the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Size 20


Fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier was controversial yesterday at his 30th anniversary show during fashion week in Paris.   Amidst all the size 0 models, Gaultier included one size 20 woman, wearing a sexy black corset.   Some writers have said that this is a positive development for the fashion industry, opening our eyes to different images of beauty.

I frankly think it is a gimmick, more of a joke at the expense of those wanting to ban “underweight” models from runways.   Everyone knows that size 20 is not going to be the norm for fashion models, so this is just a one-time gag.   It would have been a serious move to actually USE a size 12 or size 14 model, but no way — that would freak out the industry.   Here, everyone can play with the concept in a cute way, but not really do anything about it.

In other news, CNN, in a attempt to add more diversity to their broadcast, has signed a prominent African-American to read the news on Friday evening.



  1. CrankMama

    Thank you and thank your sensitive soul, Neil! I totally agree! It would have REALLY made a point had he put an actual “average” woman on the runway and made HER gorgeous… but instead, to put an outlier really just makes it sad.

  2. Tatyana

    She doesn’t look like she enjoys the role she’s been given.

  3. Felicity

    I’m with you on this. And I really can’t say anything else.

  4. Daisy Mae

    That is wrong on so many levels. What I want to know though is how did you get a pic of my sister in law in her corset?

  5. Jules

    She looks humiliated…so sad.

    (I have to laugh at the thought of Snoop Dog doing the news…would we get subtitles for all the “izzle” words? News might not seems so depressing with him delivering it.)

  6. Jules

    spell check Jules…”SEEM so depressing”

  7. Tara

    The fashion industry annoys the hell out of me. Do you know how many girls in my daughter’s high school have eating disorders? It’s ridiculous.

  8. Bama Girl

    I’m thinking that lady is bigger than a size 20. I agree with you that it would be a lot less shocking and more appropriate to use a size 12 model. That wouldn’t be so horrible, would it? I love how they always have an article in magazines about how some ex-model decided to give up modeling and let herself get HUGE–size 12!!!! Shocker!!!

  9. Peggy Archer

    I’ll agree that it doesn’t seem serious. I think he’s just trying to play a joke, and I’ll also agree that it would have taken a lot more huevos (and would really have made a statement) to send out an entire show of size 10 models.

  10. ally

    she looks sad. it’s ball-sy to actually strut down the catwalk with so many people being judgmental.

    it would have been a bigger statement to have all types of women (young, old, fat, skinny, black, white, brown, yellow and red).

  11. mari

    Does anyone remember Sophie Dahl?
    She was size 14-16 and absolutely gorgeous…She did those naked “Opium” ads and recently I’ve seen her advertising for Accesorize, alongside Naomi Campbelll and other top models. I’ve always wanted there to be more models like her, but she seemed an anomaly.

  12. teahouseblossom

    Arghh..I just loaded your page. Not first thing in the morning! Exploitation! Argh! My eyes!! My eyes!!!

  13. V-Grrrl

    Gaultier is sending a message? I’m sending one back–

    I hope that bitch in the black corset pulls out a whip and uses it on his arrogant ass before grinding her pretty silleto into his foot.

  14. V-Grrrl

    P.S. Neil, you look great in pink : D

  15. ThisAint

    Oh my

  16. Dagny

    Can’t wait to see Snoop reading the news. Will he be doing it with his usual verbal style?

  17. M.A.

    They could start by using someone who is a size 6 or 8. Or by picking someone who isn’t 5’10 or above. See if anyone notices a difference and then keep moving forward.


    Anna Nicole wasn’t exactly skinny when she became the Guess? model, and the ads were so sexy, beautiful…
    I’d totally watch CNN if Snoop Dog reading the news!

  19. scott

    Tootie from the facts of life is going to be on CNN? Cool!

    Seriously, though. Who decided to call that character Tootie? How terrible.

    Hello, Neil.

  20. wendy

    Devils Advocate here…What is an AVERAGE woman? What is beauty…and…why the comments about the model..So Chubby is ok..and big is not? Maybe..just maybe..he found beauty in this girl…as for exploitation..What do you think they are doing to the skinny modles with the huge silicon orbs on their chests..That’s certainly some kind of sick joke also….Brave post Neil…

  21. Elisabeth

    V-grrrl – Excellent comment! I was going to write one along those lines, but you did it way better than I could have done it (except that the model would have been grinding her pretty stiletto into another part of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s anatomy.

  22. Lux Lisbon

    if i want to see fat girls strutting their stuff i can go to any mall in middle america.
    i want to see skinny models that look like hangers walking down the runway. there goes one of the last Un-P.C. places we had left in the world…

  23. Amy K

    I wish he would make a statement not about width but height; most women aren’t 5’10! I wish the designers would incorporate more petite models. Even though I am 5’0″, seeing a model at 5’4″ would be refreshing!

  24. Rach2

    First, I think this model is much larger than a size 20. Second, the mere fact that you’re writing about it is already good, even if it was a gimmick. Third, someone wrote that the model looked humiliated. She does not. Models often are told to look upset and obnoxious, that’s just part of the act.

  25. Cover Your Mouth

    By trotting out unhealthy versions of womens’ bodies at both ends of the spectrum, Gaultier has obviously missed the point. We just want to see models that look healthy. You’d think designers would want this too; otherwise the fascination with the model’s protruding rib cage (or in this case protruding thighs) takes our attention away from the clothes.

  26. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I’m with Rach2, she’s much bigger than a 20.

  27. Bre

    She certainly looks larger than a size 20, but that may be because she’s pear-shaped. They couldn’t have done her hair/makeup any worse, could they?

  28. e.

    I second Rach2 on the “model face.” Have you ever seen a model walk down the catwalk looking happy? No.

    What I find offensive is that the plus-size model is dressed in a dominatrix-style corset, etc. The idea of her cracking a whip and stomping on Gaultier, men in general, etc. in a stiletto makes it even more ridiculous. If the only way Gaultier can show a size 20 (or more) model is by throwing up a stereotype/cliched gag fantasy, then it’s not even a cutesy joke, it’s just disgusting.

  29. kristen

    I’ll go with Snoop reading the news anytime. But I thought he gave up on the milk weed?

  30. party girl

    Until the world finally recognizes that a size 14+ female is the norm, not the exception, it will never happen.


  31. Neil

    Wendy — big is fine in the real world, but let’s take this one step at a time in the “fantasy” world of fashion. It is baloney to believe that models are going to go from size 0 to over size 20 overnight.  Is fashion supposed to be a freak show, only with extremes? Let’s get used to models being a size 8-10 and slowly work our way up the spectrum over what is “acceptable” in selling women’s clothes to consumers, most of who are size 12-16.
    And yes, Sophia called me and said she is NOT a size 20. I’m not sure why Reuters said she was size 20. Maybe not enough female reporters.

  32. Lela

    I agree with you, E.–the outfit is completely different from the rest of the clothing line; Gaultier wishes to make fun of women who are larger than he thinks they should be. If size matters, he should whip it out–I’ve got a ruler fo’ his ass!!

  33. plain jane

    Lux Lisbon: This doesn’t have anything to do with being P.C., it has to do with eating disorders which are life-threatening and very difficult to recover from.

    Yeah, Snoop! Finally, I will watch CNN.

  34. ms. sizzle

    i agree with you neil. i love how you are a male voice in the fight for body acceptance. thanks for posting this.

  35. Neil

    Ms. Sizzle — don’t think me very noble. I just like women with nice asses.

  36. TamiW

    I am mostly concerned with the rats nest hair-do they gave her. Regardless of her size how can anyone think that hair looks pretty or sexy?

  37. Lauren

    Perhaps she does look sad – but don’t all models?

  38. Leesa

    How about girls under 5’5?? 😉

  39. Edgy Mama

    Yep. Weirdness.

    I am most average-sized chick ever (5’5″, 128 lbs) but I can’t find a pair of jeans that fit right to save my life. Pisses me off.

  40. rach

    I think it is an attempt by the fashion industry to show it is listening to the world. All it does is make a whole joke of size. I agree with most others, stick size 14 women on the runway, and then we will believe they are making an effort.
    And I will say this, she looks humiliated and not really having a very nice time of it

  41. Dustin

    Wait, you’re saying that I still don’t have a chance at becoming a model in Pairs??? And finally I thought this beer belly would be good something! dah!

  42. mmariem3

    good post. Size twenty or size zero – I can only shake my head at the world of fashion. I want to see what real clothes look like on real women.

  43. psychomom

    I vote to see Jean Paul Gaultier or Snoop in a sexy black corset. Then we can all look upset and obnoxious.

  44. Danny

    Mari, isn’t Sophie Dahl super skinny now? I believe she is although I admit I’m more interested in her grandparents’ Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal (and Stanley Holloway on her father’s side) than her weight. Too bad she didn’t start a trend when she was heavier. It wasn’t all that long ago when “full-figured” woman were the beauty ideal. Wouldn’t Marilyn Monroe be considered “plus size” today?

    I don’t think that model above looks more miserable or humiliated than any other model on a runway.

  45. Neil

    La Coquette, I’m waiting for you.

  46. OldOldLady Of The Hills

    Even if it is a gag, as you said and you are no doubt right…I still think it is GREAT to see ANY WOMAN of ANY SIZE other than the Biafria-Like Starving-Bodies that have now become the ‘norm’. Deliver me, please!

  47. Dagny

    Here’s a funny thing. I am 5’10” and wear a size 4. I rarely buy pants. Why? Because they are too short for me. If I am the designer’s perfect size, or at least very close to it, then why can’t I find pants that are long enough?

  48. Scarlet

    I have no problem with them using thin models for fashion. Obviously not anorexic, unhealthy ones, though. The size 20 model is overweight and, therefore unhealthy, right? It’s the same thing. I agree about putting a normal-size 12 or 14 up on there. Someone who is in shape, just not a twig.


  49. wendy

    Well…Freak show..Neil is a bit of an overstatement…but I loved that its both of the extreems you are including here. Perhaps the designer is purposely working that angle..rather than playing a joke. Isn’t he known for blurring the his fashion…ANYWAy..’nother shout out for you, my friend, on mee little blog..crush…um no..just respect. Sophia, Quite a man you’ve got there…Todays poetry thursday…maybe you’ll get more poets..Anything I can do for you..Neilochka!

  50. Roberta

    I feel like I should have more to say about this.
    I think you’re right Neil.
    And I feel sad that you’re right.
    And I feel sad that the fine readers of your blog are preoccupied with whether or not she is a size 20. If you said a skinny model was a size 4, when she was really a 2 or 0 or 6, there would not be such a debate.
    I feel sad that I found her unattractive, and not just because of her bitchy (albeit typical for runway) expression and beastly hair.
    I feel sad that I have to endure this world, where fat is a joke and calling it out takes balls.
    I’m just sad.
    And sad as it makes me, here I go: She’s a tough size to call, because of the aforementioned pear shape. From the waist up she appears to be a 16 or 18 at the most, from the waist down, 26 or 28.

  51. Neil

    Wendy — when I say “freak show” I know I’m being a little exploitative myself, but it isn’t far from the truth here. I’m not worried about insulting women who are over size 20, because they would be the first ones to tell you that they DON’T expect a big call-out for models of their size. Like other weomen, they usually imagine a thinner version of themselves. They would be very happy to see a size 14 model, who could become their new “ideal.” But hardly anyone can become a size 0, so it just creates an illusion that will never be a reality for anyone, and screws everyone up — women because of their obesssion with body image and many MEN, who can only get it up with a woman who is size 2.

  52. Miss Syl

    Neil, you know I love you. And I know you are very supportive of women of various sizes. But I think you’re off base above.

    For one, the word “freakshow” did kind of insult me. Some women ARE naturally thin and a size zero. Some women are naturally big, and much bigger than a size 20. Neither should be considered “freakish.” What makes fashion shows freakish is that only ONE kind of woman is represented, instead of a variety of women of different shapes and sizes–as, in fact, THAT is who will be wearing clothes.

    Applying the word “freak” to women in any context (other than “she’s a supafreak, supafreak”) is really hurtful. It is especially hurtful when applied to women’s bodies.

    Now, I WILL give you that Gaultier’s stunt gave off the FEEL of “freakshow.” “Step right up and see the fat lady!” Which I think was entirely intentional. This was not a paean to larger women. This was deliberatly done to make the woman look stupid and freakish, to point out the “ridiculousness” of fat women in fashion. Why do I think this? Well, the rest of the models were showing sportswear.

    If Gaultier had wanted to make a point that large women had a place in fashion, she would have been wearing the collection all the other models were wearing–making her an equal to them. Instead, she was sent out in a ridiculous, costume-like monstrosity that intentionally accented her body in a way that would make it look extra distorted and ridiculous. Regardless of what the spin might be, it was obviously meant to be a cruel joke, to make a snobby designer’s point.

    Also, you said:
    [Women over size 20] would be very happy to see a size 14 model, who could become their new “ideal.”

    Why do women need to have any ideal other than what they are? The fact that there are more size 14s than size 0s doesn’t matter. Do you really think what is ideal for us is to aspire to ANY other shape that isn’t ours? I can tell you right now, even if a woman personally wants to lose weight or whatever, when it comes down to it, women don’t want any kind of “ideal” to aspire to. They want to be loved and respected as they are.

    And finally, to the reader who said, Size twenty or size zero – I can only shake my head at the world of fashion. I want to see what real clothes look like on real women, I want to say this:

    At one point in my life, I was a size zero. At another point in my life, I was a size 22. I didn’t realize at either of those points I’d ceased to exist.

  53. jleeody

    I like to see this kind of thing happening, but when I look in a magazine, though it was be great to see models that are nearer to a double digit size, I don’t want to see cottage cheese.

    This coming from a girl with a dimpled tuckus

  54. Neil

    Miss Syl — I apologize if I offended anyone. There was no intention.  I’ll take it out if you think it is hurtful.  You realize I was saying this model was being used as a “freak show” — because it was supposed to be shocking at having a size 20+ model walking down the runway.  I’m not saying SHE is a freak, only that her size is being used as a gimmick.

    I approach this topic with an air of realism, not idealism. Most models are not going to be size 20+. And the more I talk to women, the more I realize they are the toughest critics of other women. They do no want to really see “themselves” on the runway, like the last commenter said. They can see the cottage cheese on themselves. They do want to see an idealized form of themselves, just as we want our movie stars to look like George Clooney. That’s reality and to just say everyone should be happy with themselves is true, but in our thin-obsessed society, it’s just ridiculous to make believe that it is all going to disappear. But there is clearly nothing wrong with having a beautiful size 12 model. Most women can still fantasize about the beauty and buy the clothes, thinking they will look as good — and fashion designers can still make money, but the image being presented isn’t a sick one. And many of those size 0 models do look like they are sick, which makes it a freak show.

  55. liz elayne

    goodness. i was transfixed by all these comments and almost missed the challenge on my shallow evening treat of survivor. as someone who falls in that true average size, i must admit that my first thought when i saw this picture was, “she has to be so uncomfortable. she is probably hot because of all the lights and the excitement of it all and her thighs have to be rubbing together in a way that is uncomfortable. and that is something mr. designer man would not have thought about. but i would have.” there it has been said. i do not feel that is shallow, that is truth.
    i agree that women are their worst critics…putting a size 10 or 12 model on the runway would have been something else wouldn’t it?

    (i also want to admit that i enjoy learning a new side of you whenever i stop by. my first glimpse of this photo had me cringing thinking “what is he gonna say about this?” but i appreciate the points you made here.)

  56. Rach2

    What women are you talking to that want to see an idealized version of themselves on the runway?… Women I talk to would like to see normal women of all shapes and sizes on the runway.

    On the Project Runway show, the designers complained the most about a challenge in which they had to design for what is deceptively called a Plus Sized woman. They were trying to be PC in the interviews, but basically said that they hated designing for regular fat people, and that they never did it before and don’t plan to after.

  57. Tara

    Hey Neil,

    Thanks for making me your blog crush. Now, how does this work? Are there some kind of obligatory breast photos that I have to e-mail you for it?

  58. Neil

    Uh, Tara, we are supposed to discuss this privately. I’m trying to present myself as a real sensitive male who is very much into “women’s issues” and would never suggest exploiting my “sisters in bloghood.”

    But, just out of curiosity, what type of rack do you have?

  59. Miss Syl

    Neil: of course you don’t have to take it out, silly man. Just a difference of opinion. That’s what blogs are for–for everyone to express themselves.

    As to the rest, I’m not sure where you’re getting your facts about what most women prefer. I guess I can’t speak for “all women,” or even “most women.” But I don’t think that anyone can, unless they take a scientifically measured poll. All I can speak for with confidenc is myself and I can say that in fact I don’t particularly care to see an “idealized form of myself” and I would be perfectly happy to see someone who looked like me walking down the runway if the clothes made her look appealing.

    In fact, THAT would make me want to BUY the clothes…which hell, isn’t that the POINT? (Or at least, shouldn’t it be…to sell the clothes to people who will wear them?)

    Seeing that someone with a body nothing like mine (a supposed “perfect” body) makes the clothes look perfect…well, duh, no surprise there. Sure a flawless person will make the clothing look flawless. Doesn’t say bupkes about the clothes and their worth, ya know?

  60. Lux Lisbon

    plain jane-if you think that, than it shows you know nothing about eating disorders at all. they stem from many issues (mainly involving control) and can’t be blamed on the fashion industry alone. and like cover your mouth pointed out. being that fat is also very unhealthy. it’s ok to tell people to stop doing all kinds of things that are harmful to them yet it is not acceptable to tell a fat person they are killing themselves because it’s insensitive, sounds PC to me….

  61. Rach2

    Lux, are you nuts? “Eating disorders stem from many issues, mainly involving control”???
    Just how uninformed can one be? People who have eating disorders, and not all large or small people do,may have a multitude of health and emotional issues, control having nothing to do with that. That is just so judgemental and ignorant a statement. And no, it’s actually not OK to tell people “to stop doing all kinds of things” unless they’re doing something illegal or harmful to others.

  62. Lynn

    I think that most people need to realize that designers want thin models because clothing fits better on thinner women, that is a matter of fact (the same can be said for male models–but no one ever mentions that now do they?) In the end this is a runway show meant to sell the season’s line and models are chosen as one would choose the best clothing hangers for a collection represented on a rack in a showroom.

    Unfortunately many designers are mixing their design and tailoring skills with their whispy political beliefs and it leaves us all wondering what the fuck it all means. In the end, I don’t think even Mr. Gaultier knew what he meant by what he did. Remember, he is one of Madonna’s (Queen of Shock Value) top designers.

    I can tell you this: that “poor” fat girl wearing the undies was paid well and is most likely more proud of her skin and bones than most of us reading your blog and for that we mustn’t feel sorry.

  63. Neil

    I’ve always heard that argument that clothing fits better on size 0 models, but I’m not sure why this would be true — unless it was clothes for size 0 models.

  64. helz

    if these designers are so good, why can’t they make clothes that look good on women of all sizes, not just on size 0 models?

  65. Karla

    That’s one surly-looking model.

  66. cmhl

    she isn’t a size 20.. unless she is really short…

  67. alice

    i think we have to see the fashion world as a BUISINESS
    the reason most models are size 0, is because clothes look better on skinny women
    and for the size of the average model to change, you would have to change a lot of things about the whole fashion industry.

  68. angie, size 20 woman

    marilyn monroe is considered one of the most beautiful women EVER!! I bet you didnt know she was a size 14. with these skinny models today the fashion designers are really just sending their clothing down the run way on hangers! bravo to this woman for having the guts to show the world that the is beautiful!!! I wish I would have been walking behind her!

  69. Hugh Mungus

    You know, here’s an amazing thought… maybe the eating disorders at your daughters school should not be blamed on runway models, but instead seen as a backlash against all the disgusting obesity in our every day lives.

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