Glamour Editorial

What Is Plus Size?

The modelling and fashion industries aren’t shy of controversy. Diversifying the runway hasn’t been without trial and error. Name brands commend themselves for including plus size women in their shows and campaigns. Yet the requirements for curve modelling still fail to represent a majority of plus-size women. Within the walls of the world of fashion, a size 10-12 is considered to be plus size. Meaning models such as Stefania Ferrario and Charli Howard are stuck in a category that doesn’t really suit them. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the national average for women is a size 14-16. If the national average is 14-16, shouldn’t the average model be of a similar sizing?

By Natalie Dawson

“I’m NOT proud to be called ‘plus’, but I AM proud to be called a ‘model’, that is my profession!” – Stefania Ferrario

Australian model Stefania Ferrario found her way to fame through Dita Von Teese’s lingerie line. Represented by IMG Models, Stefania is considered to be a plus size model as she is a size 12. Stefania rejects this title.

“If size 8 models aren’t referred to as ‘negative size’ why should anyone larger than that be labelled plus size?” Stefania publicly denounced the term and insists on being called a ‘model’ no strings attached. Stefania isn’t the only “in-between” model who feels the label is ill-fitting.

British talent Charli Howard has consistently been vocal about the rejection she’s faced throughout her career. Too big or too small, Charli worked hard to love her body regardless of industry criticism.

“There isn’t really a section for me,” she said in an interview with BBC. “Plus size is an industry term, that’s not something I’ve given myself. I’ve had very successful curve models say to me ‘Well, you’re not plus size, I find that really offensive.’

My book went up a few weeks later online, and there I was, on the curve division. At a size 0.” – Elianah Sukoenig

It’s unsurprising that there is much controversy surrounding the question ‘what is plus size?’ as there seems to be no general consensus amongst industry professionals.

Model Elianah Sukoenig reflected on her modelling journey in an interview with Byrdie Magazine in late 2019.

“Even at a size 2 [AUS 6], I had multiple agents turn me down and encourage me to shave inches off my hips,” she said.

At her lowest weight, Elianah was a size 0 [AUS 4] due to a retail position that had her on her feet all day, every day.

An agency at the time reached out and insisted on labelling her as a curve model. Elianah would often show up to castings wearing bulky clothes under the instruction of the well-known New York agency.

“Of course, I could not book any of these jobs,” as photographers were expecting a size 10+ model, not a size 0.

Elianah attributes her breasts to the reason behind her forced plus-size status.

“[I’m] a woman with large breasts — ones that don’t fit seamlessly into clothes without a bra, look particularly dainty or point upwards.”

Elianah was diagnosed with hypothyroidism which caused her weight to shift.

Still, Elianah didn’t fit into curve but supposedly wasn’t small enough to be considered a straight size.

[A term used for models who fit the standard 8 sample size.]

“Young girls seeing my body type thinking that is plus size?” – Amy Schumer

Classifying models who fit a size 10-12 as plus-size doesn’t reflect the national average body type for women. The disjointed understanding of what plus size truly is reflects badly on these industries.

Insisting on labelling women and putting them in size categories is damaging.

Comedian and actress Amy Schumer called out Glamour Magazine in 2016 for using her name in an article dedicated to plus size celebrities.

Amy quickly responded to the article, sharing her thoughts on the magazine’s attempt at body positivity.

I think there’s nothing wrong with being plus size. Beautiful healthy women. Plus size is considered size 16 in America. I go between a size 6 and an 8,” she said on Instagram.

“I think that when you use the word ‘plus-size’ you’re putting all these women into a category.” – Ashley Graham

While a model is meant to be an aspirational figure there has to be an aspect of relatability. Women over a size 16 understandably get frustrated when a size 10 is being labeled as plus size. Models who are too small for the curve division and too big for straight sizing are also exasperated.

There is an essence of inclusion, yet progressive actions tend to be half-hearted and poor attempts at masking the problem instead of fixing it.

Ashley Graham tends to be the chosen bandaid of choice. Though her inclusion in high fashion magazines should not be groundbreaking. At a size 16, her body represents the average woman. 

The public is asking for more representation as currently, Ashley’s perfected hourglass form isn’t enough.

Read: How 10 Fantastic Plus Size Models Found Their Fame

So, what is the answer?

Answers will differ depending on personal and public opinion, but the need for inclusion seems to be the overwhelming outcry.

Women who fit between straight sizing and plus sizing shouldn’t be ignored. Women who fall into true plus sizes deserve media representation.

Misidentification can be detrimental to the psyche of valuable consumers, so why categorize at all?

The national average of a size 14-16 is the centre point, so arguably these are the sizes we should see the most of.

Bodies of all shapes and sizes should be catered for and invested in.

The production for a size 6 should have as much detail, attention and care as the making of a size 16.

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