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What Makes A Plus-Size Model Plus-Size?

Posted by on December 10, 2013

There are a lot of really amazing plus-size models. Everyone can now officially accept and acknowledge that, especially now that they’re evening landing cover shoots for major fashion magazines. However, there is some debate about what makes a plus-size model a plus-size model, and for good reason.

Many of the plus-size fashion models that we see do not appear to look plus-size even though many of them have measurements that allow them to fall in and around a US size 12. After all, models are tall, and 220 lbs. on a 6’2” woman is going to look a lot different from 220 lbs. on a 5’2” woman and there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone’s body is different and while that can be frustrating, it’s also pretty great because bodies, all bodies, are awesome and deserve to be celebrated.

Leah Kelley

Leah Kelley really burst on the plus-size modeling scene when she modeled some of pal and fellow plus-size model Robyn Lawley’s swimwear line. Credit: Instagram @leahkelley

Leah Kelley, a plus-size model who says that her dress size is a US size 12, told Elle.com in an interview that she doesn’t really consider her label as plus-size to be fair, since that label is so imprecise. “I’m tall, so my size 12 is stretched out, but it is my size, it is considered plus-size, and I have no qualms about that,” she said in her interview. “I have naturally thin friends, and they’re people too; they’re beautiful on their own.”

There are many models who are seeking a total overthrow of the current sizing structure in the plus-size modeling world.

Crystal Renn, who wrote a book about her struggle with eating disorders before she became a plus-size model, called for sample sizes to start at a US size 8 instead of a US size 0 during a panel she sat on as part of National Eating Disorders Week last February, so that designers can work with more women of different body types and encourage diversity on the runway.

Crystal Renn

Crystal Renn’s book “Hungry” came out in 2010 and is well worth a read. Credit: Betterthanicecream.wordpress.com

Kelley obviously agrees with Renn since in her interview she also bemoaned the lack of models who measure up as a US size 8:

“People say that I don’t look like what a plus size model should be, but the world isn’t only size 14 any more than the world is all a size 0. The fashion industry as a whole should showcase the variety of types of bodies, not just tiny or plus size. What about a size 8 model? There are so many people who are a size 8, and there are no size 8 models!”

There is a huge gray area when it comes to what makes a plus-size model plus. Essentially, many designers and agencies consider any model who is above a US size 8 plus-size, which is absolutely ridiculous. In my humble opinion, I feel that a plus-size model should be someone who wears plus-size clothes regularly and I hate to judge, but I doubt Kelley or Renn have closets full of plus-size frocks.

Robyn Lawley is another plus-size model who is fed up with the ridiculous and arbitrary sizing standards in the modeling community. Credit: Instagram @robynlawley1

It’s time for all models to be called models with no qualifying “plus-size” title in front of them. I’m so sick of hearing about how this model is too skinny to be a plus-size model or how this other model is too fat to model straight-sizes. I want to see women from a US size 0 to a US size 32 and beyond modeling clothes, because all bodies deserve visibility and there are beautiful men and women at every size.

How do you feel about the ridiculous standards in the plus-size modeling industry? Tell me in the comments.

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