Thin privilege: the blurred lines of style and skinniness

If you’ve been active on social media recently, you’ve probably seen that strawberry dress popping up again and again. The $490 midi dress by fashion designer Lirika Matoshi has become an internet sensation, particularly on TikTok, and people are desperate to get their hands on it.

Before the garment gained such notoriety, it was being sported by plus-size model and blogger, Tess Holliday, when she attended the Grammys. Despite its current popularity, the dress landed Holliday on several “worst-dressed” lists back in January. It seems fatphobia still dominates the fashion industry: is fashionable just code for skinny?

On August 17, Holliday shared her thoughts on Instagram, writing: “I like how this dress had me on worst dressed lists when I wore it in January to the Grammys, but now bc [sic] a bunch of skinny ppl wore it on TikTok everyone cares. To sum it up: our society hates fat people, especially when we are winning.”

Holliday certainly has a point. The strawberry dress ultimately demonstrates what body types are deemed acceptable by society, and what clothes those so-called ‘other’ body types can and can’t wear. Holliday was wearing the dress in January, months before it became a viral sensation, and yet she received no credit for the craze. The strawberry dress only became desirable when it was seen to be worn on the ‘right’ type of body: someone skinny. Thinness, then, seems to go hand in hand with what we consider fashionable.

This begs the question: are we just appreciating a person’s body when we label them fashionable, rather than praising the creativity or style of the clothes they’re wearing? Yes, because a lot of the time, the clothes these people are wearing are hardly anything new or unique. What the individuals on the receiving end of these compliments are is skinny, and thus, they receive heaps of praise; their outfits becoming the subject of many a Pinterest board. People are praising how their bodies look in the clothes, rather than the clothes themselves.

When plus-size people wear a simple t-shirt with shorts or jeans, they are criticised for their sloppiness or called out for the unflattering nature of their outfit choice. Yet when skinny celebrities (think, the Hadid sisters, or Kendall Jenner), don the very same outfit, it is branded chic and effortlessly stylish.

The fashion industry must do more for body inclusivity. Even in 2020, the conflation between skinniness and style still pervades the industry, and clothing is very much judged by the bodies that wear it.


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Nerisse Appleby