldn't, that you're not a dead-ringer for Gisele Bundchen or Troy Donahue?  Obviously most consumers of fashion -- especially high end fashion -- are not kids just out of high school or nymph-like ballerinas.  Why are they so prevalent on runways and advertising then?

I get the tall part (they need to be a standard size on the runway to fit the samples) but why can't they be wrinkled?  Are we simply genetically predisposed to prefer youth?

Let's discuss.


  1. I definitely want to see clothes modeled by REAL people. The model thing is so unhealthy and needs to be tossed.

    It's about time we looked at real, healthy, confident people instead of airbrushed and retouched 'people.'

    PS: OMGah!! A Near Isaac Experience! I am pea green with envy!

  2. I can't believe Isaac did not comment on your fabulousness!! Well, maybe he does has poor eyesight, or like most celebrities I see here in LA, it's all about THEM! I'm gonna be watching his collections, though, if I see a fantastic summer shirt and flowered pants, I'm gonna know who his muse was!

  3. I would like to see clothes modeled by people with 'real' bodies. Yes, quite often clothes look fantastic on someone tall and slender but a lot of us are not tall and slender and therefore seeing clothes modeled on different shaped bodies is going to give us all more idea of what that style could look like on us. It takes quite a lot of time, if not years, to work out a style that suits each of us individually so to see clothes modeled on a variety of body shapes would maybe help in choosing or not choosing a style for ourselves. It would also help our tender egos/self image, to see that we don't have to conform to a certain shape and height to look good or fashionable.

    1. I know this is incredibly late, but you obviously get the point - why would someone trying to sell a garment put the clothing on a model that would help us in "not choosing" a style for ourselves? Taking that sort of action would be contrary to normal business practice of investing in marketing that will influence consumers to buy the product.

      The fact that clothing models are typically thinner and younger than the average consumer of the product is no accident. Millions of dollars have been spent on research to determine what sells, and thin, young models "sell" clothing.

      The better question is, why do we feel the need to buy clothing that we erroneously believe may alter our appearance and make us look younger and thinner, and why do we believe that looking younger and thinner and is more glamorous and thus desirable? The answer to that question is also the subject of a wide array of research.

      The research indicates that marketing in itself has greatly contributed to the need of the American consumer to look thin and young, creating a "chicken or the egg" sort of a paradox.

      A very interesting subject. I'll try to catch up on this blog, thank you to the author.

  4. As a Plus size I get frustrated when the model is obviously in the smallest size of the ranges (and probably altered anyway) and is extremely tall. However, my main, wishlist is not to see 'real' sized models or models in my age range. I would like to see variety. The industry has started using many races of people as models why can't they use a variety of ages and sizes as well. There is not such thing as a 'real' body. We all have one so I say, variety, variety, variety.

    If you ever have a look at pattern magazines like BurdaStyle, Knipmode, La Mia Boutique, Patrones and Ottobre it is interesting to note their model choices. Burda tends to put a heavier importance on the styling of the magazine (and uses too many purchased clothes, IMHO) and their models are interchangable. Their Plus models have gotten slimmer over the last 2 years. Both Patrones and LMB have a fashion forward aesthetic but they both have a greater variety in the model choices. Knipmode is becoming more fashion forward and they probably have the biggest mix of models. They even include readers in their photoshoots. Interestingly, Ottobre Woman, who only uses it's readers in their magazine, tends to be these least fashion forward. (Their target market is vastly different to Burda, LMB & Patrones.) I applaude them as they have recently started to print the name, height and size of each model.

  5. Hhmm... I didn't mean that the model was altered! I meant that the garment was altered to fit the model. Geez. That whole comment is just riddled with typos. Sorry.

  6. Mischka says it perfectly: ' There is not such thing as a 'real' body. We all have one so I say, variety, variety, variety.'

  7. From a rational point of view I want to see "real" bodytypes so I'll know if a cut is right for me (curvy)...but in reality I prefer a thin, tall model...I get a bit disappointed? when I see how "bad" the clothes sometimes look on larger women...with that said (and I know exactly how ridiculous it is but I suspect many people feel the same way), I am SICK of still seeing anorexia thin models - it is too much and has been discussed for years already.

  8. Would I like to see clothes modelled on someone who looked like me? Oh deary me, no. (Unfortunately I keep thinking of Groucho Marx's "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member".)

    I would, however, like see clothes modelled by attractive, healthy-looking people with realistic and diverse body shapes.

  9. You can argue that the clothes "hang" better on clothes-hanger bodies -- but not skeletal, please -- but how about ads?

    Would you be less inclined to buy a perfume or skin cream if the model were, say, 70? Why isn't there a perfume called "Hades"?

  10. I am an awful person to respond, 'cause I don't buy anything and I only flip through those magazines in professional offices and other peoples powder rooms, but I agree that I would like to see more model variety. Sure, if you are going to try to sell me something, it makes sense to advertise with an attractive model, but please don't insult my intelligence by airbrushing EVERY line off her face! I am especially irked by all of those Garnier ads with SJP where her skin looks like my newborn's. I think that attractive people come in a range of sizes, ages, and colors, and I'd love to see advertising reflect that. Really, I find it interesting too that some of the high fashion models aren't very attractive, they are just emaciated, and that is obviously what the designers are looking for.

  11. I think it's that "model-as-clothes-hanger" thing...

  12. I think perfume makers do try to send out a message, try to make a scent especially to create some sort of sensation. Some perfumes smell elegant, distinguished, luxurious. I can imagine an elderly woman or man could very well promote a perfume like that. But there are also perfumes that are flowery, fresh, smell sort of young, or naughty or wild. Or sporty and clean. When a company wants to build an image like that, I can imagine an elderly person or even a larger build person would not portray the picture they want to send out. I think they have a point there, because we, as consumers, I am convinded, are influenced by the whole picture, whether we want to or not and thus respond differently to different models in ads.

    What I also think is that companies will try to get the most popular, trend setting people to buy there products. Because when those people use their products, the people around them will too. And let's face it: These days the trendsetters, the people that are the most famous and followed by the most fans, are the young, skinny, athletic kind of people most of the times. So they are the ones being targeted, and thus models looking like them will be used.

    As for myself: I kind of like seeing elegant older people. I don't mind some wrinkles and think they only bring character to a face.
    About bigger sized models though, I have to say I feel ambigous. Having been rather skinny myself all my life (although after three little ones that is slowly changing a little) I like looking at smaller sized models the most. OFcourse this is partly because that way I can easily see how a garment will look on me, while seeing it on a bigger model I find it hard to imagine how I would look in that garment. So I can imagine this works the same way for people that have bigger sizes than I have and thus would like to see more bigger sized models.

    On the other hand, while I think the promoting of being as skinny as possible is dangerous and sometimes even devastating for the young ones around us, I should add that I sometimes raise an eyebrow when I see the next 'Big Is Beautiful' reportage in a long row. I do think accepting and embracing your body as it is is important and healthy, in a world where obesitas is starting to become more and more of a problem, I do think we should also be careful on that side of the scale.

    But that's a totally different subject :-) Sorry for the rambling!

  13. Ooooh. What would "Hades" smell like? A little earthy? ;)

    As for models, I also agree with Mischka. I think we need more variety out there. And I do think the emaciated look on the runway is the "hanger" theory, unfortunate and unhealthy looking as it is.

  14. "Earthy" -- now THAT is funny!

  15. Several years ago, Noxema ran an ad featuring a lovely elderly woman. Her skin was "aged" to that beautiful patina -- soft, luminous, authentic! I rushed out and bought Noxema in the hopes that I too could look like that as an elderly lady!

    As an petite, overweight, curvy person, I would love to see models that are sized more like me. I'm tired of looking at tall thin models (and pattern models) and trying to figure out if I would look good in that style. I am not a visionary and I admit I need help with picking and choosing. Surely there must be a better way to accommodate the various of body types in the real world.

  16. In theory we stick to our principles but in practice it’s the aesthetic value of advertising that makes things sell. The rules about what appears appealing to us - we might disagree with them as principles - but things stay the same as we don't make the rules consciously.

  17. Ditto with the variety. I'm petite and half the stuff out there doesn't look the same on me as it would won someone who is taller

  18. In 1969 Adele P. Margolis said, "Fifty Years ago, the fashionable American woman was size 16 going on size 18. Today she is size 12 going on size 10. Tables of statistics have made her health conscious. Mass media have made her youth conscious. Size has become a status symbol." She went on to say "At the moment, the ideal figure is young, younger, youngest-a cruel blow to those beyond the first flush of youth"

    If I look at this it points out to me any one born after 1929 -or 1930 has been programed by media to only except the thin coat hang body to show fashion. Do I like it nope. Would love to see some models that look more like me. It funny because angie.a overe at Quality Time has found several vintage catalogs and patterns that have wonderful fashions for the plus sized. The styles were not treated any different. Sigh.....The more I look at this debate the more I believe it more of a society issue than a fashion/manufactures issue. Because fashion/manufactures is only looking for the $$ they can make and test marketing 1 or 2 models wearing plus size items when there are 100+ other not really isn't giving them the data to say sales drop.

  19. As usual, I'm in the minority, in that I DO like to see clothes modeled on models not real people. I see enough real people on my daily commute, thank you, along with all their personal fashions. Couture fashion shows/mags are a nice dose of escapism into abstraction and, yes, beauty. I don't think I'll ever get tired of hunks with ripped abs either. And why should I? Heck, people have been admiring David ( for over 500 years!

  20. I want to see clothes modeled by healthy-looking people with a BMI between 18 and 27 (why 27 and not 25 - look up what Susie Orbach has to say about it), and after that I can decide for myself whether the clothes will suit my sloping shoulders, swayback, big biceps, etc. It's not that I have never been thin or fat (both, in fact!). It's just that the argument about 'normal' or 'real' is potentially never-ending..... If I am going to aspire (and we can't seem not to), I would rather see healthy people. And no, I am not some kind of 'body fascist'. I have diabetes myself and it takes a lot of effort to stay healthy, so much that in fact models don't bother me at all. Zero emotional impact! But IF I had a choice, I'd go by BMI, rough and ready measure that it is.


  21. Count me with Anonymous, who wrote:

    I want to see clothes modeled by healthy-looking people [ . . . ] and after that I can decide for myself whether the clothes will suit my sloping shoulders, swayback, big biceps, etc. It's not that I have never been thin or fat (both, in fact!). It's just that the argument about 'normal' or 'real' is potentially never-ending..... If I am going to aspire (and we can't seem not to), I would rather see healthy people.


    Yes! Not anorexic, not obese! The thing is, whatever you're looking at always has to be interpreted according to your own body type. We each, especially sew-ers, have to learn to do that. I've learned to look very closely at how whatever may have been manipulated to fit the specific model; it's not hard to train yourself to do that.

    Also, regarding the comment Peter quotes about catalog models: I was just at Orvis (they sell Baggallini bags, to which I am addicted) and was amazed that their boxy, over-sized clothing is all modeled in their catalogs by women who look absolutely nothing like the customers in the store.

    The models, no surprise, are much younger and much thinner -- and probably wouldn't be caught dead in the elastic-waist linen pants Orvis sells. But those models probably look exactly like what Orvis' customers did, twenty or thirty years ago.

    So maybe it's not just "aspiration", but also recapturing something lost -- like an image of youth that might even have been real at one time.

    Advertising is all illusion. It's not as if that's going to change, ever.

  22. I love to see beautiful images I can aspire to too, but there is beauty in a variety of shapes, ages, sizes and so on. The Elle model on your post is stunning. And, oh my goodness, I would love to wake up looking like Carmen dell'Orifice or Lauren Bacall! One of the most attractive men I ever saw was some random 60-odd year old on the tube with Newman/McQueen blue eyes. I think I stared. I think I am particularly sensitive to the age thing this year as I will be turning 40 and, indeed complained (you see what I mean?!) to a sewing magazine recently who had printed an article on dressing over 40. Basically, I may as well start wearing elasticated waists. Over 40?!!!! Considering an average life expectancy of 80-odd years in the UK, that's an awful long time to spend over the hill. And a huge amount of spending power being ignored. I'm not saying I would want all the usual models to be replaced, just a little oh I can't think of another word for variety, it's been a long day. It would be good to have some style icons for my age group. Just as well I love thrifting/vintage (and learning to sew) instead. Oh and speaking of which, I just received my copy of SEW Everything, ordered on your recommendation, and am loving it. She so owes you!

  23. I want both. I want to see the glamorous, aspirational photoshoots and also more variety of body types. I can see why the big billboard ads should be all glamour but couldn't some of the magazine ads show more variety.

  24. I for one am sick to death of stores hiding all their bigger clothing. Meaning, yes they have the sizes, but you have to buy them on line. So, if you want anything bigger than a size 12 at j. Crew lets say, you must go on line. It makes you feel like a big old creep, not able to shop in the brick and mortar store, but instead, hiding in your home like a troll, because you aren't worthy enough to just go to the store.
    Yet, you go to some stores that carry larger sizes with no problem, and you notice that most of the bigger sizes are sold out. HELLO, the average lady in the US is a 14, but all that is left on the rack are 0's or 2's. Order more!!
    I sew a lot, and I go to pattern review to look at other ladies about my size to see if the pattern looks good on plus size. So, yes I would love to see bigger models, and I would have more respect for a designer, if they can design for a real shape, and not a coat hanger!!

  25. I like to see variety in body shapes. There are catalogs of plus size clothes on fairly plus size models. One of the most interesting to page through is Ulla Popken. I do find the clothes odd sometimes, but this Fall the models are styled well.

    I also receive the Deva Lifewear Catalog, and those clothes are modeled by people who seem pretty ordinary. The problem with them is that they are not styled or presented well, and honestly the clothes are not that great either.

    I am not put off by seeing clothes on ordinary people, but there I have an expectation of quality presentation and styling. A major problem is how bad the clothes would photograph on a short or stout or curvy figure. So, because the clothes aren't really cut for those figures, they wouldn't show well.

    I guess this is another reason to sew for ourselves. Most clothes are designed for people who don't exist.

  26. I think irony of all this is that the average woman is considered plus size.

    Where does that leave the rest of us who are way, way smaller than the average but ginormous compared to the stick figures who model clothes?

    Insulted and learning to sew the best we can, that's where.

  27. I want to know what something is going to look like on ME, and to be honest, I'll probably never be a size 0 (or even a 2) again (babies are murder on hips!! ;-) ). So yeah--ditch the Cryptkeeper's harem and find some real women (who can still be beautiful, BTW) to model the clothes. I notice that Dove & Ottobre Woman have a few models they can borrow until the find their own. ;-) The Ottobre Woman models are more normal-sized and are gorgeous, and I love the ladies from Dove's "real beauty" campaign as well. (TBH, I never bought anything from Dove UNTIL they started their "campaign for real beauty" thing, now I buy several of their products regularly.)

  28. Models and movie stars haven't always been rail thin. Our ideas of what is attractive change over time. It'd be nice to see more images of people in a healthy weight range

  29. Even weirder, some plus sized clothing companies will use normal models to show their clothes, resulting in clothes that are much more baggy than they should be.
    (For some examples.)

    I'm honest enough to admit that I'm less likely to buy something modeled on someone considerably larger than me. It's completely irrational, and I am not proud of it, but there it is... and I'm sure that's what all the marketing data is telling designers.

    But I don't like seeing the models who are so thin they look ill. And many of them are so young too... I don't know, I think the industry is abusive to them. I was fine with the sorts of models I grew up with in the 80s, Brooke, Cindy etc... they were not a size 0. They didn't look like normal people either, but I'm ok with the aspirational aspect... just not when I'm worried about the health of the model.

    And older models? I love seeing older models, and I will certainly buy whatever they're selling. Sometimes it seems as though older women are invisible, and I for one don't believe that beauty stops at 25.

  30. Variety any day. If there were true variety I would not mind the occasional aspirational clothes hanger.
    And of course this is all about culture. Or is it? Can the production processes dictate our perception of sartorial perfection?
    I for instance, can never find anything that really fits me. That does not mean I could not look purchase-inducing, if I was made up and photographed well - even without too much photoshop. As a commercial proposition such a photo would be worthless, because I would have to be in clothes that were made for me. What industry could deal with that?
    But I would still like to see variety in ages and shapes and sizes.
    Anyhow, I love it that we can sew ourselves. I cannot begin to imagine how miserable I should be, if I had to buy my clothes ready made.

  31. You may not believe me when I say this, but I have actually stopped seeing the models in pictures like these. In the same way that I am able to tune out television advertising, I am capable of 'not seeing' magazine ads. Advertising has all become a blur for me. Not long ago I heard an interview with Australian designer, Alex Perry, who arrogantly stated that we should 'get real' that no one wants to see 'fat girls wearing his clothes'. Whilst this comment pissed me off no end, I grudgingly admit that he is probably one of a rare few actually game enough to say what other designers really think. If Chanel is making larger sized clothing, but not freely advertising this fact, then it holds true. Someone must be buying these tiny clothes. Who is it? Is there really a large enough market amongst girls who look like skeletons? I guess they're not buying food, so maybe they spend it on designer clothes! Or perhaps there's a whole lot of ordinary sized women with closets full of designer wear they'll fit into 'when they lose some weight'. That fits with what you say about buying an image. Very interesting topic, Peter. Thanks.

  32. Oh, I forgot to mention this article in the NY Times from last month, which I've seen cited but never read.

    I'm going to read it right now!

  33. As a plus size I would rather see a model who wears at least the smallest size offered. It gives me a better idea how it would look. Just because it's made in your size doesn't mean you should wear it. Usually they just grade up the pattern and totally ignore body shape. Put it on someone in that size range and the design flaws appear. I think they are just too snooty to put in the work to design for curves; they just want to size up what looks good on a stick, then act like it's our fault we don't buy their crap.
    Perfume issue: it smells. You don't see it. I pay no attention to perfume ads unless they include a sample. When I buy perfume I go to the store, put it on me, wait 15 minutes then have DH sniff me. If he plants a kiss on me we have a winner.

  34. Provocative topic, Peter. I have always poured over fashion magazines to look at the clothes -- that's where the desire to sew began for me. Of course, I mentally recoil when a thigh looks the size of a forearm and cheeks and eyes look sunken. It's upsetting and, with the age of the girls, you have to know the industry exploits them. Recently, the revelation for me is how much more excited I get to see sewing bloggers modeling their creations -- it's inspirational and, of course, the sewists run the gamut in sizes. That variety doesn't mute in any way how appealing these garments look on their creators. So, yeah, absolutely, I want more real, healthy and various "model" sizes to prevail. And in this marketplace, I believe they already are.

  35. Have you noticed on Project Runway anytime they have a challenge that might deal with some average people and their average body types the designers totally flip? It seems to be that the people going into design don't have the vaguest clue and at times a completely negative attitude towards making any clothes for an average body. The NY Times article seems to show that this is no different within the established designers.

    I, personally, would love to see varied body types. If you make well constructed clothes with body types in mind it seems they could look good on everyone instead of making the body do the work in making the clothes look good.

  36. Jen,
    You do realize 50+ years ago a size 16 was a 34" bust, right?

    As PC as it is to say we want to see 'normal' or 'plus sized' or 'average' people in clothing being advertised by these designers it all boils down to money. Is this this demographic going to buy it?

    When I see these plus models in these shoots, what makes me want to pull my teeth out is this constant need to want to make them 'sexy' in the same standards as a skinny model. "Look at me, Im fat and I have my rolls hanging out in a thong. Im just as sexy as this size 0." Um, not like that. Sure you can be just as (if that size is your standard) or MORE so, but for freak's sake, put the larger model in something that will fit HER figure!

    I don't follow modern fashion, and I haven't bought RTW in a bout 3 years, but when I do look at the larger model, rarely am I looking at the clothes. Im looking at whether they are treating that model in that shoot JUST LIKE a small model or are they going out of their way to show, "HEY we have plus size models too! Look-it Look-it look-it!"

    There is the equality. Treating both sizes the same, in the same outfit, but acknowledging the differences that flatter their different figures. Different and equal are not the same thing.

    Designers have gotten lazy. They don't want to use plus size models because fitting clothing to curves is hard. Also take into account the expense of yardage and you'd rather have a size 0 instead of spend $$ on 3 more yards of fabric for a size 10.

    Ive never depended on fashion to feel good about myself. Im too old now to hate my body. Im just over it.

  37. Women must make their opinion known to the fashion industry. I boycott several companies because I don't like their practices. I don't buy Calvin Klein because I don't like his over-sexed billboard ads on Houston Street in NYC, I try to buy USA-made whenever possible (and frequently write emails stating that), and I no longer shop at Gilt Groupe. I ordered a large coat from Gilt Groupe thinking it would be a size 12-14 and it was a size 6-8 due to "fashion sizing". I couldn't get my arms through the sleeves! So not only is the fashion world not portraying real women, it's not sizing clothing for them either. We need standard sizing and women of all ages (18+ please), shapes, sizes and colors modeling clothing.

  38. For fashion ads, I don't mind seeing unrealistic models. I'm really ambivilous towards to the whole "branding" thing anyway, so it doesn't affect if I buy. I guess the whole point with ads, it to create a more art-type shot. I get that, I guess.

    But what I'm bothered by is how skinny many of the models are. It's really disturbing. And the fashion show models are the worst. They're so thin, I'm distracted from the cloths. I think skinnier can be aesthetically pleasing, but the super skinny models are just not, IMO. I prefer the models from the 80s, like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and others. They were thin and tall, but not scary skinny. They had some curves.

    For catalogs and website shopping, I feel differently, I HATE when they use extremely thin models. It drives me crazy b/c I'm trying to shop and I have no idea what the garment really looks like. Maybe it's just me, but when I'm looking at a tall, skinny model in jeans, every cut, rise, and wash looks the exact same. Its so fustrating.

  39. I would love to see a more diverse use of models in advertising. They would not have to look the way I do for me to enjoy the images, but people of all shapes, sizes, colors, physical abilities and ages. The right photographer - with a true eye for human beauty - will make anyone look lovely. We need to train our own eyes to rediscover what human beauty is all about.

  40. Hi Peter. I have been lurking around for the past few months, appreciating your blog and felt compelled to comment today.

    For me, there is another way of looking at the same question. Instead of saying, clothes are more aesthetically pleasing on relatively thinner models and wondering how much that affects our choice, I think that we can also ask the question why is it that clothes look "nicer" on "thinner" models. Is it because there is something universally pleasing or clothe flattering about the "thinner figure"? Is it the "hanger effect"? But then do I really like clothes on a hanger? I mean a real hanger. Personally, I don't. Or is it that most clothes are made and designed for the thin figure?

    Maybe our reaction is a combination of all these factors (and maybe more) but I think that we do not often take an in-depth look at the last point. Since clothes are designed with the thin figure in mind, then no wonder, they look beautiful on the thin figure. What if clothes were designed specifically for different body types (e. g. short, round, curvy,...) Would those clothes still look best on thin models? The example that comes to mind is that of the Sari. IMHO t looks beautiful on all women (from thin ones to very round ones and short ones o tall ones) but tends to need some curves to be really shown off in its best form. This is not to say that very thin and skinny women do not look beautiful in a Sari. But more that just as a number of designers tend to turn towards thinner women to showcase their clothes, one would probably tend to turn to a curvier woman to showcase a Sari.

    It seems to me that when we do not address this point, we are caught in circular reasoning. Clothes are designed for thinner women because they look good on thinner women. But clothes are bound to look best on thinner women because they are designed for them.

    There. I just wanted to make this point. I think the selling a dream aspect also applies. But I also think that there are many different dreams that can be sold and I don't think that we are seeing even a tiny fraction of all that is possible.

  41. oops. I didn't realise that the message was so long. Sorry.

  42. I'd like to see models that look like me in the ads or models that I can aspire to look like. I'm a middle aged, racially mixed (black and asian) curvy plus size woman. While the fair-skinned straight-haired Northern European teenagers are fashionably beautiful, our beauty aesthetics don't have significant overlap (and even less overlap as time goes on).

    I look for models with curly hair or darker skin or plus sizes (different aspects of my current state) to see what I can be helpful to me. I'm also attracted to role models or (products) who are dealing with greying hair, aging skin, and slowing metabolisms (that are creating changing body types). For the second part of my objectives, I'm finding more helpful advice from blogs than magazines. And I sew most of my own clothing, so I can alter it to fit better.* Yes, if I found a model that matched my appearance and size, I probably would buy clothing she advertised, but I would probably go into stores and be told to buy things online.

    *How would you like it if you went to the supermarket to buy some some eggs or laundry detergent, and when you got there you were told that the size you need is only available online (and you don't get a discount for the inconvenience of buying things online)? After experiencing that for several times, would you think of shopping at that market for anything? it's just easier and less aggravating to sew.

  43. So many great points! Shelley and Golden Shade, I think it's true that when we see heavier models, they tend to be wearing clothes designed for thinner women. I've seen quite stout female opera singers, for example, wearing gowns and costumes designed FOR THEM and they look classy and gorgeous.

    Rose, I totally agree. This also holds true for some smaller mens sizes (say, a 28" inch waist or inseam) that can only be purchased from a store's website and not the store itself. I've noticed that at the GAP. I think it's just more practical though, not that they're trying to ostracize shorter, smaller men.

  44. The problem might be that our eyes are now used to seeing mostly super thin tall models so everyone who isn't that looks wrong to us. It's a matter of perception. I have noticed that Nordstrom's uses more variety in their models. And Lands' End and LL Bean use a variety of models. Retailers will only recognize sales and public shame, so if one feels strongly about retailers showing a variety of sizes and ages in their ads, one has to speak up. Otherwise they just do what they have always done.
    As for Isaac, he may have been jealous of your awesomeness and didn't want to call attention to you.

  45. I do not buy fashion magazines, have not bought new RTW for a while now (about a year, I think), so I'm not the best person to comment, clearly...
    But I think Golden Shade's comment is spot on. Especially with the sari example - we've noticed it with my sister, too.
    The problem is with the way the clothes are constructed, clearly... even the Selfish Seamstress noticed this: (and no, I'm not part of her Selfish plans, I just happen to read her blog, and yours because of her :D) It's not just bigger sizes, it's simply the aspect of making RTW, so not taking into account all the differences in figure between people. Trousers do not take into account women with bigger hips size and smaller waist size, RTW tops do not have different versions for smaller-busted and larger-busted women (ask me how I know; and I'm not that large-busted). Etc.

    So... if I wanted to see models that are more like me, I'd probably most want to see more models with short legs. That's one feature which I haven't seen on a model yet, and it's the one that must be affecting my overall appearance very much.
    But with my supply of inspirative photos of clothes worn by their makers on crafty blogs, I do not really care about models. I get the variety. Especially because I tend to head towards blogs oriented to historical clothes. Absolutely no need to follow trends... with which I'm back at the beginning of my comment. I'm not the person the advertising agencies are interested in, to begin with.

  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

  47. Oh, and on the matter of vintage sizes... Some time ago, I got a number of 30s-40s German sewing magazines into my hands (temporarily), and the average bust size in those patterns seems to be 100 cm (if I understand the descriptions correctly). Apparently, those magazines were geared towards the matronly persons who had the time (or necessity) to make their own clothes. And the models on the photo look - maybe not exactly like 100 cm busts, but certainly curvier than today's models.
    So much for adapting to the needs of your prospective customers.
    (I deleted previous version of this comment to add more info and avoid more multi-posting.)

  48. I want to see variety in models: complexion, hairstyle, figure, and since this is a pipe dream anyway gender normativity/variance too. Young women's fashion much favors women with narrow hips and small busts. I am, to quote a favorite webcomic, aerodynamically curvaceous.

    I hate buying clothes online because there are so many dimensions to fit. The measurements given usually don't give any indication of the amount of ease, and the expected ease differs depending on the part of the garment. This is especially frustrating with pants as I have a smaller-than-average waist for my size, though it is becoming an issue with shirts because my busom is increasingly above average. I think I may need to get an ironing board so I can embark on some more structured garments like these.

  49. why do you think women have sewn for years?? Right now we are expected to compare ourselves (who have passed 30 and given birth to a few children and worked with little sleep) with a fourteen year old who has the best clothes, makeup and hairdos that money can buy for her nearly 6 foot body. One person said models were genetic freaks and I haven''t seen evidence to the contrary.

    As a sewer and someone who is plus sized I know that even professionals do not make good patterns for plus sized women.. They enlarge the shoulders instead of the hips and in making something for a larger bust the neckline is down to my navel. They just take a normal pattern and add 6 or 8 inches right down the middle of the front and back, making it wider but otherwise the same. I have a closet full of clothes I am now altering to fit. And I probably will never buy again unless it is a pattern.

  50. Well, from a male perspective, at 5'10", 175# the BMI chart says I'm overweight. That doesn't take into consideration that my biceps and neck are the same measurement, and I don't consider my arms "overweight". (On the contrary, I worked really hard to get them this way!) I've tried weighing less but people have told me I looked too thin. And it's not just female models "ruining" it for us either. Every male model you see without a shirt has an abdomen which looks like a cheese grater (although he's probably been surviving on chicken breasts and lettuce leaves for years). I for one have gotten a bit tired of the fashion industry telling me I should look the way male models do or hang it up. Who wanted their clothes anyway?


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