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Fashion Week's Latest Trend? Plus-Size Models
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Fashion Week's Latest Trend? Plus-Size Models

Arts & Life

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Were getting a glimpse of what will be in fashion next fall at New York Fashion Week. And with the event comes the inevitable discussion of the size of the models. Size 0s and double 0s are still a common sight on the runway, but some fashion spreads of late, have prominently featured plus-sized models. Thats what they call them. We reached Robin Givhan, fashion editor for The Washington Post, who has been writing on this very topic.

Ms. ROBIN GIVHAN (Fashion Editor, The Washington Post): One of the things thats happened is that as the general population has gotten bigger and bigger, the models were getting smaller and smaller and smaller. So, the fashion industry itself, did create a health initiative. It was the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the idea was to create a set of guidelines that designers could work with.

And just recently, in New York, they had a big panel discussion where a lot of these issues were brought up, and the key issue being the sample size and essentially saying thats where all of this begins.

MONTAGNE: The sample size meaning the samples of clothes that show up on the runway and the sample size is so teeny that only painfully thin women, if you want to say it that way, can fit in it.

Ms. GIVHAN: Yeah. I mean, the sample is what the designer creates for the runway show. And then when magazines have to photograph those clothes, in advance of their going into stores - and were talking four or five months in advance - the only way that they can photograph the clothes is to use the samples. So, as a result, the models whore in the magazine have to be thin enough to fit into those clothes. Editors constantly say: oh yeah, I would definitely use a larger model, except they dont fit the clothes that were shooting.

MONTAGNE: Well, one of the criticisms when you get to the plus-size models is that they aren't actually what many people would call plus-size I mean theyre like size 12, which isnt tiny, but the average American is a size 14.

Ms. GIVHAN: One also consider that the model is a size 12, but she is also about 510. There is a real disconnect between what the fashion industry considers to be a plus-sized model and what the average person considers to be plus-size. I mean, a woman going into a department store is not going to be sized out of the most fashionable clothes until she gets to about a size-16.

MONTAGNE: Well, in your column on this topic, you do wonder when the image of plus-size itself becomes an unhealthy message, the way now the image of emaciated models has been, as some say, sending out an unhealthy message.

Ms. GIVHAN: I think weve gotten to a point at which our vision of what a healthy weight is has gotten very contorted. The fashion industry on one end is showing us these 14 and 15 year old, very thin girls and portraying them as women. And then on the other hand, theres the unhealthy nature of obesity and the sort of, in many ways, kind of politically correct aspect of saying, well, you should be happy with who you are and you should celebrate - we should celebrate all sizes.

But I think what we have to figure out is: how do we celebrate good health without stigmatizing people who are on either end of the spectrum and are still trying to work their way towards middle ground, which is good health?

MONTAGNE: Robin Givhan is the fashion editor for The Washington Post. Thanks very much for joining us.

Ms. GIVHAN: Thank you.

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