In fitting rooms across the planet, “Does it make me look fat?” — is without a doubt the pivotal issue that makes or breaks a clothing sale. Ultimately, it’s a rhetorical question because the woman doing the trying-on will make the call herself. If she has even the slightest uncertainty that the garment doesn’t shave ten pounds off her hips, midsection or thighs, chances are, it’s cast aside. And the alarming thing is, the question is as likely to be asked by a size 8 as a size 18! These days, I’m frequently found in fitting rooms — my calendar is full with image consultations as old clients and new come to terms with crisp mornings and sweaters at sundown. It’s almost fall. Time to freshen up and get back to business.

Although the FAT question is all too familiar, when it comes to image and creating an individual sense of style, my guiding principle is body proportion. What most people don’t realize is that while ten pounds makes the difference between one size and the next, those same ten pounds don’t alter the basic proportions of a body. Short neck or short legs? The right necklines and skirt silhouettes will play magical tricks. Same story for sloping shoulders or thick thighs. My strategy is to enhance the body’s framework with confidence-building clothing.

I know size doesn’t really matter because ten pounds here or there won’t make a difference to the body’s intrinsic shape, but sometimes it’s a challenge to make a perfectly proportioned client accept the fact that her Size 10 or 12 frame is not overweight. There is something wrong when educated, successful women have Size 0 as a goal. Last fall I mentioned Countess Filippa, the Ralph Lauren model fired for weighing in at 120 pounds. To add insult to injury, scary Photoshopping for a Japanese advertisement turned her body into a Barbie doll.

ShapeThere’s no question that the fashion industry is the source of this Size 0 fixation and now, with the annual release of the mega-sized fashion magazines and their fall coverage, I’m inclined to think there’s extra pressure brought to bear. I was intrigued to read in a recent New York Times article, that German magazine Brigitte has decided, instead of rail thin models, to photograph real women, despite hostile criticism from designer Karl Lagerfeld. Incidentally, when Herr Lagerfeld designed a condensed collection for retailer H&M a few years ago, he insisted that production be restricted to small sizes.

Closer to home, Glamour magazine has made headlines for featuring so-called plus-size models on several occasions. (Most would argue that these women are healthy and normal, not overweight.) Although the intent is noble — to discourage women from aspiring to wafer thinness — the overwhelming trend for fashion shows and photography continues to be Size 0 models.

But there is progress, of a different sort. Typically fashion magazines worship youth but three of this fall’s gigantic issues feature 40-plus cover girls. Something of a milestone, although admittedly, all three are movie stars: Julia Roberts (Elle), Halle Berry (Vogue), Jennifer Aniston (Harper’s Bazaar).

Read more from Glamour, “Who says supermodels have to be thin?”

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Diane Craig
Image and Etiquette Expert

Diane Craig, President of Corporate Class Inc., is a leading image and etiquette consultant. For over 20 years she has provided corporate consultations, helping hundreds of men and women realize their professional and personal goals. She is a sought after speaker at national business meetings, regularly gives comprehensive workshops to corporate groups, and offers private consultations on business etiquette, dress and dining.