Clara Brannigan discusses how the lines are becoming blurred in plus size fashion.
Drop, drop, drop, the grains of sand fall as the hourglass has been turned over, or so the fashion industry claim. The last decade has seen the industry make improvements. Brands like Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, lead the way for inclusivity while huge houses trail behind, wondering how on earth could they have thought of the notion of shade inclusivity. The 00s saw the modelling industry come under severe scrutiny due to only hiring girls of a certain stature, usually very tall and thin.
There has been a new generation of plus size models born, especially on Instagram. Models like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence have been igniting the path of self-love and self-confidence: showcasing that there isn’t one ideal body-type to be considered beautiful. Unfortunately, their message rings hollow, leaving a real question hanging in the air; how progressive is body positivity if only one plus size body type for people is being affirmed?
The problematic issue that hasn’t been spoken about too much, is the ‘preferred’ plus-size body type that has emerged in the media or on online shopping websites.
Plus size models’ entrance into the fashion industry brought hope that body diversity in mainstream media sources was finally happening. Unfortunately, this has barely scratched the surface of body diversity. The problematic issue that hasn’t been spoken about too much, is the ‘preferred’ plus-size body type that has emerged in the media or on online shopping websites. Ashley Graham is a talented model and body positive activist, but she still fits the socially acceptable hourglass body type. When plus-size models look more like Tess Holliday, they are met with accusations of supporting an unhealthy lifestyle by promoting obesity.
The industry has made an effort to be more diverse, but the forced ‘meeting quotas’ just to make sure they cover their bases highlights the implicit racism and discrimination. With the industry dominated by Western culture, it can be a place that lacks representation.
The newsflash is: most plus-sized women do not look like this, reinforcing the idea that others hold weight in “the wrong places.” Brands constantly brag about being inclusive without accurately representing plus-size bodies. The fashion industry is still celebrating what is deemed as the aesthetically pleasing body with perfect proportions. What is truly angering is models on fashion websites like Boohoo.com or Missguided, who appear to be a size 12/14, but are allegedly wearing plus sizes of 16 and above. This leaves problems for plus-size women to find clothes to suit their sizes and various shapes. If these clothes are only flattering on taught tummies and small arms, this leaves people with few clothing options, causing a feeling of shame about their own bodies.
A multiple of public outcries have been directed at Anna Fritzdorf, the Boohoo model who is an alleged size 12, who been used for plus-size clothing on their website.
Boohoo’s lack of size inclusivity hasn’t gone unnoticed and they have already had photoshop allegations made against their media departments early last year. A multiple of public outcries have been directed at Anna Fritzdorf, the Boohoo model who is an alleged size 12, who been used for plus-size clothing on their website. She was quick to jump to her defence, and bravely made the point that she felt she didn’t fit in with the ‘straight’ body type and now she wasn’t fitting in with ‘plus-size’ either. Fritzdorf isn’t the first model to encounter this, as Iskra Lawrence has talked about a feeling of belonging nowhere in the industry. This aside, misrepresenting causes problems. I myself have browsed theses branded websites, I look at these girls who are meant to be ‘plus-size’, and I think they look like me, I then click to choose my size and they’re too big, leaving me with a feeling of where do I fit in too?
The issue does not specifically lie with these models. The issue lies with brands ethos and their morals. These brands are putting their models and their consumers in boxes and they have a massive influence over how people feel about themselves. Maybe this could all be avoided if the labels like ‘curve’, ‘straight and ‘plus-size’ could be dropped, and instead clothing just came in a variety of shapes and sizes.
It’s becoming apparent that only a small minority feel represented, throwing the spotlight onto a genuine lack of body diversity, not only within the plus-size fashion, but across the entire fashion industry. Plus-size fashion is an industry that was once progressive, but fashion designers are also guilty of eliminating many types of plus-size bodies from accessibility to fashion that is on trend. Fashion brands like ASOS and Torrid are ahead of the rest with inclusive lines that show you can be the best dressed in the room and be plus size.
When a model doesn’t conform to these norms, the vocabulary swiftly changes and there’s a quick shift from curvy to fat or obese.
To be blunt, the idea that all women above a size fourteen have an hourglass body shape is ignorant, making the assumption that there is a right way to be curvy. When a model doesn’t conform to these norms, the vocabulary swiftly changes and there’s a quick shift from curvy to fat or obese.
Women may be making some headway but there is a serious lack of inclusivity in male fashion. Where are the male plus-size models? A quick browse on Boohoo men and a click into the ‘XXXXL’ tab and you’ll soon realise that male plus-size models are conforming to the same standards. In this case, they are tall and broad men who comfortably carry extra weight. It’s even labelled ‘big and tall’.
Time is up on the hourglass, it’s up on body shaming, labelling and a lack of diversity. Everyone wears clothes, everyone needs to be represented. People are bored of being told they should look a certain way: it’s time to empower all bodies.