Take a look around at any billboard, open a magazine or walk through a mall. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see models of the same size: extra small.

Myla Dalbesio, a model for a new Calvin Klein underwear line, was under scrutiny in November over her self-proclaimed plus-size model status with a contradictory ten size frame.

I believe the debate of whether or not Dalbesio should be considered plus-size or “in-between” is much more irrelevant than the actual issue here — who’s to blame for the labeling? And who’s going to change the fashion industry’s standards for weight? My answer is the consumers themselves.

After looking at Dalbesio’s photo for Calvin Klein, it’s a no-brainer that her self-proclaimed label of a plus-size model and being one of “the biggest girls Calvin Klein has ever worked with,” as stated by Dalbesio in an interview with Elle Magazine, is not only completely wrong but also worrisome.

When realizing how Dalbesio sees herself, you may start to wonder if the fashion industry, model agencies, designers or even Dalbesio herself are to blame for her poor self-image but it’s really the consumer. This is not to say that any of the other options are completely blame-free but it is not often that we as consumers think of ourselves as part of the problem too. When Twitter caught wind that a size ten model was being called plus-sized, an explosion of disappointment in the designer erupted. Many were outraged that Dalbesio was being labeled as such and went on to insist that she did not belong in the plus-size category.

People all over the nation were scrutinizing Calvin Klein when they should have been scrutinizing themselves. The audience was the one tearing Dalbesio’s body apart, labeling it as if they had any authority to do so and completely missing the message Calvin Klein was trying to send.

Actually, Dalbesio’s body matches the name of the underwear line, “Perfectly Fit,” which is hard to find in the advertisements consumers see day-to-day. In the fashion industry, however, Dalbesio is actually in the plus-size range. Depending on the source, plus-size can range from size six to fourteen, even though most plus-size clothing doesn’t start until size sixteen, according to Cosmopolitan’s Laura Beck. The minimum size for being considered a plus-size model has continually decreased over time, making the idea of what an average woman should look like more delusional with each decreased size requirement.

According to the magazine Rader Programs, which treats eating disorders, the average fashion model weighs twenty-three percent less than the average woman. This example of what a woman should look like is simply unrealistic. But that’s nothing new. What’s new is the incorporation of plus-size and even average size models into mainstream fashion industries.

The line, “Perfectly Fit,” “was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes,” as Calvin Klein told Elle Magazine in response to the viral outcome of the original article. Calvin Klein was simply trying to be better about its perceived prejudice about models of varying shapes and sizes. Even though Calvin Klein knows that skinny sells and has worked for them all these years, they diversified their models to make their product more relatable to the everyday woman. It may not be a size fourteen woman posing for Calvin Klein’s new line, but it is a step in the right direction.

Dalbesio even told Elle Magazine that no one at Calvin Klein batted an eye or treated her any differently than the other models. Unfortunately, the audience couldn’t react the same way to Dalbesio. Maybe if more designers followed suit and exposed their consumers to more images of “average” or “in between” and “plus-size” models, then maybe not every “plus-size” model in a designer advertisement would go viral or be scrutinized.

Unfortunately, while Dalbesio may be a viral name at the moment, it will most likely fade away just as quickly as the weight issue in fashion always does. Hopefully, with the help of the consumer and the industry, this trend can become a movement.

I do not believe that the fashion industry can change overnight, however. At least for now, consumers will continue to see size four models in every advertisement. This will only reinforce the unrealistic idea that all women should be this size even if the average woman is a size fourteen instead (Beck, 2014).

According to PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science, “seeing diverse bodies makes us more comfortable with body diversity.” Therefore, if the fashion industry continued to expose the consumer to average and plus-size women instead of unrealistically thin women, and even men, then the average and plus-size would finally lose their shock value and become everyday sights. And not just on the streets — but on the billboards, magazine covers, and shopping malls too. But the consumer must also bring acceptance to these changes in order for the fashion industry to continue to change.

Taylor Howe can be contacted at thowe@keene-equinox.com

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