BY RILEY FANNING
This year, one runway show at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) had a surprisingly refreshing array of models. While the standard look for models was, and still is, impossibly tall, gaunt woman strutting in stilettos across the runways, FTL MODA’s show presented a different perspective.
Women who usually would not be seen on a high fashion catwalk suddenly were. In the lineup was Madeline Stuart, an 18-year-old girl with downs syndrome, Rebekah Marine, a woman with a prosthetic arm, along with other amputees and even women in wheelchairs.
This is an example of the power of public opinion. The inclusion of more and more diversity in the fashion industry has greatly stemmed from public influence, and the demand for wider representation.
In general, there has been a big rise in the popularity of women who fall outside the typical, unattainable standard of beauty that our society usually promotes.
Plus-size models such as Ashley Graham, or people such as Winnie Harlow, a model who has vitiligo (A disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches) are challenging the idea of what is beautiful, especially in relation to the fashion industry.
The importance of diversity being shown and supported as beautiful is huge, because there are still gaping inequalities in what types of so called beauty gets the spotlight.
While the FTL MODA show was inclusive and celebratory of many types of women, the harsh reality is that this was just one show. This is not a newly accepted standard, and you won’t be seeing an array of body types on any other catwalks.
Gigi Hadid, a recent “It Girl” model received large amounts of criticism following NYFW. Despite being the embodiment of the fashion industry’s definition of beauty—tall, pretty and thin—countless comments on social media and articles online bashed her body for not being thin enough.
In response, Gigi posted a letter on Instagram discussing how she loves her body, which is slightly curvier than the typical models’, stating “No, I don’t have the same body type as other models in shows” and “I represent a body image that wasn’t accepted in high- fashion before.”
So while people claim they want to see depictions of multiple body types, tremendous amounts of criticism arise for even the smallest challenges to the status quo. The point here is not to shame anyone—thin girls, curvy girls, able-bodied girls or girls with disabilities. The point is that we need to examine our society to see if different types of beauty are being accurately represented, and clearly they are not.
The other huge issue is race. This year, according to Spot.com, 70 percent of the models that walked at NYFW this year were white. Because the stereotypical model is white, women of color have huge hurdles in being represented, even if they otherwise fit the model body standards. Some people like to think of our society as progressive, yet we still cling to the pattern of sameness and unfair advantages for white models.
Facets of society are undergoing slow change for the better in terms of acceptance and celebration of diversity, but the unachievable standard still exists, and all women are still chained to it.