ModCloth Is More Than Pretty Clothes; It Reminds Us That Style Transcends Size
I'm the first to admit that when it comes to the way clothing companies advertise and display their wares, I tend to take the hard, unwavering stance of Body Image Police Officer, or at least Body Image Curmudgeon. I'm a cynic about these things–in my mind, apparel companies are one more enemy to fight in the war against unrealistic images and standards of beauty.
Even many brands that aren't intentionally promoting a certain body type contribute to the problem by failing to present any alternative to standard size models (which we also see in advertising, television, magazines and all over the Internet). They may not all be as blatant as Abercrombie & Fitch (whose CEO thinks only thin, popular kids should wear its clothing), but let's face it: How many brands advertise “ultra skinny” and “skinny mini” pants? I understand that in this context, “skinny” is meant to refer to the style and cut of the clothing, not the wearer; but there's still something about the use of “ultra” and “mini” that seems a bit over the top. What ever happened to words like “fitted” or “tight”?
I don't set out looking for the flaws, however. In fact, I'm a big proponent of calling out and supporting companies that stray from the norm and present straight and plus size models side-by-side, as though there were no difference between them (because there really shouldn't be; all sizes buy clothes). And that's why I'd like to recognize ModCloth, the online vintage and vintage-style clothing emporium that's launched a thousand Zooey Deschanel look-a-likes.
ModCloth deserves recognition for its equalizing approach to apparel modeling. In addition to a dizzying array of gorgeous dresses and a seemingly infinite supply of cute and quirky shoes, ModCloth boasts a refreshing attitude toward plus-size models and apparel. It offers the option of shopping a separate plus-size clothing category, but if you bypass that and choose to browse through their general selection of tops, bottoms, swimsuits, or anything else, you'll find the straight size and plus size items positioned right alongside each other, just as they should be.
ModCloth's photographic spreads operate the same way, with plus size and straight size models styled in equally cute ways and often sharing the same frame. It encourage users to post pictures of themselves in the clothing items to give others with similar body types an idea of how it might fit them. And it posts open calls for models (straight and plus size) on their website, with more emphasis on attitude and confidence than details about what said models should look like. Yes, it does list what sizes ones must wear in order to qualify as a plus size model, but the overall presentation of what ModCloth is looking for is so positive that it's hard to fault them for specifying that a size 8 doesn't count as plus size (and, duh).
Another thing I like is how ModCloth regularly posts tips about how to wear a given item from their stylists, who are always pictured and represent a range of shapes, sizes and looks. But my favorite thing is the website's style gallery, where women (and the occasional dude) post pictures of themselves in their purchases. In this way, ModCloth invites shoppers to become its models. Seeing all sorts of bodies and sizes displaying fierce, fun fashion does a great job of reminding us that no matter your dress size, leg length or bust measurement, you can still have style. You deserve clothing that makes you look on the outside as fabulous as you feel on the inside, and you deserve clothing companies that recognize this.
I've taken to browsing ModCloth not just because I like ogling pretty clothes, but because I like seeing how everyday women (by which I just mean non-models) are expressing their unique style. And I've found that as I shop the site, I think much less about what will flatter my figure or whether certain garments are “right” for my body type. Instead, I find myself wondering whether I'll feel good in that dress or pair of pants. The experience becomes less about limitations, and more about explorations of what's possible. And all of this because ModCloth has made the simple move of not grouping and judging us based on the size of our clothing. It's funny how something so small can mean so much.
All photos from ModCloth Style Gallery