by Caitlin Karna
In an industry where we focus on appearances, the fact that a label like “plus-size” is used to describe girls, models, and clothing is demeaning in and of itself. Typically, “plus-size” is considered anywhere from size 8 to size 16, depending on who you ask. Oftentimes the media, including many fashion and style publications, will refer to these women as “full-figured,” “healthy,” “voluptuous,” or “curvy”—adjectives that seem euphemistically complimentary, yet imply negative connotations.
In theory, the idea of introducing plus-size models is a very progressive move in the fashion industry; however, its execution has been poor. We should be modeling men and women of all different body shapes and sizes to celebrate the diversity of humanity and to relate to the general customer. However, the integration of plus-size models into the presentation of fashion has more so created an overlooked, separate category. Clare Goggins (COL ’15), who recently headlined her own event promoting body image through Georgetown’s Health Education Services, commented on this topic: “The use of plus-size models in the fashion industry is a step in the right direction because it promotes the fact that there is not one ideal body shape for women. However, the term ‘plus-size’ itself is unnecessary and problematic. ‘Plus-size’ models should just be called ‘models.’ The size of a woman’s jeans should not determine her career title.”
There is an online blog and publication called “Askmen” that proclaims the motto, “Become a better man”, and features sections on dating, grooming, sex, fine living, and power & money (the feminist in me is already cringing). In an article titled “Top 10: Plus-Size Models,” they stated, “Some girls are just born big and live their lives battling it, and hating themselves in the process. Others, Like Emme Aronson, embrace their big, beautiful selves and are that much more attractive for it.” Not only wildly presumptuous and highly offensive, writers like the ones at Askmen are only promulgating the issues of body image in America.
Recently in the media, controversy has surrounded the so-called “debut” of plus-size models in renowned publications. In November of last year, Calvin Klein released an ad for their “Perfectly Fit” underwear campaign, featuring an apparently plus-size model named Myla Dalbesio.
Though Calvin Klein never explicitly labeled Delbasio as “plus-size,” social media exploded with outrage in the consideration of Delbasio’s size 10 figure as the back-end of the “range of sizes” that their line features.
The media has also focused on Sports Illustrated, who has announced the appearance of Robyn Lawley in their anticipated swimsuit edition. Lawley, size 12, will be the “curviest” model to ever appear in the edition, according to Times magazine.
If you ask me, it’s time to drive out the stereotypes of what it takes and what you should look like to be a model. We’re not cookie cutter humans, and that’s what makes us awesome. I’m ready to celebrate diversity—in fashion, style, and especially, models.