With the modelling industry’s ongoing promotion of the ultra-thin, alongside their more recent acceptance of ‘plus-size’ women, it begs the question; why are we more accepting of the extremes than the average?
The average Australian woman is a size 14, according to 2016 census data, however this size is barely represented at all in the fashion industry.
A ‘straight-size’ model is typically an Australian size 6 to 8 while a plus size model is considered to be size 16 and up, but there is little to no market for models who lay somewhere in between and don’t fit either label.
Cofounder of Australian fashion label, Dyspnea, Jameen Zalfen believes it comes down to these ‘in between’ sizes not being dramatic enough for brands to brag about.
“The in between size is not attention seeking enough” she said.
“It’s sad to see some brands now have one plus size model to have ‘diversity’ but it should be consistent, not just a one off.”
A 2007 study by University of Cambridge PHD student, Ben Barry, of 3000 women across the United Kingdom, United States and Canada found that consumers were more likely to purchase clothes that were modelled by women who looked like themselves.
Considering that the average woman wears an ‘in between’ size, it seems that from an economic standpoint, brands are potentially harming their business. by only representing some of the smallest and largest sizes in their campaigns.
However, this is beginning to change. Models like New York based Elianah Sukoenig who don’t completely fit into either category of ‘straight’ or ‘plus’ size are finding work where there was once no market at all.
Woking as a model who doesn’t necessarily conform to any stereotypes has been tough for Sukoenig.
She said: “Although I am currently represented by an agency, I have been turned down countless times by others for not being able to easily fit into a marketable category of size.
“Our society likes to focus on exceptionalism and I haven’t seen many advertisements market ‘average’ as exceptional.”
Despite Dyspnea’s promotion of women of all sizes on their Instagram, their website, in terms of size diversity, looks very much the same as most other fashion labels; featuring only tall, slim, size 6 to 8 models.
Zalfen is aware of this as an issue but says it ultimately comes down to cost-effectiveness.
“To run two sample sizes come at a higher cost however we are getting there.
“Our next project is to shoot two models, one size 8 and one size 12.”
This is evidence of the slow shift that is starting to occur within this aspect of society but Sukoenig believes there is still a long way to go.
“I hope agencies sign more people who don’t fit into boxes of any kind, I hope more brands continue to adapt to represent more shapes and sizes, I hope designers keep adding more size diversity on the runway” she said.
“Progress is being made, but not enough.”
Written by journalist Eliane Turnbull