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Is ‘size 0’ really what you think it is?

Size 4 in the UK, size 32 in France or size 44 in Korea – all numbers are supposedly size 0 for a women’s dress size, according to this sizing chart. But, can we trust these measurements? Or are they altered so we fit into larger clothes labelled with our ideal size, to secure a purchase?

2017 saw France ban size-zero models from top fashion houses. Plus-sized models are finally getting some well-deserved recognition on top runways and clothing sites. However, the question I’m asking is do brands and designers still seek size 0 models when launching a new collection? Or are they now looking for more diverse models to showcase their clothing?

Under pressure – models & diversity

There has been many positive steps to diversify the catwalk. Yet still, a 2013 interview with former Vogue editor Kirstie Clements really opened my eyes. I think it’s important to look back and reflect in order to move forward and to keep pushing for change; both on the catwalk and in the community.

Despite being written in 2013, this article brought to life the dark side of the modelling industry. “A couple of the others [models] have resorted to eating tissues. Apparently they swell up and fill your stomach”.

Kirstie recalled constant exposure to models with tell-tale signs of anorexia, eating tissues and some even being sent to hospital from shoots. The former Vogue editor also shared her experience of waiting with a colleague and seeing an extremely slim woman and expressed her discomfort. However, her companion confessed “I think she looks great”.

More mature women, especially in the fashion industry seem to enjoy the ‘size 0’ look, maybe because that’s what they want to look like themselves?

In Kirstie’s experience, she found it hard to get a photographer or editor to acknowledge the repercussions of using very thin girls. They convince themselves the models are genetically blessed (or have achieved it through yoga and eating goji berries).

This is just one story from an industry professional – no doubt there are many more. I believe it really highlights the problem, rooted from top to bottom. Hopefully we have come a lot further since then, but by no means come all the way.

‘The way it’s always been’

Another industry perspective I wanted to touch on is that of Tom Ford. In a Harper Bazaar’s interview in 2018, Ford explained that models tend to be the same size because that’s the way it’s always been. He claims that every brand creates a sample collection to a standard size and a designer cannot be expected to create custom outfits for every catwalk model.

It is quite shocking to me that girls need to fit into an ideal size if they want to model. I understand the design practicalities but surely there are some clothes which suit curvier figures more than others? I found it a joy to scroll through ASOS today and see a wide range of different models from diverse backgrounds with different figures. Hopefully progress does not stagnate.

The top designers’ biggest secret

Labelled as the top designers’ biggest secret, something that I want to raise more awareness of is a study from a Professor of marketing and behavioural science. Joe Andrea Hoegg claims that some designers and brands will purposefully make the measurements for clothing sizes bigger because people are more likely to buy their ideal size. That is scary, isn’t it? It is also another reason why as hard as it may be, we have to realise that size is just a number.

Big changes so far

It’s not all bad. There are some great steps forward for diversity in the fashion and beauty industries that deserve recognition:

  1. Dolce & Gabbana was the first luxury fashion house to extend its size range to 20 (22 in the UK).

  2. Retail giant Marks & Spencer introduced an easy dressing line for disabled children. Modelled after their main kids wear collections to ensure inclusivity and value.

  3. Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty with 40 shades of foundation, so that every woman felt included. Other beauty brands have followed suit since.

  4. Nike introduced a plus-size mannequin to ‘celebrate the diversity and inclusivity of sport’.

One thing to remember…

As cliché as it sounds, size is just a number. Some shops are literally making clothing sizes bigger because of the psychology behind wanting to fit in a smaller size. Instead of trying to squeeze into your size in the changing room, bring a few in to try. Buy clothes that suit your figure and fit you well, not just because it’s in a size that you desire.

With huge luxury brands such as Dolce & Gabbana paving a way forward, you would hope designers now look to create new lines with different body shapes in mind. It’s hard to tell right now as curvier lines are still a minority in some new collections.

What do you think?


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