Recently, a blogger I greatly admire launched an inspiring project. In a quest to end the all too common negative body image amongst women, she has created Operation Beautiful. I encourage everyone to click over if you haven’t already; it will most definitely put a smile on your face.
This topic is one I am also passionate about.
About a year ago, I was working as a fashion assistant at a women’s magazine in Prague. On one typically stressful afternoon, I stood in the closet, frantically gathering last minute accessories before the fitting for that month’s largest spread. My boss (who I have to say, first and foremost, was one of the most genuine, nonjudgmental people I have ever met), was nonetheless extremely frazzled and tense. We had been working long days leading up to this, fighting with shop owners and designers to secure the items we needed. We went into the fitting with rattling nerves.
As I wheeled the first wardrobe rack into the editor-in-chief’s office, our fitting model stood up to greet us. My boss turned to me with wide eyes. “Oh no. She’s going to be too fat.”
Shocked, I assured her everything would be fine and headed back to the closet to collect the rest of our collection. I prayed the model hadn’t heard.
It turned out though, that it didn’t matter. 45 minutes later, my boss was in tears. The editor-in-chief hadn’t yet approved a single look (we needed 14). And my boss complained, “Nothing looks right on Eva. Nothing fits.” They sent the model home.
I remained quiet, folding clothing, reattaching tags, rubbing the scuffs off shoes. I almost missed the sentence my boss then uttered, which sent further shockwaves through me.
“I want to do the fitting on Leslie.”
I froze. What? Me? Being at least 5 inches too short to be model material, on top of a host of other reasons, I was terrified. This gorgeous, 6 foot tall woman, with confidence ten times the strength of mine, had just lost a job for not being “thin enough.” And the editors thought, of all people, I would be?
In journalism and in fashion, there isn’t much time to think. Before I could process a quarter of what was happening, I found myself in the changing area, clutching the outfit I had helped put together for our model.
Inch by inch, I slid into the first pair of jeans. I breathed a sigh of relief. They fit.
As I stepped into view, the sun seemed to burn through the windows. I felt hot; I was squinting; I couldn’t meet anyone’s eyes. They looked me up and down. They had me spin. They whispered Czech phrases I could barely understand.
Fitting wasn’t enough.
An hour later, a new model had arrived. I helped her into the jeans, and with the aid of a belt, they stayed up around her hips. Baggy and shapeless, my boss proclaimed, “Beautiful.”
I will always find fashion to be a wonderful form of self-expression and creativity. But for a reason I cannot understand, most designers lost sight long ago of the chief inspiration behind their creations: the female body. Stylists started conceiving looks on hangers instead of people, and slowly the bodies in magazines, on runways, and in city streets seemed to wither away.
Those jeans I tried on fit me just right. They hugged each curve of my thighs, they sat comfortably around my hips. My body was not, and never will be, a barely existent mystery beneath them. It shouldn’t be. I only wish every woman would believe the same.