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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Fashion inclusivity still a myth

    Until recent years, women wearing sizes 12 and above were extremely underrepresented – almost nonexistent – in the mainstream fashion industry. While popular retailers for plus-size women like Lane Bryant, Avenue and Torrid have successfully provided trendy clothing options for curvy women, a continued lack of size diversity among plus-size models does not send a message of body type inclusivity to consumers. Fashion’s failure to accurately represent the various shapes and sizes of everyday women, even when it claims to be doing so, is continuing to skew society’s sense of beauty towards the unrealistic.

    In the past few years, plus-size clothing has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry. Research by IBISWorld states that the industry was worth $7.7 billion in 2013, an impressive 2.1 percent average annual increase since the end of 2008. The research predicts a revenue of $10.2 billion by 2018. While I wish I could confidently say that these numbers reflect society’s growing acceptance of the wide array of female body shapes, we still have a long way to go.

    Though it is crucial that customers feel that they can relate to models who resemble them, there is a vast underrepresentation of women larger than a size 16 in the industry. The fashion industry seems to have a different definition than most people of what is considered “plus-size.” Many plus-size clothing stores sell apparel ranging from sizes 14 to 22; yet, according to Yahoo, the average ‘plus-size’ model wears a size 12/14, “but appears thinner than that size due to her height.”

    Finding a model to relate to becomes even more challenging when the sizes seen on the runway are smaller than those seen on the shelves. A recent article in The Huffington Post entitled “Even ‘Plus-Size’ Models Are Smaller Than Their Target Demographic” examines the “impossible standards that plague [this] sector of modeling.” In the article, model Alex LaRosa, who refers to herself as “visibly plus-size,” discusses companies using models who wear sizes 8, 10 and 12 to sell clothing that comes in sizes 14 and up. This is especially problematic since 50 percent of American women wear a size 14 or larger, according to PLUS Model Magazine.

    The fashion industry also seems fixated on only one type of plus-size woman. The Huffington Post’s list of top 10 plus-size models features Jennie Runk, the first plus-size model for H&M’s swimsuit line; Saffi Karina, a model from the UK, who is involved with the UK’s first ever plus-size model workshop; and Robyn Lawley, who was the face of a successful Ralph Lauren campaign. These women are as beautiful as they are confident and they have earned every bit of their success. Yet their tall frames and fashion-acceptable figures only represent one sector of the curvy community. Female consumers should be able to flip through catalogues or turn on the television and see women who look like them, whatever size they are.

    As long as models are healthy and confident, there is a place for them in the fashion world. The plus-size industry is growing rapidly and its models represent a progressive and refreshing mindset that is necessary for a close-minded public.

    Blessy Baiju, a physiology sophomore, said that she has seen some improvement in the industry, though there’s still room for improvement.

    “From a general viewpoint, I think media tends to portray women as perfect creations with no flaws,” Baiju said. “But lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of plus-size modeling and fashion ideas for women of all shapes and sizes, so I think that ought to show some kind of improvement in the fashion or modeling industry.”

    Still, women who can’t identify with the straight-size or the supposedly average plus-size models we see in the media are being told that they don’t make the cut.

    The bottom line is this: Every person, despite their size, should be liberated from the crippling pressure that a little number on a pair of pants often holds. If the women we see strutting down the runway and on the glossy pages of magazines reflected an inclusive and diverse definition of beauty, this liberation would be much easier.

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