Our WGSN West coast editor sat down with three key players in the plus industry and asked the question of the moment: ‘How do you feel being referred to as Plus-Size in 2016?”
It’s one of the most talked about terms in fashion right now as the industry focuses on being more inclusive and diverse. But what does the term plus size mean to models, we asked three of them to tell us their thoughts.
Meet the ladies:
Lizzie Miller= plus model with Wilhelmina LA agency. She made headlines back in 2009 when she was featured in the September issue of Glamour magazine for a story on feeling comfortable in your skin. She’s an advocate of body positivity and is currently the style director at Curvy Magazine.
Chelsea Miller= plus model with IMG models in NYC. She believes ‘Beauty is being comfortable & confident in your own skin’
Q: Hi ladies, first up what does the term mean to you?
Rachel: I have been asked this question before, this is a tough one to answer! It’s not so much the term plus size that I have an issue with, it’s more what brands or people in general associate with the term, when there is a negative connotation towards that term, that’s what I struggle with. It’s not that I don’t identify with plus size, but in some ways, I am not the norm, I am tall and proportioned and I shop at regular ‘straight size stores’ and a lot of plus stores too. I don’t like having a separate area to shop but on the flipside, as a consumer, I know that is the section where I can find my size. I don’t care to shop in stores where the plus section is placed in the far back corner or basement or if its devoid of several options. I find frequently that I have less in store options to choose from and my only alternative is shopping online to find what I want.
Lizzie: As far as the consumer goes, when you are shopping online you want to see clear labelled sections to look for your product. So classifying and grouping the items by size, does help the consumer in terms of clarity. But, another layer is that the fashion industry goes in extremes, the ‘straight-size’ models are between sizes 0-4 but in reality they are modeling clothes for sizes 6, 8, 10. In plus size, some of the models are sizes 12, 14 even 16 and they are really modeling for the 18-20 sizes, so there is definitely this confusion that happens because a lot of the plus models aren’t actually plus size people, (a.k.a. those “in betweenies” who are around a size 8) I really don’t care what people call me, however they want to classify me, I find it strange that as humans for some reason we need to classify people or put them in a box. “I can be plus size, I can be curvy, and I can shop at H&M.”
Chelsea: What’s my perspective on being called plus size? I just don’t mind. I do think that what causes the confusion with women in today’s world is social media. It’s more of a learning curve, once people start to understand that this is a ‘fashion’ term instead of actual real life term it will make more sense. I have friends who are plus size that would have never admitted they are plus, and now that they see me on social media modelling plus clothing, they say ‘I am not afraid to shop in the plus section anymore, I realised it’s just a term and if there are cute, fashionable clothes there for me I don’t care, that is where I am going to shop’. It’s really about changing the perspective.
Q: How do you perceive the fashion industry’s relationship with plus size?
Rachel: The fashion industry and the mindset towards “plus size” is definitely evolving but we still have a long way to go. Growing up, I did not have many clothing options to choose from. Plus size modelling had just sort of started and there were only a handful of well-known plus models and brands at the time. I really had no one to look up to in the fashion world and I was in between plus and straight sizes at the time. The smallest size at certain plus stores were too big and I had a hard time trying to find fashionable clothing. I would go to stores and try to make something work if I wanted to go out and I remember thinking, what the heck is going on here? Another interesting perspective too, is that I want young girls to see size diversity and be comfortable and confident in their own skin and not feel bad about themselves because the fashion industry standard labels something as “plus”.
Lizzie: I think we are still trying to define it ourselves in this industry too. I also feel there is still a misunderstanding with the term plus size. People think it means ‘overweight’ ‘fat’ or ‘lazy’, which is ridiculous, all the plus size models I know are healthy and like to work out! They probably work out more than the straight size girls because we have the body type where we have to/need to work out.
Chelsea: I feel like it’s changing so much right now that people are confused by it. There are negative connotations with plus size because it wasn’t present as much in the past, as it is today. Now that we are seeing active, fit, happy and healthy plus women hopefully those negative connotations will be left in the past. Also, if you are going to change the term ‘plus size’ because it feels negative, changing it to ‘curve’ or any other term, eventually ‘curve’ or any other term is going to come under fire. Changing the name does not change what the actual being is. I believe if we just stick to the term and keep doing what we are doing, the negativity surrounding it will go away and we’ll be seen for who really we are.
Editors conclusion: 2016 has already shown exciting fashion strides for curvy/plus women in the US. From runway designer Christian Siriano’s flawless collection for Lane Bryant, Ashley Graham’s historic Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover, to the expansion of fashionable plus size clothing options among established brands. The hope for the rest of the year and beyond is that we worry less about the term and more about celebrating all women, in their ranging shapes and sizes.
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