What is the Problem With the Word “Plus”?

What is the Problem With the Word “Plus”?

More and more I’ve been reading about how plus size models and industry people are asking for the word “plus” to be taken out of rotation. As someone who has been in the industry for many years, it makes me wonder why the sudden push to fade out the word “plus” has been introduced in so many conversations.

Link to NY Magazine article

On the one hand we have people who believe that there should be no distinction between the models, and that this would open up doors for more “plus size” models. They believe that the word “plus size” makes the models “less than” and that with the word “plus”, they are not afforded the same opportunities as their straight sized counterparts.

I can understand why “plus size” models, especially those that are on the smaller side of plus, would not want to be called plus size models – since they are not plus sized women, but isn’t that the reason they tell us when we ask “why is a size 8 and 10 considered plus size”?

The plus size modeling industry began as a response to a growing industry that clothed plus size women in sizes 12/14 and up.

In years past the clothing for plus size women was very mature and not stylish – most young girls either made their own clothing or suffered through their school years, because the clothing was not age appropriate. The models were also bigger, size 16 and 18 worked sometimes as much as size 12 and 14, and Wilhelmina’s plus size division called themselves Wilhelmina 10/20, which they changed last year to W Curve. Models like Taylor Bartoe, Jessica Lavoie, Charlotte York and Lisa Scott were visibly plus sized and working regularly.

In recent years, we have seen a surge of plus size clothing options for plus sized women, and in turn the women have become more confident and more vocal about what they want from the fashion industry.

The modeling industry has also boomed, and we have plus sized models making incredible amounts of money and becoming role models to many of today’s plus size women. The size of plus size models has been brought up over and over when former plus size model Crystal Renn began getting smaller and started modeling for straight size brands more frequently, and no longer modeling for as many plus size brands, such as retail giant Lane Bryant. Crystal is a wonderful model and we absolutely love her, but there are a lot of women that were disappointed with her weight loss because they felt that she made her name on the backs of plus size women who supported her, and then she not only got smaller, but is in some ways impersonating a plus size model and keeping the “plus size” in front her name because that is what makes her a news worthy model. This is up to personal opinion, and I’ve heard so much about this I don’t even know what to think any more, but what I do want to talk about is the sudden problem that the industry has with the word “plus”.

Plus size brands cater to plus size women because we are in the MAJORITY and not in the minority. We buy clothing, we shop and we are looking for ways to look and feel our best. Modeling is not the reason why there is an industry – CLOTHING is the REAL reason why there is a thriving plus size modeling industry. Brands and designers are trying to sell to us and capture our dollars and if this means calling it “plus” then what is the problem with the word “plus”? It is this “plus size” woman that is keeping this industry growing – women sizes 8, 10 and even 12 are not running to stores like Ashley Stewart, Lane Bryant and Forever 21+. They can shop in regular stores or in the smaller sections of the store, the reality is that plus size consumers, sizes 16 and over,  truly ARE the bread and butter of the brands and designers and I have been told this personally by several brands.

My questions are: Why are we not deserving of plus size models that inspire customers, why are brands scared to try curvier models?  They try them once and then think – oh they don’t sell! How many size 12 and 14 do you go through until you find the one that sells? Why are we looking down at the word “plus” but so eagerly extending our hands to get that “plus” money? Why can’t the straight size industry include sizes 6 and 8 instead of the plus size modeling industry lowering the size standard? They opened their arms to transgendered models, yet plus size models have to be super small in order to be included in fashion week. Plus size models are looking at other models that are experiencing main stream success and trying to capture the same, and that is wonderful, but taking away the word “plus” is not the answer because in the end it’s not about their individual success, it’s about brands and designers selling to plus size women and getting the sale.

Link to article about Lea T  – transgendered super model.

If we, as plus size women, are not ashamed of being plus size, and calling ourselves plus size, fat and fuller figured then what is the problem with the word “plus?

The plus size modeling industry will be “extinct” if the customers do not give the brands feedback about what they want to see and how important it is for us to be marketed to in a way that we feel special. Yes, we want to be included, but inclusion means putting plus size models that are size 12 and up, and are not ashamed of being called “plus size”, in campaigns and advertisements. I am ashamed when I read Facebook statuses from working plus size models that say things like “today I have to put my “sumo-suit” on” and go to work. Yes, some models call their padding “sumo” suits – this is how little respect some models have for the work they are doing, and the women they are representing. This may very well explain why it makes more sense to have actual plus size models working and not models that are ashamed of what they are doing. Already magazines are not using as many “models” and going for models that look more like their readers and their sales are soaring!

I feel for the models, I really do because I can only imagine how they are treated in the main stream modeling industry by being called “plus”, but imagine the rest of women who ARE plus sized and know how we are treated on a daily basis. We are not called plus – we ARE plus sized and live it every day.

I realize that this post will affect me and my company in certain ways, but as an industry professional, consumer of plus size clothing, proud plus size woman and mother  – I am willing to risk it, in order to open up the conversation.

Would like to hear your thoughts whether you agree with me or not. I’m an open minded individual – please have respect for others. This post in no way is geared towards anyone in particular or is demeaning to anyone – please do the same.

Best Regards,

Madeline Jones