By Kerry O'Connor
Long before I became a stylist in the fashion industry, my boobs and I didn’t have a great relationship. I’m an A cup and the matriarchs in my family are quite well endowed. On top of this, I admittedly let the media have its way with me and cause me to want big boobs and a flat stomach.
My perception of boobs shifted as I began my career in the body image consumed fashion industry. As a stylist at a well-known retail company where I worked at for over three years, I styled many of the industry’s top models (even some VS girls). I became accustomed to the typical model body type and it would influence my styling. I would skip the bra and would style jackets with nothing underneath. Also a lot of the clothes we sold were sheer and our policy became either blur the nipples out (very alien-esque) or style with just a bra under. Never really showing the customer who’s bigger than a B cup how to realistically style this top or dress. This did make me feel ingenuine and like I was feeding into the negative image the industry is imprinting on girls and women. However, at times, I found myself giving in to the belief that smaller boobs allowed for the garment to speak for itself.
When the occasional model with bigger boobs would come in, my fellow stylists and I were told to be more selective with the tops or dresses we were putting them in. Because of their boob size, the clothes/images read too “sexy,” yet, a girl with smaller boobs looked “cool” in a low cut style. A very popular totally on-brand model came in with an average boob size and the style director said, “She was hard to dress.” I remember thinking, are we really not going to use this girl because she had a D cup? The editorial ended up being so cute, again causing me to question, what kind of message we were trying to send as a brand.
I asked my close friend, a designer at the same company I worked for, for her experience about the industry being weird about boobs. She paused for a moment and had a realization that she, having small boobs, tends to design tops for her body type. She didn’t intend to exclude other body types, but the fit of the garment would undoubtedly be influenced by her bias. I appreciated her honesty and started to think about the scale of designer bias. I thought of the girl that’s excitedly opening her package from this company and being upset by the fact that the size she normally wears doesn’t fit her. Women and girls of all sizes shop this brand so it really isn’t right to cater to a boob size minority.
At a recent freelance gig, I was styling several female models. The models shared typical characteristics of being tall, thin, and pretty. A new model walked in who was also tall, thin, and pretty. However, when the client saw this model dressed, immediately tuned to the producer asking why she booked a model with such big boobs for this job (even though it was a last minute addition). I was behind a curtain with one of the other models when I heard what the client said. The other model and I looked at each other in disgust. The new model was to be sent home! This is when the light bulb went off for me and I realized that this was a missed opportunity for a woman with her boob size and beauty to be featured in this campaign.
What originally drew me to this industry was my love of fashion and the potential to express and contribute my creativity in this way. Now we have a chance as creators (designers, stylists, art directors, marketing experts, CEO’s) to marry our creativity with wisdom for change.
Working in this world of fashion, we have a responsibility whether we recognize it or not. Boobs are not a trend that goes in and out of style. Fashion and style can be a beautiful way of expressing ones self and aid in building self-confidence. But the fashion industry has a long way to go. It might be “easier” to design and style clothes for a thin girl with small boobs, but at what expense. We’re missing out on honoring all women and all sizes.