Meet Francesca Burns, the Stylist Behind That Viral Instagram Post About Size Inclusivity

What is the scale of the sample-sizing issue, and how does it inhibit size inclusivity in fashion?

The very singular approach to clothes sizing that is used by many major fashion houses, especially for runway looks, determines a “sample size.” In order to fit into “the sample,” many professional models have to adhere to the same very slender body type. On probably nine out of 10 shoots I style there will be sample clothing [lent by fashion brands] that doesn’t fit the talent, especially if you’re working with actors or nonprofessional models. In many instances, the sample sizes are so small that they don’t even fit the professional models.

What do you think the impact is on the mental health of the models?

As a stylist, I work with a lot of street-cast [nonprofessional] models of all different ages and I meet a lot of young women who are at the beginning of their careers. Recently I worked with a beautiful young woman who was a U.K. size 8 to 10. We had a tailor on set who cut open every single pair of trousers at the seams in order for them to fit her. Modeling is work and a fashion shoot is a workplace, but every instance where the sample sizes don’t fit is humiliating and damaging to the model involved.

This young woman revealed that she had been approached about modeling professionally, but was told she needed to lose weight, and I’m there saying, “No, no, no, you’re perfect the way you are,” but then the clothes are too small, which reinforces the idea that models have to be a certain size and shape. In that case, we were able to make sure everything fit, but you do not always have the option of a tailor.

The reality is that clothes are forever left undone on fashion shoots—even with professional models there are certain brands that never ever zip up because the clothes are created in unrealistically small proportions.

How has the industry responded to your callout?

The top supermodels of our time, from Rianne Van Rompaey to Vittoria Ceretti, Paloma Elsesser, Ashley Graham, Luna Bijl, Edie Campbell, and Karen Elson, have all written public messages in support of my initial post. I have also received a lot of direct messages from models relaying experiences about the casting process—including being forced to have their breasts bound.

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