When it comes to the fashion industry, diversity is in right now.
Modelling agencies are being pushed to tackle under-representation and celebrate people of all shapes and sizes. Plus-size models are storming the field with Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham appearing in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Elle. ASOS recently received enormous praise for featuring black plus-size model Vivian Eyo- Ephraim in their swimwear section and Leyna Bloom is campaigning to be the first transgender model to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
Being short is not as historically disenfranchised as other groups. The average height for adult women in the UK is 5’4″, yet petite consumers are still inadequately represented in the industry.
There have been attempts to promote pocket-sized fashion with the majority of high street brands including a petite collection which caters for girls 5’3 and under. However Miss Selfridge, Missguided, Next and Zara (to name a few!) are still using 5’9″ models to promote products.
Also, the thirteenth season of America’s Next Top Model which premiered in 2009 ran a competition exclusively for models 5’7 or shorter. Ironically, the winner Nicole Fox was one of the tallest girls in the show and none of the other contestants have gone on to gain work on the runway since.
Some of the world’s most iconic fashion gurus were of petite stature including Elizabeth Taylor 5’2, Marilyn Monroe 5’5 and Twiggy 5’6. Most notably Kate Moss, who could be argued as the most successful model of all time, was largely stigmatised for her standing at 5’6.
Here are some of the petite models struggling to squash the restrictions of modelling worldwide:
Eli Yeung, Model, 5’6, Cambodia.
“I do think that this could be the start of a transitional period in the industry. As for now however, the demand is deficient if you do not meet the standard model measurements. As a petite male model, I can only be cast with another petite model due to proportion. Usually a ‘standard’ female model without heels is about the same height as me, if not taller. Therefore jobs I get are usually solo, advertisements or portraits. For petite models there is a 99.9% chance you won’t be on the runway as they are strictly for the ‘standard’ models, unless you are Kate Moss with a strong personal brand.”
Keanna Bryant, Model, 5’2, New York.
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“I have never reached the height requirements for modelling and I have been denied numerous times. People especially tried to discourage me from walking the runway. Mainstream modelling still depicts beauty as tall and slim and petite girls are not considered for high fashion modelling, instead they are pushed into lingerie, swimwear and body part modelling. Six years ago I was the only petite model walking the runway in New York, now more and more petite models are coming out. Hopefully this is a transitional time for the industry.”
Mckenna, Petite Fashion Blogger, USA.
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I love rainy Sundays! I think they are so relaxing. We had a great relaxing day going to church (for the first time in a while) and then getting pizza for lunch. It’s chilly again so pulled the sweaters back out. Added my favorite black and white accessories because basic neutrals are always in style. Happy weekend everyone! 😁
“I think there aren’t enough petite models because we still think that taller people get noticed more. If we put a tall model next to a petite model, the tall model would get more attention just because people are in awe of tall things: buildings/sculptures/people. The bigger/taller the more interesting they are visually. I think the attitude will change when models of all sizes are working together on the runway. In the near future? Probably not. I think that right now it has become engraved that models must be tall and skinny. We’ll get more petite models when we also get more plus sized and normal sized models.”
Bernadette Lemon, Model, 5’4, UK.
“The phrase ‘we use models of all shapes and sizes’ I feel still doesn’t have any relevance. Plus sized models are now being more widely used but petite models are still overlooked unless they are from a well known background. There have been NUMEROUS times where I have turned up to a shoot and the photographer says ‘oh, you’re much shorter than I thought you were.’ Too many people in the business are still focused on measurements and ticking boxes that they kill what modelling and the creative industry is all about. Designers and photographers should choose a certain model because of his or her personality and style rather than taking height over all of that.”
However, it doesn’t seem that the barriers of the modelling world are going to be broken down anytime soon. Jane Elliott, founder of Elliott Brown Modelling Agency said: “I have a huge number of applications from girls under 5’6 but we will only take them on if they are suitable for our work/clients. It just so happens that many clients are looking for taller girls, certainly for clothes, as they tend to ‘see’ the clothes looking better on them and there are not many manufacturers that make clothes for smaller women or men.”
Joanne Lewis, former stylist for ASOS and All Saints said: “I don’t think you will ever see petite women on the catwalks or in high fashion. I also think that with petite brands and sizing being increasingly available, there isn’t so much of a need for it anymore.”
Bernadette Lemon concluded: “The answer is ambiguous as to whether the generic 5’10 chiselled faced model era is coming to an end. Obviously they are still beautiful, but it is becoming even more crucial to show versatility and variation to encourage people to feel confident in themselves. Representing different heights is just as important as different waist sizes.”