Earlier this week, the January issue of British Vogue hit the stands, featuring gorgeous cover model Ashley Graham.
The outspoken plus-sized model has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, and Elle UK, and is pretty much a household name by this point. But for some reason, the team at Vogue found it very difficult to find designers to dress her.
In the issue’s editor’s letter, editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman wrote that, while Coach sent the magazine the clothes for the shoot at the last minute, other places were not so accommodating. At all. Shulman writes:
[Coach was] enthusiastic about dressing a woman who is not a standard model, but sadly there were other houses that flatly refused to lend us their clothes. It seems strange to me that while the rest of the world is desperate for fashion to embrace broader definitions of physical beauty, some of our most famous fashion brands appear to be [traveling] in the opposite – and, in my opinion, unwise – direction.
It’s astonishing that Vogue, one of the most reliable and trusted fashion magazines, was rejected by multiple designers (if only Shulman had been petty and unprofessional enough to call them out by name) in what feels like an attempt to cling onto an elitist but increasingly obsolete vision of waifish, unrealistic beauty.
We also shouldn’t forget that Vogue itself often falls short when it comes to its body politics. In general, almost every time a plus-sized woman is on the cover of a magazine, the photo focuses on their face instead of their whole body—something that virtually never happens for supposedly “conventional” models. Graham’s British Vogue cover, while obviously gorgeous, follows this pattern. Still, it’s good to see the magazine sticking its neck out in this way.
Just last month, Graham called for more high-end designers to extend their lines to fit plus-sized women. In an interview with Racked, she said, “Slowly but surely there are really big designers that are coming out of the woodwork and making clothes for curvy girls, Christian Siriano, Prabal Gurung. There are a few that are finally pairing up with the right people, but there are so many more that need to do what Michael Kors has done, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and make those extended sizes.” (Siriano designed a dress for Leslie Jones earlier this year, after she revealed that she couldn’t find a designer that would dress her for the Ghostbusters premiere.)
While the thin rich people market will probably always be there, it feels like it’s only a matter of time before offering a wider range of sizes becomes a must for high-end designers. It seems stupid to try to resist that in the name of being skinny.