Are you wearing your clothes or are your clothes wearing you? The fashion industry throws a lot of styles and beauty standards at us, but do they match our bodies? The fashion industry puts pressure on bodies: whether it’s on a supply chain, on a runway, in stores, or at home in front of our mirror. How many times have you bought a pair of jeans or another item one size down, thinking that you would lose weight eventually?

The fashion industry is setting unrealistic standards. Did you know that sizes were invited for the sake of profitability and profit? Like clothes, body features can change every season. The “perfect summer body” will be out by the winter or next season! It is a constant fight between our bodies and the garment industry but we are ready to end this war. Let’s be real: the perfect body doesn’t exist!

Standardization of sizes

Throw away your art class notes, the Vitruvian Man may not exist! The aim here, is not to pick a bone with Leonardo Da Vinci, but can human bodies be completely and perfectly symmetrical? We might have a foot or a leg shorter than the other, an uneven breast or ear. We can’t meet all the beauty standards that the industry sets. Despite that, the garment industry still uses sizes and beauty standards to influence and indirectly standardize our bodies.

Our body their standards

The garment industry has declared war on our bodies. In fact, since the 1860s the production of uniforms for civilians has disrupted the entire clothing industry. In Europe, mass military mobilization, regime changes, and wars were largely responsible for the scale of fixed sizes. The massive orders gave birth to a new industry in its scope and organization. After World War II, the “ready-to-wear” or “le prêt-à-porter” starts to be used. Articles of clothing are now being mass-produced and ready to wear .

Sizes were therefore implemented by the International Organization for Standardization which is an independent, non-governmental organization founded in 1947. This organization facilitates world trade by providing common standards among nations: “More than twenty thousand standards have been set, covering everything from clothing size to manufactured products”. You can buy a pair of jeans in size 38 in Europe (EU), which is size 28 in the United States (US), size 42 in Italy, and size 2 in numeric sizes. According to the NGO: “The use of standards contributes to the creation of safe, reliable and good quality products and services”. However, in reality, these standards allow the continuous mass production of clothing for profit.

The industry but more precisely retailers and advertisers use those criteria to create and develop precise consumer groups. It is easier for them to measure, and identify a group for manufacturing and marketing purposes. In factories, items are made in different sizes but for the advertising, they usually choose extra small or small sizes. Brands are now trying to change those habits. A clothing manufacturing technician told us that this advertising choice creates a lot of damage to the environment. Clothes that are promoted by small sizes people are more likely to be returned and those returns often end up in landfills because sending them back costs “too much”, for the brand. If you want to know more about clothing waste, click here.

This marketing technique also damages your self-esteem. Do you wonder why the item doesn’t fit your body just like the model? Well, we often don't realize that those items are tailored-made for the model just for the photoshoot. They make alterations to make the garment fit perfectly. Because of that, we find ourselves in an “Instagram vs Reality” situation where the item looks perfect on the website but not on us.

Sizes matter

The other issue is that standard sizes are more likely to be based on a “Western” type of body: “ we use as Apollo and Antinous, both a God and a man at the prime of all his physical capacities as references for ideal models”. The size standards set by the clothing industry are often at odds with the diversity of bodies. We are not built the same, but we still have to fit into the same jeans. These standards do not take into account, the breasts, the different sizes of thighs, or the various handicaps.

The industry defined a body standard that serves as a benchmark for the tailoring, therefore bodies are forced to inhabit the ideal body of industrial standards. Before the industrial era, people wore custom clothing that they could change over time: «The tailor must study his model, as the artist studies his subject ». You were wearing your clothes and not the opposite. We have since then mechanized the art of the tailors. The shape of a T-shirt can change depending on the size of the chest, the width of your shoulders, or something else but you shouldn’t feel bad. Industrial items are usually made to fit certain types of bodies and not all of them. We need to own our differences and work with what we have got.

At COSH! we want to change the fashion and the garment industry. We would like humans and the environment to be respected but there is still a long way. Studies found that diversity and inclusion contribute to increased revenue for the firm and attract a wider customer base

A positive alternative

Thankfully, some professionals in the field fight against these unrealistic views of beauty. COSH interviewed No Babes, a collective with a new vision that wants to change and break those unrealistic standards. It’s time to resist and act!

Not perfect, but models

Meet No Babes ! No Babes “is a collective that questions taboos in all kinds of creative ways wants to give a voice to people who are often kept small by the current ideals within this society, and wants to boost the mental health of young adults”. At No Babes, every shade of beauty is represented. A part of the collective is a talent agency and an academy. The agency specializes in redefining beauty and inclusion in the fashion and lifestyle sector by representing models, make-up artists, and stylists: “We believe that everyone you see in the streets deserves a platform in the media landscape, and we contribute to that”. The Academy offers workshops to put diversity and inclusivity further in the spotlight.

We asked Morgane Gielen, a fashion/lifestyle photographer and the founder of No Babes to explain the concept further in-depth.

Can you please introduce yourself?

I’m Morgane, I’m 27 years old. In 2019, I started as a full-time freelance lifestyle photographer and a couple of months later I started No Babes as a voluntary project because I wanted to show the world what I was about and what my norms and values were as a photographer. We are a taboo-breaking collective that gives voices to people who are silenced. I photograph people and let them tell their stories. It first started with photoshoots for my first photobook then it evolved into this project but everyone thought that I was crazy because I’m young. They told me that “I needed experiences” and I was like “No”, I want to show the world what I am about. I organized an exhibition in June, all financed by crowdfunding, I did pre-orders of the tickets and had my book ready. It was a great success. I had to take 500 books from my publisher in order to sell them myself. They were saying that they did not want to take the risk to print more books and cover all the costs as I was still young and unknown. A year later, I almost sold all my 500 books, I have 22 left. I invested 12 000 euros in it, and with every book I sell, I get my money back.

Thanks to the exhibition and the books, No Babes grew bigger. In November 2021, a Belgian television program called “#Nofilter” on “Iedereen Beroemd” followed me during shoots of No Babes models. We have now a podcast named “Taboo Talk” where we tell stories in a wider format.

In January 2022, I started a model agency. It was not part of the plan but I did a lot of research. I meet so many great people, so I wanted to give them opportunities in the fashion industry and there is no such agency in Belgium. An agency like this exists in our neighbouring countries, but we noticed that France and Italy are still pretty classic in their model choices.

Why the name “No Babes”

The name came from a brainstorming session with a marketing agency. I was trying to explain that I didn’t like to photograph the “babes”, the perfect pretty models. I like the alienesque, bizarre faces and the stories behind those faces. So someone said: “ So you don’t like to photograph the babes, you like the no babes”. It was exactly that. However, everyone is a babe in my eyes. The beauty ideal is so unrealistic that no one actually matches those standards, even the “most beautiful” people. People that I know that are close to those beauty standards are the most insecure ones. They feel the pressure of being perfect all the time and it’s unrealistic.

Why is No Babes needed in this industry?

No Babes Agency is needed because people don’t see themselves on television or in the media. Growing up, you feel isolated and discriminated against and a lot of people are scared of things they don’t know. We want to build a bridge, by sharing knowledge and stories about people that normally don’t get showcased. We want to create connections between different groups of people. We are trying to connect people together.

What is body positivity for you?

I don’t really like the term “body positivity”, I prefer “body love” or “body acceptance”. The Body Positivity movement originated from the queer, black, trans community alongside the Fat Rights Movement/Fat acceptance movement in the ’60s in New York. They burned diet books on the streets and they started this movement because they were discriminated against. Knowing that and seeing white people using this term, I don’t want to use it. I have nothing against a movement that accepts all bodies but the term if you look back at history belongs to this community.

What discovery has surprised you the most since the launch?

The thing that surprised me the most since the launch is that people in the industry didn’t take our approach seriously. They spent less money and time on our models. A model size 36, measuring 175cm is getting more paid jobs. They keep asking me if my models are for free. They think that the exposure is enough. I keep on telling them that they are professionals. I also noticed that other agencies are not ready for change. If one of my models is walking for them, they will spend 5 min on her max and ask the model to lose weight. I have to remind them that in the email I specifically said that we are an inclusive agency. We don’t want our models to lose weight and we want to represent everyone. It’s a constant struggle depending on the country to get our models out there.

Do you think that things are changing?

Yes, the industry is changing but slowly. We can see that our models are getting booked and we see more inclusive campaigns which is super great. I really love that but we have a group of agencies that does it because it’s a trend and another group that really wants to see some changes. Even if some have bad intentions, it’s a step in the right direction.

In short

We want the entire garment industry to become more eco-responsible and ethical, that’s why we want to highlight good alternatives and inspire others. A large scale of models, sizes, more diversity, and inclusion are now needed in the fashion industry. Society is changing and the fashion industry needs to keep up with it and not the other way around.





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- Fulerand-Antoine Barde, Traité encyclopédique de l’art du tailleur, Paris, Chez l’auteur, 1834, p. 57-60, p. 85 et p. 141.

- Vandael, Manuel théorique et pratique du tailleur…, Paris Roret, 1833, p. 137-139.