Size Matters

Yesterday was World Women’s Day and it got me thinking about what it means to be a women in the noughties. There are lots of topics I could have written about, but I ended up contemplating the well discussed issue of size.

I ended up here after a discussion with a colleague a couple of weeks ago. She had to do a review of a women’s fashion website and one of her complaints was that they used real models, who couldn’t have been more than a size 10. Her feedback was she wanted to see gorgeous slim, long legged women wearing the clothes she was thinking about buying, and not a women you could walk past in the street. This surprised me because it’s the distinct opposite of how I feel. I’m fed up of air-brushed, over processed women, who never let a piece of chocolate pass their lips being used in advertising.

How many times have I coveted something in a store, yet I know that as soon as I take it into the changing room I’m going to be sorely disappointed? While I don’t want garments to look like they’re dressed on a sack of potatoes, I relish the chance to be able to see them on more realistic models.

Debenhams received a lot of press coverage a couple of weeks ago by introducing a trial of size 16 mannequins in their Oxford Street branch. I hope it goes well. John Lewis have tried this before with size 14 models in one their stores and they didn’t roll it out, which leads me only to assume that it did not generate the impact they were hoping for. Maybe my colleague was right and people want to see things on skinny models looking gorgeous, rather than a more realistic representation?

But, the idea does leave me feeling a little sad.

While I don’t advocate an unhealthy lifestyle of no exercise and junk food, why has it become unacceptable for a woman to be anything but stick thin in modern society?

Was I the only one who was saddened when the beautiful and voluptuous model that was Sophie Dahl slimmed down to conform to the catwalk norm?

Think back to the recent Dove marketing campaign. Featuring, real women. It has to be one of my favourites. Equally, Bobbi Brown launched a new campaign last week, in which she decided to feature her friends wearing her make up instead of models. Personally, I think the results speak for themselves. Take a look at they are warm and inspiring.

Now, I can actually see a few of you wondering, so I think it’s fair of me to say that I’m far from skinny myself. Dressing in at a curvy size 16, which may be the UK average, but I’ve had a love, hate relationship with my weightwatchers journal for years. However, like that much coveted Mulberry handbag, to me a size 8 seems totally unattainable. I like to aspire to things I can and do achieve. I know that even if I could achieve it I could never healthily maintain my body at size 8 status, let alone the infamous size zero, which is a UK 4. And, in all hand on heart honesty, I don’t want to be. However, a curvy size 12 absolutely.

Please don’t think I’m disparaging slim women either. There are many women who are naturally slim, healthy and gorgeous.

But, why as women do we pressure ourselves to be something we can never be? With the world of celebrity and people famous just for well, being famous, my greatest frustration with the noughties is our obsession with image over substance. Why can we not celebrate who we are instead of we think we should be?


  1. Sewicked says:

    The ‘healthy’ weight charts do not help. I’d rather be a 170# and healthy, than my ‘target weight’ of 115#. By the way, I haven’t weighed less than 120# since early high school (about age 15) and I had enough meat to prove that I was female & that is all. I haven’t been skinny since I was in the hospital being fed antibiotics every four hours for 48 hours.

    Being told that I am not healthy because I am not all ribs and collarbone is very annoying. Especially with studies showing that someone 10 pounds ‘overweight’ who is in good physical shape is healthier than someone who is physically fit & 10# underweight.

    I can walk a mile easily, with a pack. I can go up most flights of stairs without wheezing. So why should I aspire to be 115#? I’d look like a famine victim.

    Can I stand to lose some weight? Yes. I do have knee problems that would relent if I dropped a few pounds. But I am not built like Twiggy and never will be. She’s built that way, as is a friend of mine, & it’s fine. As long as they’re healthy at that weight, it’s great. But that’s not me & I’m tired of being told that it should be.

  2. Simon Button says:

    Having different chromosomes in my genetic makeup, I need to plead ignorance in this topic. But I have to agree with the sentiment of it.

    Just about everyone wants to be slimmer and healthier than they currently are. BUT, despite wanting to be a bit trimmer myself, I do not want to sacrifice all of the glutinous pleasures in my lifestyle.

    I will happily cut back in some areas to get fit. But it’s all about what’s achievable, and more importantly, what’s sustainable.

  3. Laura says:

    Hi Sewicked – thanks for your comment. Yes, the weight charts are frustrating too. Doctors are too interested in making us conform to their statistical average rather than taking the time to determine if we’re fit or healthy. I find every time I visit the doctor my weight is questioned and yet my diet and exercise regime is not.
    I read an interesting article a year or so ago too about a catwalk model who began modelling when she was undergoing treatment for cancer. As soon as she was fit and well again her agency asked her to lose weight and go back to the size she was when she was unwell. How is that a great representation of what women should look like?

    Simon – thanks too. While this article was written from a female point of view. I don’t think this is an issue wholly associated with women. Let’s take jeans and aftershave adverts for the past ten years when was a male model ever featured that did not have a six pack? Do you find this intimidating or does it not bother you?

  4. Simon Button says:

    I guess I don’t find it intimidating so to speak. But it does in turn make me look at myself and think, “i’m clearly not trying hard enough”! And I know I’m not, nowhere near achieving those kind of results. Especially as i’ve already let my exercise routine slip away.

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