Questioning The Plus Size


I remember when friends and I were planning a birthday party for someone in our group. I was on the phone with one of them and brought up the cake. Her exact words were, “Why would we get a cake? We’re all on a diet anyway!” Yes, a group of at least eight girls of all shapes and sizes were putting weight loss over a dear friend’s birthday cake.

When I saw Robyn Lawlwey in Cosmo Australia, I was mesmerized by her beauty. Then when I read that she’s a “plus-size” model, I decided, that’s it. We need to address this elephant in the room.

Robyn Lawly
Plus-size model Robyn Lawley

I love fashion and I am fascinated by the industry, however this is one I thing I hate about the fashion industry: what I call “the size frenzy”. In the 60’s Twiggy was the it model with a boyish figure who gave skinny a reputation. Before that, women simply wanted to look healthy and didn’t like looking so thin.

In the 90’s, when Kate Moss started the mania of heroin chic, being skinny started to take on a totally different meaning. The message: In order to look as beautiful and stylish as the girl in the magazine, you need to stop eating.

The designer labels started making sizes smaller and stopped at a certain size – a trend that trickled down the brand hierarchy. That size kept shrinking til it reached 44 = XL. It seems they decided that women over the size of 44 shouldn’t enjoy their designs or should be thrown in a separate store.

The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch has notoriously said that he would never make bigger sizes because he only wants beautiful, “cool kids” to shop at his store. According to this man, you have to be less than a size 10 to be beautiful.

When the fashion industry introduced plus-size models, the initial debate was regarding how extreme each side was. The skinny models’ weights ranged between 45 and 55 kilos, while the plus-size models weights’ ranged between 100 and 140 kilos. Where did the normal people go?

"Plus-size" model Crystal Renn
Plus-size model Crystal Renn

The average American girl who’s 162 cm tall weighs 66 kilos. So why is the fashion industry insisting on misrepresenting the body of their customers? And what message is it sending to girls? That if you can’t be under your normal weight, you should eat your way up to be like these plus-size models?

So then they decided to do something more ridiculous and expanded the range of plus-size models. Basically, any woman above the size 38 is considered a plus size. Don’t get me wrong, I encourage everybody to be themselves and I also believe that we were all built to have different bodies.

The weird thing I’m pointing out here is that the fashion industry is telling us what we should look like in order to wear their garments. Instead of expanding their size ranges for everyone to wear whatever they fancy, they stereotype the majority of women and pressure young girls into thinking they need to lose weight.

velvet d'amour
Plus-size model Velvet D’Amour

How can women such as Robyn Lawley and Crystal Renn be in the same category as Velvet D’amour and Beth Ditto? Do you see how crazy this sounds when pictured together? Most of my friends and girls I consider fit look like Robyn and Crystal, no thigh gap and no saggy gut. They are neither anorexic nor obese.

"Plus-size" singer Beth Ditto
Plus-size singer Beth Ditto

When Vogue Italia featured three beautiful models on their cover – one of them was Robyn Lawley – they were actually aggressively attacked. Why? For dressing beautiful, normal women in high-end garments and putting them on the cover of a fashion magazine… that women actually buy?

June 2011 cover by photographer Steven Meisel
June 2011 cover by photographer Steven Meisel

Somebody had to say it, and I’m taking a step here. Society is harsh enough on girls in general, we don’t need to also feel bad about ourselves while shopping. We’re holding ourselves back just because we think we need to be sized like that wooden mannequin. My advice to everybody is to just be healthy and wear whatever suits your body frame. If you don’t have a thigh gap in that skinny jeans, don’t chicken out from buying it.


WE SAID THIS: For a fantastic analysis of male beauty standards, check out Male Body Image: The Big, Chiseled Elephant in the Room.