I know I’m a little late to the #FashionTruth conversation, but better late than never. I’m really glad that ModCloth’s co-founder Susan Koger has challenged the industry to change for the better, and I have plenty of thoughts of my own to add. Consider this my own open letter.
Dear Fashion Industry,
I’ve always loved fashion in one form or another, from the days when I pored over the rainbows of fabric colors in L.L. Bean catalogs to the time I showed off my new floral skirt for show-and-tell in first grade. I got really into style as personal expression in middle school, which is also when I became fat–so just as my interest in fashion deepened, I found myself excluded from it in so many ways.
Every teen magazine I read was full of unattainably-thin bodies, with only the occasional token plus size model who looked vaguely like me. As a young teen, I barely fit into a size 13, which was the biggest juniors’ size available in most stores–and then I gained weight and sized out of most juniors’ clothing. The fun clothes I saw in magazines rarely came in a size 16, and it was especially hard to find specialized items like prom dresses. It takes a toll on your self-esteem when you hardly ever see your reflection in media; when bodies like yours are portrayed only as problems to be solved; when you can’t find your size in most clothing stores you walk into, or can only find one rack of frumpy dresses at the back of the store.
Plus size clothing has come a long way since then, mainly thanks to the rise of online shopping. I have far more options today at a size 22 than I did then at a 16. But still, it’s rare to find my size in a brick-and-mortar store, so I’ve mostly given up on buying clothes in person. And women who wear a size or two larger than I do, let alone a size 30 or above, have significantly fewer options.
This needs to change. It’s not ok that such a large percentage of women and girls don’t see themselves reflected in fashion media, and it’s not ok that so many of us can’t find clothes in our size.
Also, I’ve noticed that this conversation, like most fashion convos, has been framed as a women’s issue. But people of all genders should have access to a variety of options for self-expression through clothing. Our society treats fashion as something that’s required for women, but beneath men–it’s considered frivolous, feminine, lesser.
I want to smash that double standard. I want dressing up to be portrayed as fun rather than mandatory. I want to see an end to marketing that exploits women’s insecurities to sell us products. I want to see more clothing options for men, women who prefer traditional men’s clothing and vice versa, non-binary people, and anyone whose gender expression doesn’t fit into the tidy blue and pink boxes that most clothing options fall into.
Another major oversight is the importance of demanding fair labor practices within the fashion industry. Koger’s pledge says that her company will “honor our customers as a community and put them at the center of everything we do,” but it says not a word about the people–mostly women–who make their clothing. Truth in fashion has to mean transparency of labor practices as well as accountability to the customer. Ethically-made clothing shouldn’t be a niche market–it should be an industry standard.
Koger challenges the fashion industry to do better, because “because reflecting women as they really are should be the rule — not the exception.” I agree wholeheartedly, and I also challenge you to include people of all genders and to treat your workers fairly. Fashion can be so fun, creative, and liberating–I want it to be accessible to anyone who is interested, without harming anyone else in the process.
Outfit details: t-shirt: TeeTurtle, pants: Target, sneakers: Brooks, sweater: from a friend, necklace: Claire’s, earrings: Faces, hat: Brykalski (small shop in Paris), scarf: street vendor in New York. Pictures taken in Reykjavik, which had an amazing abundance of perfect backgrounds!