Sports Illustrated was in the news for featuring a plus-size model on the cover of its annual Swimsuit Issue. Editor of the magazine, MJ Day, announced that “Beauty is not cookie-cutter. Beauty is not ‘one size fits all.'”
This is a common message that has been put out more than once. It has increasingly been more important to support the inclusion of plus-size models into mainstream modeling opportunities. Many companies have now started hiring models who are not the standard size 0.
The plus-size charge is being led by Ashley Graham, who was on the SI cover, Robyn Lawley, and Tess Holliday. They have now become household names. Before, plus-size models are left to their own corner and hardly given any recognition.
Gary Dakin, former head of the now defunct plus division of Ford Modeling Agency, has said, “We’re seeing a great acceptance of girls in all different sizes, which is really exciting.” Dakin cofounder the JAG modeling agency, which represents women of different sizes. He says that being inclusive with regard to model sizes was not something that used to be done in the modeling industry.
It leads to the question of what is making brands change their mind about plus-size models? It could be the cultural shift. Social media has also played a big role. By simply having a social media presence, those individuals who have been ignored by the mainstream fashion industry have their own platform where they can speak up. They create their own body positive hashtags and receive their own army of followers. There is no size limit to being a fashion blogger, so people like Gabi Fresh and Nicolette Mason have a place to stand up and share their views on the state of the fashion world today.
Plus-size models are also doing their part on social media to raise their image. Iskra Lawrence is a 25-year-old British model who starred in Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign. Those ads featured unedited photos and showcased some stretchmarks, but they were received positively.
Lawrence is represented by JAG. She suffered years of not fitting the mold of being the perfect size model. She was always not quite straight size and not quite plus size. Lawrence explained her journey, saying, “I decided that social media was my chance to take hold of my career and create my own path. I realized that if I start building a following, more women might stand up and say, ‘We want to see more models like this.'”
Lawrence uses her social media account to encourage self-acceptance. She hits back at body shamers, and also does some work with the National Eating Disorders Association. She posts plenty of sexy images that highlight her curvaceous figure. She is showing what a real woman who is confident can look like. She says, “I want to show these girls that I’m real just like them.”
Brands aren’t just jumping on the band wagon and accepting different body types because it’s politically correct. They have also noticed that they can boost their earnings by creating lines that are more suited to what an average woman’s size really is. American Eagle Outfitters and Lane Bryant have experienced a boost in sales because of their acceptance and inclusion of the new standard of beauty.
It took a while, but the companies and the whole fashion industry has finally caught up. They realize that 50 percent of American women are size 14 or bigger, so that means they are missing out on a huge market of potential customers by continuing to ignore the plus-size movement.
The inclusion of plus-size women in different aspects of the fashion industry has been really empowering. It is shifting the standard of beauty, and you can see that the most popular celebrities now are the ones who are sporting curvy figures, like Blac Chyna, Kim Kardashian, and Beyonce. This is a positive change that will hopefully lead more young women to appreciate the bodies they have instead of striving to be a size 0.