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Photo: V Magazine
You’ve heard it everywhere – the fashion industry is embracing full figures! ABCNews.com proclaims, “Fashion Industry May Finally Accept Every Body in the New Decade.” Glamour enthuses, “These Bodies Are Beautiful at Every Size.” GlobalFashionReport.com purports, “Curvy is the New Black!” We’ve even seen a new curve-enhancing product hit the market– the Booty Pop– which aims to create some lovely lady lumps for the rump-less. With all this focus on women’s bodies, I had to wonder, are such great strides towards acceptance of all shapes and sizes really being made? In the following week, I’ll be exploring three perplexing pieces of this proportion puzzle:
Now, let’s talk about if size really matters…
First and foremost, let me establish one thing: I don’t like the term “plus size.” It insinuates that there is a “size” without the “plus,” which places “plus size” outside the norm. However, I’m going to use it throughout this piece for two reasons: one is simply lack of a better term, and two is that it seems to be the standard language in the fashion industry. Ultimately, I’d like to open up the first part of this discussion with you – is there a better term, and if so, what is it?
Now that we’ve established the terminology for the topic at hand, let’s move on to an examination of the media’s current fascination with this topic. Instead of trying to dissect who first embraced plus size models and when (for it’s nothing new– Vogue has been publishing an annual salute to all sizes for years), let’s examine the most recent and most talked about examples, starting with V‘s “The Size Issue.”
This particular publication has received a lot of press, undoubtedly thanks in part to the fact that Karl Lagerfeld – the man who once stated, “No one wants to see curvy women.” – was one of this issue’s photographers. While he has said little about his experience, we have the images and copy to decipher.
Allow me to begin with the first spread, in which they proudly and hot pink-ly proclaim, “V Love U Just the Way U R,” accompanied by a shot of a very Marilyn-esque model, and a “straight size” model. The photos themselves are glamorous and gorgeous. However, V also chose to list the models’ measurements. I am confused by this. On one hand, perhaps a girl will read those measurements and identify herself as similar in size to a professional model, and feel more empowered and beautiful. On the other hand, why do we even need to know how many inches their busts, waists, or hips consist of? My first inclination is to call up V for a l’il chat. I imagine our conversation would go something like this:
Me: “Hey, V! It’s me, Natalie. We need to talk about our relationship. I was wondering… If you love me just the way I am, why does it take a ‘special’ issue to let me know? Why can’t you love me all the time, in every issue?”
V: “Umm… TALL, THIN, SHORT, CURVY. PUNK, PREP, DOM, DEB. WHOEVER YOU ARE, AND WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE, WE’RE WITH YOU ALL THE WAY!”
Me: “Yeah, I know you say that in ‘The Size Issue,’ but that still doesn’t answer my question. Listen, V, talk is cheap – I need to see this in every issue, or it’s over between us! O-V-E-R.”
[V hangs up in a panic. Our relationship ends. I throw all V‘s stuff outside. V calls a month later, wanting to reconcile. I decline. I’ve moved on to a new magazine.]
Sigh. It’s emotionally exhausting listening to V throw all these beautiful, bold, loving, accepting words around, knowing that deep down, I don’t trust them any more than that ex-boyfriend with the wandering eye. Why? Well, in addition to the fact that this is a “special issue,” therefore segregating the plus size women, it also has to do with how they’ve chosen to picture these particular models.
On to V‘s “One Size Fits All” spread. Jaquelyn Jablonski, a “straight size” model, is featured on one page in a designer ensemble, while Crystal Renn, a “plus size” model, is featured on the facing page in the exact same outfit. The copy reads, “IF IT’S BRIGHT ENOUGH, TIGHT ENOUGH, OR EYE-POPPINGLY PRINTED ENOUGH, ODDS ARE IT’LL WORK ON ANY FIGURE.” So, right off the bat, we have “odds are,” injecting a tiny dose of doubt. It’s a pin-prick on your fingertip, a shard of glass in the bottom of your foot, a bee sting in the crook of your arm, but it’s enough to get the job done.
Now that the copy has instilled a strong urge to second-guess yourself, we move on to the images themselves. The layout is like a visual invitation to compare and contrast these womens’ bodies. One cannot help but examine the images with a tiny voice nagging within their inner ear, “Well, what exactly makes her a plus size model?” And, if I’m really being honest, I also cannot help but mentally insert myself into the mix, questioning where my own body falls on this spectrum.
But, wait a second… Is there a spectrum? In a recent New York Times article, Crystal Renn, arguably the most well-known plus size model in the world, has admitted that she’s seen images of herself in which weight had been added to make her appear to be a size 20 (when she’s actually a 10 or 12 – not even “plus size” in real life). Jennie Runk, another size 12, admitted to Glamour that she has worn padding for photo shoots before. Plus size models’ photographs are often retouched, only instead of the Photoshopping we’re used to hearing about (in which pounds are magically shed), pounds are added to their frames. What example is this setting?
I can only come to one conclusion – there is no size spectrum in fashion. Only the dichotomy of thin/fat can exist. This concept was best summed up by Jenna Maroney from 30 Rock, when she said “If I can’t be Monique fat, I have to be Teri Hatcher thin.”
Does Jenna come closest to the heart of the issue? Are bodies still being compartmentalized because fashion refuses to fit in every body? What do you think about the recent changes in the modeling and fashion world?
plus size, trending topic
I am so glad to see ModCloth broaching this issue! This is a really thought-provoking, insightful post. I was shocked to learn that photoshopping can also happen in the REVERSE of the way we usually think it does (example: SELF’s issue that airbrushed away Kelly Clarkson’s stomach).
Jenna Maroney’s statement is sad, but really captures the mainstream media’s limited, dichotomous, ultimately damaging portrayal of women. I am glad to see “plus size” models, but I want to see them as “models”– why should healthy, beautiful women need to exist in a separate category?
Honestly, whenever I see an article or a Tyra Show about bringing in more plus size models to make the fashion industry better represent the average woman, I can’t help but think, who’s representing me? I’m petite and thin but curvy, and there is no model out there with my body. The fashion industry is all about exaggeration and extremes, and, just like the clothes on the runway, the models are not supposed to look like the kind of thing you see on the street every day. Please, don’t insult our intelligence by telling up that only size 0 and size 14 women are our representatives. Most of us are somewhere in between.
I think it’s sad women are subjected to this every single moment possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny or bigger or fat… it should be about being healthy! Why don’t we show some healthy models for once?
And I agree with Liane, why not show something in between the size 0 and size 14. I am neither that skinny nor that big, so where’s those models?
To be fat or to be thin? I’m so glad that Modcloth has taken the time to talk about this issue; this is why I feel like I’m in a love/hate relationship with fashion. I really do love the clothes, styles, etc. but when I see how the fashion runway doesn’t embrace women as a whole, I grow wary. I know that beauty is essentially from the inside, but shouldn’t every woman have the right to feel beautiful without having modern society dictate what size she should be? That 30 Rock quote was priceless; biting, to the point, and always funny.
Great post! I appreciate the dose of healthy skepticism.
One of the issues I have with the new trend in plus-sized models in magazines is that almost all of the images are ones of these models dressed skimpy. Even the images that you pulled for this post include bras, fishnets, more bras, a corset and the absence of pants. This is not to say that women of any size can’t chose to express their sexuality/femininity however they choose, but why can’t these models also be shown in cute jeans and a t shirt, or a pretty dress? Why do I have to celebrate being plus sized by being in my underwear?
Katie, I totally agree! That’s a whole ‘nother issue that I’ll be addressing on Wednesday. Keen observation!
Hello ModCloth! I am new to your website and just want to quickly say that I love everything about you guys! Seriously, KU-DOS! That being said, have just recently lost over 30lbs, going from a sz 16 to a sz 10, I am 5’9, so I have been classified as average now.
For a while I was on this extreme body image “high” feeling amazing in anything I put on. Unfortunately,now as time has passed, I only feel pressured to be thinner, to lose more. To go for that sz 7 or 5.
My point is that I was able to feel good about myself at this size only when it was new for me, now that I am out of the “honeymoon” phase, I see all the magazines and tv influences showcasing these super thin girls.
I can’t wait for the day that women wont feel the nagging pull to be super small and be proud to sport a little meat on our bones. When I saw this article I instantly felt a glimmer of hope. Thank you for the confidence boost ModCloth, it is greatly appreciated.
this is a great article, and I totally agree that “plus” sized models need to be incorporated into the fashion industry along with models of all other sizes. i think the goal here should really be to accept all shapes and sizes of healthy bodies, whether they’re a size 2 or a size 18. i’m a pretty skinny girl and lately i’ve become really angry with the media for the messages it sends out. ever since i hit puberty i’ve felt inadequate because i didn’t develop much in the way of curves like “real women” are supposed to. plus-sized women feel attacked by the media telling them they aren’t thin enough, but on the other side of the coin thin women often have the media telling us that we’re unhealthy and androgynous.
another pitfall is that people trying to support healthy curves go to the extent of dismissing naturally thin body types as bulimic or unhealthy – some people are just born skinny, and it’s damaging when people assume that anyone who is a size 1 or 2 must have an eating disorder (although the gravity of eating disorders in the fashion industry is very real). i’m finally starting to come to terms with my body and appreciate it for the way it is. but our media is so sexualized and idealistic today that it’s nearly impossible to feel adequate without a strong sense of self esteem, no matter what weight you are.
i’m glad to see that the issue of plus sized models being neglected is being addressed, but on the other had i hope that if the media embraces a positive outlook on body shape it won’t just be a fleeting trend, or that plus sized models will replace super skinny models as the standard. this shouldn’t be about trends, or about the media accepting plus-sized bodies because it’s the “fashionable” thing to do. i think what we really need here is equality. acceptance of all body types deserves to be treated as more than a mere fad.
My problem with the spread placing “plus size” Crystal Renn beside the “straight size” model is that it seems to be setting them up in opposition to one another. I know that’s not the stated premise of the spread, but that’s kind of how I took it. When I read the comments on a post on Jezebel about that spread, everyone kept posting about how much better Crystal looked and how unattractive the thinner model looked. That’s not progress! My body type is probably closer to the straight-size model’s than to Crystal’s, and more diversity shouldn’t come at the cost of putting other body types down, even types that have been idealized. What we need is a diversity of body types and sizes but not in the context of “Look, we’re being diverse and inclusive! See the plus-size model?” I’m eager to follow the rest of these blog posts, it’s so nice to see a fashion blog that has meaningful content.
You are so right. And the Jenna quote pretty much sums up how I feel fashion tries to generalize us. I’m not itty bitty but I’m not plus sized either. I’m just me, but sometimes I feel that I would be more accepted if I fit into one of those categories instead of in between.
I do feel that nothing is going to change until magazines show different sizes in every issue not just once a year.
Great post, and I’m so glad you’ve taken the time to address this issue. The “plus size” debate isn’t an easy one to tackle, but you’ve done it masterfully. And I agree with what a lot of commenters are saying– until the fashion industry truly espouses the idea that there are a range of body types, “plus size” editorials like the ones will never feel like more than a gimmick.
Can’t wait to see what you have for us on Wednesday and Friday!
I think what people need to realize is the fashion industry is no different than the advertising industry. It’s all about creating a fantasy. Men in fashion are portrayed the same way, stick thin or super buff with beautiful cheekbones, but it’s never really an issue for them. The real underlying problem is that the majority of women are still brought up to be subordinate or submissive rather than self-confident and independent so the fashion industry becomes a scapegoat for their perceived short comings. Women need to base their self-worth on who they are rather than their appearance. Then maybe they can learn to appreciate the beauty in the fantasy that fashion creates. Would you really buy the magazine with the average looking person on the cover?
Fashion and size is continually debated. Personally I try to ignore it as much as possible and just focus on what I like and want – http://shoedaydreams.blogspot.com/2010/01/fashion-influences.html
I completely agree with everyone here. I’m 5’4 and a size 8, like multitudes of women, and as far as the fashion industry is concerned, that means I pretty much don’t exist. It is nice when magazines *try* to show that it’s not just about super-skinny models, but like Liane said, it’s one extreme or the other and either way you’re going to compare yourself to each body type (and, since so many women suffer from self-esteem issues, likely come up wanting to either extreme). I appreciated the Dove campaigns a few years back when they were actually showing “real” women with all kinds of body types. I enjoy when fitness magazines show women of all shapes and sizes who are fit, healthy and beautiful. It would be nice if the rest of the media would embrace that as well. Great post; I’m looking forward to reading more!
I think the main problem is that women buy into it in the first place.
No onecan dictate what the “norm” is.
You already know. Stop buying the magazines, buy your clothes where you feel comfortable and respected–no matter your size and strut your stuff.
It won’t change until they lose revenue. I used to work for Victoria’s Secret UK. Believe me, they don’t care until they lose money.
A nice post about this topic. I’ve been tuned into the plus-sized conversation for many years, or the lack there of. I’m glad that V Magazine as well as Tyra Banks & Glamour Magazine along with a few others have incited many folks to talk more about it, as gimmicky as it looks.
The average size of the American lady is 14… but yet we can’t really shop on sites like ModCloth or 95% of brick and mortar store. From a financial standpoint this is bizarre; many companies are losing massive profits by not catering to various sized bodies who want interesting & flattering clothes and don’t shop at WalMart for mumus.
ModCloth has tons of adorable clothes in smaller sizes and does a great job at this. I hope you will integrate real plus sizes into the line-up permanently… a transient handful would simply lend a “gimmicky” air to your collection.
i think that what the world keeps failing to recognize is that the worldwide average size of women is between a 10 and 14. this 0 nonsense is just that-nonsense. it pains me to see captions underneath bigger women portraying them as “plus size” models when, in reality, they are not much larger than myself.
in my life i’ve battled with my weight. i’ve been a size 28 and a size 10 and pretty much everything in between. right now i’m at a 12/14 and, granted, there are a few things i would change about myself but i am happy. i look good, i feel good and i’m healthy. and that’s what should matter.
the only thing in my life that i have been disappointed with is that “large” girls have to shop at completely different stores than “skinny” girls. in high school i reached my heaviest weight and it was really hard on me to go shopping with my friends and all i was able to do was hold bags for them in the “hip” stores. i would save trips to my fat store for when my mom would go shopping with me. i would LOVE to see the fashion world expand and cater to all sizes and shapes and stop charging extra for bigger clothes. we’re all created equally, why not be treated equally?
thank you for this, it is the exact reason why i am in fashion design.
First, thank you ModCloth for taking on this subject. I knew i loved yall for some reason.
Second, the only time this issue of “plus size” seems to be covered is when something happens in the entertainment world that focuses on somebody other than a person who is a size 00, such as the movie “Precious.” Gabourey Sidibe has brought the “plus size” person into the spotlight for 2009-2010. That person changes every year or so. While I appreciate that the sudden recognition that not everybody looks the same size, we are all beautiful, etc. is brought to light, that light quickly diminishes in a few weeks or months. As somebody already pointed out, why just focus on the beauty of us all in one issue out of the whole year? Am I only considered beautiful one month out of twelve? Am I only considered beautiful when these so-called fashion experts say I am and allow me to be? That quote from V is insulting. These magazines act like they are on your side, but they always contradict themselves. There is always stipulations that must be followed for my size to “work” for me, or as you pointed out, they show their measurements, which causes some females to compare/contrast on what is to believed is right or acceptable. It has to be tight enough, colorful enough, etc. And as somebody else said why not show women as they are in everyday situations? I sure wouldn’t walk down the street in a low scoop leotard with my bra showing.
Lastly, I know that clothes can make you feel beautiful or sexy, and I understand fashion magazines are pretty much required to display clothes, but how about getting deeper and talking about inner beauty or how you feel about yourself and your body. If I don’t feel good on the inside, no amount of jewelry, makeup, expensive clothes will truly make me feel happy or beautiful. Anyway, can’t wait to read what else yall talk about this week!
The bad thing is I haven’t seen much of anything on ModCloth that *I* can even wear. I’m shaped weird as it is so the clothes I can buy either will fit in the breast area, but not the stomach or vice versa. I desperately want to be able to wear cute clothes such as the Romantique blouses on this site, but can’t. I loved the article and agree wholeheartedly but I’d like to see more womens’ sizes on this site too!
I agree that the world of high fashion has represented unrealistic ideals of the human female figure up until recently. However, what is the current norm (and therefore “real”) does NOT mean that it is healthy. I read the Glamour spread that received so much acclaim from its readers, and was more than disappointed by the response praising them for representing sizes 12, 14, 16 and so on. These sizes are average for America, but what we all seem to be forgetting is that people of this size aren’t typically healthy. The most important thing to get excited about isn’t the extolling of bigger, curvier bodies; what we should be looking for in the fashion world (and in the media in general) is a push to ensure that, no matter the size of the body, the body is HEALTHY. I don’t mean to step on anyone’s toes here, but personally I have a low tolerance for people positing the opinion that bigger is better. It’s better if your BMI is below 25. Let’s not make a push toward publishing the “ideal” woman as size 16–what message, conversely, would that send to young women? That they can eat to their heart’s content as long as society accepts them, despite the health risks associated with being overweight? That creates the same type of epidemic that has been the case up until now. Extremes make everyone the loser.
This post made my day!
Also, I agree with some posters: what should matter is health, and plenty of people tend to forget that you can be healthy, happy and beautiful at any size.
when i look at the girls in the “curved ahead” photo, i don’t see plus sized anything, i see normal beautiful people.
I’m really glad you’re addressing this. I’ve been seriously struggling with my body image lately. Women are portrayed in the media as sticks. I’m different. I have curves and I’m not your average size. My boyfrienf tells me I’m perfect, but when I go shopping, or look in magazines and I’m not the “normal” size, you see there. Thanks for speaking up!
How about we refer to “plus size” women as “average size” from now on. Especially since these so-called “plus size” women are definitely the norm, not the women we see in all the ads these days. Those women are not the norm, and have been photo-shopped to boot!
BTW, I used to be a size 18, and am now a size 10, which is still considered “plus size”. How about we refer to the models we see in all the ads as “under sized” seeing as it’s no big secret that a large majority of today’s models have an eating disorder.
Does anybody else see what I see about this plus size models, especially in the first picture? Look at the girls with exposed stomachs — THEY’RE FLAT!!!! I dunno about you, but I’m a bit of a bigger girl, and that is NOT what my extra weight looks like. I read an interview with a plus size model once who said it’s just as hard — if not harder to be a plus size model because of the strict proportions required to maintain. It seems to me that to be a plus size model, your overall dimensions have to be thicker but you still have to be just as flat. Where are their stomachs? Where are the love handles? Why do their arms look so firm? I don’t know about you, but that is NOT a real depiction of plus side to me. It’s just as fake as the super skinny models on the runway.
i think one of the biggest things we forget about fashion and magazine spreads is that most of the shoots are set up for fantasy. whether its the extreme jewelry, heels, or couture, we’re now adding weight. like most of this country, i am not stick thin, and im constantly struggling with those last 20 pounds…but i do agree, i would love for designers to feature different shapes and sizes, but they will never be able to include “everyone”, someone is always going to feel left out. it just makes me very happy that “normal” girls whether a zero or a 14 have a great site to find trendy beautiful merchandise
im not a 0 im not 14 so where is my model representation!! i go to normal stores and sometimes the l size dostn fit then i go to their plus size and their to big so i get frustrated and do my own things or buy something similar! :/
I have nothing against “plus size”, however I do think its unfair for people to put down super skinny women. We are real women too. Its not my fault I weigh 105 lbs, I spent a week eating icecream, tv dinners, corn dogs, you name and I still managed to lose 2lbs without exercise. Its just how my body is.
By the way I have Curves too, so stop calling us “Sticks” without curves. Stop saying that plus size women are only real women, because us “sticks’ do live in the real world outside of modeling too.
I’ve ordered many things from this website, and unfairly I’ve had to pay $20 more each time that I don’t have to get the clothes tailored to fit me, when ten years ago a size small would have fit me perfectly. How am I to buy clothes if the smallest sizes keep being made larger each year? I got a medium on this website because the small soldout, and it was a half an inch bigger, no problem, except that the size small fits more like a large, and the medium an extra large.
Once again, as I stated, I have no propblem with plus sizes, I just have a problem with petite and smaller sizes being put down. You say that the media is harsh on plus size but I disagree, every magazine i see has a feature on them, big bold titles saying “Men Prefer “real” women” “curves”. I never see this for petites. Why must the media and the audience tear down one group to make themselves feel better? I think that should be addressed too.
while i do agree with you that the magazines shouldn’t put out adds that say “men prefer “real” women” i must say that they are wrong. i don’t think that you should be put down for your thin figure but i must say from experiences in my very real life that men prefer the “petite” women. i don’t have a problem with any size, i’m just, frustrated.
Good post, beautiful pictures, insightful questions. Though I do find it funny that this is up on the day I received my “large” size skirt from Modcloth that wouldn’t fit my size 6-8 ass.
I can’t help but wonder if once this trend ends (because my skepticism tells me this is simply a trend) will there be a backlash returning us to the early 90’s days of the “heroine chic” where any girl without protruding hipbones was considered big, thus providing yet another generation of young girls with the body image issues their mothers had to deal with at their age?
I often think of the Jenna quote from 30 Rock when I see the celebrity news magazine covers haranguing women (or men) for gaining a few pounds. If “plus-size” isn’t acceptable, for some reason in-between is even less so, especially when a size 4 is “curvy.”
I don’t understand the whole plus size term, when in actuality that is generaly the size of most women (at least what the fashion industry reguar as plus size.) I liked how you adressed the issue.
But there is another thing I want to bring up with, you modcloth. My sister, a size 10, can hardly find anything on modcloth that will fit her curvy body (and this is not a kind synonym for fat). This is allarming, when the average size for a woman is a 14! I’ve always been small and have had an easy time finding clothes, but it’s painful for her to find chic clothing. I find it slightly hippocritical for you to post this article when you don’t even embrace the average woman (at least with your sellection of clothing). I know you provide extended size clothing, but that’s still separation between the thin and the average. It’s awful knowing that you had to buy a special size for your different body. I’ve also noticed however that you haven’t been selling the extended sizes latley so how can you say that you’ve always embraced curves by providing extended sizes. Maybe you could include “extended sizes” with your normal sizes for clothing.
I feel as though you are slightly hypocritical though I suppose you guys are doing as much as you can, being that you are in the fashion industry where a size medium is considered no good.
I agree with Clare, the industry will not really listen or care until we match what we’re saying with what we’re spending our money on. The problem is it’s easy to say, but harder to do. Most people don’t want to lose the convenience of shopping at their favorites stores simply because of what they support or what their stance is on this issue or other issues. But nothing will change as long as we continue to buy the issues of Vogue and from those stores who continue to ignore that a woman isn’t either a size zero or a size 18. I myself have refused to buy Vogue after beating myself up about how I look in comparison to the girls in the magazines. I try and limit my exposure to that kind of thing now. As mothers, we also shouldn’t let our daughters enter into the same cycles of self-abuse by allowing them to buy into this industry. My Mother refused to buy me and my sisters any fashion magazines she felt like would do more damage than good. I asked her why and she said “When I was your age, I used to buy those magazines and compare myself to them, and I never quite measured up to what they said was beautiful. I know that no matter what they say, I am beautiful, but when I read them, it made me forget that. I don’t want you going through the same thing.” I argued with her, but she is right! I see that now and try and keep that in mind with my wallet. I’ll admit, I don’t always follow-through, but I’m trying and I’ll keep on trying until the industry gets it. As a former size 12 and now a size 16 I can say it’s easier to find clothes in my size now many times than it was before. (Not that’s it’s not hard, even at a “plus size” store, they stock plenty 18 and up sizes, but 16, and definitely 14 aren’t as well stocked.) I don’t care what size I am, I just want to be able to buy and support something other than superficial beauty.
I agree more larger sizes should be stocked, but please don’t forget that there are hardly any size 0’s stocked. please don’t take this the wrong way but a size Small on Modcloth is a size Medium in most other places, it honestly is, and I’m too broke to keep getting my things tailored smaller. More of both sizes need to be stocked.
I agree that everyone should be celebrated for who they are. One group of people also no accomidated for are the shoter people, those under 5′ 6″. Everything is made for 5′ 10″ model types, when the average height (at least in the U.S.) is 5′ 3.8′. Do you know how many times I can’t buy cute jeans because they are too long. And ‘short’ sizes are never the cute pants I want. The fashion industry discriminates against everything that isn’t thin and tall. I don’t know why this became a trend, then again back in the day a pale “rubenesque” woman was as beautiful as they came. Truthfully why does one type have to be beautiful?
As the Smiths said “Some girls are bigger than others” ( I had to put that in there)
This reminds me of when Tyra told a contestant that she was “borderline plus-size” and needed to lose weight or gain some. I just remember thinking, “Why can’t she stay the way she is?” Why are there only two sizes for models? And why can’t models be short, either? The average height for women is around 5’4″, and Kate Moss, who is actually taller than average at 5’7″ (my height), complains about being “short.” In her industry, of course, she is. It’s ridiculous.
How about we attack the problem of women’s fashion molds by making clothes by measurement and not “sizes” that don’t mean anything and change with trends, etc.?
(i.e. like much mens clothing)
And by the way – Marilyn Monroe was a size 4 by today’s measurement standards…
Thank you for pointing this out! I’ve always thought that the “acceptance” of plus-size women these days is so fake. Whenever you see positive things about the subject in magazines and on tv shows they tell you to “love your body”, but then usually give you tips on how to look more slim if you’re bigger or elongate your legs if you’re short. How can they say that they love all body types in one sentence and tell women how they can make themselves look more “average” in the next?! Not to mention that, just like you said, talking about plus-size women is something they do only on special occasions. If any size is beautiful then why are their regular models always rail-thin? I’ve even seen an interview with Betsey Johnson where she talks about how she’s making bigger clothes to meet the demands of bigger women these days, but won’t use bigger models because “the clothes just look better on thinner models.”
I really don’t like that double page spread. When I first saw it I honestly didn’t think anything of it. Then when I saw that it was supposed to be showing that two different body types can look good in the same outfit I started comparing them and noticing things I wouldn’t have otherwise. “Look at how much bigger her thighs are. Oh yeah, she definitely has some extra flesh on her arms.” Of course I didn’t think of it in a critical way seeing as how at 5’3″ I wear a size 10, which is plus size even for plus size, but I have no doubts that other people would. The idea was probably to compare them in a positive way, and they definitely both look great, but I think they should have done it differently.
I love this site because not only are the clothes beautiful and unique, not only do you give tips on how to look your best with each item, but it’s obvious to me that they’re meant for average sized women. Yes, your models are all pretty skinny, but there have been many times where you’ve posted pictures of your not-so-skinny staff wearing the clothes, and they look great! I guess your clothes just seem more… accessible than many department stores these days.
I love this post, but I don’t love some comments on it.
Jacky – I think you missed the point. They’re saying that all sizes should be included and accepted. Not once does anyone (in the post or comments) bash thin women. I’m not sure why you felt the need to tell us your weight,,either? I completely understand what you’re saying about how many sites try to polarize the issue and create a “thin vs. not-so-thin” thing. However, this isn’t one of those sites!
I would also like to contest what you said about most modiums on modcloth being a small on other sites. Where are you shopping, girl?! The Limited, Too? In my experience, modcloth’s stuff is totally in line with “juniors” sizes… plus, modcloth isn’t a designer. They’re just selling clothing that was made by lots of different designers and brands! If you’re telling me that my size 8/10 butt is “really” a 12/14 or XXL on other sites, then I’m glad I don’t know what those sites are!
I really loved this post, and I can’t wait to read the next! Thanks for creating some content that dares to delve below the surface, modcloth!
Have to agree with Catherine. Modcloth should take a look at their size ranges. I wear a 12 and am sized out of certain garments. I know this is tough for an indie business, but it would be great for you to have leadership in this area.
At the same time, I have to say, I don’t have a hard time finding “chic” clothing just because I’m not a smaller size… it’s all in how you wear it, and I’ve learned to dress my body well., mostly in thrift and vintage.
Still, thanks for adding to this conversation on women’s bodies in the fashion industry.
Also check out this article from NY Times fashion writer Cathy Horyn: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/09/fashion/thursdaystyles/09THIN.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1 .
Katie. I am a small on American Eagle. I buy a small from Modcloth and it is always too big. Always. Sorry but yes I am saying that your size 8/10 really is a 12, everyone knows that designers size up now. There is no reason that my body should be an XS or an XXS, I am a Small and I am fine with that. But annoyed that I can’t buy clothes because of designers changing sizes to make people feel better about themselves by fitting in a “smaller ” size.
Now be happy with your 12, oh I meant 8/10 body, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with it. But there have been comments about people being sticks, and us not having curves etc. and that’s just as wrong as saying someone is “plus” sized.
And I’m not stupid, I know Modcloth isn’t the designer, simply a retailer, but if they are going to start carrying larger sizes, as in my opinion they already do since their smalls are not smalls, then they should also carry more xs and xxs from these designers as well. And if they are going to blog about plus size, then they should blog about all the negativity geared towards petite sizes as well, which this post does not do, because it is talking about the inbetween sizes not being represented, not about the smaller sizes being resented. Not my fault I’m a “0”, not your fault you’re an “8”.
But I can’t find my size on this website hardly either. In fact, my size is yes overrpresented in modeling, but how many girls my size do you think can actually afford the clothes from the runway and in editorials, which is pretty much the only place our size is sold anymore, not in the general market, which has specialized in selling to the average size customer. I’d shop at Target too, if I could fit in their clothes, and trust me there are a lot of people smaller than me as well, who really are 00’s, what are they gonna do, when I’m the new 00?
I think you should spend less time obsessing about how others view you or people of your size and more time appreciating what a fantastic job modcloth did with this post. If you read this post and the first thing that popped into your head was: “Man, why didn’t she address the problems of us smaller girls! Why aren’t they talking about MY problems!”, imagine how that looks to the rest of us.
I’m not here to judge who has it harder. Obviously it’s impossible for me to know about all the tribulations women go through. I do, however, know good writing and good argumentation when I see it. Let’s celebrate that!
First, great article. I love that you guys are addressing this in a clear and thorough manner; it has bothered me for years.
I am a normal sized girl, with a smaller waist and a large chest, and large hips. I would never really consider myself a “body conscious” person, but that is probably a unique combination of excellent parenting, good friends, and a generally healthy lifestyle.
However, the dichotomy that has been brought up is what ticks me off the most. When magazines arenâ€™t celebrating â€œplus-sizeâ€ in a special issue, they have stick thin models every other month. For example, Seventeen (though this magazine has a whole host of other problems) has a model for â€œcurvy all overâ€ girls. That is their ridiculously PC word for girls who wear probably sizes 16+. This absolutely drives me up the wall. I am curvy, many girls are curvy, in many different ways, and I find that voluptuous and natural and beautiful. Now curvy has come with the connotation of â€œfatâ€ which is so wrong. Magazines are labeling girls who actually may be slightly overweight under the condescending umbrella of â€œcurvyâ€.
I know, they want to be inclusive, what words should they use as to not offend women? How about none. There shouldnâ€™t be a straight size or a plus size, itâ€™s just a size. I know what fits my body and what accentuates my features. I buy a large without a thought, because though the medium fit me everywhere else, it just would not fit my chest, and I donâ€™t think that makes me â€œplus sized.â€ It is upsetting that what Iâ€™m describing is probably some unattainable utopia, but itâ€™s what I feel. Magazines should displays women of all sizes. Not just the 2% of the population that is a size 00.
Just so Iâ€™m clear: thin girls/models absolutely have their place in fashion, I have many friends who are naturally slender and they deserve an equal representation.
I think the fact that these “plus-size” models are being featured as such shows that the fashion industry ISN’T accepting curvier women. If the fashion industry is priding itself on accepting body shapes that are more different than usual, why are all these editorials always pointing out the fact that they are curvier than usual? Why can’t we just look at gorgeous clothes on gorgeous women without a huge sign saying “LOOK THEY’RE CURVY!!”
If you look at the two spread that compare the “straight model” to the “plus size model” you’ll notice that they picked pictures where the “straight model is looking directly at the camera and the “plus size model” is always looking down and away. They are basically signifying that the “straight model” is confident and that the “plus size model” is not. I think until the fashion industry puts “plus size” and “straight models” in the same spread without labeling them they haven’t really made any progress.
Jacky: I get what you’re saying, but I wanted to point out just one thing about your post. You said that they should have addressed the “negativity geared towards petite sizes.” I’m sorry, but what are you talking about? The only negative thing I’ve ever heard about thin women is that they’re “sticks” or “twigs”. Most of what is said about thin women is incredibly good! The media is telling everyone that the ideal look is very skinny, that clothes look best on tiny girls, that it’s better to be size 0 than size 10. I honestly don’t see what you have to complain about. The general outlook on girls your size is very positive. If the smalls here are too big then maybe you should just not buy them?
Meredith, I also immediately thought of that “America’s Next Top Model” season! As I recall, the ‘borderline plus-size’ model ultimately got booted, and they definitely mentioned her in-between weight when she left.
Glamour has said they’ll begin to include models of all sizes in their magazine. I certainly hope so! But still, the ads (which make up about 50% magazines) consistently feature 1 type of body: tall & skinny.
I’d love to see more of a mix on retail sites, in magazines & ads, and on runways. And I truly mean a mix! A range of heights, weights, shapes… not just the extremes, and not just the ’cause of the moment.’
I’m about a sixe 12 and honestly very confident about myself. Most of the time, that is. What really bugs me though is trying on boots. My calves are bigger than ‘averadge’, I guess you could say, so I can never fit into anything. When this happens it is awfffuulll, so I hope with this being a new ‘fad’ or what havre you that they take that into consideration. Boot sizes, that is. PS I loved this and look forward to other interesting posts on the subject.
If ModCloth are behind women who don’t fit into straight sizing, why is there virtually nothing on your site to fit us?
Start with your collections, then start criticising plus size fashion coverage in magazines.
I’d just like to say that the “full figured” models featured in this post are not an extreme. If Crystal Renn wears a size 10 or 12, then she’s about average for American women. Average and Extreme are not equivalents. Now if they had a 230 pound woman and said that she was just as physically beautiful as a 110 pound woman, that’s what I call diversity. Just a thought about true reality beyond that which is fashionable.
I agree with a lot of these amazing ladies. Lets see some clothes for the average size ladies! am I right 7s 9s and 11s? Our size is hard to shop for, because it is always sold out! HELLO FASHION INDUSTRY: We are a HUGE crowd to sell too. You wanna make money, we wanna look good, I feel like mags making us feel good about not having an eating disorder (one way or the other!) would bump up the sales.
As many have said before me, I think editorials like this- where for one week only, ‘plus’-sized models are deemed acceptable by the fashion industry as well as the super-skinny ones- are completely fake and gimmicky. I also think the ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ message from this particular set of spreads is pretty terrible too- some clothes just don’t look good on bigger people, just as some don’t look good on thinner people! Dressing to suit your bodyshape is going to make you look and feel a lot better than trying to fit into something that wasn’t designed with your frame in mind.
Also, I’d like to reiterate the point about models being healthy. Harsh as it may sound, a lot of real-life plus-size women- unless they are very tall, and putting aside other health conditions that may be an issue- are at a weight that could be damaging to their health. I think it would be terribly confusing if a magazine were to tell me with its models, ‘You’re at a higher risk of developing diabetes/heart disease/etc, but you’re still beautiful!’ That’s not to say that overweight/obese people don’t deserve representation and nice clothes, but I think presenting that extreme as a model-worthy body-type would be just as damaging as the over-representation of the stick-thin extreme in the media today.
As a high school nurse I deal daily with the issues and pressures of the media on todays young women. I am mandated by Pennsylvania to weigh, measure and produce a CDC BMI letter for every student. I find myself adding handwritten comments on both male and female students forms to commend weight loss or changes to healthy lifestyles. The media has a HUGE impact on the psyche of young women and men. As a health care professional I am well aware that a size 12 is the norm. (that just happens to be my size) KUDOS for taking on this topic and we hope to see more NORMAL sized models on your site!!!
I’m confused as to why you are complaining so much about the sizes made available from modcloth? You say none of the smalls fit you, yet you are constantly posting on the blogs here? If the smalls are as you say, â€œALWAYSâ€ too big on you, then what are you even doing on modclothâ€™s website still?
On a more positive note, it’s such a breath of fresh air to see the media being called out on their mistreatment of woman and their psyche. I really enjoyed reading this article and look forward to the follow ups on Wednesday and Friday.
Magazines tell us that we are beautiful as we are, and two pages later tell us about the latest diet. Yep. They really love us.
P.S. Jacky, I’m petite and curvy too. Don’t complain. It is easier to hem and take in the seams on your clothes, than for tall girls to try and let out a seam or hem. Have some fun and learn some sewing and tailoring skills. You’ll never have to pay for the Tailor to alter your clothes again!
Constance, you’re right, the plus-sized models are far from “extreme.” So if I could, I would edit my earlier post.
My intent was to say that the fashion industry seems to abide by 2 prototypes: skinny & ‘plus size’ (often represented by models who are at the high end of a healthy BMI range, or who are just barely ‘overweight’ according to the NIH). Anyone in-between is not represented, and of course, truly ‘plus size’ women aren’t represented either.
Wow. I am humbled, proud, and inspired by all the thoughtful, fantastic comments, as well as the constructive criticism. We want you to know that we are listening to you! This is a fantastic opportunity for us to learn from you guys, as well. I promise that this discussion will continue, and we welcome your input and insight!
I also want to thank you all for keeping things positive. Many commenters on other sites wind up using it as an opportunity to spread negativity, and, for the most part, we have refrained from that. Thank you for keeping ModLife a positive place.
I promise we’ll address many more of the issues brought up here on Wednesday and Friday. You gals and guys are the best blog readers ever. 🙂
I’m glad you talk about this subject, but I would wish you’d actually apply your sayings in your shop. How come I’m not a plus size, that I fit in regular clothes in many shops, but that I can’t even fit in an XL in many of your skirts and dresses? Of course it’s not like that in all of your clothes, but I would still like to understand why.
But still it’s great that you talk about this, and that you actually use models of all sizes. Your article was pertinent and I’m waiting for the to other ones to come this week.
Great job on the post Natalie! Way to tackle a touchy subject with style and grace.
I have to say I agree 100% with what Raquel said! I am by no means a small girl, I was born into a family with large frames and slow metabolisms, but I’m at the gym 4 times a week because I do not want to accept this as my fate. I am not there because I want to conform to what the media tells me I should look like, I’m there because I want to be healthy. I know at my skinniest in HS I was still around a size 10/12 because of my frame, but I know at least I was healthy.
Again, I agree with Raquel this is something we must keep in mind.
I’m not pleased with this at all, but what gets me might be a tad unorthodox.
Why is any sort of “size” considered automatically “curvy?” I’m a tiny busted, big butted girl. Yes, you could argue my butt makes me a “curve,” but in all actuality people guess me as far thinner sized than I am (I am a size 12, and I am often guessed at 8, once even getting a stunning 4!) because I am not “curvy,” by nature. My butt isn’t huge and my hips aren’t wide. I have an hour glass, but it’s not pronounced. I’m just average, in all ways.
I feel like this is another important gradation that the media ignores — because I am in the double-digits, I’m expected to need size D bras, and am presented an image of women who have all the things that secretly I wish as a double-digit “straight” size I had to justify my body. But it’s just there. And the consistent implication that I ought be curvy for it is frustrating.
Sorry ya’ll, but I hate that argument that showing “plus sized” models in print is some how condoning an unhealthy lifestyle. My size is in the double digits, and I can still outrun and out hike a lot of smaller chicks. Here’s a source… http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1066937,00.html
And let’s keep in mind that encouraging someone to be happy with their size and shape is always a pro-health move… it’s not like we’re encouraging over indulgence in twinkies.
Kristina, I totally agree, but you have to see how this could be misinterpreted. I think that was Raquel’s point, that it doesn’t matter what size you are, as long as you’re healthy and happy.
I just want to add something regarding a comment about wanting more normal looking models on this site. Personally, I feel like the models I see on this site look normal. They’re not heroin-thin. They’re thin, yes, but they look perfectly healthy and decent. I keep hearing about this average size of american women being 14, but the vast majority of girls I know are smaller than that, and they’re healthy. Maybe it’s because I live in New York. I just think that showing plus size models and calling them the norm puts down small girls just as much as skinny models put down bigger girls. Anyone who is healthy and treats her body with respect should be considered to have a normal body. Size is irrelevant.
kudos to you modcloth for taking on the term plus size and starting a good conversation.
while, i didn’t read everyone’s comments, i see many women give praise to plus size girls (including myself) and to not forget that some people can’t help but be small. the thing that we all need to remembers is that we need to preach body acceptance whether you’re a size 0 (or double 0) or a 20, we should all be supporting each other more!
also, while i give you kudos for starting a conversation, and i absolutely love your site, you really need to start preaching what you’re saying, because there hasn’t been a plus size item on your site in a LONG time, and the few things you did carry were not up to par on the cute items for regular sizes!
I think healthy is the key word, thats what it should be about. Women need to rise above and stop being competitive and worrying so much about looks, Love yourself enough to live a healthy lifestyle.
The fashion industry isn’t just wrong about weight. where are the models who aren’t seven feet tall? They’re not even representing different heights, let alone weights (and most boys I know would rather date a girl who’s shorter than they are, but wouldn’t care at all about her weight). Different people are attractive to different things. That’s why I wonder how the fashion industry decided together somehow what its type would be and stuck with such a specific image for so long!
I’ve seen a lot about both of the things referenced in the article, the V shoot and the crystal v jaquelyn shoot, which has made me think a lot about what it means to be plus size and have this represent that. I have to say, as a size 10 woman who has varied in my adult life from size 6-14 but was a size 4 through most of high school, that I have never felt from the media that my body was beautiful. I think I can definitely say that at my thinnest I felt more accepted but I don’t find it to be the same thing. At my current size I am healthy as I eat well and exercise every day of the week but still manage to not have a flat stomach or drop clothing sizes. Despite this, I still feel way over average when I shop for clothes at most places. I have to say that Target has the most outrageous sizing system as a couple of months a go I had to buy size 17 pants when i wear a size 10 or 31 everywhere else.
What I don’t understand is how women who are bigger than myself end up finding clothes that fit them well when I have such a difficult time finding them. I can’t even imagine.
The industry is so twisted as far as what constitutes certain sizes because with every girl I know, trying on clothes ends up being a huge hit or miss depending on what the brand decided the measurements of that particular item should be.
It also seems that most of the time a size 0 is created and then each size has an increase of determined inches everywhere on the garment, which is never how body proportions work. Both my butt and my stomach are not x inches bigger than Kate Moss or whoever they decided on.
While I understand that the industry is based around fantasy and trying to present a body that men want and therefore women want to have, it ends up creating unrealistic expectations since not only has it been pointed out that 12 or 14 really is the average, but also women have a huge range of body types that deserve to all be viewed as beautiful.
Some people here have brought this up, but this then makes me wonder about the sizing of the clothes on this site. I just bought a size XL skirt here and am dreading trying it on because I honestly think it will be too tight in the waist. Even though you guys may not have control of the actual measurements of the garments since I realize you buy from brands, you do have control on the particular pieces you buy and I urge you to look for pieces that have sizes where a size 10 girl doesn’t have to dread that the biggest size carried will be way too small for her and on the flip side, where a petite girl like my size 2 sister will not have to worry that a size small will be way too big in the waist.
Thank you NatalieB for opening up this dialogue.
All these women are so beautiful and empowering. It doesn’t matter what size you are as long as you are happy and living like the unique individual you are. Reminds me of an interior design blog called Live Like You. Check it out at: http://blog.livelikeyou.com/
I very much enjoyed reading your comment. Something you said struck me, though. The fact that you – and I’m sure many other women – feel that the women’s fashion industry presents a body type that men desire. It saddens me to find out that women feel this way, but with the power of influence the media apparently has, it’s no wonder why this happens.
So, I’m here to say, as a heterosexual male, that I find women of all shapes and sizes beautiful, as do all of the men I personally know. It’s a common misconception that men are only attracted to the tall, skinny women portrayed in the pages of magazines. The fashion industry, then, does NOT necessarily reflect – nor dictate – the body type that men idealize.
I’m glad to see blogs (and shops) like yours talk about this issue. I wish you could apply this way of thought in your inventory a little more. I am a size 10-12 and I can’t wear anything from your shop when it comes to clothing. Even your larger items don’t fit me, when I compare the measurements with my shape.Your size 10 and 12 are sometimes only an inch larger than the small one….That is sad. It is one thing to say that any size is beautiful and normal, but now creators have to take the next step.too.
I’m frustrated, always, since I was a kid, that people who fall between a size 2 and a size 12 aren’t represented in fashion. I’ve always said that if I was a designer, I’d insist that my samples would be a size 6 or 8 to fill in the gaps. As a size 8 myself I’ve always been confused as to what that means for how I’m perceived by others. Do they think I’m fat? Do I look healthy? Do I look normal? But I know I look like most other young women, a middle sort of size. So where are the fashion spreads showing my body type?
I want to clarify that the reason I wonder how other people see me, and I worry it might be negatively, is because I feel odd because of the media’s ignoring my body type. I’m not asking if those things are true or not because my point is the questions and not the answers. The fact that I’m worried about the questions is what bothers me.
I understand disliking the term “plus size”, but ModCloth’s term of “additional sizes” does the exact same thing. It creates the idea that sizes 14 up higher are “other” sizes and not classed in the same area as “regular” sizes.
Maybe instead of the term “plus” or “additional”, you could just advertise the sizes available for the garment.
Example: “Red Skirt – Sizes 00 – 8” and “Red Skirt – Sizes 9 – 16”.
You go, girlfriend! Curves will always be IN!
I’ve read through this post and the follow up posts, and I find that many of the comments focus on current day strategies for changing body image and creating an unrealistic “perfect” ideal (airbrushing, surgeries, etc). It may be interesting to compare these to different body altering techniques from the past, severe corseting being the most obvious example. Is our modern “ideal” body image equally unhealthy? That said, I’m loving these posts and I like reading what Mandy has to say as a confidently different gal.
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