THE 'PLUS-SIZE' DEBATE

Pictured above is Myla Dalbesio, who has "made history" for being the first "plus-size" model (as Elle referred to her)  to book a lucrative Calvin Klein campaign. This has predictably sparked a huge online debate about what the fuck "plus-size" means. Dalbesio is a US10/UK14, which is smaller than the average size of women in both countries (12-14 in the US and 16 in the UK) so a lot of people are questioning how exactly she's "plus-sized".

Weight in the fashion world, as I've discussed in previous pieces, is a testy subject. Everyone has an opinion on what constitutes 'fat' or 'skinny' and who they'd rather see modelling the clothes they want to purchase. The fact that it's Calvin Klein drawing attention for this is interesting to me, as it's Calvin Klein who helped popularise the 'waif' look of the 90's (think Kate Moss). I've seen people online berating Calvin Klein over this whole thing, but I think it's important to note that the brand itself hasn't labelled Dalbesio "plus-size", it's other media outlets that have chosen this term based on her reported dress size.

Dalbesio backs up Calvin Klein with this, saying there was no differentiation between her and other models (Jourdan Dunn, Lara Stone, Ji Hye Park) featured in the 'Perfectly Fit' campaign. She told Elle, “It’s not like [Calvin Klein] released this campaign and were like ‘Whoa, look, there’s this plus size girl in our campaign.’ They released me in this campaign with everyone else; there’s no distinction. It’s not a separate section for plus size girls.” To be honest, I applaud Calvin Klein for their use of Dalbesio in this campaign, as they haven't used her as a gimmick or as part of an annual "plus-size" feature devoted exclusively to "plus-size" customers. (Think the Vogue 2010 "plus-size" issue)

 

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Dalbesio for Calvin Klein.

 

I think this is what people have been asking for – the inclusion of women who are seen as a normal, healthy size, a better representation of society in general than the thin models usually presented to viewers. I mean, sure, women who are nowhere near the standard US0-2 of the models we so often see in campaigns can still be catered to by brands. But this is usually through "plus-size" sections, differentiated clothing with a larger size tag. And this isn't really including women who fall outside the bounds of what fashion deems an acceptable size. Calvin Klein have not labelled Dalbesio as plus-size, but have stated simply that their 'Perfectly Fit' line is supposed to be inclusive of more women. A spokesperson said“The Perfectly Fit line was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.”

Interestingly, in contrast to some media outlets, Dalbesio does not refer to herself as "plus-size", instead acknowledging that she is placed in an awkward gap in the fashion industry.  “I’m not skinny enough to be with the skinny girls and I’m not large enough to be with the large girls and I haven’t been able to find my place. This [campaign] was such a great feeling.” Since generating such a large response on the internet, she took the time to release a statement saying that she has finally found her place in fashion, between straight size and plus size, right in the middle as a healthy US10.

 

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Kate Moss and Christy Turlington for Calvin Klein.

 

I think that while the term "plus-size" is irritating (what does it say to every woman who isn't smaller than a US6??) and nobody really understands what qualifies as "plus-size" in the fashion world, we should be seeing Dalbesio's inclusion in this campaign with renowned models as a victory. While there are irate Twitter users bemoaning the use of the term"plus-size", Calvin Klein has not attributed this label to her and she has not been used as an instrument in promoting a differentiated "plus-size" range for the brand. She has been slotted into an ad campaign as if it's perfectly natural that she's there. And let's be honest, it isn't natural for someone of a healthy US10 to feature in such a predominant campaign. So I for one appreciate the ease with which Calvin Klein have included Myla Dalbesio in their 'Perfectly Fit' campaign. Now some other companies just need to follow suit. No making a big fuss about the different sizes of their models, but just keeping calm and acting natural – because inclusion of models Dalbesio's size should be normal.

 

Jayden wrote this article trying to remember the last time she could fit a US0. (She thinks it was Year 8)

 

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