Greater diversity in fashion is becoming a topic that graces magazine headlines almost daily. Plus sized models are hitting runways and the glossy pages of fashion magazines more frequently than ever before while plus sized fashion bloggers continue to soar in popularity. Fashion designers are slowly introducing fashions that cater to their curvier clientele while major retailers like Target are adding to their selection of clothing. But is the plus size revolution really happening… or are we all being fooled?
Reality vs. Myth
Rarely do fashion magazines that feature ‘curvy’ models like Kate Upton or actress Scarlet Johansson get it right. Yes, Kate and Scarlet are gorgeous and curvy but they’re not the ‘norm’ when it comes to body type. Kate is taller than the average women and even if she weren’t, photographers are trained to capture the best look while Photoshop makes her look flawless. This means that what you see in magazines, regardless of the size of the model, is all just an illusion. In the retail world, a plus size is anything size 14 and up. In modeling, it’s a woman size 8 or up. Clearly, reality does not translate in the fashion world, even at a time when plus sized fashion is getting a lot of press.
Additionally, many may not know that a commonly used practice in fashion modeling is to use a smaller plus size model and then pad her body – fashion photographers want the idealistic thin face and larger body. It’s only newer designers–most who are plus size women themselves–who offer up realistic beauty standards in the form of models who are size 20W – 22W. Plus size customers are continually demanding that they see the clothing they will wear on bodies that represent their size.
Though a revolution may be in the beginning stages, it’s becoming clear that plus size is a marginalized segment of the fashion industry. A bigger problem is that while many designers are focusing on adding plus sized fashion to their lines, most of them do not understand the industry or the consumer they’re working to represent. Going further, a major concern is that while there’s not a lack of creativity in plus size fashion, there is a lack of how to market it. But there is hope! Since 2014, popular online retailer Modcloth has added to its plus size offerings and its wallet. Seeing a need in the market that had not been met, Modcloth now offers over 1,200 plus size
styles at any one time. It’s the brands largest and fastest growing category and its most lucrative: plus size shoppers tend to spend at least 20 percent more on their orders.
The plus size industry is worth about $17 billion so other brands are sure to follow Modcloth’s lead and join the revolution. But, in the interim, education regarding societal expectations and assumptions about beauty are needed – especially if we want this revolution to turn into a transformation of the way plus size is represented.
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