Model Brands

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I have one more reason to love Nordstrom this week as the annual sale catalog arrived in my mailbox. Flipping through the pages, I ooh’d and ahh’d over the luxe handbags, tailored dresses and so many fabulous shoes. I’ve come to expect on-trend fashion and accessories, but what caught my eye wasn’t the merchandise, it was the models.

Nordstrom employed two unconventional models, a man with a prosthetic leg, and a wheelchair bound woman, for the shoot. Both fit naturally into the fashion spreads modeling the same fashions as their able-bodied peers. Hurray for imperfect people wearing the trendy clothes I may want to buy. How utterly relatable. How refreshing. Way To Go Nordstrom!

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When I look around at my family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, very few look like a typical fashion model. The exception being my neighbor who actually is a fashion model, but I digress. This is not to say my people are schlubby. Generally speaking they put some effort towards being fashionable and healthy. Yet, they are regular people, like me.

Fashion models get a lot of ink (read: jobs) by being super tall and ultra thin. Plus size models of the (gasp!) size 8+ are also getting more runway time, more pages in fashion magazines too. Yet, according to WebMD, the Average American Woman is 5’4” with a waist of 34-35 inches, weighs 140-150 pounds and wears a dress size 12-14. The disparity between what women look like on catalog pages versus on the sidewalk is striking.

But, its not just about size. For catalogs to look more like my community, they need to show more cultural diversity, race diversity, age diversity, people with varied ability, more tattoos, more piercings, more scars, even a stretch mark or two.

Earlier this year, American Eagle announced the decision not to photoshop their model’s imperfections for their ads. (Read the story here) I applauded this bold move as a monumental step in showing real beauty that modern girls can look at and relate to. I hope this inspires a tipping point for other brands, especially ones who target a young audience like American Eagle to show a more honest representation of their customer in their clothes.

As Athleisure becomes more ubiquitous in fashion (a term I picked up from the August 2014 InStyle Magazine), and athletic clothes such as yoga tights transition from gym to office, models of a more athletic build are getting work too. I love when catalogs like The Gap‘s Athleta label show both muscles and mascara. For me, a fit model’s physical strength has a halo effect projecting qualities like confidence, power, the look of someone who is capable.

Models need never look sloppy. But, I applaud fashion brands like Nordstrom and American Eagle who think differently about how to present their product. These brands show us it is possible to be a regular person and also look great in their clothes. For my dollar, there is no better sales message.

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One response to “Model Brands

  1. Way to go, Nordstrom’s! Seeing a steady diet of super-skinny fashion models in ads can get anyone down. While I never pictured myself as a model, most of us want to look our best. And Photoshopping flaws only serves to create perfection the average person can never achieve. Thanks for letting us know!

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