Body image, mothers, classism, fashion, Karl Lagerfield, and social inclusion

I guess I am digressing today, but given that I study social inclusion in sustainability, the issue of body imagery does matter.

In response to the trend towards larger than size 0 models on runways and in magazines, Karl Lagerfeld (lead designer for both Chanel and Fendi), commented:

No one wants to see curvy women,” Lagerfeld was quoted as saying on the website of news magazine Focus on Sunday.

“You’ve got fat mothers with their bags of chips sitting in front of the television and saying that thin models are ugly,” he added.

The world of fashion is about “dreams and illusions”…

This has been quoted all over the web, along with commentaries, such as this and this. The latter includes some images of the exceptional plus-size visions from Jean Paul Gaultier and John Galliano.

Here’s what interests me. In all the (legitimate) outrage directed at Lagerfeld among we podgy writers, nobody to my knowledge has called him out on the misogyny and classism of his comments. Fat mothers sitting in front of TVs eating chips? Oh really? That’s what mothers do? Really? Because the last time I checked in, mothers were working their asses off. Some of those mothers are fat and some of them are thin, but they deserve to have their role, work and contributions treated with respect. The only things he doesn’t mention are cigarettes, welfare checks, and feeding Pepsi to their grubby babies. You know why he doesn’t mention those? He doesn’t have to; it’s already there in the subtext.

Moreover, why does Karl assume that dreams and illusions require the exclusion of fat people or mothers, or their children for that matter? Planning, my field, is about dreams, too; city dreams. When people dream about the city, they tend to leave people out of those dreams, too; poor people, people of color, anybody who is unpopular, for whatever reasons. Is it that real people with real lives don’t belong in dreams, or are our dreams messed up if they don’t involve real people at least at some level?

Finally, I don’t think anybody, mothers or anybody else, has ever seriously said that slender models are “ugly.” Karl’s self serving comments try to frame this discussion as a reflection of ugly step-sisterhood and sour grapes rather than what it is: a legitimate critique of the body homogeneity in an influential industry. Size 0 models are women who fall towards the extremes of multiple, joint statistical distributions (height, weight, age) and as such they are not representative of a wide range of women. It’s fair to point that out and be concerned about what these types of largely unattainable standards communicate about women’s bodies. It’s not about the chips, Karl.

Crystal Renn is a size 12. Isn’t she magnificent? That skin! Those brows; her bone structure. My my.