UPDATE: In the post below, we incorrectly attribute a study cited by Myers as having been conducted by Elle. That is incorrect. The study was conducted by an outside organization and published in April’s Journal of Consumer Research and is referenced in Elle’s June cover story. Our piece has been updated accordingly.
Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers joined the Today Show’s Ann Curry this morning to talk about “curvy girls” and whether they’re “making a comeback.”
While we applaud the Today Show for addressing these issues — they’ve even dedicated a new segment to it: Today’s Women — Myers, unfortunately, did not make the best case for the cause.
Curry introduces the segment, noting that Myers tackles the issue in the June’s “Body Issue” of Elle. Curry says, “As curvier celebrities walk the red carpet, America’s sense of the ideal body type is once again up for debate.” Myers argues that fashion is responding to a consumer demand to see more relatable models in magazines and in shows, and cites Marc Jacobs‘ Louis Vuitton show as an exemplary response.
“Louis Vuitton closed the show with a 47-year-old Elle Macpherson. She is not a skinny girl.”
Um…what?! Elle Macpherson may not be a 14-year-old pre-pubescent girl, but she certainly fits society’s definition of skinny.
Myers continues, “And at Prada we saw Victoria’s Secret models on the runway and this is really a new trend. And importantly, the clothes are actually built for these types of curvy women.”
Look, we’ll easily admit that Victoria’s Secret models have more curves than the average high-fashion model, but to toss the word “curvy” around so loosey-goosey is a bit disingenuous.
Curry then sanely points out that these runway examples still don’t represent the average woman in America and Myers goes on to cite a “big study” on what average women want to see in their magazines. She explains:
“Average women are not actually inspired to look at women who look like them. In fact, they respond more to women who are a little bit above average… Meaning, the average women — seeing someone who looks like her doesn’t actually make her go out and go shopping.”
Yes, fashion is aspirational and that’s part of what we love about it. Hollywood and its glitz and glamour are of the same ilk. But there’s a difference between the fantasy of a fantastic fashion spread — a la Natalia Vodianova’s Princess-themed editorial in April’s French Vogue — and having a 16-year-old girl model Fall’s office-ready trends.
On a final note, watching editors and newscasters and everyone and their mother discuss this issue makes you realize how very fraught it is. One can’t praise Gabourey Sidibe without acknowledging that obesity is bad and one can’t criticize super-skinny models without noting that some people are just born that way. There is no right answer or one perfect look. So while we certainly take Myers to task for some of her statements, we appreciate her willingness to address the issue in the first place. Conversation is the first step to progress.