There’s a category of women that often fly under the radar in the modelling and clothing industries.
In a recent story, Racked points out that these women are not truly plus size, but they’re not thin (or a sample size), either. Oddly, Racked notes, there’s plenty of women who actually look like middle-sized women — they’re not curvy supermodels and they’re not waifs.
They’re often told they have to pick a side, or lose weight to have a career.
Model Jennie Runk was told if she wanted to be a model she’d have to lose weight — though she ultimately decided to accept her body type and be a plus size model.
Aerie’s spokes model Iskra Lawrence told Business Insider how she was dropped from an agency for being “too big” — but since embracing her curves, she’s become a poster woman for body positivity.
For whatever reason, though, the media doesn’t seem to want to see depictions of reality. They only want to see what they believe are the two types of female bodies that exist — when, obviously, there are many.
To illustrate this, Racked points to a humorous anecdote from Mindy Kaling’s book, “Is Everybody Hanging out With Me:”
“Since I am not model-skinny, but also not super-fat and fabulously owning my hugeness, I fall into that nebulous, ‘Normal American Woman Size’ that legions of fashion stylists detest. For the record, I’m a size 8 (this week, anyway). Many stylists hate that size because, I think, to them, I lack the self-discipline to be an aesthetic, or the sassy confidence to be a total fatty hedonist. They’re like, ‘Pick a lane.'”
And when a curvy model who’s on the smaller side of the spectrum is touted as a “plus” size model, there’s often lots of backlash — in part, because it’s not an accurate representation of what “plus size” really is, and also, because it suggests that there’s a need to lump women into a category, that simply having a body isn’t enough.
Racked, for instance, points to how when Robyn Lawley appeared in Sports Illustrated, consumers were outraged that she was called ‘plus size.’
And when Calvin Klein featured model Maya Dalbesio in a campaign in 2014, people were furious. Though the company said she was a size 10, New York Magazine noted she was a closer to an 8. Either way, people weren’t happy to see that she was being grouped in the “plus” category. If the average American woman is a size 14, then that would make her below average.
Popular Gen Z model (and Kylie Jenner’s best friend) Jordyn Woods has said that people above size eight can get lumped into the plus size category, simply because there’s a need to justify why someone who isn’t waif-like.
“Well, I believe that once you’re past a size 8, you’re considered plus-size. Everyone has different body shapes, heights,” she recently said to The Cut. “It’s unfortunate because sometimes a curvy girl will say, “I’m a model,” and people will look at her sideways. Then she’ll have to say, “I’m a plus-size model.” That’s just society, you know? Hopefully, if we stop using the term plus-size we can just create a broader definition for what a model is,” she said.
All of this translates to the industry: there’s a clear segmentation between ‘plus’ and ‘straight size,’ It creates a mentality that there are two camps of women, rather than a seamless blur between how human bodies can differentiate from one another.
In turn, this can turn off plus size, women too — a foolish thing to do, considering that according to industry research firm NPD Group (via Bloomberg), it’s a $20.4 billion category.
Some retailers are trying to fight this by either remove. In October, online retailer ModCloth tried to ameliorate that problem by ditching its “plus size” section on its website.
And experts believe that it would behoove retailers to include more sizes — including plus sizes — in their imagery, too, because it could pay off…literally (which should be particularly enticing considering how many people aren’t spending money on apparel nowadays).
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