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The Rise of the Plus Size Model

Friday, September 12, 2008

With London Fashion Week starting next week, once again all eyes will turn to the capital’s catwalks. Besides the most cutting edge styles that the world’s top designers have to offer we will all also inevitably assess the shape and health of the models who adorn each beautiful garment. While in recent years the ‘size zero’ phenomenon led to fashion houses regularly employing underweight models, I am pleased to say that the industry has at last woken up to the implications that this has had on the physical and mental health on not only the models themselves, but all girls across the country. The turnaround began when ‘The Model Health Inquiry’ was established by the British Fashion Council (BFC) on March 23, 2007, in response to concerns about the health of the ever decreasing size of some models.

This action taken by the BFC was supported by many of the most prestigious design houses in the world. Jean Paul Gaultier started the backlash at Paris Fashion Week by employing a size 20 model to strut down the runway in a selection of his sexiest underwear. When asked the reason for this, a spokesperson for the designer commented that “Jean-Paul wanted to show beauty can be universal…he thinks all women are beautiful and aims to challenge society’s beauty stereotypes”. From this moment onwards, the Plus Size Model industry has experienced something of a boom and the future is looking bright for curvaceous models. Just this week, ‘Look’ magazine dedicated their centre fold feature on the way in which five girls purposefully changed their body shapes in order to become curvier, sexier and more marketable.

Having researched this matter, I was intrigued to learn a little more about the Plus Size Model industry and how it differs from that of ‘standard’ sized models. So, who better to ask than our very own model Michelle! Not only is Michelle the face of Yours Clothing, she also runs her own modeling agency and so has experienced the industry from both sides. The point Michelle emphasised the most, was the difference in attitude between standard model agencies and specialist plus-size ones. She pointed out that Plus-size agencies tend to be friendlier and not so preoccupied with the body weight of their clients. “When I was younger, I tried to slim down enough to make it in mainstream modeling but it wasn’t right for my body shape”, she commented, “I was just told to lose more weight rather than that I was the wrong shape. Now I am a plus-size model, agencies don’t comment on any small fluctuations in my size, they just check that I’m healthy and happy. Fitness is far more important than weight”.

From Michelle’s observations and the article in Look magazine, the common factor seemed to be that the plus size models were all relaxed and content to be promoting plus size fashion and plus size clothing for women with curves rather than struggling to be an unnatural, unhealthy size. This is an outlook that we should all adopt when we buy fashion. Let’s stop worrying what size our label says and start concentrating on our health and happiness while also representing beautiful, fashionable plus size women all over the world.



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