"The skinny pants, low-cut jeans, micro-minis and bubble skirts that are coming our way this fall all look fabulous if you're built like a darning needle, but they're just not going to work on us pincushions. Is there really no middle ground between micro-shorts and muumuus? We can build a camera that makes you look slimmer in photographs, but we can't design a flattering outfit for a 145-lb. woman?"
-From Belinda Luscombe's essay, "The Real Skinny," in this week's Time magazine. Luscombe asserts that we shouldn't blame models for being too thin, but rather the designers who are creating the fashions. She notes the average model was a size 8 two decades ago; today she's a size 0.
(Men, please send this to your wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, girlfriends, and every woman you love.)
These photos are of two women wearing skinny pants. The first is a photo of an average woman of a healthy weight, from an online store catalog. The second, from InStyle.com, was captioned, "Angelina Jolie has got what it takes for skinny pants—long lean limbs and attitude for miles."
Believe me, I have an overabundance of attitude with plenty to spare. But that's not gonna make skinny pants fit me any better.
Earlier this week, I met a healthy, trim 20-something who told me reading fashion magazines made her feel bad about herself, so she'd made it a point to stay away from them. I could relate. I was a fashion writer in my mid-20s. I read all the mags and attended fashion shows where I always felt like the biggest girl in the room. Needless to say, it wasn't a positive feeling.
Around that time, I became friends with Wendy, a 6' 4" former model. She never spoke much about her past career; I only found out she'd been a model after I proclaimed to her, "Wow, you should be a model!" One day, I asked her why she'd stopped modeling. I'll never forget her answer. "I didn't want girls to feel they had to look like me," she said. Wendy comes from a tall, thin family. She's always been tall and thin, and didn't like the notion this was the 'right' way to look. My husband, who also used to model in his teen years, pointed out there was stronger criteria than thinness for models in his day: height. Indeed, back when I was writing fashion stories, the standard for female models was to be 5' 8" or taller; male models had to be at least 6' 0". (I had another guy friend who'd wear lifts in his shoes to modeling auditions because he was a mere 5' 11".)
There are still height standards for models, but we notice their weight much more these days. Maybe that's because it's easier to emulate weight than height. When Wendy told me she didn't want girls to feel they had to look a certain way, it made me realize: I like how I look. Sure, it would be cool to be a supermodel, but it was illogical to hold myself to standards that were literally impossible to meet. At just under 5' 2", it wouldn't matter how skinny I could make myself--I'd never measure up to the standards of the fashion industry.
For kicks, I went to a department store last week and tried on some skinny pants in my size. ("Skinny" is the cruel renaming of an old style. They've been called "stretch" or "tapered" in the past. At least the former was true to form--it's a stretch for me to even get them on.) I sucked in my gut, yanked up the zipper, and bravely stared at the dressing-room mirror. As soon as I saw the two blue sausages reflected back at me, I felt ... relieved! I, and Wendy, and Belinda Luscombe, the writer quoted above, aren't crazy. I began to laugh my head off, with long, thunderous HAW-HAWs that I'm sure were heard up in third-floor housewares. I almost wanted to waddle out of the fitting area and scoot around the store proclaiming, "Look, girls, one style fits all! Anyone can wear these pants!"
But I'm not that brave. I changed back into my straight-leg jeans from several seasons ago. And I decided to not feel bad about myself, or badly toward my slimmer sisters. After all, straight-leg pants will be back in style someday, and maybe my slender friends won't look as good as I do in them. Maybe they'll skip buying pants for that season. And maybe the fashion industry will get the message: "We don't all look the same. And we don't want to."