Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Big is now beautiful for models on the catwalk | Fashion | The Observer

Big is now beautiful for models on the catwalk

The 'size zero' debate erupted in 2006 when two models starved to death. Now runway stars Crystal Renn and Inga Eiriksdottir tell how the curvier, natural look has taken off

Crystal Renn models a Jean-Paul Gaultier creation in 2005
Crystal Renn models a Jean-Paul Gaultier creation in 2005. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

When Crystal Renn was anorexic, her career as a model flourished. She had had heart palpitations. She was so weak that she fainted if she walked too far, and her bones had poked out sharply from under her paper-thin, taut, grey skin. But she was a US size zero – a UK size two – and the work rolled in.

But it was when Renn started eating and expanded to a UK size 16 that her career really took off. In Hungry, her autobiography, described by Nigella Lawson as "a riveting read" and launched on Tuesday at a glittering Manhattan party, the highest-paid plus-size model in America talks of the delicate new dawning of a vogue for women who are "lush and sparkly, with nary a jutting collarbone in sight".

Renn says that while "crazy town still loves to gawp at the ultra-slim" there is a growing appetite in the fashion world for "the natural shapes a woman's body takes when it's not being deprived of food".

She should know. When she was spotted by a modelling agent at the age of 13 she was told to lose five stone: more than 42% of her then body weight. At 14, Renn was smaller than a US size zero and secured a three-year, $250,000 contract and moved to New York.

"When I started modelling in 2002 – and to a slightly lesser degree, today – the look of the moment was nearly skeletal," said Renn. "Starting in the early 1990s with the rise of Kate Moss and of heroin chic, the fashion industry fell in love with depressed-looking, emaciated girls."

The real public relations crisis hit in 2006. In a matter of months models Luisel Ramos and her sister, Eliana, and Ana Carolina Reston and Hila Elmalich died after starving themselves to death in their attempt to be thin.

There was an outcry. The Council of Fashion Designers of America recommended that runway models be aged over 16. Spain banned models weighing less than 8st 11lb from Madrid's Fashion Week. But, said Renn, the immediate change was "nil". "High-fashion models remained as thin as ever," she said.

But now, Renn says, fashion has finally begun – slowly and grudgingly – to change. Inga Eiriksdottir agrees with Renn. She was spotted by the Women Agency in New York when she was 15 and a natural UK size eight. "When I reached 18, I was 5ft 11in and still a size eight, but they wanted a US size 0. It was awful. They pressured me and told me I was fat. I was obsessed with losing weight, but my body just wouldn't do it," she said.

"I did everything: I didn't eat, I exercised, but I couldn't make myself the shape they insisted on. Eventually someone suggested I become a plus-size model.

"It was the best advice of my life," said Eiriksdottir, who is now a natural size 14. "I had no idea it was such a huge market or of the number of opportunities and amazing clients there were for real-sized girls. It's crazy how much work there is. I've worked for Vanity Fair, Bloomingdale's, Saks and Macy's. But what I've really noticed is that the gap is being blurred between standard size models and plus sizes: before there were only super-skinny and pluses, but now you see all sorts of shapes and sizes. All beauty is now being appreciated."

Despite such optimism, the vast majority of couture and prêt-à-porter designers still want to see their clothes worn by skinny models and sold to skinny customers: even designers who have spoken publicly about battling their own weight – Donna Karan, Karl Lagerfeld, Alber Elbaz, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte – don't design for plus sizes.

But, said Renn: "Thankfully the pendulum seems to be swinging back, at least a bit," she said. "The 2009 face of Marc by Marc Jacobs is Daisy Lowe, who has a curvier body than has been in style lately. The looks of Jennifer Hudson, Adele and Beyoncé are generally admired, not reviled. "

Within two months of Renn bursting back on to the fashion stage as a size 16, Anna Wintour had asked her to feature in a "Shape edition" of American Vogue.

Wintour chose Steven Meisel, the pinnacle of American fashion photographers, to shoot Renn – and he immediately booked the model to feature in a non-weight-related edition of Italian Vogue.

Renn appeared in Italian Vanity Fair, Italian Elle, CosmoGirl. She is the only plus-size model to appear on a Harper's Bazaar cover and has appeared in four international Vogue editions as well as appearing on the runway for Vena Cava, Heatherette and most notably for Jean-Paul Gaultier in his prêt-à-porter 2006 collection in Paris, for which he personally made her a dress and walked with her down the runway in the show's high-profile finale.

Renn's agent, Gary Dakin, of New York's Ford Models, which represents models who are UK size 12 to 22, says that their novelty use is coming to an end. Instead they will be photographed for one simple reason: because they are beautiful.

"I have been in this business for 11 years and I have seen this debate ripple through the fashion world a number of times," he said. "This time, though, the momentum of the debate feels different." Style arbiter Stephen Bayley agrees. Bayley's book, Women as Design, is published this week and looks at how definitions of female beauty have changed over the centuries. "In periods when we are impoverished, as now, there is a vogue for voluptuous women," he said. "

But designers are, slowly, beginning to agree that larger models have a role. Antonio Berardi has talked of the trouble he has finding girls with a womanly shape. "We have to spend days altering things," he complained. "We add padding and pieces that work inside the clothes to exaggerate their bodies into a more female form. I don't want all those girls with pale skin who look the same. My family is Italian – I am inspired by a womanly aesthetic."

Roland Mouret agrees: "I see advertising going back to that powerful 1980s mentality, when girls like Linda [Evangelista] were ideal. Back in the 80s, when supermodels were several sizes larger than top models today, the clothes worked on bigger bodies," he added. "They were bright, bold, curve-enhancing."

Kate Smith, a size 16 and the highest earner at Hughes Models, said: "The number of plus-size models in the industry has quadrupled in the past few years, but we're still a tiny percentage of the whole modelling business.

"What does my head in is that I'm a model but I can't buy designer clothes that fit me. Everything is crawl-walk-run. We'll get to the point where every shape and size will be represented on the runway, but maybe not in my lifetime."

Comments in chronological order (Total 103 comments)

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  • LottiP

    6 September 2009 3:02AM

    Encouraging, yes, but these are only very small indications of change. Sadly, research The Guardian published a few months ago showed that, going against trends elsewhere, women in one of the world's fastest growing markets, China, actually preferred to see clothes on skinny white models rather than normal sized women.

  • Zerosum

    6 September 2009 3:03AM

    I really do wish you Brits would stop using this bizarre measure of weight the stone. You do realize that nobody else in the rest of the world knows what the hell this means. I've lived 30 years in foreign countries, speak 3 foreign languages fluently, am at home in both the metric and non-UK imperial systems, and can convert effortlessly between a dozen different currencies, but I throw up my hands at this stone nonsense. Even looking it up and learning that 1 stone equals 14 lbs doesn't make it any more comprehensible. Do you people really tell each other that your 183 lb body weighs 13.07 stone, or is everything rounded off to the nearest 14 lbs?

  • Philipaxis

    6 September 2009 3:36AM

    Well. I've lived in the US for 20 odd years and I still use stones as my measure..I weigh 160 llbs (11 stone 6 lbs) it's not so difficult..I bet you'd like to see Starbux and MacDonalds on ever corner of the world..ooop's..I guess you're down to crushing stones and wiping out all identity.

    Anyway, fat is fat in chanel or givenchy

  • Anonymousdibs

    6 September 2009 4:04AM

    What does plus sized mean, anyway? Anything above a zero? Anorexic teenagers are not attractive, and the sooner designers start designing clothes for women, not freaks, then the world will be a better place.

  • Philipaxis

    6 September 2009 5:31AM

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  • SlothM

    6 September 2009 6:02AM

    Zerosum: Measurements that are taken using anything other than the metric system are all pretty arbitrary looking (I say 'other than' because at least if you have one standard, everything is comparable). I bet you still measure the distance you drive in miles, the amount of petrol you buy in gallons and your weight in pounds. Whoop-de-do. Stone is not any more or less ridiculous than any of these. What's the big deal? It's a UK newspaper.

    As for the article, it's pretty obvious that 'plus size' models are not in widespread use, or they wouldn't be called 'plus size models', they'd be be called 'models'. In the fashion industry, it sounds like a euphemism for 'fat'. Unfortunately their notion of fat is utterly deranged.

  • fedupofleeds

    6 September 2009 7:12AM

    I would have liked to read some comment from women writers and designers who have covered this subject.

  • StoopyDeGunt

    6 September 2009 7:49AM


    It's seems that I'm the only person that understands you.

    The issue here isn't stones or pounds.

    What's important for people to know is that you speak three languages, fluently, . lived for 30 years in foreign countries and can effortlessly convert 20 different currencies at one time.

    I suspect modesty prevents you from telling us how many pounds you can benchpress, or which fraternity you belonged to when you were at Harvard.

    I understand where you're coming from. But then again, I was in the Navy Seals, launched a highly successful dot com start up before I'd left high school and hold a Black Belt seventh dan in Karate.

  • ayride

    6 September 2009 7:59AM

    Can someone explain how the model pictured is in any way 'curvy'?

    She's a bit taller than the normal catwalk fodder but still looks pretty thin to my eyes.

  • Zerosum

    6 September 2009 8:00AM

    Of course all measurement systems are arbitrary, but language is about communication, and outside of the UK (and a few Commonwealth countries?) nobody is familiar with the stone as a unit of weight. The Guardian is a well-known and prestigious paper with a world-wide following - I'm presently in Taiwan. At least in the on-line edition, The Guardian could give the lb equivalent in brackets. The NY Times has begun providing metric equivalents in many of its on-lne articles.

    Frankly, I think everyone should move to the metric system. It only takes a couple of mths to get up to speed with grams and meters. And how many Brits even know the meaning of the more obscure imperial units like dram, rood, and gill?

  • anitapasha

    6 September 2009 8:19AM

    *sigh* they try to advertize this fat women can be models too thing evry two three years.

    it never works...althogh that one girl they show a ffew days a go has a very pretty face which i like.

  • godsend

    6 September 2009 8:21AM

    As a male person, aged 74 years,172 cm in height, and weighing 68 kg, I consider myself to be around 6 kg overweight.
    I am pretty fit, can't remember the last time that I was sick, and can do a 20 km hike in the mountains any day. However, if I was FAT, I probably would not not be feeling so confident about the years to come.
    I have no problems regarding skinny girls, in fact, I prefer them, but what makes the skinny catwalk models so unattractive is the damned miserable expressions on their faces.
    Why are they not permitted to smile? It would be such an improvement.
    Just look at Heidi Klum, Miranda Kerr, Selita EBanks, Inguna Butane, and the other Victoria's Secret girls, they smile, look happy on the catwalk, and are the ideal shape and size. In Heidi Klum's case after having several children as well. People are FAT due to their lifestyle and dietary choices.
    If that is what they want, it is their personal choice, and I wish them well, but it is not how I want to be.

  • Kazbah

    6 September 2009 8:30AM

    The point isn't models' weight or dress size, but whether or not they're healthy. Healthy looks different on different women, but it's pretty clear when someone's got plenty of energy and feels good about themselves.

    One of the big problems is that mainstream clothes models aren't models because they're especially beautiful, but because they have a uniform shape which makes them interchangeable on the catwalk or fashion shoots, and anonymous faces with regular features which can be easily be submerged into a designer's distinctive look. Look at them without make-up, and it's rare to find the woman who looks particularly different. The point is that they're blank canvases, clothes horses whose job it is to show off the clothes as art rather than demonstrate how good the clothes look on a woman.

  • FifthCookieMonster

    6 September 2009 8:30AM

    godsend, by the standards outlined in the article, you are not only FAT, you are grotesquely obese.

  • bellagrrl

    6 September 2009 8:33AM

    i believe there's a bit of weight in that right arm on Miss Renn, and i can't see any
    skeletal definition visible on her chest.. which must mean she's a plus size. (some
    slight sarcasm there) frankly she does look beautiful but i am startled that anyone
    would think someone 5' 11" could lose enough weight to be a size 0. that seems
    beyond physical possibility. i'm 5' 2" and i hover between 7s. 8 and 8s 2.

    btw. i'm american, can't speak multilple languages (well) and weighing in stone seems
    a perfectly acceptable unit of measure.. someone might note that there are different
    units of measure for different objects.. why not people weight in stone? i feel thinner

  • Oldy

    6 September 2009 8:40AM

    As I really am an "Oldy" I should be past caring about the size and shape of model girls - but I am able to comment on metric versus Imperial measurement.
    Am I in a tiny minority who regard metric measure, decimal coinage and the "new" technical terms such as newton meters in place of foot pounds as foreign impositions on a country with its own standards for a thousand years?

    We have just, I believe, won the battle to display goods in lbs as well as kgs also our signposts are still in miles - good oh!

    After the Norman conquest we had to speak French for 200 years, but the native Saxon won out in the end.

    Don,t forget, Americans got to the moon using Imperial measures.

    Can't be too much wrong with them !

  • looby888

    6 September 2009 8:55AM

    The problem is that the media and the fashion industry see size 14 and size 16 as big. And big is used as a euphemism for fat. Women are constantly being told that we are 'big' if we are size 14/16 - these are normal sizes - especially as models tend to be tall - as Ayride says 'where are the curves?'. And where is the fat.

    This whole debate reinforces the idea that an average size is something like 10 or 12. Size 14/16 should be seen as average not big.

    Kate Smith is quoted as saying, "We'll get to the point where every shape and size will be represented on the runway, but maybe not in my lifetime." They may be represented but how will they be written about?

    P.S. Where are the Guardian's size 16+ models on its fashion pages and if it ever had any would the article/pictures be specifically for all of us 'big' ladies?

  • mirtilo

    6 September 2009 8:55AM

    I am a fashion designer working for a major high-end Italian fashion company.
    Firstly, the models being used in the runway shows the last few years tend to be mainly from Eastern Europe or Brasil. The body shape of the girls is tall and very thin. But mainly, I think its a genetic, normal for them body shape. The girl in the photo , yes she is bigger than most runway models but you cant see very much of her. My swimwear model is v thin, medium tall, enhanced boobs, mid 30s with a child. She cycles everywhere and eats big platefuls at lunchtime.

    My boss designs dresses which she hopes will look "cool" on young, thin,, leggy women because thats the "fashion ideal". Its fairly ridiculous when our customer is more likey to be a 40-50 something Russian/Middle Eastern/Italian wealthy woman with a corresponding body shape. The 20something would hardly be able to afford the product and would probably prefer TopShop anyway.

    Anyway, I dont think the argument is about whether the models themselves are anorexic, more the point is that there are so many different kinds of women (the same debates happens around black and Asian models) and body shapes but the fashion industry just don't seem to want to represent that (apparently consumer preference) I sometimes think the transparent, blonde, thin Russian look is almost like a blank canvas for designers to paint on . I've worked in high end fashion for 12 years and I still don't understand it at all.

  • ratherbered

    6 September 2009 9:05AM

    The biggest scandal in the fashion industry is not a few models stupid enough to starve themselves to death but the mass exploitation of workers including children in countries where labour laws are weak and wages are low.
    It is even more obscene when a garment that has cost a few pounds to manufacture in this way is then sold for hundreds of pounds to people with more money than sense.
    All too often the media conspire to aid this shameful practice by filling page after page of fashion spreads with clothes that only wealthy people can realistically afford. Small wonder that so many people have crippling credit card debts.

  • Luras

    6 September 2009 9:15AM

    Not sure if this has been noted already but an American size zero is a UK size four, not two as suggested in the article.

  • makz

    6 September 2009 9:19AM

    When did natural looking, curvy women ever go out of fashion, other than in the strange world of modelling and fashion photography? I mean, at the most basic level of sexual attraction? I certainly do not know a heterosexual man who does not prefer a curvy woman with well developed breasts to one of these androgenous stick insects that the fashion world seems so obsessed with. I really wonder about the kind of man who expresse has a preference for a woman with the body of a 12 year old.

  • ratherbered

    6 September 2009 9:21AM

    Quel dommage Monsieur Oldy!
    Imaginez vous une Royaume Uni francophone! Du vin, du pain, du fromage....
    Unfortunately crassness won over culture and so we have binge drinking and public vomiting and drunkeness, voyeur tv and vulgarity, a dysfunctional monarchy when we could all have been citizens of a republic, a country where the crimes against property are more seriously punished than crimes against the person.
    Oh yes, I nearly forgot, a schizophrenic place where we teach our children to use a decimal currency and a metric system of weights and measures but then oblige them also to learn quaint old customs just because a lot of lazy semi-literate little englanders with little or no understanding of their true origins don't want to make a little effort to change.

  • healey

    6 September 2009 9:32AM

    As other posters have asked, from where does the fashion world's obsession with extreme thinness come when the vast majority of women have curves and vast majority of men find them attractive?

  • Greystuff

    6 September 2009 9:45AM


    We don't just measure bodyweight in st lb oz - we do our cooking in it too. It's no different than dealing with hours and minutes, really...

    Though lots of people talk about their weight in KG now anyway!

  • newspapereader

    6 September 2009 9:54AM

    The guardian has an article about Anna Wintour where it has her comment on the fuller figure: I have just been on a trip to Minnesota, where I can only kindly describe most of the people I saw as little houses.

    That how are British women aspiring to look like?

  • JonaMcC

    6 September 2009 9:55AM

    By engaging in this "oooh... Fashion's changing!" nonsense, all the Guardian is doing is buying into Fashion industry spin. As has been pointed out, they pull this kind of trick every few years : Someone with a double-digit dress size breaks through and it's supposed to be revolutionary (See Sophie Dahl passim).

    Firstly, the woman in the picture is not "plus size". a) she's a size 16 (evidently the most common size in the UK) and b) she's close to 6 foot tall (meaning that she needs a bigger size anyway) and you can see her bloody collar bones!

    Secondly, while the fashion industry uses terms such as "big" and "plus size" they use them in ways that are entirely idiosyncratic and which have nothing to do with the way in which the terms are used by the rest of us. Does the model need to go to Evans in order to buy clothes? No? Then she's not plus size. The term "plus size" implies being outside of the normal size range and size 16 really isn't.

    Thirdly, by buying into this kind of Fashion industry nonsense and using the terms the way they do in their press releases you're contributing to a culture in which average sized women see themselves as "big" and by "big" we know you mean "fat".

    These types of article are very much part of the problem.

  • tynegal

    6 September 2009 10:00AM

    While every mail order catalogue/website/advertisement selling clothes ignores the fuller figure then average sized women don't have a chance. I've just complained about this to Boden who sell clothes up to size UK20 but unfailingly picture slim young women in their sales material. How can normal women be expected to buy from these companies when we have no idea how the items will look on a rounded figure? They are shooting themselves in the foot.

  • BusmanJ

    6 September 2009 10:20AM

    Err, thin is more attractive makz, obviously, but we perhaps we often can't be choosers and become a bit more... accomodating. That's why curvier went out of fashion, it's not so nice to look at. PC dictates that we pretend it's OK not to be able to sort your weight out. Luckily for me - I am slightly oveweight middle-aged male, can't seem to shift the pounds (an although I live and work in kg in a large second-world country across the chanel, it's lb I choose for weight at home, thanks anyway) and take it as a truism that a toned, correct-weight torso would be more atractive to women. Most of us are overweight, a bit, so the catwalk bear littleenough resemblance to our high streets, to everyone's apparent chagrin - but we celebrate beauty in other walks of life all the more because the rest of us can only aspire to it, don't we?.

  • penarthur

    6 September 2009 10:21AM


    "...and the sooner designers start designing clothes for women, not freaks, then the world will be a better place."

    Yeah right. Forget world peace and global warming, juyst get those designers making bigger clothes!

    I haven't laughed so much since ....

  • Capuchon

    6 September 2009 10:28AM

    Sorry but 'curvy' is not natural, it is an old human construction, think Venus, the perfect image of a fertile women, curvy and subservient. Nothing changes, people, men and women, will still continue to judge each other on how well they meet an narrow cultural perspective on what beauty is. Women, and men, will still continue to mold themselves as best into this perfect notion of masculinity or femininity. All the while we continue to sit around saying the old cliche 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'

    This is neither a step forwards, or a step backwards, but a step, idiotically, from side to side, while we continue to cover the old ground, debating sexuality and the income disparagement. I am sorry to sound like a pessimist and i am sorry to disappoint all the feminists, but this is not an epoch, its just a shift in the never ending culture wars. I may be proven wrong, if in five years time we have 'curvy' models and 'skinny' models strutting on stage next to each other,i apologies in advance, but the way the rhetoric is going, i don't hold any hopes.

    I feel sorry for all the thin lightly framed girls who will have so much hardship attempting to put on the few extra kilos to meet this new 'ideal'...this change is shallow. It means nothing unless it can change the industry itself, which is the origins of its problems, which from what i see takes itself far too seriously and will continue to use models as pawns, if its not weight it will be some thing else.

    Hope i covered everything.

  • sabelmouse

    6 September 2009 10:39AM

    i agree that stone and none metric pounds are difficult, even after living in england and ireland for 18 years alltogether i find it hard, however i know of no other culture than american where people are constantly refered to in weight and height.
    i don't think many people outside the US talk like that. he was so high and weight so many pounds.
    this quantefication seems uniquely american.

  • JonaMcC

    6 September 2009 10:41AM


    It goes further than the models as it also creeps into the fashions themselves. My GF is currently a size 20 and she's forever going on about the current trend for very short elasticated sleeves.

    Those look great if you've got arms like a loads of twigs tied together with ribbons but surely no fat person in their right mind would wander about in something like that. A lot of designers and buyers, even for plus-size friendly companies simply don't think about stuff like that when choosing the products they sell.

  • sabelmouse

    6 September 2009 10:46AM

    i am sure it has been said before but; the guardian constantly publishes pictures of painfully thin women in ridiculous clothes in it's utterly superfluous saturday fashion spread in the magazine.

  • TheLastJackStraw

    6 September 2009 10:46AM

    I pains me to see the world of high fashion succumbing to political correctness gone mad...

    Personally, I find the dynamic angularity of the 'zero' look aesthetically intoxicating as ever... protestations of 'unrealistic' seem to miss the point entirely... the 'zero' appeal is it's otherworldliness, it's transcendence of the average, frumpy female form with it's slack baggage and dull pearish curves...

    It's true that the look in unobtainable, but since when has high fashion been a representation of the medium?... it's high fashion for high financed individuals with a highly refined aesthetic sensibility... the day it feels bullied by the pc brigade into representing your common frumpy woman is the day fashion dies...

    The concern for the welfare of the models is understandable, but consider that these young professionals earn a great deal of money. Many other professions consider a manifest health risk (police, firemen, lion tamers etc, soldier, acrobat etc) so why on earth do we bridle at models compromising their health for their jobbing salary?

    It seems to me that there are far too many female commentators who have perhaps let themselves go a little and victimise models conveniently to salve their own self-disappointment. A little more high fashion, and a little less jealousy from the pc gang please.

  • LePendu

    6 September 2009 10:55AM


    06 Sep 09, 6:02am (about 5 hours ago)

    Zerosum: Measurements that are taken using anything other than the metric system are all pretty arbitrary looking (I say 'other than' because at least if you have one standard, everything is comparable). I bet you still measure the distance you drive in miles, the amount of petrol you buy in gallons and your weight in pounds. Whoop-de-do. Stone is not any more or less ridiculous than any of these. What's the big deal? It's a UK newspaper.

    Given your apparent obsession with pounds, Zerosum, I suspect you're an American, in a country where cooks are incapable of using scales, and the outmoded Imperial system is still embraced, in a world mostly gone over to the metric system. Yet you have the brass neck to bitch about us, in Britain using stones - time for a reality check, I think.

  • GMcG

    6 September 2009 11:17AM


    'Even looking it up and learning that 1 stone equals 14 lbs doesn't make it any more comprehensible.'

    Wow, fluent in three languages yet such limited comprehension. You divide the number of pounds by 14 which makes146 lbs for instance, 10 stone 6 lbs. There, that wasn't difficult at all was it?

    About the article, isn't a US size zero a UK 4?

    I'm curious having just been shopping with my 11 year old daughter. She is tall for her age but hasn't an ounce of excess fat, yet we purchased UK size 6 in Zara - hardly a store renowned for generous sizing - so exactly how invisible are these size zero adults.

    Reminds me of Tom Wolfe's 'Social X-rays' from Bonfire of the Vanities.

  • shemarch

    6 September 2009 11:34AM

    IWhen I look at fashion photographs I search in vain for a model who resembles a normal sized woman. The models are usually so skinny as to look anorex: And asqgardargument about tric measURES: I have no trouble with measurements of weight, distance etc, but I cannot relate to them in temperature. My mind understands Celsius, but my body cannot feel it. I know what to expect from a temperature quoted in Fahrenheit, but Celsius just does not register.

  • GMcG

    6 September 2009 11:48AM


    I agree, funny things temperature measurements.

    My kids understand it's bloody hot if I tell them it's 38-39°C but if I revert to old money they look at me blankly when I tell them it's 100°F.

    Somehow, to me, that magical 100 (or 90, or 80) seems so much warmer!

  • SlothM

    6 September 2009 11:48AM

    And how many Brits even know the meaning of the more obscure imperial units like dram, rood, and gill?

    There's quite a few old style measurements that are hard to fathom.

  • TalliFay

    6 September 2009 11:52AM

    Forget about the size of the models, what about the height prejudice?

    I'm sure the average height of British women isn't 5'10". Even to be a plus size model you have to be tall.

    Why can't models reflect a full spectrum of shapes and sizes? Any healthy person in their natural shape and size can be sexy.

  • Kecha

    6 September 2009 12:00PM


    Can someone explain how the model pictured is in any way 'curvy'?

    She's a bit taller than the normal catwalk fodder but still looks pretty thin to my eyes.

    here is the full picture.

  • referendum

    6 September 2009 12:07PM

    zero sum

    you say " outside of the UK (and a few Commonwealth countries?) nobody is familiar with the stone as a unit of weight."

    you could equally well complain about UK/US shoe sizes( slightly different), versus european shoe sizes ( totally different); versus japanese shoe sizes ( again totally different). After that you could move onto drink measures -outside of france nobody understands " un baron" or "un bock" for a measure of alcohol in a bar - and how many people know how many fluid ounces are there in a shot or pint? or millilitres in a fluid oz. ?
    then,what is it with all these different languages? (as you say "Even looking it up ....doesn't make it any more comprehensible" ) why can't those other guys speak the same as us ? It'd be so much easier. I mean WTF is it with IDEOGRAMS?-
    And in next week episode : decimalising the 24 hour clock and the lunar calendar - "I throw my hands up at all this leap year nonsense" .

    Your name - zerosum -is starting to make sense

  • littleone1884

    6 September 2009 12:22PM

    @Zerosum: Get over yourself. I too am a linguist, and while indeed the purpose of language is communication, we are doing just fine communicating here using stone as a measurement of human weight. All Brits understand the measurement and, given that this is a British website, I think its use is fair enough. If you are confused, or have difficulties picturing what five stone is exactly, use a converter - it's what the rest of us do.

    Now, back to the article. I think it's great that women of all sizes (not taking into account height preference) can finally be appreciated as beautiful and worthy of appearing on the catwalk. And I do mean all sizes – at approx 7st 7lb/105lb/47.62kg I wouldnt like to suddenly find myself at the other end of the stick for being too thin!

    I also think Jean-Paul Gaultiers choice to walk down the catwalk with Ms. Renn speaks volumes – I hope that this means real change is on the way, not just idle talk.

    And finally @Oldy – Im afraid that there are LOADS of French words, or words of French extraction, in English. I'm not just talking legal terms either - pork? Sausage? Jolly? Gentle? Eye? All words in common parlance [whoops, theres another one] that are of French extraction.

    English is a bastardised [and another] language, in a very good way – our language is all the more descriptive and rich for having received the input of so many language sources. Read The Secret Life of Words – its quite hard going, but definitely worth it if youre interested in the development of the English Language.

  • slumpy

    6 September 2009 12:24PM


    Frankly, I think everyone should move to the metric system. It only takes a couple of mths to get up to speed with grams and meters. And how many Brits even know the meaning of the more obscure imperial units like dram, rood, and gill?

    Sorry to be someone else to rain on your parade, but a metre is a linear measurement and ameter is something you measure something with. I.e. electricity meter.

  • GMcG

    6 September 2009 12:30PM


    Excellent comments, vive la différence, no?

    I live in southern Spain and one of the aspects I enjoy most is the existence of successful local businesses supplying the local market, the resistance (relative to the UK) to the fast food multinationals and the continuation of local customs and practices.

    One of the coffee suppliers based in Málaga produces a chart showing 8 or ten variations on the preparation of coffee ranging from a 'Crema' (think espresso) through cafe solo, cortado, mitad, sombra, nube and I forget the rest.

    Go into any café in Málaga and request any one of these and you will be instantly understood. However, go 30 or 40kms away and you could well be greeted with incomprehension.

    Doesn't make it wrong - just different.

  • Trixr

    6 September 2009 12:35PM

    I have to agree with everyone else here. Zerosum, as ridiculous as Imperial measures are - and so are stupid pounds, ounces and miles - this is a UK website. You can only point to one site in the US where both measurements are given. Personally, I'm sick of trying to convert pounds as weight into kilos or stone (both of which I understand, being a Commonwealth citizen of A Certain Age).

    As for the whining about the cultural imperialism of metric measurements, OH PLEASE. It's being adopted because it's a much easier and logical system to use, not some conspiracy against the poor inch/ounce/psi.

    Finally, regarding the "she's not that fat" remark, check out Google images of the person in the pic to see instantly some pictures of why the fashion world deems her to be fat. Now, most of us might call that "average", but according to the fatphobic world who buys into the bullshit of BMI, she is indeed "overweight" or "obese". How valid those categories are in terms of judging someone's health, attractiveness or worth is another matter entirely.

  • princesschipchops

    6 September 2009 12:38PM

    Philipaxis I'd hazard a guess something close to your
    generous waist.-) Seriously tho' the only folk who complain about these gorgeous models are women and dare I say, plumpers...

    TheLastJackStraw Personally, I find the dynamic angularity of the 'zero' look aesthetically intoxicating as ever... protestations of 'unrealistic' seem to miss the point entirely... the 'zero' appeal is it's otherworldliness, it's transcendence of the average, frumpy female form with it's slack baggage and dull pearish curves...

    Ah lovely sentiments. I seriously worry about any man who finds the size zero look sexually attractive. It seriously says to me that something somewhere has gone wrong with your sexuality. There is a difference between liking slim women and liking painfully skinny women. Because size zero is a totally recent phenomenon - and not a good one.

    There is a big difference between some guy finding Heidi Klum or one of the old 'supers' attractive and a guy fancying someone who looks like they have just come out of a concentration camp or are a twelve year old girl.

    Yes I am a woman - but I am not a 'plumper'. I also used to model - nothing major or high end but I did some modelling as well as dancing and promotions work when I was younger. Back then no model would be under a size 8 and many were a ten or even twelve. I can tell you that Tyran Banks, Niaomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford could never get near a size zero - not in a million years. They would have been UK tens or even twelves. But they were stunning and they were not 'attainable' either for most women and in fact I would argue that more women would be likely to be jealous of someone like Cindy or Tyra than modern stick insects. So your assertions of jealousy are a little off the mark. The thing is someone like Cindy was an ideal - one that most women could never get near - but she did not look half dead! She looked healthy and fit and sexy.

    When I modelled in Ann Summers shows the reason I was booked was because I was tall and slim but healthy and toned - most fashion girls looked too bony for the underwear. They also didn't want to use glamour models because a lot of them by then had fake breasts and they didnt like how they looked in the lingerie either. I was five foot 8 and a size ten to twelve. So by your two's freakish standards 'fat'.

    the average, frumpy female form with it's slack baggage and dull pearish curves. This is weird - you hate 'dull' pearish curves - the very thing that shows fertility in a woman - the thing that makes a woman different to a man. You hate? To me that is warped sexuality.

    It is also pretty offensive to a load of women who are pear shaped. I am not pear shaped but would be healthier if I was - these pear shaped women you deride are the healthiest women. Women with bigger hips and bums and thighs are protected from heart disease - because that is where weight is supposed to go on a woman. Unfortunately (I have a lot of pear shaped friends) it is also the places that are hardest to lose weight from. An 'apple' can get rid of her tum with dieting and exercise but a pear shaped woman will never be able to change her body shape and get skinny thighs - and why should she?

    Fortunately for women I would say most men find some curves attractive and that your views are rare. You know not everyone has to be 'ugly' or 'fat' to find your views and your ways of expressing them pretty distasteful.

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