Jane Devine: Model issues for retailers

H&M plus size model Jennie Runk. Picture: Contributed
H&M plus size model Jennie Runk. Picture: Contributed
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AS WE see the weather (sort of) turning a little warmer, a whole new side to Scotland is revealed.

As we peel off our winter layers of big jackets, pullovers, hats and boots and root in the back of the wardrobe for summer attire, some of us might start to become more than a little self-conscious of the bodies we are beginning to reveal.

At this time, we also start to see the magazines with “perfect” sized models advocating the latest “bikini” diet or “bust your belly in four weeks” regime, accompanied by pages of the latest styles-for-summer. The models used to promote these food and exercise programmes and show off these clothes are a size six or eight, tanned, toned and clearly not in need of the advice of the magazines in which they appear.

There is no doubt that these magazines put pressure on women, and especially young girls, to have the perfect body – the perfect body being at the most a size eight and five foot seven, or taller.

Women rightly get annoyed about this.

Things though, are starting to change. Fashion giant H&M has started using plus-sized models, with its latest recruit, Jennie Runk, being a size 18; and in February we saw the first “plus-sized” London Fashion Week. The fashion chains and designers are starting to pay attention and realise that women want to see fashion they can imagine themselves wearing.

All women deserve to have clothes that make them look and feel good, no matter their dimensions and not to have to make do with a bigger version of something designed with an 18-inch waist in mind.

There is a difference, though, in having decent clothes available in larger sizes and using larger model to promote fashion because, just as there are dangers in promoting super-skinny models, there are dangers in promoting super-sized ones, too.

I doubt anyone would argue that the sub-size-zero models favoured by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld are healthy, or that they have bodies worthy of envy, but these criticisms could just as easily be levelled at models who are a size 18 or more.

So, do we want magazines and catwalks to be populated by realistic models who reflect the average size of women, which in Scotland is a size 16, and also profile larger ladies? Or do we want to use the power we are clearly starting to exert over the fashion industry to promote images of the women we should be, not the women we actually are?

There is no ideal size: we are all individuals and therefore different, but there are sizes which are not ideal; sizes at which you cannot be healthy and they occur at both ends of the spectrum.

If we believe the fashion industry has the power to drive young girls to develop eating disorders to get thin, we need to think long and hard before we applaud size 18+ models.