QU’s Fashion Corner: Does size matter?

Sarah Rosenberg

When the fashion label Ralph Lauren rolls off one’s tongue during conversation, most think of the brand’s classic clothes and the designer with the same name. It’s a label that embodies American themes, with looks representing everything from rugged individualism to polished academia and elite, big city couture. But what happens when one of America’s most treasured labels comes under fire for its insensitivity toward models, their weight and the recurring social problem of what’s acceptable with body image?

Filippa Hamilton had been under contract as a model with the brand since 2002, becoming a recognizable face for the company. However, her size-4 figure was not enough to keep the head honchos at Ralph Lauren satisfied, as she claims she was fired for being overweight. The model stands 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. But her already enviable body was altered for advertisements. Hamilton looked similar to a caricature in a photoshopped ad appearing in Japan-her head was larger than her waif-looking waist, barely-there hips and thin arms.

Society has taught young women to rely on fashion magazines for the best fashion and beauty advice, but while seeking that advice, they are bombarded with the advertisements and photos of women that the fashion industry deems truly beautiful.

I don’t know any woman who doesn’t question her body type while looking in the mirror, perhaps even comparing her body to those of the models she sees on the glossy covers or billboards. As a size 8, should I be afraid that a woman two sizes smaller than me is classified as being “overweight?” I worry that girls of any size, including myself, are too self-conscious to express themselves through fashion because they might feel as if they are not the proper size for a certain style. No woman should have to compromise a love for her body or clothes based on the standards of a photo.

It would be hypocritical of me to say that fashion magazines and are the source of all evil when it comes to body image, just because of the advertisements they may run within their pages. I want any girl, regardless of her size, who has discovered a love for clothes to be able to find a trend she loves in a magazine and wear it. Women have the power to dress for their body type, no matter what the industry says. No matter what pictures of ideal women fashion labels throw in our faces, fashion is fit for the person, not their waist size.

Throughout all the hype surrounding Ralph Lauren’s scandal, some magazines and even certain famous models have been a saving grace for the fashion followers who have been bothered by the pressure to lose weight.

Model Crystal Renn has recently published her memoir “Hungry,” citing her battle with the industry and eating disorders to stay a size 0. Now a plus-size model, Renn has abandoned the pressure and embraced her curves, finding success with her new size. Thus far, she has landed jobs for American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

I see fashion as a mechanism for expressing personality. Hamilton expressed the ideas of Ralph Lauren’s clothing during her eight years with the label, despite her size. Her dismissal from the company shows that perhaps designers and advertisers are more concerned with how thin the model wearing their dress is rather than the personality and art of the piece-and that is a type of loss that the industry certainly cannot benefit from.