Monday, 13 February 2012

'Real Women": you just can't win.

I realise this topic has been blogged to death, but it’s been on my mind lately. For the past 10 years or so, there has been a notable movement to feature more ‘real women’ in the media. This all started off well, with Dove toiletries using women of all shapes, sizes and colours in their adverts. Apparently, these women are ‘real’. The definition of real is merely that it exists, so while some argue that this is a silly term to use, I’m of the other way of thinking, in that it’s possibly the shortest and most accurate description they could have used. By real, they mean someone you’d see in the street, your neighbour, the woman sat next to you on the bus, not an airbrushed professional model. I’m not suggesting the ‘real women’ aren’t photoshopped too, because they will be, but in a different manner, such as evening out skintone rather than taking off inches of an already slender body. It’s become a sad fact of life that we’ve grown to prefer the photoshopped image. So what do we prefer? Do 'real women' sell?

The Dove 'Real Women' campaign


Now, it seems the more and more we're seeing 'real' women, the more we're seeing bigger women. I completely agree with using plus size models; it gives us an idea how products will look on a more average figure (which is supposedly a UK 16) but, as pointed out by my boyfriend,  plus sized  models with a less than average figure are used. How many size 16 women do you see that have perfectly proportioned hips, bust and a enviably small waist, with long legs and toned arms? Not many, right? On a size 16 woman you'd see in the street, you're more likely to see an apple shape with bingo wings. In reality, would we really want to see the average shaped (and that's what it boils down to here-shape, not size) woman modelling?

Two average plus-sized women you'd see in the street


For every nice comment ("it's good to see someone like ME modelling") about a plus sized model, there are 10 nasty comments ("pig in knickers")....and in come the "curvy vs skinny" (Yaaaaawn) brigade. People, for whatever reason, feel the need to take sides and bash the opponent. I'm interested to know why. Is it jealousy? Do they believe themselves to be 'better' than the other party somehow? Why do they? Is it a health thing? An aesthetics thing? It always boils down to a matter of personal opinion, although why some people feel the need to express their opinions so brutally is beyond me. When I was in Star In A Bra last year I got a little abuse from someone who made it their job to repeatedly tell me I'm fat. Even Lizzie Haines, the stunning brunette who won the competition also came under fire from a few Daily Mail readers recently when she featured in an article about her winning the 'Plus Size Model of the Year' title from 100% people. I'm guessing these are the sort of people who have an average sized girlfriend/wife at home, yet feel the need to look online at pictures of airbrushed Victoria's Secret models, wishing they were theirs. Well, GET REAL, look what you have and learn to appreciate it, and don't abuse others for their success! I understand this will never happen and being in the spotlight will always leave you open to abuse, no matter what your size and shape :(

Typical 'Skinny Vs Curvy' propaganda


Does it sell?
I'm not bashing plus sized women, don't get me wrong, I'm just pointing out that in the grand scheme of things, the fashion industry can't win when it comes to models. Pepperberry infamously use increasingly smaller models and claim that when larger models were used, their sales figures dropped. Have we all become moulded into the belief that slimmer women look better? Women say they want 'real women' to model the clothes they might want to buy, yet when they do, sales drop? Really Pepperberry??

An old Pepperberry model, no longer used


One of Pepperberry's newer, slimmer models


Recently, Lucy Ann Moore won the competition for Ann Summers to seek out a new model. I walked past Ann Summers on Saturday morning and rather than featuring the model that the public had voted for, a thinner model was being used on the main advertising board, even though I KNOW Lucy was photographed in the very same outfit. And what's more, just take a look at their home page here. Where is Lucy? Is it all merely a publicity stunt? Who cares if they use the model afterwards, they've got people interested in their company by launching the competition and by getting people to vote and share. I care, as I'm sure many others do too. I think it's unfair on Lucy. I realise it's early days but even so...

Lucy Ann Moore


One company you WON'T see hiding their public's choice is Curvy Kate. Their Star In A Bra competition runs annually and last years' winner, Lizzie Haines has enjoyed a whole year of modelling and publicity. Obviously I'm slightly biased towards Curvy Kate, as I featured in the 2011 Star In A Bra top 10 myself. Curvy Kate are only too happy to parade their winner! Check out Lizzie's website, Do It Momma too, you'll see she's more than just a pretty face (and bangin' bod)!

Lizzie Haines


Time to wrap this up as I feel I'm rambling on waaaay too much!

My solution is indeed costly, but companies would find it would make their customers love them more, and thus increase sales. It is to simply use three models per product; one at the smallest end of their size range, not one so small that the clothes have to be pinned to fit-one in the ACTUAL smallest size they make, the next at the largest end of their range, and one in between. It could be argued that this method is costly both moneywise and timewise as the company would use three models, but they tend to use that amount of models anyway a lot of the time. Why not show size variation rather than colour variation (as in colouring, not a racial thing! You know, skintone, hair colour, etc.), as this is what tends to be used currently. I'm interested to know what you think? What would sell the product to you? Someone with the same skintone and hair colour or someone in the same size?

Please let me know your opinions :)

29 comments:

  1. I agree 100% and this is definitely one reason that I love how Ewa Michalak BiuBiu, and AJ Rumina show models that come in various sizes for the same article of clothing. Modcloth also allows shoppers to post pictures of themselves in their reviews, which is another good step forward. More and more I'm trying to avoid brands that only put one super thin model into an outfit to show it off because it's so hard to find something that flatters my body type that more often then not the clothing item will be a dud (I shop pretty much 100% online so seeing how it fits on some similar to my body shape is really important!). I also love how biubiu has made a blog show casing various women in their clothes in a whole plethora of sizes!!!

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    1. I completely forgot about BiuBiu. I want the red-haired models haircut! Facebook has changed the way people shop to a certain extent. Pepperberry customers for example find the customer photos useful, and yes, Ewa Michalak also had the brilliant idea of using multiple models. I'm convinced it sells!

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  2. I hate the way curvy has been distorted to (usually) mean fat now. You can be skinny AND curvy!
    I also hate the way some guys say they prefer curvy over skinny but they really mean they prefer skinny with big boobs (I clicked the skinny vs curvy link and then a groupshot image of Curvy Kate girls and this was the case on there). I mean even in 'men's' mags the girls have a 4/6/8 body and 28-32 DD-H (ish) measurements when the magazines protest they don't like skinny girls.
    Saying this I also hate it when people call the VS models curvy because they aren't; most of them have no waist and a figure that has hips, small waist and curves out again for boobs is curvy, not someone with long legs, small figure and fake boobs or smaller boobs.

    I always find it better when a model is my height, my size etc than my skin tone so your idea of three sizes is a sensible one. I can envisage the item on me rather than being disappointed.

    Didn't mean to go on a rant there, but this is a subject that really riles me :) I'm not too sure if I make much sense either? xx

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    1. This post started off as a mini rant like yours. I drafted it weeks ago and added a bit more this morning then decided to post it. You should do the same, it's always interesting to hear different points of view on this.

      And the Curvy meaning fat thing, that annoys me too. There was a section on a TV show about 'Curvy fashion' and they started it off by suggesting that we (curvy girls) may have failed to shed the post Christmas pounds!! Tut...

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    2. I might do but I can see it turning into an OTT essay haha :) I think I still will do after I've reviewed my CK Angel bra x

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    3. OOh, I was looking at the Angel the other day, love the suspender belt too! x

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  3. I SO agree with you! And like June said, it's so great at Ewa Michalak's webshop to see their bras on different kind of bodies.

    I don't understand why there even is that whole curvy vs. skinny -debate going on, as there is plenty of room for all of us. I am fat AND curvy, but I think there's also fat and non-curvy women out there as there is skinny and curvy and skinny and non-curvy women. And all of them are every bit as real women.

    http://branightmares.blogspot.com/

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    1. It's just society in general, we have to pick at whatever we're not!

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  4. I think this is a bloody brilliant idea. 3 Models for each is well within the budget of TopShop, New Look, Next, like you said they take multiple images of everything and I'd be SO MUCH more likely to shop online with shops who did this. We vote with our wallets and I would buy more, so I'd love it if they sold me things the way I want to buy them.

    Can I link to this post from the links post I'm writing for my blog? I think my readers would like it too.

    http://beelovesbeauty.com

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    1. Of course you can. Check out the online shops of Ewa Michalak, BuiBui and AJ Rumina as suggested by June above to see what you think of their models too.

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  5. On a weightloss forum this week there was a girl moaning that she didn't like the word 'obese' and that she wanted to be labelled as 'curvy' instead. People pounced on her for being in denial. I can see both sides of this, but I do think that this whole *curvy/skinny/normal* label exercise has gone really wrong. They're all so distorted.

    Personally, 'real' models work for me. Curvy Kate is a brilliant example of this as every time I saw one of those top 10 girls last year (yourself included) it made me think that I really shouldn't be ashamed of how I look; that campaign alone increased my body confidence!

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    1. Really? That's good to hear Alex, I'm glad it made an impact and it was great to be part of it!

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  7. I think the stigma surrounding very slim models started out because it's not healthy to be at that weight, but now I think it's kinda moved into people being bitter about what I would consider to be "healthy" sized models because they are slimmer than them.
    I agree that it's important to show a variety of figures/shapes/sizes amongst other things but I think that using people with a BMI that puts them as overweight and thus at risk of health complications is just as bad as using underweight models. Even though maybe we are moving towards that as the "norm" in society, if it's making people ill then it's not a good role model/influence.
    I've gone on a bit of an off topic ramble there.. I agree that plus size models don't have a realistic figure, most of them have a much better shape and are more toned than I am at a size 10/12 - the same applies for slim models who are like a size 8 - most size 8 ladies still have curvy bits. It's not really right for anyone to critise someone else's body shape, if people are happy and healthy in themselves then it's what's important, everyone is "real". I do think there is a certain amount of stigma the other way as well, I've had flack off shop assistants before if I've asked for a smaller size and I think part of that is because of all the campaigning for larger models and people see that and think that people can't exist with a regular every day to life and maintain a size 10 body.

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    1. Thanks for reading, I can see it's a topic you're passionate about. I can totally see what you're saying about the BMI thing, but at the end of the day, they're models used to sell clothing, not to sell a healthy body weight. I just wish they'd use some 'in-betweeners' to be honest!

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    2. Oh, and regarding the size 8 thing-believe it or not, I'm a size 8!

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    3. I can totally believe that you're a size 8! You have a lovely body :)

      Totally agree about selling clothing, though I've always felt that the stigma is because people percieve that skinny models are selling an unhealthy body weight to go with it.

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    4. I just saw your post below about Pepperberry - I have the same problem, their 8s are all too big but "fit" perfectly on their slimmer-than-me models.

      M&S put clothes that are too big on models that are teeny and the clothes look horrid and baggy.

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    5. I agree that it isn't a good idea for companies to use unhealthy models (on either side of the weight spectrum), but it is important for curvy and/or muscular people to know how off BMI can be. I am 5'3" and 145lbs putting me in the overweight category of the BMI chart. I also have 30J boobs, muscular legs, and a waist measurement that is 9 inches smaller than my hip - meaning my proportions put me in a very low health risk category. (Back problems may be the exception :)
      Now that I've had a mini-rant...onto the original post...I would love to see models of various shapes and sizes pictured in the same outfit! Ewa Michalak is fantastic - even though my curves don't quite match the shapes of the models, I have a much better idea how my bra will fit! I miss the variety in Bravissimo catalogs - and there is no way the new model above is wearing an 8 without massive waist pinning!! Their measurements put me at a 12 SC, but I fit very well into my 8SC (similar shaped) jersey dress. Teeny waist up there and I do not wear the same size!

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    6. Have you seen Ewa's latest photos with 4 girls of varying sizes all wearing the same set? They're lovely photos. Speaking of Pepperberry, I'm just about to write a post about my epic trying on session in there from last week...

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    7. I was impressed before, and it looks like Ewa has added MORE models in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are all beautiful! I made my first order from them earlier this month. Can't wait!

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  8. Even though as you said this topic has been blogged to death you bring up some good points. I agree that using the term "real" isn't to say that thinner women aren't real, rather that the photoshopped women aren't. Also most of the plus sized models I see aren't even really plus size. So this means they aren't using "real" women who could wear their their product. I'm a size 12/14 US and I'm too small for Lane Bryant's 14's. Yet some of the models look toner than me. Also the clothes are pinned on the mannequins in the store so if an actual size 14 tried on the clothes it would not look like the mannequin. I agree that I don't see this "real" women argument being an issue about health but rather an issue about false advertising.

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    1. Yes it is false advertising. Look at Pepperberry for the perfect example. I find their clothes a bit big on me sometimes and I'm at the bottom end of their range. Their models look a fair bit slimmer than me, so their clothes MUST be pinned. This is why I'd love them to roll out my 3 models plan!

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    1. Yes, body shape is a major factor in the way clothes fit. It would help if companies simply gave the measurements of bust, waist and hips for each item rather than a generic chart they've plucked from google. For example, on on of my favourite online shops, they have a size chart that puts me in at a size 12. I KNOW I'm a size 8, sometimes a 10 in their range. A bit of accuracy wouldn't go amiss...

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  10. "It is to simply use three models per product; one at the smallest end of their size range, not one so small that the clothes have to be pinned to fit-one in the ACTUAL smallest size they make, the next at the largest end of their range, and one in between."

    Ewa Michalak does something similar, I love them even more for it. Not every product is shown on all of the models (and there was actually a much larger model that I've yet to see in new products on the website, I'm not sure if she's still there), but I love how this company seems to legitimately be for women...and not some lingerie company that panders to men's tastes.

    Picture from the Ewa FB page
    https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/47562_458279324214965_972990403_n.jpg

    Picture from FFFB FB page
    https://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/300865_432573876786625_653768053_n.jpg

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    1. Hi, yes I'm aware of Ewa Michalak, I just forgot to mention them! Did you see the bikini shots EM released a few months back? They were 'behind the scenes' shots and featured an older woman as well as the usual models. I thought it was fabulous and to be honest, she's the only one I really remember from the images. Of course, some of the comments on the photos were less than desirable but that's because society has a lot of undoing what the fashion industry has done since, well, forever!

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  11. One thing tat annoys me about the curvy vs skinny thing is the pendulum has now swung too far and the curvy card if being pushed so much that naturally slim girls are being called unattractive. I've an odd figure of curvy plus skinny so I can feel sympathy for both body shapes as I have a squat torso that has rather too much fa on it, large boobs yet long slim arms and legs and narrow hips. If we want picture of real women out there we should show real women not just one variety ie overweight or slim. It's also insulting that the above advert calls slim ladies '10 year old boys', not to mention extremely sick. Also Rachel Weisz's quote is offensive...you don't have to be curvy to be feminine. All women are feminine if they want to be that is regardless of size, shape or weight.

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