Size, Beauty, and Role Models



Happy Easter Holidays Everyone.

This post comes to you from an internet connection in holiday mode! The last few days our internet has been painfully slow, and while frustrating as that is, it has been the perfect excuse to have a break and get stuck into some reading.

Over the past couple of weeks two seemingly un-connected books have crossed my path. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi, and Coal to Diamonds: A memoir from Beth Ditto and Michelle Tea. Both of these famous figures have had very public lives based quite literally, around their famous figures. Ditto has been simultaneously acclaimed and ridiculed for her voluptuousness and ‘devil may care’ attitude to the socially accepted norms of plus sized dressing. While de Rossi has suffered a very public personal battle with admitted self-constructed pressures to stay thin and ‘perfect’ during her early years of modelling and throughout the filming of the Ally McBeal series. While both of these women have had the additional struggle with self expression and personal acceptance in the public eye, their stories are ones that would resonate with people world wide.

The media, particularly¬†the media associated with the fashion industry, portrays a certain ‘image’ when it comes to women body size and self acceptance. Body image and the fashion industry is a debate that has spanned the catwalk and fashion magazine for decades and with every decade there is a new ‘norm’. In the documentary series Inside the Creative Mind (which you can watch here), Tom Ford commented while shooting for French Vogue that fashion :

‘In todays world what everyone aspires to is to be exactly the same. We have all these people getting all this cosmetic surgery, all their breasts are looking the same, all their lips are looking the same, young girls are growing up thinking that they have to have collagen in their lips because their mothers have collagen. Because they are used to looking at this… We are in a culture right now that is obsessed with youth… Fashion for me isn’t just clothes it can be a mirror where we are culturally for a moment in time, or it can be an indicator of where we are going. If you look for example at a film from the 1950’s and you look at the shape of women breasts, they were pointed, and you look at the cars…pointed. There was a look to that period, there is a look to every period’.

Taking forward Ford’s idea that the current ‘look’ of this period is ‘sameness and cosmetic surgery’ the push forward can be a little scary for younger women especially when some of their favourite role models and toys are looking so pumped up and plastic. My hubby showed me this little clip this morning that where an ex CSIRO scientist from Tasmania has taken it upon herself to give Bratz dolls a day off from their heavily made up lives to don their gumboots and play in the outdoors.




Having played with these dolls and their extensive wardrobes of heels and clubbing outfits with a friends daughter I was personally delighted to here the little girl comment that her made-under dolly looks like she ‘likes to bounce on the trampoline’ and ‘go camping’. Unfortunately these tree change dolls aren’t for sale yet but as soon as they are I plan to buy one for my friends daughter to add to her Bratz dolls collection. Even if she is just a one off ‘cousin from the country’ for her other fashionable Bratz doll friends variety is always fun!

So where are we at with role models and the catwalk?

Even with an undercurrent resurgence towards booty appreciation in the music industry (see examples here and here) , thin is still in! According to the NY times there is talk of legislation within the French Parliament that would set minimum weights for models in a bid to stamp out eating disorder within the industry. While this would only be a small step in the right direction towards a culture of positive body image, it would help remove some of the ‘trigger’ images circulating ‘thinspo’ accounts across the globe. If you weren’t aware ‘thinspo’, pro-ana (anorexia), and pro-mia (bulimia) are themes that have a strong undercurrent in social media platforms. A quick browse of #thin in Instagram can be an alarming reality check that we as a society are not on the right track when it comes body image acceptance just yet. Unfortunately many of these ‘thin’ images glamourise eating disorders and disconnect with the reality of the disease. Model and actress Isabelle Caro became the face of Anorexia when she teamed up with Italian label Nolita in a series of confronting billboard images that displayed the reality of eating disorders. Unfortunately Caro is no longer with us, but her legacy of being a ‘face’ for eating disorders is a powerful one that will continue to raise awareness for many years to come. If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder it is never to early or too late to ask for help. In Australia The Butterfly Foundation assists eating disorder and negative body image sufferers and their carers to find ways to prevent, treat, and support each other.

With the street press being ‘all about that bass’ it will be interesting to see how designers respond to booty acceptance in upcoming designer collections. Will bustles make a comeback? Will we all be purchasing booty enhancing pants? I personally hope that the future is one of increasing environmental awareness and ethics. That will illicitness a response from the fashion industry centred around valuing personal style over fashion. This would result in better quality garments, prices that reflect the workmanship and resources that have gone into the manufacturing process, and a duty of care with advertising. In my ideal future we would buy to last, products would be stylish, well made, ethically sourced and produced, biodegradable or recyclable, utilise low impact manufacturing, and most of all would make us feel good about ourselves. Models would look healthy and happy. Advertisers would appeal to individuals sense of style and lifestyle requirements rather than focusing on mass marketing a ‘look’ for the season. Girls would look up to women who are comfortable in their own skin and live a conscious and grateful lifestyle.

What do you envision the future of fashion to look like?

What is your ideal catwalk fashion revolution?

Share any thoughts below.


Author: Katie

Katie Roberts is a self confessed 'write-a-holic' Environmental Scientist with a passion for Sustainable Fashion.

Share This Post On
468 ad


  1. Very interesting food for thought. I especially loved the dolls video. It reminded me of a couple of months ago, when my niece asked me a barbie for her birthday. I searched high and low, and finally found a journalist barbie -the president barbie was too dowdy even for me. I am glad now barbie can be a doctor or a computer engineer or a president, but I would have loved some more masculine jobs. Barbie CERN engineer. Barbie Nobel prize for physics. Barbie surgeon. Barbie war reporter.
    Anyway. In spite of all these external imputs you talk about, I think a lot of direction can come from the family, by example. At the end of the day a mom can show her daughter she can become anything, and a dad can show her daughter/son how a woman should be treated.

    Post a Reply
    • Going to confess that the first thing I did after reading your post is google ‘journalist barbie’ and then ‘president barbie’. He he he. Journalist Barbie is put together far better than the president Barbie. I went to the Barbie exhibition in Melbourne a few years back and it was interesting to see her evolution (and extensive wardrobe) over the years. I agree with you, Nobel prize for Physics Barbie would be a great addition to her long career history. She probably would meet lab OH&S requirements wearing heels so hopefully they do one of their new, flat shoe compatible models, then she can don her heels to the Nobel Prize ceremony if she wants too.

      I agree with you, nothing out there is as influential as parenting. I grew up with barbies, in a regular school with regular ‘Mean Girls’ social groups, watching Clueless, and still only wear heels on VERY special occasions, mostly because it wasn’t commonplace in my house but it also wasn’t ruled out. We were encouraged to do what we like and wear what we like for ourselves not others (which did result in some embarrassingly questionable home made outfit creations). Thank you for taking the time to share such thought provoking points, my googling has brought me up-to-date with all things Barbie related now. Will have to work it into a discussion at work and WOW people with my Barbie knowledge. :-)

      Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *