That's what women of all backgrounds have been saying for years now; that's the sentiment that lead to #BlackGirlMagic and the Women's March and the #MeToo movement. Fashion is gradually starting to get the picture, with runways and magazines featuring more models of color, more trans and non-binary models and more plus-size models (although, guys, Ashley Graham is not the only plus size model out there).
But while the industry is taking baby steps towards improvement, there's one place still sorely lacking in diversity: street style. By and large, street style galleries across the internet are dominated by the same thin, cis, white women, with a few influential women of color sprinkled in, and, very rarely, maybe a plus-size woman. This is especially egregious when you consider that street style, by definition, is meant to represent the hundreds of diverse people attending fashion shows around the world. Where are the plus-size women? I tweeted about this all the way back in 2014, and I still don't have an answer.
I'm a size 14. More than any aspect of this industry — more than being in close proximity to models, more than trying to shop the same brands as my friends do, more than leafing through the pages of Vogue, more than the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show — fashion month is the thing that makes me feel the worst about my body. There is something singularly degrading about putting thoughtful effort into an outfit every morning, then walking through crowd after crowd of street style photographers knowing that each one is looking at you — or in some cases, right through you — deciding whether you are worthy of the space on their SD card.
And I'm not alone. This week I've talked to so many editors, many of whom I'm lucky to call friends, about how truly awful street style can make us feel about ourselves. On top of being whip-smart and hard-working, these women are also all beautiful and have great personal style, with all different body types and skin colors; some of them even get shot fairly regularly for street style. Even so, street style has the power to make each and every one of us feel down on ourselves and cause our confidence to crumble.
You could say that this is a personal problem we should probably discuss with a therapist. You could also say that perhaps the bottom line is that we all just don't dress well (you're wrong, but thank you for the input). I'd argue that it has at least a little bit to do with the fact that all we have to stack ourselves up against are the same handful of thin, white influencers, dressed head-to-toe in borrowed or gifted designer looks, each one looking more formulaic than the last. This isn't to knock influencers; those women (and men!) are also extremely hard-working, deserving of their place at the top of the industry and perfectly entitled to collect checks for getting a brand placement that results in sales. But when every street style gallery becomes an 80-page slideshow of what essentially amounts to advertising — and a repetitive record of the same faces who happen to be chummy with an important photographer — we have to admit that somewhere along the line, street style has lost its luster.
Street style used to be about true personal style. It used to be fun. We can still give space for those influencers, who are obviously an essential part of fashion week, but is it that hard to find people who look different? I've seen them at the shows, I've seen them backstage, I've seen them outside the venues — and I've watched as street style photographers have dropped their cameras and deemed them unworthy. To be sure, there are still well-established photographers working the scene who have an eye for interesting, unique style, but by and large it seems like the sidewalks are dominated by swarms trained to follow the hoards to the next skinny girl — sometimes even endangering others, shoving them in the frenzy to get the shot, even at busy intersections.
To change this would mean that everyone across the ecosystem would have to make an active effort. Publications would have to push their photographers to do better, photographers would have to look for compelling or different details instead of flocking around the same women, brands would have to start dressing women and influencers across different body types. If there's a fear that including more behind-the-scenes, unfamiliar faces would result in a traffic dip, it's surely unfounded, as if there's one thing I've learned working on the internet, reader boredom is your biggest enemy. There is no one perfect solution, but to change it could also make our industry a friendlier place. It would mean women like myself, women like my friends, could see ourselves reflected amongst our peers in the industry in the way that we deserve.
Homepage photo: Imaxtree