What's trendy in the fashion industry is constantly changing, including the type of model who finds the most success. While height has always been a somewhat non-negotiable, there will always be girls who break the mold and are successful despite the odds. For example, Kate Moss is only 5'7 and she's arguably one of the most famous models of the 90's. But she also happened to be part of a movement called "heroine chic" that celebrated waifish figures.
These days, the body acceptance movement is taking over the world, and it was inevitable that those standards would spill over into the modeling industry. Women don't want to see a body type they can't relate to on the runways, and in magazine spreads. They want to see normal, every day women who have bodies like theirs.
Plus-sized models have always had a place in the industry, but now some of those girls are actually booking high fashion work. They are appearing in the most coveted ad campaigns, and gracing the covers of world renowned magazines. You don't have to be stick thin to be a model anymore, and the world is embracing it. Here are a few things you might not have known about the plus sized modeling and fashion industry.
15 What is plus-sized anyway?
We all know that no two women are created equal. Designers use sample sizes when they're fitting models for a runway show, so two women who are the same weight might be completely different sizes. So what sizes are officially considered plus sized? A lot of the time that's up to the designer. But in general anything from a size 8 to a size 16 is where most plus-sized models fall. That's more like an average, healthy size for most women, but somehow it's considered "plus" for a model.
14 The first size 24 model
Recently, size 24 model Tess Holliday was signed by major modeling agency Milk Model Management. She is the first model of her size ever to be signed by a major agency, and her career is just starting to take off. She has appeared in Nylon magazine, on the cover of People, done a campaign for Benefit cosmetics, and appeared in a spread in Vogue Italia.
Beyond that, she is a huge advocate for the body acceptance movement, and started the social media campaign #effyourbeautystandards. She has over 875K followers on Instagram where she posts about her experiences as a modeling trailblazer and navigating her way through the constantly changing world of fashion.
13 Plus-sized models are at risk for eating disorders too
They might not have to starve themselves in order to fit into a size zero, but plus-sized models still have to adhere to pretty strict guidelines in order to even be considered "plus sized". Prominent model Crystal Renn started out as a "straight-sized" model, but was told she would need to lose a third of her body weight in order to be successful. In her book Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves she talks about her struggles with anorexia before getting healthy and re-entering the fashion world as a size 12 plus-sized model.
Now, Renn is back in the straight-sized modeling game because she couldn't maintain her plus-sized weight either. She told Glamour magazine, "forcing myself to gain weight [to keep plus-size bookings] is as much an eating disorder as forcing myself to lose weight."
12 Calling average sized models "plus" is pretty damaging
The general consensus is that women love seeing women of all different shapes and sizes in magazine spreads. But labeling women bigger than a size 8 as "plus-sized" still has a negative affect on the overall perception of beauty. It's still reinforcing the idea that being smaller than average is ideal, and if you're average size, you're "big". Most people wonder why the "plus" label is even necessary. While curvier models are much more accepted now, they still have to fit a certain mold.
11 Being "not plus-sized enough" is a thing
The modeling industry is notorious for being extremely judgmental of women's bodies. There isn't a model out there who hasn't been told to lose or gain weight if she wants to book a certain job. Some models have talked about actually being asking to wear padding or a "fat-suit". The fact that no matter your size, you probably won't fit the constantly shifting version of the "ideal woman" is something a lot of plus-sized models deal with on a daily basis.
The struggle in a nutshell boils down to, as Ali Tate told Cosmopolitan, "my whole life I was insecure about being bigger than most of my peers, but in this industry, suddenly I was too small?"
10 Skinny-shaming is also a problem
Somehow with the shift towards curvier models as the ideal body shape, naturally thin women have started to feel a backlash that never existed before. People assume skinny women are anorexic or unhealthy, when in reality it might just be the way their bodies are built. Fat shaming and skinny shaming are equaling damaging to a woman's self esteem.
Body acceptance is about recognizing beauty in all shapes and sizes and emphasizing health and embracing your God-given body type. The modeling industry may be more accepting of certain body types now, but it shouldn't be at the detriment of any other body type.
9 "Plus-sized" fashion is still considered niche
When a brand decides to release a line exclusively for plus-sized customers, they have to be prepared for a huge backlash if they get it wrong. Designers are really just starting to remove their blinders and take a look at the huge market of women who need larger sizes than what has traditionally been available. You don't have to be a size 4 to be interested in fashion.
Around 65% of American woman can be classified as "plus-sized", yet in the fashion industry "plus" is still considered a niche market. That gap in the market is wide open and independent designers are more than happy to fill it. But how long will it take for every brand to cater to all women, and not just certain women?
8 Brands are failing at their attempts for plus-sized lines
Every woman knows that finding styles that fit her body right can sometimes be a struggle. In their attempts to enter to lucrative plus-sized markets some retailers like Old Navy and Forever 21 have hastily added generic pieces to their lines hoping that will be enough to satisfy their customers. But they are mistaken if they think simply adding more fabric to their existing styles is enough to attract the customers they are missing out on. Women want their clothes to flatter their body, and that doesn't just mean "bigger sizes".
Tailoring is still important, and that's something a lot of retailers are struggling with. Not to mention the fact that a lot of plus-sized styles are only available online, meaning customers can't try things on before making a purchase.
7 "Fat" isn't necessarily a bad word
Tess Holliday is one model who doesn't shy away from the word "fat". She embraces the adjective, because that's all it is-- a word describing what she looks like. It doesn't have to come with negative connotations if she doesn't let it. In an interview with The Guardian, Holliday said, "to me it's just a word, but it wasn't until I discovered the body positive community that I became OK with it. I've been called fat my whole life. I am fat, so it's kind of silly to get mad about it."
6 Plus-sized bloggers are cleaning up
Women want to see other women who look like them in the media, but the reality is, the media is slow at changing their standards. With Instagram, anyone who is into fashion, and knows how to dress her unique body type can collect thousands of followers, and even turn her love of fashion into a way to make money.
Fashion blogger Nicolette Mason (pictured above) went from blogging and writing a regular column for Marie Claire to designing her own line for ModCloth with sizes that range from small to 4X. As she told The Cut, "my platform has never been just about talking to the plus-size woman. It’s always been about empowering all people."
5 Plus-sized celebrities still take a lot of heat
The backlash over Melissa McCarthy's ELLE cover had nothing to do with her body type, but the assumption that she was dressed a certain way in order to hide the fact that she's plus-sized. When she was asked about the controversy over her cover, McCarthy said, "What I found so bizarre is I picked the coat. I grabbed the coat. I covered up. I had a great black dress on but I thought, it comes out in November."
People assumed the editors made her cover up, but that wasn't the case. Just because she's plus-sized doesn't mean that's all she is, and wearing what she likes should be her right without people constantly reading too much into it.
4 Plus-sized male models still don't exist
With all the progress being made in body acceptance for women, we've kind of forgotten that there are a lot of men out there who can't relate to the typical male model they see in ad campaigns. While the "dad-bod" had a bit of a moment in that a lot of women admit they like guys who aren't necessarily in perfect shape, that hasn't really extended to the fashion industry.
Men can be just as self-conscious of their bodies, and the unrealistic standards of the modeling industry isn't helping them either. But will we ever see a male model with a bit of a beer belly? Seems a long way off.
3 Plus-sized runway models are still few and far between
High fashion runways are still all about the tall, thin look. Even popular models like Kate Upton aren't considered right for most couture designer shows, so she sticks mostly to ad campaigns and Sport's Illustrated. While some designers like John Galliano and John Paul Gaultier have included plus-sized models in their runway shows, they are the exception. Of course, there are always runway shows for specifically plus-sized brands, but shows that use both plus and straight-sized models are a lot less common, which continues to separate women based on size.
2 Plus-sized models still aren't used for fashion editorials very often
The Huffington Post recently did spot check on seven of the biggest American fashion magazines to see how many plus-sized models appearance in fashion editorial spreads in the September 2015 issues. They flipped through Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, ELLE, Marie Claire, W, InStyle and Cosmopolitan and found that a total of 0 plus-sized models were included in the spreads. That means, while some top plus-sized models have appeared in high fashion editorials, most of the time straight sizes are still the go-to for most of the top magazines.
1 The struggle to make it less about size and more about health
Fitness and health magazines are one place that almost never include plus-sized women. But the fact is that weight and clothing size doesn't necessarily reveal how healthy someone is. Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer are two celebrities who have spoken out about the fact that they exercise all the time, but it's never going to make them a size 2. 18-year-old plus-sized model Erica Jean Schenk appeared on the August cover of Women's Running magazine (pictured above), sparking a dialogue about fitness and body type.
Shenk, who has always been an athlete, told Seventeen magazine "you're the only one who knows your body. A big part of a healthy lifestyle is being mentally happy with yourself. Whether you're a size 0 or size 16, being content with the way you are, learning to love yourself is step one."