Well, this is confusing.
Fashion designer Collette Dinnigan has come under fire after criticising the weight of young Australian women. She argues that both (a) showing off their stomachs with midriff tops is unacceptable, and (b) covering up with kaftans should not be condoned.
48-year-old Dinnigan criticised overweight girls with “big burger bellies”, which she described as “unattractive”. In an interview with fashion writer Anooska Tucker-Evans for The Courier-Mail, Dinnigan said:
“I see so many girls with those cut-off short shorts and midriff tops and their big bellies hanging out the top of them and I’m just thinking, `Why on earth would you think this looks attractive?’
“I walk down the street and they’re 16-17 years old and I feel like saying to them, `It’s just so unattractive, you have no idea.’ ”
As well as condemning girls who have decided to show off their bodies with revealing clothing, Dinnigan criticises young women who have tried to cover up – mentioning kaftans in particular.
She explained, “[Wearing kaftans] is kind of women’s way of just covering up. I think it’s better to look at your health and get your body in shape.”
So, teenage girls aren’t allowed to flash flesh or cover up? Of course, this message is only directed at girls with “big burger bellies”.
Perhaps Dinnigan’s bottom line is: You are welcome to wear whatever the hell you want. As long as you’re skinny.
And yet Dinnigan insisted that she wasn’t promoting the need for girls to be skinny – just the need for girls to look after their health. She said, “I’m not promoting being too slim; I’m promoting being actually healthy.”
The fashion designer also called on teachers and parents to make more of an effort in educating kids about what they should be eating – and what they shouldn’t be eating.
“I’m not some skinny, twiggy, little girl, I’ve got a body and I’m healthy, but there’s so much over-processed food and salts and sugars and burgers and pizzas, and everything is fast food as opposed to making the effort and eating well. I think our schools and parents need to teach skills like that.”
The fashion industry places a high premium on the thinness – not the healthiness – of models, and some have questioned whether Dinnigan (who has worked in the industry for two decades) is really the right person to be giving advice on health and fitness to young Australian women.
Ah Collette Dinnigan, a muffin-top short of empowering
— Bianca Wordley (@bigwordsblog) December 14, 2013
Irate with Collette Dinnigan’s article criticising teens with “burger bellies”. As if they don’t have self-esteem issues already. #getaclue
— Elspeth Johnston (@SpethJ) December 14, 2013
Dear Collette Dinnigan way to go on helping teen girls with self confidence and body image
— Nathalie Brown (@easypeasykids) December 13, 2013
Very very slender hungry girls walking a catwalk in Dinnigan creations are the definition of attractive, right? http://t.co/mBiVjFAFTV
— Verity Chambers (@veritychambers) December 13, 2013
Dinnigan’s message to the young women (and, noticeably, not the young men) of Australia is pretty clear: Shape up. Slim down. Don’t eat pizza.
But is this the best way to promote a message of health and wellbeing – by criticsing the sartorial choices of teenage girls, who already feel an immense of pressure to look a certain way? And should the responsibility for educating young people about the fact that Maccas contains fats really fall to our schoolteachers?
Most pertinently, are fashion designers the best people to turn to for health advice – or might we be better off listening to our doctors?
Here’s a gallery of “plus sized” (please note inverted commas) models, who might have bellies – but we think are gorgeous nonetheless.
Do you think Dinnigan’s sentiment is spot on, or do you think she could have delivered her message in a better way?