Real Women Belong in Real Life

Jean Paul Gaultier Spring Summer 2011: Is she "real"?

Alberta Ferretti has announced she is going to send “real” women down the catwalk at her Pitti Uomo show on January 11th. (Are models not real?) So far, she has announced that there will be a few former models, socialites (the least “real” of them all…), and some women with real jobs, a lawyer and a psychologist (is modeling not a real job?)

This annoys me to no end, as there is nothing more painful that seeing someone walk down the catwalk when they don’t have the skills and confidence of a real model. I must say that the word “real” here is being overused, so I will clarify… A professional model knows how to walk, she/he is experienced on walking the catwalk, getting changed quickly, not to mention all the photography skills a good model has. It is not JUST a job for someone who looks pretty. So when you stick someone, pretty or not, on a catwalk, and they have never walked a catwalk before, it just looks bad.

Prada Fall Winter 2010: Do curves make a model more "real"?

The issue here should not be about getting “real” people on the catwalk (I applaud Ferretti’s attempt, but it isn’t the right thing to do), just as celebrities shouldn’t become fashion designers, and I shouldn’t have a go at being a ballerina. These are roles that require training, and a certain type of person to pull it off. The real issue here (there’s that word again!) is that the typical model should change. Or the typical model type should be broadened, so that designers can choose from women who are slightly rounder, shorter, or older than the girls we normally see on the catwalk, if they so choose.

I have witnessed a non-professional model get on a Paris fashion week catwalk, and it was painful. Just like I wouldn’t want to be thrown onto the stage of the Royal Opera House to dance Swan Lake, a lawyer will probably not want to be thrown onto a professional catwalk. Or, she might want to, but will regret it afterwards.

Chanel Resort 2011: Is Crystal Renn more "real" than other models?

Rather than try all this gimmicky “real women on the catwalk” crap, why don’t designers just start casting a larger variety of models? Trust me, they exist, they just aren’t being called on to walk the big fashion catwalks. And if the demand is high, there will be more of them. I’d much prefer that, then see a bunch of non-models attempt the catwalk, which will be painful, unless they’ve had massive amounts of “walking” training, and are used to being on show in front of large groups of people.

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  • lisa

    Well said.

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  • carol

    couldn’t agree more. i’d NEVER walk at a catwalk. EVER.

  • Rachel

    Definitely agree. The issue is not to cast so-called ‘normal’ people (because what even is ‘normal’?) but to start casting a wider variety of people. Because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how ‘normal’ someone on a catwalk is – they have to be able to do their job properly, just like anyone in any other profession.



  • Vera

    I agree with your opinion in exploring what is considered “real” or not, but I guess in this sense, the designers are referring to women who do not require their body to be of a specific size, but rather their own healthy body weight.

    It may be painful to watch these non professional models strut the runway, but I guess it’s a positive push in the direction of healthy body images at least. Like maybe this could lead to designers to stop to dictate their models to be stick thin? Just saying (:

  • anya

    I hate the word “real” but it’s nice to see some variety on the runway. It’s pretty expensive to make clothing samples for a bunch of different body types. In the end it comes down to economics. So, sure Chanel can afford to make a specific dress for Crystal Renn but most less established designers, just make size 4s for the shows.

  • Anonymous

    Good point, but the larger brands make many sample collections. At Sonis Rykiel we used to make 4 of each garment, but larger brands make 10 or 12 of each garment, so its not hard to have some variety in the sample sizes. It might be tougher for the smaller designers, but I think this is a case where the larger companies need to lead the way.

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  • Miss Viki

    Here in Austria, we had recently some false marketing campaigns called “without models”, “real women” and so on. In fact, they usually pretend to seek “real” women, but in the end they choose the same kind of women as before, but with the difference that they do not pay the volunteers!

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  • Kristin & Megan

    Brilliantly put. I was at the Red Dress show last year at NYFW and some of those lovely ladies that donated their time didn’t look very comfortable. : ) Congrats on links a la mode btw!

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  • Laura Connell

    Excellent post; you really “get it” and explain “it” so well. I can’t stand the term “real” either! All women are real, regardless of their appearance. I believe the term they want is DIVERSITY and as you suggest we simply need to diversify the models used on the runway and in print, including weight, height, colour, age and ability. The Ben Barry agency is committed to diversity and has had huge success with very big brands and designers. People want this but some are afraid to ask for it or admit it.

    The few like Derek Blasberg who would cling to the narrow physical parameters for models are being challenged by real influencers like Nick Knight who is outspoken about his abhorrence of the current definition of beauty. Even on our blogs (and I am guilty of this) we need to present more diverse images of beauty. It’s about opening up the field, not preferring one type over another or villifying someone because she is skinny. I”M skinny but I still have empathy for women who are suffering because they are bombarded with images that don’t represent them.

    I also have empathy for those models who are suffering from eating disorders. I agree not anyone can model successfully, and it’s certainly not about being pretty, but photogenic. It is a certain magic that happens when the subject is seen through a lens and you don’t need to be skinny for that magic to happen!

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  • Anonymous

    Yes, Nick Knight made some great points about the skewed image of beauty the
    industry has. Personally, I don’t mind if a designer wants to put a bunch of
    teeny, skinny girls on the catwalk, if that is his or her “style”, then that
    is fine. I also don’t mind if a designer wants to do the opposite. But there
    is nothing more annoying when it is done as a gimmick to generate press.

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  • Fatuavalencia

    Excellent Issue:
    The issue here, from my view, depends on the ” real ” women the designer will be using on the catwalk , everybody is, real. The fact is that when that decision is made the designer women like us, it is because is trying to tell people, that no matter the shape, size, age or job you have, you can wear the collection. That you don’t have to be a professional model or someone suffering from eating disorders, to wear the close you get to see on the catwalk.
    We have done it here in Venezuela, an has always worked. Probably, because the people who get to see the shows are the “REAL” women who are going to pay for that close. And they don´t have to be ashamed for not being what the NON real life has shown us as perfect women (that suddenly became not REAL) to were beautiful pieces from high designer.
    Ok, I agree that everyone has a job an a model is a model, but maybe I am blessed from being born in a country that knowing how to look on a catwalk, it is just part of our own lifes. Even if we ares just going to take our sons to school.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, I agree that most of the clothes on the catwalk are suited to “normal” women, but the catwalk show is a show, and therefore they need professional models, regardless of what size they are. You wouldn’t want to go to the theater and see amateurs on stage, same thing with shows. And also, I guess Venezuela is different to the fashion capitals in that the public have access to the shows, whereas in most fashion cities the shows are only for industry.

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