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The Plus Side to Calvin Klein's 'Plus-Size' Model

The outrage was entirely appropriate and utterly justified when Walmart labeled its women’s plus-size Halloween costume section as for “Fat Girls” last month. On the other end of the weight spectrum, but equally horrifying, has been a trend in recent years to cast skeleton-like models, as Stella McCartney has done, or those with concave bellies, like when Lady Gaga posed for V magazine. It seems the fashion and retail industries have a difficult time finding a balance between how to showcase and represent clothing for women who are bigger than size 2 and smaller than a size 24, which is to say: many, many women. If the women are too thin, the message is irresponsible, but if they’re too large, it’s shameful.

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Calvin Klein has never been a paragon of positive body images, having made Kate Moss a household name in the '90s with her “heroin chic,” painfully thin ad campaigns. It seems, however, that they have heard the call that too thin does not necessarily equal everything that’s right and good. That may be why Myla Dalbesio, who is a size 10, is one of their newest faces (and bodies). She’s not a size 14, which Yahoo says is the size of an average woman, but she’s not a size 0, either.

Dalbesio stars in Calvin Klein’s “Perfectly Fit” campaign, which seems, well, fitting. Her stomach goes out (just slightly, but still), not in. She's trim, sexy and more familiar to many women’s reflections than those who are shown with spaces between their thighs more massive than the Delaware Water Gap and collar bones sharp enough to make Ginsu knives envious.

Isn’t she a decent start to changing the conversation of what we’re supposed to see as beautiful?

Somewhere along the way, though, someone mislabeled Dalbesio as “plus size,” and the Internet freaked out. Twitter has been full of characters declaring her casting as ridiculous and wondering how she could be considered heavier by any standard. “This is not ‘plus size,’ Calvin Klein. She’s model size. Pretending otherwise is disingenuous,” said one person on Twitter.

Here’s the thing, though: Calvin Klein never called Dalbesio plus size. The New York Times says that misperception came from Dalbesio herself, who gave an interview in Elle magazine, wherein she called herself “bigger,” with Elle declaring her an “in-between” model in the article’s headline.

But coming on the heels of Victoria’s Secret taking it on the chin for titling their newest campaign, “The Perfect Body,” which used only pin-thin women to model the bras and panties — and soon thereafter renaming it “Body by Body,” although keeping the models the same, why is anyone getting their knickers all twisted over Calvin Klein using a larger model? Wasn’t that the goal?

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Dalbesio isn’t about to become a Lane Bryant spokeswoman, but it doesn’t seem likely that she’ll be strapping on a pair of wings, either. Isn’t she a decent start to changing the conversation of what we’re supposed to see as beautiful?

While maybe no one should rest until women of all shapes and sizes are represented at all times and by all brands (although that’s doubtful), it seems counterintuitive to jump at the throat of a high-profile fashion house that has made steps towards trying to showcase women (or at least a woman) of larger sizes. For an industry that gets a lot of flack for a lack of fat, instead of continuing to nitpick how little they’re changing, wouldn’t it be better, instead, to applaud them for picking someone who’s not as little?

Image via JAG Models

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