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An Argument for Removing “Plus-Sized Models” from the Vernacular

October 16, 2013

In the modeling industry, if women aren’t obscenely thin, unnaturally thin, so as to further emphasize a fashion’s ruffles with a woman’s own lack of curves, her figure is termed “plus-sized” a.k.a. fat. These “plus size” models are thinner than the average woman anyway, but this type of labeling of women’s bodies is counterproductive. Why label models as “plus sized” when they can just be called a model?

Huffington Post has profiled “plus sized models,” including one model who was dropped from her agency for not maintaining an incredibly skinny frame:

In April, it was announced that British model Karina would be starting the UK’s first-ever plus-size model workshop. Curve Project London features mentoring, hair and makeup sessions, photo shoots, runway lessons, casting tips and experience working with stylists for girls who want to make it in the biz at any size.

We can’t think of anyone more fitting for this role, given that Karina is a former “regular” model who decided to switch to plus-size after her agency dropped her for her changing body. Karina explains her goal wonderfully:

“I want to strive to endorse a positive body image and act as a role model to young women who previously thought ‘thin’ was the only way to get a foot over the fashion threshold.”

Sadly enough, the plus size models were generally culled from women who didn’t want to maintain the current industry’s focus on being thin, as evidenced by another example in the HuffPost article of a woman who also switched from the too-thin industry hype to, well, regular female body type a.k.a. a “plus size” model:

We have so much respect for models who switch from “straight-size” to plus-size to improve their health (and their grip on reality). Case in point: Crystal Renn, who said that she switched to the plus-size game after realizing traditional modeling had saddled her with a crippling eating disorder. She’s since spoken out about her experience and the problem with fashion’s challenging standards.

At the “Inside the Modeling Industry: A Conversation About Health and Beauty in Fashion” panel in February, Crystal stated that designers should change the sample size to eight instead of zero:

“By having a size 8 sample, you are giving freedom to a designer. Most of the models are going to be size 6s and 8s, and you could have 10s, and if a really amazing model walked in who was a size 0, you would tailor the dress down to her.”

Ah, so now it is termed “straight size” or also known as “too thin” and moving to plus size which is, ironically enough, healthy.

Yet another plus sized model, who is only a size 12 at over 6 feet tall, certainly not plus sized according to other standards, has rejected the be-thin-to-fit-clothing-designers routine.

Plus-size shapes have been inching further and further into the mainstream, from magazine covers like Vogue Italiaand Glamour to high-end designer lines like Burberry. But Robyn Lawley, one of the most successful plus-size models in the biz, is going where no plus-size stunner has gone before: Ralph Lauren.

Lawley announced her new gig as the first plus-size model for Ralph Lauren on “Good Morning America” today. The size 12 model, who stands at a statuesque 6 feet 2 inches tall, spoke to “GMA” about her journey to get here — how she initially worked as a “straight” model at age 16, felt the pressure to diet and change her body, and eventually hit her stride as a plus-size mode at 19.

Now she’s starring in a new Ralph Lauren campaign, not to mention landingmagazine covers and lingerie ads. (This after her splashy start on the cover ofVogue Italia‘s famous plus-size issue.)

The majority of the industry may still select skinnier-than-thou models, but at age 23, Lawley is representative of the potential success a plus-size model can have. “There are so many plus-size models in New York doing so well at the moment,” she tells “GMA,” “and it’s only going to get better.”

Yay! Let’s clap hands that a field dominated by gay men, fashion design, has come to recognize regular women!  Wait! Is that something to celebrate?? We are clapping because now women who aren’t in an unhealthy position can find work? I am happy about that, but still so sad that it happens so rarely that it appears time to bring out the ice cream. Hold on. Are we allowed to celebrate with ice cream?


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