The Politics of Fashion Week

Published February 15, 2011

It’s Fashion Week! So New Yorkers who are already dealing with a week of weather ups and downs now have to watch their steps on the overcrowded sidewalks near Lincoln Center, where swarms of fashion folk—the models, the editors, the bloggers, editors, and celebs—have gathered to see the shows. Why should anyone beyond Manhattanites who don’t want to get stuck in pedestrian traffic care? Well, because fashion has long been the realm of Mean Girls grown up, who dictate who and what is beautiful, and more dangerously, who and what is not. There’s been a lot of backlash lately, and not just from academics but from a few unexpected places, like former agent Bethann Hardison and select designers who refuse to think there needs to be such a predominantly white and skinny, skeletal presence sashaying down all the runways all the time. This season has just gotten underway, but a few things seem to be clear.

For one, it’s still not so cool to be “plus-size," model speak for when your ribcage isn’t visible. Fashion website Refinery29 reported that lingerie company The Lake and Stars were told by agents that their decision to mix plus-size and conventional models in their runway show was a terrible idea, as agents didn’t want their “good girls” mixed in with the others.

Also, according to a report in the New York Daily News, Asian models are “in” this season. Aside from political correctness, who else loses out on that declaration? All of the other models of color who were hoping for spots on the runway, which, according to, have featured non-white models a measly 18 percent of the time this season. And all of the rest of us who wish just once that something as simple as putting clothes on a person didn’t have to be a way to flaunt discriminatory, exclusionary thinking. Here’s to hoping next season gets it a little closer to right.


Image:  Jason Kempin/Getty Images for IMG

Written by Ayana Byrd


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