Note: this is an old post that I am re-sharing because packing for Fashion Week always brings up the same thoughts, and I wanted to share this post with our new readers! A lot of brands have come a long ways since the original publish date of this post; but we have some work to do still.
Original post: From September, 2016.
I use the term, “fat,” lightly — because it’s something I often joke about with my friends, it’s something say about myself after I’ve eaten too many carbs or a cupcake. But that is what I felt the majority of our trip to New York. Don’t get me wrong, Fashion Week was a dream come true. But there was one thing that left a bad taste in my mouth: barely any designers used “real women.” It made me sad, it made me concerned, and it made me wonder what, if anything, I can do to change it. I saw some things at Fashion Week that I didn’t like — read more to find out!
Fashion week definitely brought some of my insecurities to the surface. Before we left, I was super stressed, I felt the pressure of needing to lose weight before the trip, have the best outfits, always be looking my best, wear the Spanx, hide the stomach, blah blah blah. I was feeling “fat” before I even got to New York. So I did the opposite of what I should have done, I skipped workouts so I could run errands or make it to my maintenance appointments (hair, facial, nails), I ate out every night because I had no time or energy to cook — and was basically just super unhealthy the entire week leading up to the trip. I had just been through the wringer of body shame when a big brand posted a photo of me their Instagram. (Emily addressed this here). I was called every version of “fat” in the book. I let it get me down for about two hours when all my friends snapped me back into reality. I cried, I let my mom fire back at them all, and then I reminded myself, Ivanka Trump knows who I am. So, I left that in the past and headed to New York — only to feel all of those things all over again.
When I shot the photos above with Paige Nicolle, I only gave her one direction: do not let my stomach show. Which, she did an amazing job of making sure that didn’t happen. I know I am not “fat” in which is why I put the word in quotes — I am curvy, strong, thick, average, regular, normal — there are a million words to describe what I am. But the reality is — most “average” women can’t wear the clothes shown at fashion week. They either, can’t afford them, or can’t fit in them.
Having been back for a few weeks, and having time to REALLY marinate in everything that I saw — I realized that I should just be okay with being strong rather than skinny because I saw a side of skinny that I want no part of. I am not here to bash women who are naturally thin or women who suffer from eating disorders, or food issues, or body issues. But, I do want to bring some of the things I witnessed at Fashion Week to light — because I think it’s important. I have written about self acceptance many times here — and I am obviously not perfect, I have my ups and downs. But it wouldn’t feel right not sharing those all with you. So here we go….
None of this is new information. It has been the dark cloud hovering over the industry for years. But when will enough be enough?
It wasn’t until we were sitting front row at an unnamed show on Day 2, that I noticed it: the models had fuzz all over their arms and legs. Not like they forgot to shave fuzz but, an actual layer of fuzz because their body is so thin it can no longer keep itself warm. In the medical world, this is called “lanugo.” By definition, it is the body’s ways of insulating itself. When a person loses too much weight or no longer has enough body fat to help heat themselves, the body takes over and grows lanugo. I know that I am not alone in thinking this is not good. I don’t want to say it’s not beautiful — because the models were gorgeous. But it should not be acceptable.
I know that this isn’t a new notion, and that is what society’s problem with the fashion industry has always been. But to see it that up close and personal made an entirely different impact on me. As much as I loved seeing the fashion, the designs, the trends, and being at the actual shows — there was this little sense of negativity that hung over the entire event.
Emily and I had many debriefing conversations, and we mentioned in a few posts how designers like Rebecca Minkoff used non-models in their shows. Emily said to me: “J Crew used real people.” I asked her, “Real people or real sized people?” There is a huge difference, and I bet you can guess what the answer was.
The fashion world is 100% perpetuating eating disorder culture in our society. It’s not just the designers, media or the magazines. It’s also the street style photographers — I did not one time see them stop an average sized woman and ask to take their photo. Not once did they ask me to take my photo alone — this could have been for many reasons, but just an observation.
Just when I had lost hope — I saw the images from Chromat & Christian Siriano. I was blown away, I felt proud, and I felt that maybe I fit in a little more than I thought. When I saw Iskra Lawrence walking on that runway, I almost cried. Remember, she is the one who inspired my Anti-Photoshop post.
Chromat’s designer, Becca McCharan said to the Huffington Post in April, “All our runway models represent who inspire us, whether it’s trans women, women of color, curve models, that’s my world and that’s the world we live in and that’s who I want to celebrate,” she said.
Models like Denise Bidot, Sabina Karlsson, Carmen Carrera, Maya Monès, Lauren Wasser, and Iskra Lawrence are paving the way for a more inclusive fashion industry. I’m proud that these amazing women came to slay in the show. The energy after the runway show this season was insane.
“Chromat is focused on empowering women of all shapes and sizes through perfectly fit garments for every body.” Well done, Chromat, well done. I am hoping to see more designers take this lead next season!
This article written by Tim Gunn gave me a new sense of hope for the future of fashion. I know it’s not just him and I that share this sentiment — so I hope that with each season, comes just a little progression for us regular girls.
Images via Vogue
Such an amazing and honest post! Thank you for sharing and being so open! Everything you said is SO true and needs to be discussed way more than it is. Thank you thank you!
Wow!!! What an incredible show!!! I wish I could have been there!! PS you look amazing!! Love the entire look!! XO
Let me also add that….. I wish I could’ve been there to be by your side!!! I am not thin and would have stood out a ton, but I know that you killed it everyday, Just giving my extra two cents!!! HAHA again, love the entire look and such a truly honest post!
OMG Ruthie thank you so much. That just made me so happy! You are so sweet. Thanks so much for reading and cheering me up! XooX
I had started to comment then my computer updated, so I apoligize if I post twice! Anyway-this was so me during my short time there. I literally had a street photog look me up and down, turn around, and walk away. Another nudged me out of the way. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!
I hadn’t had that “I don’t belong” feeling pretty much since jr high, and I can honestly say it was because of my size. Ultimately though I was mad at myself for letting all of these people make me feel the way I did. It got to the point where I was telling myself I had no business being there because of my size (I’m like a 12/14). Like, who let’s people make them feel that way?! Lol!
Again, thanks for posting this-you’re not alone!
Aw Rebecca your comment was so kind and heartfelt. Thank you so much. I definitely had them photograph Emily only while I just stood and watched. They are so freakin ruthless it’s insane! I think it’s better to just laugh about it. I am totally with you and not letting them determine how we feel. I always tell myself to rise above — but it’s so damn hard! BUT we do belong there — we just need to be confident and prove everyone wrong. Thank you SO much for your comment. I loved it! XooX
I love this post so much. I have so many similar feelings!! Being a blogger and putting yourself out there is hard enough as it is because we are all our own worst critics. When others say hateful comments it is just terrible!
You are beautiful and I love your style. We need more “normal” girls out there 🙂
Thanks for sharing Ashley. We all have our struggles in life, no matter what they may be they impact us deeply. I can relate- my wardrobe selection is always super limited because I have to find clothes that disguise my missing breasts. I have just got to a point of being somewhat ok with a boy haircut that was by no means by choice. I am terrible at styling my hair and sometimes I feel like people stare at me and are like “why would she cut her hair like that”. I still look at women with long hair and just envy their pony tails and long flowing locks. Thanks for sharing this! I got tears in my eyes, I can’t believe how cruel we can be to one another. You go girl!
Oh my gosh! First…YOU LOOK AMAZING!
As a plus sized woman for MANY years, I have noticed a shift lately towards the inclusion of larger sizes. This makes me happy!
However, it’s a tiny shift and I hope it gains momentum. These images are amazing. Thank you for sharing.
This post was everything! Some of my absolute favorite models and your fit was super cute. Happy you enjoyed you enjoyed yourself!
Firstly thank you for being so open and honest. This is so necessary right now.
Secondly, I am a plus-size woman (size 18) that has attended NYFW for years now and I’ve felt this way since the beginning. The industry has come a long way – Siriano and Chromat are proving that.
Please continue being the BEAUTIFUL woman that you are!
omfg i love you so much.. and this article.
As a size 14/16, I completely understand what you’re saying! I commend you for this post and also wanted to say you look amazing! And Tim Gunn’s article was also amazing!