An inclusive runway
Sacramento Fashion Week’s adherence to tall, thin, scar-free models is slowly falling out of fashion
Cellulite. Vitiligo. Age spots. Stomach rolls. These are some of the “imperfections”—or rather, real-life physical attributes—that are, at long last, being celebrated by some of the biggest brands in fashion and beauty. The age-old lament that fashion rejects “normal-” looking people is finally getting its due response. Are Sacramento’s taste-makers progressing alongside the zeitgeist, or being left behind?
Sometimes progress starts with a casting call.
American River College’s fashion show on May 4 is making a concerted effort to embrace all ages, body types and ethnicities with a casting theme called, “Every Body is a Model Body.”
The approach complements the show’s theme, “Homagony—Deconstructing Borders,” a nod to different cultures. ARC’s fashion show director, Rachel Maskell, said the intent is to represent the students on campus.
“One of the things I love about American River College is the diversity,” she said. “There are all sorts of different people. Being a program of this school, it’s important to see that—all different shapes and sizes and ethnicities.”
Seeing oneself reflected on a stage is empowering, say those involved.
“Representation matters,” said ARC fashion student Niarobi Onwukwe. “It’s important to see every shape and size represented. It’s important to inspire people to make people feel like ’hey I can do this’ because they see people who look like them.”
As a designer for the spring fashion show, Onwukwe said she mostly cast models of African descent—both to tie into her Nigerian-inspired collection and to see herself represented—and with a variety of body types.
“I have a model who’s a size 12 and one who’s a size 5,” Onwukwe said. “I wanted to challenge myself as a designer. I believe if you want to be successful, if that’s really your passion, you design for everybody.”
Sacramento Fashion Week went the traditional route with its 2019 call for runway models.
The annual promotional event for local designers, models and artists wrapped up its 13th year with a March 8 designer showcase at the Tsakopoulos Library. In preparation for last month’s finale, organizers held a February 2 casting call that listed typical requirements for height (minimum 5’7 for women, 5’10 for men), age (16-28) and body type (“healthy and in good physical shape”). Additionally, SACFW’s casting announcement required that bodies have “no obvious scars, and no excessive tattoos or piercings.”
A spokeswoman for Fashion Week suggested the casting requirements won’t change any time soon.
“We aim to do ’high’ fashion shows which have very specific height and weight requirements,” SACFW media coordinator Kaelyn Paprock wrote in an email. “However, all are welcome to audition for Sacramento Fashion Week, as long as they are within the requirements.”
While local displays of inclusivity fluctuate, Sacramento-based influencer Alaina Galenti is doing her part to shift the “highlight reel” ethos of Instagram to explore bold, unconventional beauty. Galenti has recently expanded on her body-positive posts with a project called Body Veritas, a digital “safe space” with occasional art shows. (One illustrated post depicts a bunch of butts in varying shapes with the cheeky phrase: “perfect is boring”).
“I try to post on Body Veritas every other day if not every day so that people can have thought-provoking self-love reminders pop up in their feed on a regular basis,” she said.
Galenti takes self-love seriously, saying that the less-than-real images we’re exposed to on social media platforms like Instagram, which traffics in unattainable beauty standards and FOMO-inducing vacation spots, has a drastic impact.
“Trends will come and go, but the wounds created by the social stigmas created through non-inclusive media can last for a lifetime,” she said.
Galenti applauds local influencers such as Kaylynn Marisol (@kaylynnmarisol) and queer-positive businesses such as Strapping Store for promoting body awareness.
Comic Phoebe Robinson recently shared on her podcast So Many White Guys that it’s still commonplace to show up to a photo shoot in which she is the star, and be faced with wardrobe options where size 4 is the largest.
Such “callouts”—shining a light on standards that need updating—are making a difference. E-commerce clothing giant Revolve, which powers much of the aspirational Instagram beauty standard, was accused of lacking racial and body diversity last year. Although its feed still drips with unattainable sex appeal and impossibly cool-girl vibes, it now includes more body types and skin colors.
Haskell said that consumers need to realize they outnumber the taste-makers.
“We’re all impacted by fashion,” she said. “Although we may feel different, what’s the one thing that connects all of humanity? Besides the air that we breathe, we’re all buying clothes.”