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Plus-Size Fashion Picks Up Steam

Written by FS StaffJuly 14, 2016

In 2016, Project Runway season four winner Christian Siriano collaborated with Lane Bryant to launch a limited edition plus-size clothing line and in 2015, Ashley Tipton became the first plus-size fashion designer to win Project Runway (Season 14). She wowed the judges with her colorful designs, which she described as “an artful combination of glamour and street fashion.” JC Penny agreed, and plans to launch Boutique+, a plus-size brand that will feature two Tipton collections for fall and the holidays.

But long before Tipton and Siriano came along, other fashion designers, models, and some fashion magazines were already busy paving the way for plus-size designers. In fact, Lane Bryant, the most recognized name in plus-size clothing, has been around since 1904—a time when a plus-size movement didn’t exist. 

Just a few other big names in the fashion industry include Torrid (est. 2001), New York’s Re/Dress (est. 2008), Emme—the first plus-size model to appear on an Australian magazine cover (for New Woman in 1997), Jibri (est. 2009 and featured in Marie Claire, Lucky, Essence, and In Style), Sophie Dahl—the first plus-size model to be featured in the NSFW Pirelli calendar, and Natalie Laughlin—the first plus-size model to ever appear on a Times Square billboard for Liz Claiborne. 

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While Laney Bryant has been working with the plus-size population for well over a century, and designers, models, and magazines have been pushing the issue for decades, plus-size female models have been earning increasing recognition in the fashion industry today, making right now the most popular time for this segment of the fashion industry. This may be the result of an increasing demand for cool fashions that fit the average American woman (that would be size 14), along with the impact of celebrity voices and the media who seem to be putting pressure on the fashion industry to be more diverse—and more realistic.  

Today’s examples are quite plentiful, but just a few standouts are:

-Glamour Magazine’s special issue celebrating plus-size women (published April 2016).

-In 2015 Robyn Lawley became the first plus-size model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.

-In 2014 Denise Bidot became the first full-figured model to walk in New York Fashion Week.

-And the media just can’t get enough of full-figured fashionista Ashley Gramm—she’s    everywhere!

In 2015, Target introduced the public to one of the world’s first plus-size male models. At 6-foot-6, Zach Miko was the face of Target’s big-and-tall section that year and he says, “I’m proud of my 40-inch waist.”

Many in the media hailed 2015 as fashions finest year because magazines and multiple ad campaigns embraced diversity on all fronts by featuring models of all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and sexual orientations. But not everyone is celebrating just yet. Just ask “Drop The Plus” and a number of celebrities that shun the title ‘plus-size’. “Drop The Plus” asks the question: Can’t a model just be called a model? 

Started by several models in Australia, “Drop The Plus” wants the fashion world to do just that—“for the sake of women everywhere.” The movement began when several thin and trim models were labeled plus-size in a number of “body-positive” ad campaigns. According to Elle, “in general, plus-size models” (many are size 10 to 12) “are far thinner than the typical plus-size consumer, which leaves many so-called plus-size models scratching their heads. 

Robyn Lawley, who wears a size 12, “is reluctant to embrace the label.” Says Lawley, "I don't know if I consider myself as a plus-size model or not, I just consider myself a model because I'm trying to help women in general accept their bodies." Another celebrity, Amy Schumer, decided to join the conversation in response to being placed in Glamour’s plus-size issue. “Bottom line seems to be we are done with these unnecessary labels which seem to be reserved for women,” said Schumer. And Stefania Ferrario, “the face of Dita von Teese's lingerie line, called out the modeling industry for referring to her as "plus" size, when she's likely thinner than the average woman,” according to Elle. The model tweeted, “no need for the 'plus' size label. If it gets eradicated in the fashion/model industry it'll flow on from there to stores too.” 

Ajay Rochester, the former host of The Biggest Loser in Australia, wrote on Instagram. "It's not us vs. them. We are sisters!" After she posted her photo, she shared images of women writing similar messages, encouraging the world to drop labels. 

So where does the industry and the “movement” go from here? Our guess is up. We are already seeing more images of curvy women more than ever before in magazines, on runways, in print ads, on TV, and everywhere in between. It looks like the industry is finally getting the picture: if the average American woman is a size 14, shouldn’t the most common size sold in the U.S. be a 14? 


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Dalessandro, Alysse. "23 Plus Size Designers Who Personally Understand The Plus Size Shopping Struggle." Bustle. BDG Media Inc., 01 June 2015. Web. 11 July 2016. 

"Famous Plus-Size Models We Love." Us Weekly. Wenner Media, 13 June 2016. Web. 11 July 2016. 

Friedman, Megan. "These Inspiring Models Want the Fashion World to Drop the Term "Plus Size"" Elle. Hearst Communications, 23 Mar. 2015. Web. 11 July 2016. 

Halkias, Maria. "J.C. Penney Creates Its Own Plus-size Women’s Fashion Brand." Biz Beat Blog. Dallas News, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 11 July 2016. 

James, Emily. "'I Don't Care If I Have Ripped Abs'" Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 08 Oct. 2015. Web. 11 July 2016.

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