The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Can Jennifer Hawkins Help You Find The Perfect Bikini? Not If You Aren’t A Size 8 To 16

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 29, 2008

Former Miss Universe and TV presenter Jennifer Hawkins has surprised few by taking the tried and true career route of celebrity fashion designer, launching a swimwear range in collaboration with Myer, called Cozi. At first, Hawko’s reasons for starting the line seemed promising:

Hawkins said she had kept her girlfriends in mind when designing the range and believed that the sizes and styles in the range catered for all Australian women.

Sounds good, but then, not so much:

“I’ve got a girlfriend and she’s tiny and she wanted a bit of padding in there and I’ve got another girlfriend with a really big bust and no butt and she wanted something that would make her boobs understated and her booty a bit bigger. There’s something in there for everyone.”

[...]

The swimwear range, which includes bikinis and one-pieces in a variety of colours and patterns in sizes 8 to 16, features kaftans and cover-ups and will sold exclusively in Myer stores.

I appreciate that swimwear isn’t the world’s most confidence-inspiring clothing item, but there’s something about the way Hawkins describes her line that worries me – I can see she’s going for a ‘make yourself feel beautiful’ angle, but by creating a line of bathers that shrinks and swells and pads and prods, it says, very subtly, “You aren’t beautiful until you’ve corrected all those annoying body faults with the help of my swimwear!”

And similarly, I realise that 8-16 (for our American Choristers, that’s sizes 6 to 14) is pretty much the standard Australian size range, but it would’ve been great to see a designer – and especially a celebrity one, given the increased media coverage – take a punt and make some clothes that cater to a wider range of body shapes and sizes. There are already plenty of labels making plus-size swimwear (Viva make some lovely pieces) but they remain more or less marginalised from the fashion world proper.

Inevitably discussions about plus-size fashions end up in a mud-slinging debate about whether or not it is “promoting obesity” (hello, Vogue Forums!), and I am not interested in that happening here, btw. Saying that bigger women just can’t stop eating Big Macs is as pointless, reductive and just plain wrong as suggesting that all thinner girls are “anorexic”. The simple fact is, people come in all shapes and sizes, so why don’t more fashion brands cater to this? You would think they’d want to make even more money than they already do, but it seems they’re still more concerned with excluding many possible customers.

To my knowledge Leona Edmiston is the only major Australian fashion designer who goes to sizes larger than 16 (her Summer range went to 24 on selected pieces, to much industry debate), and even then only in her online boutique.

Of course it is completely possible to be a wildly fashionable and stylish plus-size woman (which for the sake of argument and according to Australian clothing stores, seems to be anything above 14) without relying on the designers and chain-stores to provide your clothing choices.

But just once, it would’ve been nice to have a high profile designer (whether “real” or “celebrity”) come out on the side of all Australian women, rather than “all” of them.

10 Responses to “Can Jennifer Hawkins Help You Find The Perfect Bikini? Not If You Aren’t A Size 8 To 16”

  1. Altissima said

    Despite the publicity, Leona Emiston range only a very few of the items in the online boutique are offered large sizes.

  2. Mel Campbell said

    Bathers are generally a depressing subject for me anyway because no matter what the rhetoric about sizing and styling, they reveal your body, and if you have anything other than a ‘hot’ body, there is just no way of avoiding the scrutiny of others and the comparison of your body with other, ‘hotter’ bodies. I can’t be fucked subjecting myself to that judgement. Hence I haven’t gone swimming for some years now and refuse all beach and pool invitations.

    That said, it’s the fact that Hawko is producing swimwear at all that pisses me off – as if merely wearing bikinis a lot qualifies someone to make them for other people. It seems like she’s more of a figurehead who wants the cachet of being a ‘designer’, and the way she’s talking about her designs reminds me about how some Video Hits poppet will ostentatiously strum a guitar and brag about songwriting credits.

  3. mscate said

    Personally, i’d prefer swimwear for bigger women made by someone who is bigger. Curvy women are shaped differently than their slender sisters and their clothes sometimes needs different cuts and shaping to be comfortable and flattering. Not all bigger women would want to wear something designed for a size 8 which is just cut in a bigger size.

    Given 60% of Australian women are a size 14 or over, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a suitably shaped designer…or is it?

  4. steven said

    what about the other end of the scale? It looked promising when you pondered whether they could make bikinis outside the ‘standard’ size range – but that became a point to head for the standard ‘what about plus size’ fare.

    What about smaller sizes? I know adults who are size six, or smaller – it doesn’t seem that outlandishly tiny – but there isn’t much in an adult range that goes that small, and from complaints, kids bikinis don’t exactly cut the mustard.

  5. mscate said

    fair comment steven, its really about providing all women with choices, hey…

  6. Clem Bastow said

    The thing is, though, a LOT of fashion labels do cater more to petite women than they do for larger girls. It’s fair enough to bring it up, but I do think the ultra-small are still a minority, whereas frequent surveys and size-standard reassessments have shown that women are getting bigger.

  7. audrey said

    ^Clem

    I agree. It’s endlessly frustrating to look through clothes racks and find all the 14s have gone (not to mention the fact that most don’t go above that) and there are endless size 6s left. I realise that petite women have trouble finding clothes to fit properly and I sympathise. But on the whole, I don’t think it’s AS difficult for them in high street fashion stores as it is for women who are 14 and over.

    And that doesn’t even take into account the different body shapes that can encompass these different generic sizes. A 5″2 size 14 girl has a very different shape to me, a 5″10 size 14.

    And I totally appreciate not allowing this discussion to descend into a ‘let’s not reward the fatties by making them nice clothes’ forum. Is there anything more boring than that?

    But I think it’s equally important not to start talking about ‘real’ women in ways that imply those below a certain size are somehow forcing themselves to be that way or are unfeminine. I find it just as insulting to read larger women defending their bodies by making claims that they at least aren’t anorexic and they are ‘real’ women and, worst of all, everyone knows men like ‘real’ women with meat on their bones.

  8. Clem Bastow said

    The phrase “real women” has always irked me, and I try not to use it. But as much as I usually loathe Cosmo at al, at its high point, I thought their ‘Body Love’ policy of having “real” women in each size from 8 to 16 was a good move; initially I think the whole “real” thing just meant “not a professional model”, which was a far more helpful definition.

    In my books, a “real” woman is one who is living and breathing – that’s it!

  9. beijing888 said

    Jennifer Hawkins has really screwed up her career with her tv show ‘make me a (fucking) supermodel’.

    Do you hear the things she says? ‘we’re going to transform (someone) from a nobody on the street to a supermodel’. She really could have been much more of a role model for her status and pwer.

    Hawko is completely unadmirable. She’s just out there to get ratings and viewings. What about those poort teenage girls who are going through a difficult time accepting themselves – how does this farked up tv show help these women?

    Bottom line – the tv show does NOTHING for society. Bravo for screwing things up, Hawko.

  10. Mmm nah said

    That airhead wouldn’t be able to find ice in Greenland. She is sooooo overrated. I’ll be happy when she gets out of my face.

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