Tag Archives: plus size models

The Wrong Kind of Fat Body

Laurie and Debbie say:

“I was doing research. No, really.” Amanda Czerniawski, assistant professor of sociology at Temple University, spent more than two years as a plus-sized model when she was researching her new book, Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling.
plus size model pads

Writing about Czerniawski’s book for TakePart, Jessica Dollin says:

The beauty trend du jour in the plus-size industry is a thin face and a curvy body. Typically, people with a thin face will also have a slim body, but society looks to these models to achieve something that’s biologically rare. “Sometimes it goes a little bit further, where they use padding to boost their bust or hip measurements,” Czerniawski said. “Some go and put on basically full-body padding to boost a whole size.”

At Refinery29, Ben Reininga is writing about the same subject from a different perspective, with a 12-slide set of visuals (each with quotes from working plus size models) to prove his point.

Sabina, the model in the photo above, says,

I would prefer us to not have to wear pads. When I was straight-sized, I wasn’t skinny enough, and now I’m plus-sized, and I’m not curvy enough. It would be nice to be like: I’m this model, and this is me. For society to know that curvy models don’t have the same sizes…you can be curvy and a size 12.

Here’s the infuriating part: the fashion industry claims that the very existence of plus size models proves their commitment to helping us all appreciate our bodies exactly as we are. And that’s a bare-faced, padded-assed lie.

Thin is still in; we all know that. A small minority of us have come to fat acceptance, and for most of us that means most days, most ways. Everyone else is still on the “you can never be too thin” bandwagon. So plus size models are, at best, a nod to a better world that doesn’t exist yet. But what we learn from Czerniawski, and Sabina, and the other women in the Refinery29 slideshow, is that to the extent that fat is in, the rules are very, well, confining.

Most “plus size models” range from size 6 (!) to size 12. Most plus size women range from size 16 up about as far as you can imagine. So the first thing missing from plus size models is size.

The second thing missing is variety. Part of Laurie’s aesthetic inspiration that became Women En Large was her discovery that there’s so much more variation in the way fat women’s bodies are shaped than in the way thin women’s bodies are shaped.

The fashion industry wants to erase that. After all, how can they keep each and every one of us feeling insufficient, unsuccessful and ugly if they show true diversity? And how much money would their interlocking interests in diet companies, weight loss surgeries, body sculpting, etc. lose if we actually liked ourselves as we are?

The fashion industry is never going to be a body acceptance ally; whenever its minions start claiming that it is, raise your alert level. The best allies in loving how your body looks–if that’s your goal–are your mirror and the people who love you.

ETA: Thanks to Lisa Hirsch for the link to the Ben Reininga article.