A few weeks ago, I got signed to a major modelling agency. Being a size 10-12, I am technically a ‘curvy model’. I have arm fat, back fat, cellulite, my thighs are more than touching and honestly, all this shape only makes me feel more beautiful. But I didn’t always feel that way.
My love affair with fashion started young. My mum would buy me a magazine of my choice at each weekly supermarket shop, and I used to religiously alternate between Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar.
Ironically, the articles weren’t what I bought them for, it was the photographs and the outfits. Each photo spread would catapult me into a completely different world, a world where clothes had the power to transform you into whoever you wanted to be. I felt that fashion meant you could express yourself without using words or actions, that you could make a statement purely by your choice of armour.
The magazines led me to runway shows, where I became obsessed with the dramatic concepts, full of powerful messages. The magic of watching a concept transform into a moving, wearable garment is an inspiring experience and completely changes the landscape of fashion.
It’s these moments that remind me of where fashion comes from; us. Fashion is inspired by everything we do, everything we consume. Food, sex, pop culture, mental health, art, history – you name it, there’s been a show, a garment, a collection inspired by it.
As I grew into my teenage years, I became interested in being a model. I think a lot of girls want to be models. We are taught our whole life how important it is to be beautiful and being a model makes you a professional at it.
I wanted to be recognised as one of the girls who expressed themselves through the art of fashion, I wanted to grace the pages of the magazines and runways I loved so much with my own creative expression and individuality.
But the more I took notice of the models themselves, the more I realised that they didn’t represent me. They looked effortlessly thin, they had long legs with gaps between their thighs, they had hollow cheekbones, they could wear see-through tops without a bra, and their nipples would sit perfect and perky and upright. They weren’t me.
I’m not sure who decided that models had to be thin. Perhaps it was the designers wanting the attention more on their works of art than the bodies that wore them. Perhaps different sizes pose a threat to the way a garment is ‘meant’ to look, or perhaps thinness means discipline, and we all know how the patriarchy feels about women who are free.
My body has never stopped me from expressing myself. I love the way that clothing transforms when it’s on my body. To me, that is the beauty of fashion. Garments come to life when they are worn. They take on a new identity depending on the individual wearing them, how the creases and folds appear when the material hugs their body, the way they feel wearing the clothes, the way they carry them. This is what makes us want to wear them.
Years from now, I want high fashion designers to be catering to models of every size. Part of the design process should be its versatility on different body types because wearability matters.
I want to see the sample size banished, and models and mannequins of all shapes to take their place. Everything exists because someone believed in it. Real bodies need to be accepted and celebrated for what they are; as true, normal, and beautiful.
I wasn’t ready to be a model in my early teens. I wasn’t completely comfortable in my own skin – not to mention the rapid, physical changes that our bodies experience during puberty. I was a giraffe at the start of high school and by the end, I had a full hourglass figure.
I needed time to grow into my body, to feel comfortable looking different from how I thought models were ‘supposed’ to look, before I could launch myself into an industry where I’d be visually critiqued.
I needed to be comfortable so that I could stand up for myself, for all the women of my size and every size and to show up as who I am – a confident woman who loves and celebrates her body.
Before we try to change the fashion industry itself, I think we need to change the mentality at home, for what beauty and body image really is. We need to keep the conversation of diversity alive and we need to show up to represent ourselves and others like us.
Power comes in numbers, and we all want to feel seen. A fashion industry that represents all of us is ultimately the most powerful of all.