Model Call causes a stir

By Abi Brown – Arts Editor

The following is an Opinion Column by Editor Brown.

Body positivity is a concept that many people struggle to define, let alone attain. Is it being a certain weight, being in a good position of health, or is it feeling good in your own skin? At Lasell, students may have different definitions but this does not change the fact that so many people were outraged by a message sent out through Lasell’s School of Fashion (SOF) Instagram account.

On February 5, a post was made on the Instagram account @lasellfashion, which led to distress and controversy across campus. The post advertised the annual modeling call in preparation for Runway with arguably unrealistic body measurements of a 36 inch bust, 27 inch waist and 37 inch hips.

It doesn’t take a fashion major to know the requested sizes are extremely small. On the post, the requested sizes they were looking for were in the largest font in the graphic, leading viewers eyes right to it, which made many students angry.

Over quarantine, designers had many challenges; one being a very small range of mannequins and patterns. To ensure equity to design students on and off campus, SOF supplied each fashion design major with a size 10 dress-form. So, for the model call, they needed a model whose measurements matched that of the prescribed dress-form. Designers who were not pulling models from the call were able to fit their garments to any size model they chose.

The post also emphasized models needed to wear heels and a skirt. This made it appear that men weren’t going to be as accepted at the tryouts. After reading over the post closer, I learned why they had those specific sizes and why it was only traditional womenswear, allowing me to understand why the original post was made.

The post was deleted later that night, and was not publicly acknowledged until February 13, when the account offered an apology for harm caused to the community. Following the post, an open forum was held on Zoom by SOF faculty, Student Government Association and IC3 representatives for those who wanted to continue the conversation. Many felt this showed SOF was trying to address the issues.

Even after it was explained, many students still felt that the incident was unprofessional due to its nature. For instance, junior fashion design major Elise Stanbury said she felt, “[the model call ad] should have been done in a more professional way instead of blasting it through social media because that can be taken and perceived very wrong by others.”

Another psychology student, senior Amanda Miller, direct messaged the SOF’s Instagram account the night the original post went live. “…Why do we have to center these tryouts in womenswear instead of including people of all gender identities…,” she said.

After this post and conversation came to light, myself and Chronicle Editor Claire Crittendon sat down for an interview to hear what the SOF had to say.

On the call with us were the Dean of SOF Kathleen Potter, Professor Kristin Kinsky, and Chief Diversity Officer Jesse Tauriac. We discussed everything that transpired so I could try my best to write a fair opinion piece on the topic.

Professor Kinsky explained to us, “if you have come to Runway before, you’ve probably seen men and women wearing anything on the stage. We do not make decisions on who is wearing what in any way. The designers choose the models. We have males wearing traditionally women’s clothing, everybody can wear anything. It’s more about the attitude they portray…”

Dean Potter added how deeply regretful they were of how everything went down. Their intentions were not to cause distress, anxiety, or to body-shame. Potter continued to discuss everything the School of Fashion has done and is planning to do to increase body diversity within the department, however, we were unable to get a straight answer on how Potter includes size inclusivity into the SOF’s curriculum.

Potter said during a typical semester, this would not have happened. She recognizes typically there would be a much wider range of dress forms available for design students to work from, but even having that is not enough. The SOF administration is actively looking for new ways to incorporate this theme into curriculums at the SOF across all concentrations.

Essentially, students will begin to look more at diversity, equity, and inclusion within design, marketing, and merchandising. Dean Potter is also not trying to wait for the fashion industry to catch up, but is trying to be more proactive and be a part of the progressive change that is starting to emerge in fashion.

Initially, I was one of those students who were immediately upset by this post. Having struggled with body image my whole life, it hurt to see the school I really love, not accept me. I now realize it was only because of COVID-19 and limited range of dress-forms and not just the school looking for starving, childlike models. I appreciate SOF’s willingness to discuss this with students.

I think the chaos happened in the delivery of the post. The sizes were the first thing you could see, with the explanation and the disclaimer in tiny dark letters below it. The initial reaction usually is what sticks in people’s minds much longer, so I believe that if this was announced differently than people would not have had such a big reaction.

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