Archive for plus sizes

Plus-size fashion finally included in New York fashion week

A few pieces from Eden Miller's collection.

A few pieces from Eden Miller’s collection.

Spring fashion week was this week, and I usually enjoy reading all of the fashion blogs with runway shots and the best New York “street” fashion. I usually call my mom and yell happiness into her ear about the new dress I saw that was absolutely fabulous.

This all started when I was about twelve years old, and I was sure that one day I would be a fashion designer. I would pick up these large one-pound fashion catalogs like Vogue‘s September issue from Borders, and while my mom studied for her GRE, I would study cuts and fabrics and styles.

I drew pictures of thick women in my favorite preppy clothes and would show them to my parents. They told everyone at church about it and made me feel like a real artist, even though I know now those drawings were completely horrible and am somewhat embarrassed about them.

When I was about fourteen I stopped drawing or designing for a while, but secretly I still marked up fashion magazines and doodled in the margins of my history notes.

But, for some reason, when I finally returned to designing, my models went from thick and curvy to tall and slim like the models I had seen in New York Fashion Week. Not just a few of them were skinny, but ALL of them.

It wasn’t until college that I realized this, and then I went back to drawing models of all sizes—curvy models, thin models, athletic models, and more.

Looking back, I can see that within a ten-year span I managed to recognize a norm of who were expected to be fashionable and then realize that norm wasn’t reality. My clothing wasn’t even wearable for a person my size (size 16-18). I realized that it had to change, and I wanted to make clothes that I wanted to wear and that I could wear.

I’ve only recently realized that this year was the first year I did not keep up with fashion week the way I normally do. When I did look up some of the highlights, I was surprised to find a line of clothes specifically targeted towards plus-size women. Eden Miller’s collection was the first-ever designer collection to feature a plus-size line. I was also upset that it was largely overshadowed by news of one designer’s style or another designer’s fabric choice. The inclusion of plus-size fashion in one of the largest fashion events is something that should have happened years ago.

—by Leah Railey

Is it wrong to feature plus-size models?
The debate ranges on

PLUS Model Magazine has caused quite a controversy with their recent “Plus Size Bodies: What Is Wrong with Them Anyway?” article, which questions the size and health of most models and pushes for more plus-size ones. As one of their pictorials points out, “Most runway models meet the Body Mass Index physical criteria for anorexia.”

PLUS Model also claims “50% of women wear a size 14 or larger, but most standard clothing outlets cater to sizes 14 or smaller” and argues we need more a greater variety of sizes in retail stores as well.

PLUS Model’s editor-in-chief explains that her magazine is “a response to a fashion and beauty industry which continues to endorse a skinny ideal that is not always healthy and alienates a huge percentage of the market.”

Of course, the response to this story has been mixed.

Some people are thrilled about Plus Model Magazine, insisting it’s about time we show women in magazines who look more like the average American woman (a size twelve or fourteen depending on who you ask).

Salon admits “there can be no denying that the standards for beauty have drastically changed over the past several years. As Americans have been getting bigger, our lingerie models have been going on wackadoo ‘no solids’ diets to attain runway perfection. Thanks to the magic of photo editing technology, already slender models can be whittled down to near nonexistence.”

Still, others argue that showing size-fourteen women is endorsing obesity.

I’ve had the same kinds of comments on I Will Not Diet ever since I created this blog.

But it’s a false dilemma to say or imply that we have to choose between anorexic or obese models.

Most women who wear a size fourteen are not obese. I started wearing a size fourteen when I was in college. That was when I weighed 150 pounds; since I’m five-foot-six, that made my BMI 24, which is well within the normal range.

But I’ve always had big bones (my wrist is 6 ¾ inches), so I wear bigger clothes than most people who are the same weight as me. Some people think that saying you’re “big-boned” is just a euphemism for being overweight or “fat,” but it’s really not.

There are numerous thin people who have big bones (examples include Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet and Nathan Fillion), and there are plenty of overweight people who have small bones (but I won’t name them here since doing so would only be cruel).

(If you want to find out if you’re big boned or not, here’s a simple way to do it—wrap your right thumb and longest finger around your left wrist. If your thumb and forefinger overlap, you have small bones; if they just touch, you have medium bones; and if they don’t touch at all, you have big bones. You can also use this chart or this calculator to determine if you have big bones. To read more about the big-boned-equals-fat misconception, go here and here and here.)

And big-boned women aren’t the only non-obese women who require a size fourteen. Tall women are another great example. I have several friends in the five-foot-ten to six-foot range and nearly all of them wear a size fourteen even though they are lithe and nowhere near obese.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

The point is that featuring women who are a size fourteen is not about endorsing obesity, its about endorsing variety, which is all but absent from the women we see everyday in our magazines, television shows, and films. As Plus Model Magazine points out, “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less.”

That’s why, as the magazine asserts, we need to pressure retailers to stop only catering to women who are smaller than the average American women. No one is saying this needs to happen at the cost of smaller women, but rather that we need models, clothes, advertising, and entertainment that reflects what a wonderfully diverse world we really are.

Would you like a side of padding with your curves? That’s what on the menu in Model-landia, a.k.a. the land of models

A little while back I wrote a post about Vogue Italia being the first fashion magazine to put a “plus-size” model on the cover. In fact, the entire issue was devoted to curvy women, and at the time I was thrilled and wondered if this breakthrough signified an impending shift in the way the fashion industry depicts women.

Though there is no doubt that curvy women are becoming more acceptable every day, there are still some significant problems with the way plus-size models are utilized in the land of models or what I like to call “Model-landia.”

There have always been issues in the world of plus-size modeling, but the more time goes on, the more I think most women don’t know about these problems. So if you’ll allow me, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the trouble spots . . .

1) The first and most obvious problem is the term “plus-size model.” It’s a problem because, out here in the real world, plus-size means size 16 or above. But in the skewed world of Model-landia, plus-size usually ranges from a size 6 to a size 12, which is extremely frustrating given that the average woman in America wears a size 14.

What that means is that women who are a regular size in our world are considered plus size in Model-landia.

It also means that “plus-size” models do not look like plus-size women.

(I often put that term in quotes to emphasize the fact it’s not an accurate one.)

This raises the question, if plus-size models aren’t really plus-size, then how can they wear—and model—plus-size clothes?

And that brings us to our second problem . . .

2) Plus-size models often wear padding to make themselves look bigger.

Yes, it’s true.

I’ve known this for years, so I was glad when plus-size model Marquita Pring (shown above) came out of the wardrobe closet in New York Magazine last week to admit that plus-size models sometimes use padding to make themselves look bigger.

Pring explains that, like other plus-size models, she uses “pieces of foam” that she lays flat “on each hip underneath [hosiery]. They’re like a solid inch and a half thick.”

But why do they do this?

They do it because the fashion industry wants their models—whether they are plus-size or just good old fashioned emaciated—to look skinny. They want them to have skinny faces and skinny legs and skinny arms. Even though they’re supposed to be curvy.

And there aren’t very many plus-size women in the real world who have skinny faces, legs, and arms. So their solution is to go out and find women who are regular size and then have them put padding in their clothes in all the right places—on their hips, their butts, their thighs, and their boobs—so that they look “curvy” but still fit societal standards for beauty.

(Really, we shouldn’t be surprised by this since it’s the same idea as the one behind the padded bra.) (And, in many ways, retouching photos.)

This may not sound like a huge deal—after all, at least we’re finally getting models with butts, hips, and thighs, right?—but it is a big deal because it creates another standard of beauty that none of us can live up to . . . the curvy woman who doesn’t have an extra chin and who has no cellulite or flab.

It’s just not real.

And in that way, faux plus-size models are no different than using models who weigh so little that they are technically underweight.

I’m not going to lie—this is a complicated issue for me. There is a BIG part of me that wants to have curvy women in our magazines no matter how we get them.

Despite this, I know in my gut that padding models is simply not the solution. And I really hope that someday . . . in a galaxy far far away from Model-landia . . . someone will find one.

Real bods in the boudoir: "What matters is how you FEEL"

My friend Alison turned me onto a story about a plus-sized woman—”Ms. N”—who wrote about her incredibly positive experience at a Seattle-based photo studio that specializes in “boudoir” photos, and I just had to write about it.

The goal of Seattle Boudoir Photography is to take alluring and provocative photos of women of all sizes.

(One of their photos is featured above, but be warned that if you decide to go to their website, not all of their photos are kid- or work-appropriate and someespecially the couples photosare pretty R-rated.)

If you do look at their gallery, you’ll see skinny women, plus-size women, curvy women, flat-chested women, tattoed women, pierced women, older women, pregnant women, women with crow’s feet, women with tummies, women with generous derrieres, women with fleshy arms and legs, women with men, women with women, and more—one of my favorite photos is of a woman who is small on top wearing a wife beater that says “Sexy Little Bride.”

The women in the gallery have different body shapes and different types of faces, but what these photos have in common is that all of them are absolutely stunning—and somking hot. I highly recommend that you take a look at SBP’s galleries (especially “Bombshells & Babes”) in order to see a great visual representation of the idea that beauty does not come in one size or shape.

Ms. N detailed her own experience at SBP for Offbeat Bride and explains, “I got to spend 2 hours with amazing people who, very honestly and sincerely, thought that I looked beautiful, and did everything they could to make sure that I knew it. And not only KNEW it, but FELT it, too. Nobody ever once looked at me and said, ‘Oh, I sure wish you were thinner,’ or ‘Wow, those stretch marks really take away from this photo.’ What I heard instead was, ‘Oh, you have killer boobs!’ and ‘You look so hot in that pose, for real!’ I could NOT believe my ears. And really, that was all it took for me to suddenly realize this: I’m freakin’ HOT! It doesn’t matter about size or scars or weight or anything. What matters is how you FEEL. And I have never been more amazed at how comfortable I could be with myself.

I could not have said it better myself.

In fact, “What matters is how you FEEL” would be an appropriate tagline for I Will Not Diet.

As long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve fantasized about posing in my underwear in order to prove that I’m happy with my bod—all 197 pounds of it—but also to show that women’s bodies can look attractive at an average size, one that’s more attainable than those of the models and celebrities we see in the media.

Looking at this studio’s work makes me realize I’m not the first person to have this idea and that I really do have to follow through on that goal some day.

Nevertheless, I’m not going to lie—I may pose in my underwear, but I’m never going to show any boob. I’ll leave that to the women who are braver—or crazier—than me.

Glamazons rule!

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I said it a few weeks ago, and I’ll say it again: Lizzi Miller could start a revolution! You might remember that I was singing the praises of Glamour for featuring model Miller in their magazine a while back. The reason I was so happy about their decision to feature her is because even though Miller is drop-dead gorgeous, she also has a real-sized body with wonderful womanly legs, a little stomach pouch, and a size twelve wardrobe.

Since then, Glamour has received so much positive feedback about Miller and so many requests for more models like her that they have decided to give the people what they want. And that’s why next month’s November issue will feature an entire spread of regular-sized models. (See the picture above.)

Honestly, when I saw this picture, my first thought was “Yowza!” These women look incredibly hot, hotter than many of the models I see staring back at me from the pages of most women’s magazines and certainly much more voluptuous and sexy. And then I had to wonder: is that why we don’t let these women appear on the covers of our magazines? Are they simply too hot for our own good? Would we all return to the walking hormone state we lived in when we were adolescents if we had to look at women like this on the newsstand every night?

Technically, these women are called “plus-size” models in the fashion industry because they wear bigger than a size six, a fact Glamour calls perverse and a problem I believe is just one more reason that none of us can live up to the images of women we see in the media. From here on out, I refuse to call models like these “plus-size” and will now refer to such women—models or not—as “regular-size.” Who knows? Maybe doing so will reinforce the notion that there is nothing shameful about wearing a size eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, or even bigger.

Glamour is claiming that, as of November, they’re committed to “featuring a greater range of body types in our pages, including in fashion and beauty stories,” and I believe it’s crucial that we send the message that if they stay true to their word and do that, we’ll be there with our dollars, ready to support them. Because if we don’t, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we can’t find anyone who looks like us in the pages we flip through and on the screens we watch.

This is a revolution, people! Get excited and do your part!

I know it seems silly to think of buying a fashion magazine as a revolutionary act, but we all know that this is a change that needs to happen, a change that must happen if we are to give each other, our daughters, and our nieces healthier role models. The Glamour November issue hits newsstands soon, and I say we all buy a copy . . . or two . . . or three . . .

Miracles really do come true

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If you believe in miracles, this is the post for you.

After two years of looking for new knee-high boots, I am the proud owner of not one, but two! new pairs of knee-high boots.

This past Sunday, I opened the Target circular that arrives in my inbox every weekend and saw that knee-high boots were on sale this week. The last time I found knee-high boots that fit my calves was three years ago—back in the fall of 2006—when Target carried “extended calf” size boots designed my Isaac Mizrahi. As I said recently in my “These boots aren’t made for wearing” post, I love my Mizrahi boots, but they have three-inch heels and are very girly, and I’ve always wanted a more rugged looking pair that I can wear with my casual skirts and dresses. But even though I’ve searched high and low for a pair like that, I have not been able to locate a single other pair of knee-high boots that fit my calves.

That is, until this weekend.

I had looked at Target’s fall shoe line a month or so ago but not found any extended calf sizes, so I never bothered to try on any of the boots in the store. It had never occurred to me that knee-high boots that were not specifically marked “extended calf” would fit my calves, which at just over 19 inches are a bit bigger the 12-inch shaft offered in most taller boots.

But when I saw that Target had knee-high boots on sale, I couldn’t resist calling them up on my computer screen for a closer look. And I was shocked by what I learned when I got there: several of the reviewers said that the Kallista Riding Boot by Merona (pictured above) was perfect for women with larger calves.

And that was all I needed to hear.

I literally jumped up from my computer, threw on a t-shirt and my favorite jean skirt—perfect for trying on boots—and headed to Target.

As it turned out, the reviewers were right. The Kallista Riding Boot is made with elastic that stretches to fit my muscular calves. They were a little more snug than I would have liked so I bought a half-size bigger than normal, but I am not kidding when I tell you that they look absolutely fabulous and, believe it or not, might even make my calves look smaller!

But wait! It gets even better!!

When I went to the three-way mirror to get a better look at the riding boot, I was shocked to see another curvy woman there trying on a completely different pair of adorable knee-high boots—the Kady boots by Mossimo (pictured below).

She was asking her boyfriend what he thought, and he was acting appallingly noncommittal. But I could not keep quiet. I told her they looked simply amazing, and that I was going to immediately go back to the shoe section and find a pair for myself, which is exactly what I did. As it turns out, the Kady boot not only fit, it looked just as good as the first one. Maybe even better. It was like I had died and gone to boot heaven!

Unfortunately, the Kady boot is no longer available online, but they still have some left in the store. The riding boot, though, is available in every size online, and at $30 a pop, it’s almost a no-brainer. If you’re like me and don’t have calves the size of toothpicks, I recommend that you stop whatever you’re doing and go immediately to Target to buy these unbelievable boots.* Because for all we know it could be Y E A R S before us curvy girls can find another decent pair.

*Be sure to go up a size or two; if you buy online, you can get free shipping if you spend over $50 by ordering the boots in more than one size and then return the pair that doesn’t fit to the store free of charge!

These boots aren’t made for wearing

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I’ve been trying to find a new pair of knee-high boots for over two years now. I have one pair of Isaac Mizrahi chocolate-colored, suede knee-high boots with a three-inch heel that I bought at Target back in ’06. They’re very dressy and girly, and I still love them, but I also want a pair that are more casual and rugged. The Frye “Campus” boot (pictured here) is my ideal, but as fate would have, the “shaft” of that boot is too narrow for my calf.
In fact, what I’ve found over the past two years is that hardly any knee-high boots fit my calves. Do I have especially big calves? I’ve definitely got big bones—even when I was a little girl, I was never able to stretch my fingers around my wrist—but I don’t think my calves are really that much bigger than anyone else’s.
Like I said, I started looking for a more casual pair of knee-high boots two years ago, and after a few months, I began to enter the desperation phase of my search. Whenever I become obsessed with locating a hard-to-find item, my search usually goes through five stages:
Stage One: Initial Excitement—this is when I first decide that I want to find a certain item, and I feel completely titillated by the prospect of looking for it.
Stage Two: Momentary Confusion—confusion sets in when I don’t easily find what I want. At this stage, I spend precious time wondering why something as straightforward as a pair of boots is so elusive in our consumer-driven society.
Stage Three: Frantic Desperation—once I understand that it’s going to be a struggle to find said item, I start to get frantic: my adrenaline begins to rush, my nerves start rattling, and my forehead starts to sweat.
Stage Four: Righteous Anger—when I finally realize that the item I want is either not available—or in this case, not available to me—I do what any smart woman would do: I get pissed off.
Stage Five: Bad Choices—And sometimes when I get really frustrated and irritable, I even go so far as to make a bad decision, buying something I don’t even really want just to satisfy my insatiable desire for a purchase.
But last fall, I still hadn’t even reached stage four, so I tried to convince myself that I just hadn’t looked hard enough. I figured that the boots I’d tried up to that point probably ran smaller than normal and that I just needed to be more thorough in my search. So with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and focus, I hit the local mall one weekend last fall.
But what I had hoped would be a fruitful search ended up being a disaster, not to mention a huge waste of time. I think I must have tried on every single pair of knee-high boots in the entire mall but could still not find one pair that fit my calves. I even asked the salespeople in the various shoe departments for help, but though they tried their best, ultimately they looked at me with pity, as if they were secretly thinking, poor little fat girl can’t find any cute boots. You might think these looks would bother me, but they had the opposite effect.
I had entered stage four: I was pissed.
Eventually I regrouped and approached the problem from a more scientific angle, measuring my calves to see if that information would aid the process. It turns out that my calves—which I still think are pretty average-sized—are nineteen inches around.
That’s bigger than I thought anyone’s calf would be, but looks can be deceiving. So I went online with this crucial information, and what I found was that most knee-high boots have a circumference of twelve inches. Twelve inches? That’s barely over half the size of my own calf. Are my calves really almost twice as big as those of most other women?
Then I remembered that my friend Kelcey once told me that Banana Republic carries “extended calf” boots—that is, knee-high boots that have more room in the calf area. As soon as I thought of this, I went to the Banana Republic website and scoured the shoe listings, but I discovered that the boots there—at $300 and up—are way out of my price range.
So my search continued.
At Zappos, I typed in “extended calf” and “extended shaft” and “wide calf” and whatever else I could think of. But I found that only a handful of knee-high boots—made by Fitzwell and R.S.V.P.—offer more room in the calf, and none of them fit my needs so I put off my decision, hoping for some kind of shopping miracle.
Before I knew it, winter was over, and my material needs were changing. I shelved my search for the perfect pair of casual knee-high boots and focused on other things.
But I never completely gave up, always keeping an eye out for a pair that would fit my unfittable nineteen-inch calves.
I never had any luck—every time I tried on a pair, I was either unable to get my nineteen-inch calves inside the shaft or unable to get the zipper closed over them—and now that it’s September, I have found myself back at square one: I still need a different kind of knee-high boot for my fall and winter wardrobe, and I am now beginning to believe that such a boot doesn’t exist.
And, to be perfectly blunt about it, the idea of this pisses me off in a way that I haven’t been pissed in a L O N G time. Are there really no boots for girls like me? Girls who wear the size that most women in America wear?
Women’s clothes are available in all kinds of “plus” sizes, so why aren’t boots available in a plethora of sizes as well? Are my calves being discriminated against? It’s as if the fashion industry is trying to tell me that girls like me are not allowed to have cute boots.
I got so frustrated that I emailed Piperlime—a competitor to Zappos—and asked them if they carry any extended calf boots, and they actually wrote back and said, “Unfortunately we do not have boots with extended calf sizes. We apologize for any disappointment this causes.”
They apologize for any disappointment this causes?
Is that it???
They’re acting as if they’re merely sold out of the size I’m looking for when, in truth, they don’t even carry my size, a size that I bet most women in America wear. I’m no longer feeling simple disappointment. I’m feeling righteous anger.
Because if Piperlime—and all of the other stores I visited—don’t carry boots for someone like me, aren’t they reinforcing the notion that the only women who should dress in a fashionably way, the only women who are allowed to look good, are women who resemble the stick-thin models we see on the front of our magazines?
I wrote back to Piperlime and told them that I won’t be spending my hard-earned dollars at their store until they carry boots for all sizes of women. In the meantime, I beg you to please let me know if you are aware of a place where a girl like me can find a nice pair of knee-high boots.
For now, I’ll just have to keep looking.
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