Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rent The Runway Rocks Real Non-Airbrushed Models: Us!

Like many of you, I have tried ordering clothes online.  And it never goes well.  They are always too tight or too long.  They immediately make you feel bad about yourself.  And of course- it is a huge pain to have to pack it up again and mail it back.  And after all that- you still don't have anything to wear!!  Weird, right?  The clothes looked great in the pictures.
The frustration of online shopping is a symptom of a larger problem.  Many fashion lines are not made to fit the average woman.  Rader Programs, a group of  eating disorder treatment facilities, estimates that the average model weighs 117 pounds at 5'll and the average woman weighs 140 pounds at 5'4.  No wonder my purchases are too tight and too long!
However, I'm feeling optimistic about change being possible in the fashion world.  As of last week, Rent The Runway, an online service that lets users borrow current season high-fashion, has expanded their  use of real women as models on their site.  Users can upload pictures of themselves in the clothes, and include details about their height, weight, and chest size.  The site will also have the capacity to allow users to search for women of similar body type, so that they can see how the clothes actually fit.  I think this is fantastic.  Not only will it hopefully cut down on the dreaded returns, but women will see models that look like them.  It can reduce the shame and stigma that many women feel for lacking the 117 pounds at 5'll "ideal".
This initiative follows what I hope is a pattern of push back on pop culture for upholding women to unrealistic ideals that may lead to unhealthy body image.  For example, we are seeing opposition to magazine airbrushing.  Earlier this year, an ambitious eighth-grader put the pressure on Seventeen Magazine to review its policies on airbrushing and consider the impact it could have on young readers.  Her online petition led the magazine to sign an eight-point "Body Peace Treaty", which outlined a commitment to never change models' body or face shapes. 
We are seeing celebrities (especially recently!) disclosing their battles with eating disorders- often discussing the pressure they felt being in the entertainment industry.  Over the past few months, we've heard from Katie Couric, Nicole Scherzinger, and Stacy London.   Last year, Pop Health reviewed Portia De Rossi's book- Unbearable Lightness, which discussed her life-threatening eating disorder in much detail. 
I hope that we are continuing to see a shift.  I hope that there is less stigma in disclosing or discussing body image concerns and eating disorders.  I also hope that the public continues to make their voices heard...whether they are fighting the magazine airbrush or the high fashion gown that will look terrible on anyone under 5'10.
What do you think:  With the initiatives above and their predecessors (e.g., the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty)- do you see evidence of a shift in pop culture from "thin" to "real women"?  What else needs to change to keep this initiative moving forward?

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