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.