From Straight Size To Curve Model: My Fashion Week Story | Sophie Thomas | Open Letter
September 4, 2023 • Sophie Thomas
Dear 17-year-old Sophie,
Congratulations, all those sci-fi novels you’re eating up on set right now have come true - I’m writing this from the future.
And to some extent, those novels predicted some crazy stuff - as I write, there are robots and AI booking modelling jobs instead of you right now. I will stick up for these kinda-sentient-sorta-conscious beings by asserting that this is a direct result of the industry’s drive for a more diverse, more inclusive push in model representation. A more progressive idea of what fashion looks like. Fashion Weeks today offer hope and excitement; albeit slowly, fashion is celebrating the different shapes and backgrounds of people everywhere.
And I know that 17-year-old Sophie would’ve never dreamed that such a demand could ever have been predicted - not even in her favourite sci-fi novel.
I know that right now, you’re (I’ll admit, successfully) juggling your very first Fashion Week prep with surviving the social labyrinth of sixth form.
There’ll be days when you pine for those “normal” teenage moments of not fitting in or struggling with friendships. Those days are when the fashion world appears the most ugly. Sometimes you’ll hobble out of a casting, your joints straining not from the ill-fit heels you’ve picked up from New Look, but under the weight of all the words unspoken to one casting director.
But, Sophie, there’s not a thing you could’ve protested to that woman. Even after she tutted at the sight of puberty daring to inch its way into every lining of your hips; even after whispering disapproval to a disinterested assistant; even after concluding, “too fat” as one debates which brand of bread to buy for tomorrow’s breakfast, no boundary or rebuttal would’ve changed a single thing.
And you’ll realise this as the castings unravel. It’s just business. You’re a defective product. You’re too big, too young, not young enough, too cute, too ugly. You’d be perfect if you weren’t so heavy, you’re overweight. The clothes fit, but they need to drape; you need to be thinner, but not be sick; run more, eat less. Try chewing gum instead of eating.
Suddenly, you feel a burgeoning self-conscious wrap around your 26-inch, Size 8 waist. It’s too much - and, by extension, not enough.
Even on the shows you book, something feels uneasy. The stylist will drape you in some assortment of beautiful silk and colour in each fitting. And they won’t be doing anything of significance, except hovering there, leaning on the clothes railing, holding your self-esteem together in the grooves between their fingers.
You’ll experience disapproving looks backstage which will translate into honey-coated instructions to lose weight, and you get the impression that if you had even a murmur of possibility to shave down your hip bones, she’d fast track you, first in line, to the nearest experimental procedure.
This Fashion Week will wear you down Sophie, for certain. You’ll weigh up carrots versus celery for dinner, because after all, “skinny girls” book the most jobs. Which means they must be the happiest, right? You’ll come home from castings at midnight and set your treadmill too, in your mind, a reasonable 6.5 km/h, all whilst scribbling linear equations answers in your homework book.
You’ll feel ashamed of the silhouette facing you in the mirror.
But, dear Sophie, I come from the future bearing good news (not about the state of the world, mind you - it’s a little bit on fire). Your Fashion Weeks will change. Your boundaries will improve. Most importantly, you’ll be with an amazing team of bookers who care about you and the ways in which clients treat you.
Future Fashion Weeks are exciting, Sophie, exactly because you’ll be accepted - embraced, even -for who you are. There are still Casting Directors 2.0 who are confused by the prospect of bodies or skin colours looking anything less than their own inflexible standards. Still, change is in the air, and this time, castings are abuzz with possibility and ‘what ifs’ - not a “what if they hate me”, but “what if they book me.”
That said, Fashion Week is still a recipe for burnout, and I urge you to treat it in the same way as you view an athletic event as you’ll get back into your martial arts (you’ll see - it’s awesome). Organising your time, planning your diary in advance, and scheduling in moments to prep snacks or food as well as regular movement will help you maintain sanity.
Knowing this, despite the odds still present, Fashion Week becomes something exciting - you’re not just a clothes hanger, you’re an image, a presence and aura, which clients can look forward to meeting.
As you become Future Sophie, you’ll grow into those hips you once saw as cumbersome and ungraceful; you’ll see your strong legs as the perfect vehicle to transport you from casting to casting. You’ll believe in yourself, and this will reflect in the work you do; the clients you interact with.
Becoming a model, you’ll realise, relies on your innate resilience and talents, too - so you can impart empowerment and assurances to young girls right now who relate a little bit too well with 17-year-old Sophie.
And I know, right now, Fashion Week feels a bit too much. But I promise you, it gets so much better- for you, and for all the others out there who have felt lost and betrayed by the industry. There is progress, even in the busiest time of year for fashion.
See you very soon,