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It’s past time for fashion to embrace diversity

CW File

Samantha Rudelich

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I’m standing in the dressing room panting like a dog and struggling to find my way out of yet another game day dress. As I struggle to break free from the constricting dress, there’s a moment where I pause and think about just giving up. In the midst of my frustration, I consider busting free from the dress like the hulk. I imagine ripping the dress at the seams and walking out of the store, never to return again. But honestly, I blame myself for being a monster that can’t fit into clothes that are normally my size. I curse my chest for intrusively poking out in an apparently disproportionate fashion and my thighs for standing between me and clothes that fit.

My weight has always been something that I have struggled with. Ever since puberty, I have fluctuated between chubby and overweight. But it never really seems to matter how I look, clothes shopping continues to be a painful and discouraging experience. Clothes either cling to all the wrong places or drape over me like a shapeless smock. Neither looks do much to flatter my body or boost confidence. Online shopping feels like gambling at what size I actually am at any given store. I look at the models and wonder how that look will translate onto my body. When I try on clothes that I have ordered online, and they fit the way they are supposed to, I think I have won the clothing lottery.

My struggle with the fashion industry is in no way an anomaly. There’s the constant problem of airbrushing and white-washing of models so that they look lighter than they are. Every single one of my friends has somewhat of a body complex directly related to shopping for clothes. It’s something that feels so personal and isolating but you get a group of women together in one room and the stories about clothes start to sound incredibly similar, no matter their size.

My question is why is this still an issue? Besides the fact that the average model comes nowhere close to the average size of a U.S. woman, why it is so hard to find diversity in all areas of identity including the shapes, sizes, skin tone and ability of models? How is the scope of what bodies should be so small and limited?

I recently went online shopping at a plus-size only retailer and the experience was enlightening. I normally shy away from plus-size only retailers because it makes me feel ostracized and ashamed. But when I went onto the site I almost cried with joy. The site was filled with photos of curvy models of all races. They reflected what I aspired to be-curvy and beautiful. It was this moment that I realized the power of representation in fashion and media. It was truly incredible to see a piece of my truth on display by all types of women.

This needs to become the new reality for everyone attempting to buy clothes. The power of an inclusive fashion industry cannot be underestimated. We can start by supporting stores that work to include diverse models and encouraging people to wear outfits that they feel empowered in, even if it is not our personal style. I love dressing up, and I do my best to love my curves. It’s time for the industry to reflect the entire spectrum of people that they serve.

Samantha Rudelich is a senior majoring in business management. Her column runs biweekly. 

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It’s past time for fashion to embrace diversity