It’s been New York Fashion Week, and Instagram is flooded with posts from the various designer shows featuring their newest fashions and celebrity clients.
It is the land of the beautiful people. But there are a few designers bucking the trends and one is Chromat, which makes swim and bodywear for all body types. They design for sizes XS to 4X and make it a point to use a diverse group of women as models. Women’s Wear Daily posted a picture on Instagram of their runway model Tess Holliday wearing a custom form-fitting dress with “sample size” printed on the fabric and set off a storm in the comments. Holliday is a successful 300-pound, 52-49-56, plus-size model.
The majority of comments were a barrage of criticism for promoting obesity and a dangerous and unhealthy lifestyle. Some weighed in (no pun intended) that this was the opposite end of the anorexic models, which also promoted a dangerous and unhealthy lifestyle. But with some of those emaciated model pictures on Instagram, the comments may be an occasional, “Give this girl a cheeseburger” and not a tsunami of judgment. For this WWD post, comments ranged from harpoons and whale emojis to “this is an insult to size zero girls who live on rice cakes and vegetables” to an RN describing the burden of obesity on the health care system. A few came to the defense of body diversity and inclusive ideas of beauty or congratulated the model on her success, and one responded to all the negative comments, “Wow y’all suck. Worry about your own health.” Only a single Instagrammer asked if the dress was for sale.
Holliday reports that she regularly gets death threats because of her weight.
Here is the truth. Our culture is positively brutal on women about their weight. And we as women (even evolved women) internalize impossible beauty standards and judge ourselves. It can be fretting over anything from three to 300 pounds. If we have a rare friend who eats and drinks anything she wants and never gains weight we say, “You are so skinny. I hate you.” And for women of a certain age who see a younger friend whose hormones haven’t yet wreaked havoc on her waist line we say, “Oh, just you wait . . .”
A friend will ask, “How are you? I heard you were sick,” and you reply, “Oh my god. It was so awful! The worst flu ever!” Then you smile and say, “But hey, I lost five pounds.” Is there any available man who is smart and funny who thinks because of that extra 15 pounds he will never get a date? Our mirrors are never asked “Am I the fairest of them all?” But at least twice a day, “Do I look fat in it?” You hold onto that pair of smaller jeans that is just one Keto, grapefruit, cabbage soup diet, or tapeworm away.
We have come a long way as a society to understand the importance of healthy eating and exercise with not only their benefits for weight loss and maintenance but for a feeling of energy and well-being and longevity. Strides or at least baby steps have been made to include a diversity of body types in mainstream marketing efforts. But every time we look behind us, that shaming shadow is still there.
The important question isn’t “How do you look?” but “How do you feel?” Those dreaded scales could indicate not how many pounds you are but whether you feel healthy, strong, and energized enough to take on the world and do the important work you want to do. It’s not about physically fitting into the smallest sample size, it’s about being healthy enough to be your mentally, emotionally, and spiritually biggest self.