When it Comes To Models, What Exactly Is “Plus-Size”?

What Exactly Is a “Plus-Size” Model?

Source: Refinery 29

In the last couple of years, plus-size models have gone from being novelties in high-fashion shows and couture, to being included in mainstream campaigns and editorials in nearly every glossy from Glamour Magazine to Vogue Italia. But, it’s nearly impossible to even mention the words “plus-size” without stirring up a bit of controversy; whether they come under scrutiny for being too thin, too fat, or too “normal.”

We talked to some thought leaders in the plus-size community to have them weigh in on the issue. Read through their opinions, and then let us know what you think about plus-size models and representation.

What is the range in sizes for a “plus” model? How is that range determined? 

Madeline Figueroa-Jones, Editor-in-Chief of Plus Model Magazine: “At the moment, plus-size models range from size 10 to 16. There are a few size six, eight, 18, and 20 models working, but very few and far between.
“I wish I knew who exactly was determining the size of plus-size models. Whenever I ask a brand, they tell me the agencies don’t have high-caliber bigger models. When I speak to agencies, they tell me that the clients are calling for smaller models, so I’m not exactly sure what is going on. All I know is that I can’t get a clear answer from anyone.”

Images via Plus Model Magazine, July Issue. 

What kind of role do you think diversity (body type, ethnicity, etc.) plays in the fashion industry as a whole?

MFJ: “I would think that model diversity should be a key factor for brands and designers. For example, I have to be mindful of ethnicity and sizes of models for the magazine. If I use too many of anything, the emails start to come in asking about when they are going to see more red-heads, bigger models, etc. Plus-size women want to see themselves being represented within the companies they support. Look at the Dove campaign and United Colors of Benetton—why are we not seeing a rainbow of colors and sizes as we did in the past? This is what attracted us to the brand and designers in the very beginning. The plus-size customer used to be silent and took whatever was given to them, but since the fashion market has exploded in the past five years, they are choosy and shop all over the globe.”

Images via Plus Model Magazine, July Issue.

Do you think there will come a time when models won’t be distinguished by their size or body type?

MFJ: “I think that when society no longer distinguishes people by size and color, we could possibly see a change. In the meantime, plus-size fashion needs plus-size models in order to sell to the customer. This is not about models, it’s about how the plus-size woman is marketed to.

“I read a lot of the comments whenever an article comes out online about plus-size fashion or models and I’m appalled by the ignorance I read. People equate bigger people with being unhealthy, but I would bet my career that if I took the plus-size board and the straight-size board of an agency and had them take physical exams, the straight-sized models would not be ‘healthier’ than the plus-sized models. To some women, being a size double-zero or zero is natural, but for those that starve or abuse drugs, it’s a battle to stay at a size that your body is rejecting.

“No one should have to starve themselves or overeat to be a model. There is an industry for models that do not fit the criteria—it’s called commercial modeling. I feel like the plus-size boards at modeling agencies have become a dumping ground for models who can no longer starve themselves and are at a size six and eight. They know very well [that these women] are not marketable to plus-size women.”