Words by Eimear Moriarty
WITH ONE out of every five women now cutting the labels off their clothes in an attempt to conceal their size, the #NoSizeFitsAll campaign aims to tackle the taboo of clothing sizes on the catwalk, as well as calling upon the fashion industry to recognise the direct link between eating disorders and encourage greater body diversity.
Coinciding with London Fashion Week last September, The Women’s Equality Party’ (WEP) campaign is hoping to confront the fashion industry’s use of underweight and unhealthy models and change the representation of a uniform body type.
‘Fashion designers are creating sample clothes that normal-sized women can only fit into after weeks of starving themselves to the point of malnutrition and fashion agencies are paying their models to be unwell,’ says Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party. ‘This collaboration is in turn affecting women and girls across the country whose response to such pervasive imagery of extremely thin “role models” is to seek to imitate their unhealthy appearance.’
The campaign calls for diversity in sample sizes from fashion designers, including a UK size 12 or above, a change in the fashion law so that models below a BMI of 18.5 must be seen by an accredited medical health professional, and a commitment from fashion publications to include a minimum of one plus-size editorial fashion spread in every issue.
#NoSizeFitsAll campaign also wishes to include body image awareness as a mandatory component of the schooling curriculum, delivered by trained experts as opposed to teachers who specialise in unrelated disciplines.
Supporters of the campaign include fashion industry insiders and professional models, including mental health advocate and plus-sized model Jada Sezer, who has recently launched her own fashion line, and model Rosie Nelson, who started a petition last year after being told by a major London agency to ‘get down to the bone’ – despite having a BMI of 16 which is classified as severely malnourished.
Advocates of the campaign are urging members of the public to get on-board and to end the shame surrounding clothing sizes by posting pictures of their clothing labels on instagram followed by the hashtag NoSizeFitsAll. The message behind this is to empower women to share their labels as opposed to hiding them and by doing so, sending a firm message to fashion powerhouses to recognise the variance of the female form.
Co-founder of the WEP, Sandi Toksvig explains ‘the softly, softly approach has been tried for years and is not working. Instead of waiting for industry-led change, it is about taking the initiative. The time has come to demand change.’
Already, the campaign is making waves within the industry, with The British Fashion Council responding positively and exclaiming a willingness to work with the WEP to make body diversity on the runway a reality. But for Sophie Walker and her fellow campaigners, their work is not yet completed. They will continue to apply pressure on fashion designers to recognise and celebrate a new female aesthetic with their garments, one that appeals and resonates with women of all shapes and sizes.
Eating Disorders and Media Influences in Ireland
The Department of Health and Children estimates that up to 200,000 people in Ireland may be affected by eating disorders and an estimated 400 new cases emerge each year, representing 80 deaths annually.
According to the Health Research Board, females accounted for 87% of all admissions of those affected by eating disorders.
Over 70% of Irish adolescents feel adversely affected by the media portrayal of body weight and shape, with more than a quarter believing it to be far too thin. McNicholas et al. (2009).
The odds of using extreme weight-control behaviours (such as vomiting or using laxatives) are 3 times higher in the highest frequency readers of magazine articles about dieting and weight-loss compared with those who did not read such magazines. Van den Berg et al. (2007).