This is an open letter to the fashion industry. When I learned that ModCloth’s founder, Susan Koger, was taking a stand against the unrealistic and unhealthy standards set by the fashion industry in an open letter I was excited to take a stand alongside her. Her refusal to remain silent and her choice to take a brazen stance in the face of incredibly damaging practices completely blew me away. Silence and acquiescence have been the status quo for far too long.
Two summers ago I walked into the plus size section of a women’s store in San Francisco, where I live, and for the first time I saw an entire wall of plus size, two piece bathing suits (aka fatkinis). I began frantically attempting to document this moment on social media. And then something unexpected happened: I started crying. The sight of bikinis that were made for my body was something I was – up until that point – convinced I would never see in my lifetime.
That moment represented a shift in my mind, a symbol of how far the fashion industry had come and how exciting our future – my future – looked. This was a relatively small decision on the part of a major clothing manufacturer, but it was a major moment of recognition, visibility and affirmation for me and plus size women all over the world.
Through communicating that they wanted my business, they also communicated that my body was one they were proud to clothe. This is the power that the fashion industry has.
When I returned a week later, nearly all of the bikinis were gone. They had sold out of almost every last one. This was more than a great sales week. This was a mandate, a call to action from the plus size community to the fashion industry.
I was a part of the vocal backlash when Abercrombie & Fitch CEO, Mike Jeffries, publicly said that he didn’t want fat people in his store. I took to the blogosphere, to Al Jazeera and to Huffington Post. His bigotry, though bold, was not surprising. He simply voiced what so many retailer ads have tacitly conveyed to women for quite some time.
When I read that 65% of women feel that they are never or rarely reflected in fashion advertising I think about what that really means. It means that these women feel that their bodies are wrong and that retailers don’t feel they’re fit to be in their stores.
I am one of those 65%.
Fashion goes beyond the garment and into the realm of beauty, fun, power and visibility. This is what fashion means to many people. This is what it means to me.
This is a call to action addressed to the fashion industry. I want to see bodies that look like mine in your advertising. Like Susan, I want to see the end of heavily edited imagery and I want to see clothing that reflects the true range of women’s bodies. I don’t want a new generation of girls to grow up feeling like only rare body types are right.
I am one of a new generation of women who want to stop “aspiring” and start being, who want to look to the fashion industry and see fun rather than failure.
We are here. And we’re waiting.
Virgie Tovar #LoseHateNotWeight
Author, Activist, Body Image Expert
Read Susan Koger's open letter here.
Virgie Tovar, MA is one of the nation's leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image. She is the founder of Babecamp (a 4 week online course focused on helping people break up with diet culture) and the editor of Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press, 2012). She writes about the intersections of size, identity, sexuality and politics. See more updates on Facebook.