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How The Modelling Industry Still Falls Short

17/03/2016 5:41 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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By the time I'd reached the National Finals of Miss World Australia 2014, I knew I had no chance of winning.

An international photographer who specialised in beauty pageants told me that, at 165 cm, I was at least 10 centimetres too short. Undeterred, I asked one of the pageant specialists if this was the case. His response: "The shorter you are, the skinner you have to be".

I'm a size 6-8, and I keep fit, yet a fashion-industry professional once described me as "dumpy and short". So I'm resigned to the fact I'll never be a beauty queen, or the "Miss" of anything except my surname.

But I've been modelling for 11 years. I've worked with international photographers and was the face of nation-wide brand Ishka in 2013. I understand the industry, and photographers like working with me, yet I know I'm never going to be able to make a career out of it.

asleen mauthoor

"I'm never going to be able to make a career out of it." Image: Luisa Mars.

Every reputable modelling agency I've applied to has a 175 cm minimum height restriction. In short (see what I did there?) I'm considered a petite model, and there is very little work for petite models in this country.

This isn't just an issue for models -- it's also doing a disservice to most women. I'm marginally above average height for an Australian woman (Around 162 cm -- depending on where you get your stats) which means most women, whatever their shape, are still not being represented in the fashion images that pervade the media.

Internationally, things are finally changing. Ethnic models are in vogue and in 'Vogue', amputee models walked the catwalk at this year's New York Fashion Week, France has banned 'excessively thin' models, and the first plus-sized model has just been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Of course, plus-sized models have to be gorgeous, 5'9'' or taller and very well proportioned, with a significant discrepancy in their waist-to-hip ratio. More often than not they're still smaller than the average size 14-16 Australian woman, and invariably they're genetically blessed. So plus-sized models still must adhere to strict requirements; and when it comes to height, little has changed.

The fashion industry has always claimed that clothes look better on skinny, six-foot models who function as elegant coat-hangers. But here's an idea -- what about using models whose body types reflect those of the women who actually buy the clothes?

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"What about using models whose body types reflect those of the women who actually buy the clothes?" Image: Liyuan Meng.

It's hardly an original idea, but it's one that hasn't been truly embraced by modelling agencies, designers or the media outlets that feature their clothes. By its very nature, the fashion industry is ahead of its time, yet it is lagging behind current thinking on acceptance of non-stereotyped body shape, particularly when it comes to models of mere average height.

However the rules of fashion are formulated, it would benefit the majority of women if they evolved to be more inclusive. Things are changing, but too slowly, and in fashion, lack of height may be the last taboo.

As it stands, no average-sized woman will ever be Australia's Next Top Model, no matter her talent; but perhaps in the future, as women of diverse shapes and sizes become increasingly visible, women of average stature could also be allowed to grace international catwalks.

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You can see more from Asleen Mauthoor at www.asleenmauthoor.com

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