It didn’t take long for the Twitterati to come out swinging in response to what seemed like yet another faux pas by the fashion industry in its attempts to woo so-called plus-size consumers. During the weekend, many tweets decried what seemed like Calvin Klein’s positioning of size 10 model Myla Dalbesio as plus size, HLNTV reported.
This follows the recent backlash against Victoria's Secret for featuring thin models as a backdrop to their "Perfect" bra range, with the tagline "The Perfect 'Body.'" After a Change.org petition demanded Victoria's Secret change its language and apologize, the company changed the tagline without any public commentary or apology.
Dalbesio, 27, who stars in Calvin Klein’s latest lingerie ad campaign, “Perfectly Fit,” with smaller models, recently told Elle Magazine she was Klein’s de facto plus-size model. Although Calvin Klein never gave her that designation, Dalbesio said as a size 10, she qualifies in the skinny world of fashion.
“It’s kind of confusing because I’m a bigger girl,” Dalbesio said. “I’m not the biggest girl on the market but I’m definitely bigger than all the girls [Calvin Klein] has ever worked with, so that is really intimidating.”
Given that the average size of the American woman is around size 14, it's understandable that some people would be upset a size 10 model, even if not called out as such, was positioned as plus size. "Is this some giant trolling act?!" wrote @RoeMcDermott in a tweet. "This is Calvin Klein's first 'plus size' model. WHAT." @Makeart was a little more forgiving, and tweeted, "CK is late.. but making an effort. Now their Catalog sizing chart and products need to follow through."
Annie Tomlin, former beauty director of Refinery29 and Popsugar, now writer behind the Glowhow, agrees with @Makeart. "I can understand why people are upset when she is called 'plus' or big,' " says Tomlin, "but the fact is that Calvin Klein never used those words to describe Dalbesio. It doesn't really seem fair to attack Calvin Klein over statements it never made. In this case, I think some people jumped to conclusions instead of looking at the reality of the situation. And the reality is that Dalbesio is not a standard-size model, yet Calvin Klein cast her without making a big fuss. That is progress, I think. Is it perfect and does the campaign highlight all sizes? No, of course not. But it's a step in the right direction."
Ultimately, Tomlin worries that the backlash may actually lead to fewer plus-size models appearing in campaigns and editorials. "In this case," says Tomlin, "Calvin Klein quietly introduced a model who isn't 110 pounds, and people got angry about it. I can't say for certain, but my guess is that the brand may be less likely to do that again. There is a bit of a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' thing going on. I do think brands like Calvin Klein should be open to feedback and criticism, and we should be talking about why models are so frequently young, white, and pin-thin. But progress will not happen perfectly and immediately."
Dalbesio seemed happy with the campaign, despite not fitting into the narrow fashion standards. “I’m not skinny enough to be with the skinny girls and I’m not large enough to be with the large girls and I haven’t been able to find my place,” Dalbesio told Elle. Nevertheless, she says, “This [campaign] was such a great feeling.” In a message forwarded to HLNTV, a Calvin Klein spokesperson said the campaign was meant to be inclusive.
"The new Calvin Klein Underwear Perfectly Fit imagery features models Myla Dalbesio, Jourdan Dunn, Amanda Wellsh, Ji Hye Park and the face of the brand, Lara Stone, in several styles," the spokesperson wrote. "The Perfectly Fit line was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.”
— Roe McDermott (@roemcdermott) November 7, 2014