**This is a self-reflective piece about body-image, juxtaposing models of average-ish weight against the wafer-thin models we normally see. Both types of models are lovely and needed. This is an exploration of my own thoughts on the issue.**
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “fashions” being foisted upon the unsuspecting public. Although I did not address the issue in the last week’s blog post, I have continued my quest to find something cute, wearable, and reasonably priced in my new sizes. After being so thoroughly disappointed in every store in my city, I began searching the internet for a viable clothing alternative. I came across Gwynnie Bee, which is apparently the Netflix of clothing. Like Netflix, at Gwynnie Bee you pay a monthly fee, create a list of desired items, and, based on the plan you chose, the company sends you a certain number of clothing items at a time. You wear them and when you decide you’re done with the items, you send them back in a pre-paid envelope, and then the company sends you the next items on your list. The website even has the measurement charts for all the manufacturers they carry, thus minimizing the vanity sizing issues. So, to recap…clothing delivered to your door for a monthly fee and you can send back and get new items an unlimited number of times each month. Sounds great! How much? And what do they have? I went to the Gwynnie Bee website, clicked on the “Fresh Looks” menu tab, and started perusing the clothing items (which were no uglier and sometimes less ugly than what’s in stores now), but I couldn’t help but notice something…the models on that website are…FAT. Fat by typical modeling industry standards, anyway. Why are there fat models on a clothing site? I investigated more closely and saw that Gwynnie Bee caters to women’s clothing sizes from 10-32. Well, okay, so the company offers fashions to women who are usually ignored by clothing brands. But why are there fat models who are showing off the clothing? Don’t wafer-thin models schlep all the clothing sizes? And, wait, are the models on this site really fat or do they simply depict a more realistic picture of an average woman? These models are curvy and pretty, wearing nice clothes, and they all have hair and skin that I’m extremely jealous of. Why am I so distracted by their body types?
I first visited Gwynnie Bee’s website about 2 weeks ago. Since then I’ve been popping over to the site daily and I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’m bothered by larger models showing how clothing made for larger women will fit said larger women. I don’t quite understand why my brain is stuck on this. Is it simply because I’m so used to seeing the standard, highly-photoshopped, blend-into-the-background young, pretty, skinny, perfectly toned model that when I’m confronted with a more middle-of-the-road body type I can’t deal? Has my brain been so warped by the photographic imagery of women (and men, too) that we see in the media every day? A few weeks ago, I would have said no, but clearly, my questioning of the models on the Gwynnie Bee website show that I’ve been deeply affected by how the media depicts women and what body characteristics give a woman “beauty.” Are the women modeling for Gwynnie Bee not beautiful (of course they are)? I wear usually wear a size 10 or a size 12 depending on the clothing manufacturer…sizes offered by Gwynnie Bee. Am I not beautiful (of course I am)? Am I more beautiful now than I was when I was 25 pounds heavier?
While I’ve never really consciously thought about the social norms of body types, I’ve struggled with my both my self-image and weight my entire life. When I was a young woman in my 20’s, I never really thought of myself as beautiful—I was overweight, freckled, occasionally pimply, and had/have stretch marks and cellulite marring my body. Now, as I approach middle age, I’m more confident about myself (still freckled, still occasionally pimply, still with stretch marks and cellulite) in general, but I still fret about stupid body image issues. Even with my weight loss, I am constantly wondering if the clothing I wear is acceptable for someone my size and age. I worry about the bumps and bulges that occur in more fitted items and although I’ve been eyeing 2 lovely swimsuits on the Victoria’s Secret website, I hesitate to buy either because I don’t know if I can “pull it off.” Why do I care? I like the swimsuits, I think I would look good in either of them, I have a rewards card that needs used soon, and so I should buy one, but I don’t. If I do buy one and I look nice in it, does that validate my weight loss? I like the borrowing terms and clothes offered by Gwynnie Bee, but I don’t sign up. If I use Gwynnie Bee’s services, and the clothes fit and look nice, does that make me average/fat? And why am I letting someone else’s idea of beauty and worth cloud my own thoughts?
I can’t help but wonder if, as a rather reflective 36-year-old woman, my brain is so addled by the typical images shown by the media on a daily basis, how will my sons end up defining beauty? Will they think that all women are supposed to be magazine perfect with smooth skin and no bumps or imperfections? That all men should aspire to six-pack abs and chiseled arms? If they were to look at a website that shows perfectly lovely women modeling nice clothing, would they, too, be thrown for an existential loop? How do we solve this? Is the solution as simple as ensuring that all body types are equally represented in media or does this problem call for a more drastic solution? I don’t know, but I do know that visiting the Gwynnie Bee website multiple times over the last two weeks is helping my brain normalize body types that differ from the typical modeling industry standards. I may or may not order that swimsuit from VS. I may or may not sign up for Gwynnie Bee’s clothing service. In the end, it matters not. The only things that really matter are:
(1) Being newly aware of prejudices I didn’t know my mind held
(2) Working to change my those perspectives
(3) Helping my sons realize that people come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful.