I am most certain that we are all familiar with the phrase “Big is Beautiful!” However, although most plus-size women have boldly and proudly made this proclamation, it has often been met with radio silence to key players in the fashion world. The fashion industry has historically been known to shun all plus size initiatives. This is not the first time that plus size curvy models have tried to make their debut on the “big stage” (the runway.) The famous catwalk has been home to some of the baddest, most beautiful models of our time. Models like Gisele Bundchen, Adrianna Lima, Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum have dominated the fashion industries and runways for more than two decades.
It seemed as though fashion designers had their picks- and often times their muses were women of a certain size. Designers would rarely create threads that could fit models over a European size two or four. Top designers took pride in draping their expensive creative garments over models with thin frames as if to emulate clothes on a hanger.
It is every models goal and dream to be featured in top print magazines and in various media outlets. Seeing your face in famous publications such as Sports Illustrated or Victoria Secret would be the pinnacle of any models career and would safely solidify them amongst the world’s top fashion models. Speaking from personal experience, I too was one of those young girls chasing a dream of becoming a super model but always struggled with maintaining an acceptable weight.
The fashion world has long been riddled with girls who struggle with eating disorders all in the name of staying thin. They couldn’t possibly fathom having their dream stripped away for something as trivial as weight. It is safe to conclude that the world has not been kind to “bigger” bodies. There was never a true appreciation for a woman’s curves and quite frankly never any room on the runway either. This fact may come as a shock to a vast majority of us. This is because the average size of a woman in America is a 14. Having a voluptuous frame was a huge factor that made one of the world’s most iconic sex figures of our time stand out. I am speaking of none other than, Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe has gone down in history as the ultimate sex kitten and the leading lady of every man’s fantasy.
But even Marilyn Monroe’s popularity was not enough to dispel the stigma looming around the plus-size community. Many members of this community have been met with hatred and criticism accused of marketing and promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and a negative body image. These are the individuals who usually opt out of showcasing their fully developed adult frames for that of a prepubescent girl. Biases against the plus-size community have not been limited to the media and fashion industries. Oftentimes curvy women find great difficulty in shopping for clothes that both fit well and look great.
Historically, there were all of three apparel stores who made it their mission to cater to plus-size women. These stores included: Ashley Stewart, Lane Bryant and Torrid apparels. The creation and opening of these stores was viewed as an incredible blessing, but even blessings sometimes come with pitfalls. The problem of having only a handful of stores who cater to full size women is that- most of the women in the plus-size community ended up looking like carbon copies of each other. There just was not a wide array of things to choose from so it always seemed as though curvy girls were forced to watch a very taunting episode of “bitch stole my look!”
Thankfully enough the climate has since changed and there seems to have been a huge shift in the fashion world. Fashion journalist, Jonathan Berr stated that “when it comes to apparel sales, big is beautiful. To fuel growth, the fashion world is increasingly counting on plus-size customers, a demographic that it has long ignored.” In fact, the sales of plus-size women clothing has skyrocketed rising 6 percent to over $21 billion in the last two years. Many in the fashion world have finally gotten the memo that bigger is better. This new revelation has forced them to modify their traditional mission and vision to now align with the new faces of fashion.
Models such as Ashley Graham, Kate Syme, Stela Duval, and Tabria Majors have been the pioneers of this new movement. They have made tremendous strides in the fashion industry by being able to accomplish and conquer the impossible. Two out of the four ladies mentioned above have been featured and have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. For years this publication operated like a country club. Only a select few were offered entry into such a prestigious organization. These days Sports Illustrated show curvy girls much love and appreciation. They do so by having created the SI curve division giving plus size models an opportunity to be showcased in their magazine.
Pioneers such as Ashley Graham continue to break barriers essentially paving the way for those that are coming behind her. She has created her own lingerie line, Addition Elle- which creates a platform for curvy models to grace the runway and debut their sexy full bodies. Role models (no pun intended) such as the women listed above have taught us by example that anything is possible. I view their life’s story (which is still unfolding) as a testament of faith to always believe in yourself, to embrace who you are, and to strut your stuff on this runway we call life!