Plus-Size Modelling: Is There Such A Thing?

Previously, we shared how to empower women by being confident, and embracing one’s own body. But what if you don’t exactly have the “ideal” body shape? And what if you’re curvy and want to be a part of the modelling industry? In light of body image issues, the conversation about plus-size modelling shouldn’t be left out. Stereotyping fuller figured people as undesirable is not uncommon. Advertisements that are supposedly promoting healthy messages often associate health with weight or size, and are skewed towards anti-obesity. Well, the list goes on. Some say people of size do not have the same access to fashion trends as compared to someone who’s considered a “normal” size. Wondering why? Read on to discover the often overlooked world of plus-size modelling.

Plus-size modelling has been trending in the modelling industry in recent years. However, this doesn't mean that clothing brands are diversifying their size choices.
Most people, not restricting to just plus-size models, are often overlooked, misunderstood and judged. Society’s beauty standards of women have made ‘slim’ aesthetics to be desirable and expect women to adhere to certain “specifications”.
Image by rawpixel.com from Freepik

Smashing The Labels Of Being Curvy

The clothing industry has evolved to portray more diverse people in terms of size. This has helped customers understand that there is more than just one body type. In plus-size modelling, a model’s size is seen to be more important than her proportions. Over the last few years, the modelling industry has progressed to represent this particular group of models on the runway. However, the problem with labelling plus-size models as being “large”, brings the focus towards their size rather than their career. So why give plus-size models a label instead of just calling them models regardless of their size?

Labelling plus-size models are "plus size" only asserts the fact that they aren't of average size. Does the label "plus size" make their career any different from the models?
When we label something or someone, we automatically associate certain attributes to the label we gave them. Is there a difference in adding the label “plus size” towards models of this underrated category other than to seem somewhat inclusive? Does it make their careers any different in comparison to their counterparts’? 
Image by makyzz from Freepik

Very often, we tend to oversimplify and give simple attributions to things we don’t fully understand. It’s an unconscious habit that everyone develops. As innocent as it may sound, it’s overbearing to attribute someone’s size to their weight or health. There are multiple stigmas around someone who is overweight or not of “normal” size. It’s easily misunderstood that they’re unhealthy or are lazy. And more often than not, people of above a certain weight are told to undergo weight loss programmes. We need to consider that not all weight loss programmes are effective and this might lead to a feeling of defeat. Whatever it is, no one should dictate how someone should feel about their body.

The Clothing Industry And Plus-Size Clothing

It’s surprising that although many brands are expanding their diversity through the models, we can’t say the same for clothing sizes. Albeit the change in societal gaze about plus-size models, fashion designers don’t seem to be taking this change seriously. Without thinking twice, most of us would jump the gun and assume the worst of fashion brands. However, there are actually multiple plausible reasons behind the lack of plus-size clothing in the market. One of them being the lack of market research and customer feedback. Even then, it would take time to sort out a proper sizing chart without pushing aside the clothing fit. Even so, it shouldn’t stop fashion brands from producing clothing of larger sizes.

Does One Size Actually Fit All?

There are noticeable feelings of grievances by people of size for not being able to enjoy fashion trends. In recent years, the trend of one-size-fits-all may be seen as just another marketing gimmick. And as appealing as it may sound, it can do more damage to someone’s self-confidence when it doesn’t fit well across the various body types. In truth, the one-size-fits-all garment actually stretches and expands rather than fit the body shape of a petite or XL person. As explained earlier, clothing brands lack the knowledge to produce a more suitable fit for curvier people. Due to the lack of choices, they end up succumbing to the “style” of hiding their bodies by wearing oversized clothing.

Most of us assume we know our body type. But in truth, we just waste our time trying on whatever clothing we deem looks good on us.
These are the five core body types. As consumers, we would buy clothes that fit us well. However, how many of us do really know what our body type is to know what fits?
Hand drawn by Kimberly Wong

Unless you are endowed with an hourglass-shaped body, the rest of us find our body shape rather confusing. The “ideal” body does not exist and most times, the structure of our bones also greatly affects our body shape. On a side note, criticisms in regards to people of size on the practice of romanticising one’s body has also been on the rise. Is self-love restricted only to society’s standard of “normal size”? And if not, is it then glorifying obesity? As much as plus-size modelling has come to empower people of size, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been a rise in representation of this particular group.

Plus-Size Campaign And The Modelling Industry

The general guideline for a plus-size model is U.S. size 12 and above, and that your waist should be ten inches (25cm) smaller than your hips. Although these are just guidelines, there is sometimes an expectation that plus-size models should project themselves “bigger” than their actual size. Given that these are the requirements to “fit into” the plus-size category, it begs the question of what being “plus size” really means. Some women consider themselves too big for normal modelling but become labelled as too small in plus-size modelling. Plus-size modelling is meant to empower these women to feel great in their own skin. But sometimes it makes them feel that they’re not good enough being the way they are.

Fat acceptance and body positivity movements have increased over the last few years. We can see the increase in diversity of models nowadays, more than before. But there are still criticisms from the public regarding the display of plus-size mannequins or even plus-size models themselves. A plus-size mannequin that was displayed in a Nike store received large amount of criticisms in regards to the message Nike was promoting. Critics didn’t hesitate to express their distaste considering the mannequin was promoting sportswear. The intention of the campaign was to advocate women empowerment but the critics deemed it as glorifying obesity. But we can’t always please everyone.

Fashion Inspiration For People With Curves

Read on and be inspired by three courageous Malaysian women who share their experiences on being plus size. Nazirah Ashari, Ratnadevi and Rathika Sheila have come a long way in their self-love journey and have contributed to the fat-positive movement. Don’t miss out on their hot tips on how fashion and confidence worked for them.

To all the curvy ladies out there, are you planning to go shopping anytime soon? Here are a some recommendations of places to shop by these confident plus-size ladies. (Psst, don’t be shy and explore their Instagram profiles for some Outfit Of The Day (OOTD) inspirations). And here’s another place called Misclaire that specifically caters to women with curves, happy shopping!

Struggling to figure out what type of body shape you are? Take this quiz and read up on everything you need to know about your body type.

Is Conforming To The ‘Ideal’ Body Size The Only Obstacle In Modelling?

Fair skin has always dominated the modelling and beauty industry. But does that mean women in shades other than pale skin aren’t considered beautiful? Join us in the next episode where we explore the different shades of beauty. Yes, beauty does comes in all shapes and shades.

Kimberly WONG

About Kimberly WONG

Communications major, with a passion for reading, Kimberly (Kim for short) has a knack for learning new languages. Having worked in various industries helped her to further polish her linguistics skills too. Loves a healthy discussion about anything under the sun.

2 Replies to “Plus-Size Modelling: Is There Such A Thing?”

  1. This is an empowering article. I can see more and more plus-sized girl being more confident in showing their fashion sense WHICH IS AMAZING.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read. It is really amazing to see! Body positivity rather than body shaming would definitely help in encouraging other people to be more loving towards their body types. 🙂

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