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Diversity in the Modeling Industry

by Molly Cohen

Image Courtesy of Kat Tramantano for The BOLDNetwork Modeling Agency

It’s frustrating to open your favorite fashion magazine unable to find any kind of physical relatability; or when you’re shopping online and none of the clothes are pictured in your size. The sample size is not a fair representation of American women and should not be the standard for modeling clothes.

The modeling industry is a tricky and complex industry that hasn’t always had the best reputation. Although the industry is improving in various aspects, like most industries, there is still progress that can be made regarding diversity.

The industry isn’t all bad though, and it’s important to acknowledge the achievements and strides that have been made. Models are influential for so many reasons and can bring forth real change. After all, we have come a long way since the first black model, Beverly Johnson, appeared on the cover of Vogue.

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For starters, the past few years New York Fashion Week’s runway shows have been very diverse and starting to be more and more inclusive. Before, models could only be skinny, white, and extremely tall. It was either you had to be sample size or no job. Now, there are models of different colors, ages, gender, and size. Transgender and non-binary models have also been seen walking in higher-end fashion shows.

Recent NYFW runway shows, like Chromat, Tommy x Zendaya, and Christian Siriano, have included major size diversity with their plus-size models. Christian Siriano’s 2020 Fashion Week show was nothing less than pivotal. He has been proving for years that there is no size exception for having a superior red-carpet look. His runway features various curvy models like Candace Huffine and Ashley Graham.

Chromat, the future brand for swim and activewear, had one of the most inclusive shows. They redefined the outdated rules of fashion and re-invented their own. Every brand should follow in their footsteps to break past the barrier the industry has put up in the past.

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According to TeenVogue, “Bodies of all sizes, shapes, genders, and abilities engaged in different activities from working out to choreographed dancing. This year didn’t feel like it was just about the clothes, but more so about what our bodies can do: irrelevant of size, all bodies should have access to the same activities, especially if those activities include being joyful, expressing yourself, or feeling free.”

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The inclusiveness in the Tommy Hilfiger x Zendaya fashion show was also memorable, with their size ranging from a 2 to 22. The clothing also featured adaptive versions for those with disabilities, made with Velcro and magnets. This new collection was a major advancement for diversity in the modeling industry and one that Zendaya was proud to attach her name to.

These milestones are small but still important. Fashion still has a long way to go, and many aspects of both the fashion and modeling industry have big problems, but there are still moments to celebrate. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and even just since 2018, huge diversity strides have been made in the modeling industry.

More and more brands are starting to recognize that everyone is a different size, and that is normal. Putting colored women in ads, and having larger sizes featured on the covers of the magazine needs to be normalized or society is never going to move forward. It’s time to start showing those different sized bodies and representing the majority of women, instead of the select few that fit that outdated idea of what a model “should” look like.

Diversity in the modeling industry is so vital for our society to advance. The more inclusivity we have, the more acceptance and understanding will follow. The fashion and modeling industry is a fundamental influence in our society and if they are making strides for change, others will follow. One size does not fit all, and it’s time that starts being shown.