Calvin Klein’s ‘Plus-Size Model’ Plays Defense

Calvin Klein model Myla Dalbesio‘s appearance on TODAY this morning was quite interesting. You’ve almost certainly heard of the story: the fashion giant has earned bad press for calling her “plus-size” when she is anything but to the average person…”average” meaning “anyone who is not so deeply embedded in the fashion industry that he or she loses all sense of perspective.”

The first thing we learned: neither Dalbesio nor her employer ever used the phrase “plus-size” to describe her.

Her interview with Savannah Guthrie starts around the two minute mark:

Yesterday Veronique Hyland of New York magazine’s The Cut blog wrote, “Far better to have sidestepped the size question, and just presented Dalbesio as the new spokesmodel.” This was our initial reaction as well, but it seems like that’s exactly what Calvin Klein wanted to do.

A key quote from the video:

“I think that Calvin Klein has done something that’s really groundbreaking…released this campaign with me right alongside all of the other girls of varying shapes and sizes, and didn’t make a fuss about it.”

But Entertainment Tonight ran a segment titled “Meet Calvin Klein’s New Plus Size Model,” because who could resist a headline like that? The phrase also appeared in this context in an Elle profile of Dalbesio last week:

“[She is] what the fashion industry would—still, surprisingly—call ‘plus size.'”

Even if no CK employee actually said that, does anyone doubt that it’s true? Here’s the company’s response:

“The Perfectly Fit line was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.”

So either Calvin Klein’s insistence on not calling attention to Dalbesio and instead allowing her to say, “I’m definitely bigger than all the girls [Calvin Klein] has ever worked with” ended up backfiring…or this is a simple case of every person on the Internet running with an appealing but false narrative.

What do we think?

At the very least, we don’t think this story will convince anyone that the fashion industry is approaching a reflection of what the rest of us call “reality.” And that is a conversation worth having again.