Stepping on my Soapbox: Plus Size Models are Women Too…

Okay.  So something has been bothering me for a while and I hadn’t yet figured out how to address this within our community.

Sizism with the Plus Size Community

Yes, I said it.  Sizism and it is starting to get even nastier the more people have access to social media platforms as they voice their concerns and thoughts about this.

But here’s the thing, when it comes to plus sizes, (whether we like it or not) industry standard is sizes 12/14 and higher. While some agencies try to push for models lower than this, for the most part you will see models starting at a size 12/14.  Now the community is at a place where they are demanding a plus size model to be more visibly plus size, and this is great!  However, that does not mean that the models being used are not, they just happen to be on the smaller side of plus.

But this is not what bothers me.

As plus size women, we have fought over the years for an equal playing field in fashion.  We have fought for access to fashion.  We have fought for inclusion in mainstream fashion and challenged stereotypes.  We have reshaped the perception of beauty!

Denise Bidot shot by Stanley Debas

Photo by Stanley Debas


What I do not get, is why NOW we are turning inwards and challenging, lamenting, bullying those who are on the smaller side of plus?  Yes, this is happening.  How dare we subject others to the torment, shame, ridicule, ostracism, and dismissive behavior because of their size? Haven’t you, haven’t we endured this enough?

I understand changes still are being made, brands and retailers are listening, but at what expense? 

How are we to move forward when we are tearing each other apart?

I UNDERSTAND, shopping for clothes is easier when there is a full figured model being used, but the reactions should be directed at the brand asking them to see a wider range of sizes- NOT THE MODEL HERSELF. 

If you look at some plus size designers, some start their sizes at a 12- where the mainstream brands are cutting off their sizes. So what’s a woman who is a size 12/14 to do? She shops plus sometimes. Designers recognize this and cater to her too.

She is YOU.

You, who have fought all your life for acceptance, you who challenged the status quo, YOU who braved it all to hold your head up high and show the world your beauty.  She is a plus size woman who, like you is bucking a stereotype.

As the plus size fashion industry advances, it mirrors the fashion industry in certain aspects.  Sizes used and marketing practices are still being adjusted as it has been proven that there is money to be had in plus size fashion.

Straight vs Plus Model

AND, while we are talking sizes, please note: A size 14/16 on a 5’11” woman and a 5’4” woman look different.  When they shoot these models, they are not sitting next to a straight sized model, so you may not see how much different she looks! And we are not even talking styling! A plus model can look a variety of ways with just how she is styled! Have you seen Denise Bidot (the model in the very first picture?)?

Best case scenario?  If you look at the editorial that Plus Model Magazine did, you will see the differences, but if you look at the model by herself, she may look smaller.

Straight vs Plus Model

This is the beauty of plus size women.  We all look different, are shaped different, and are built different.  While myself and others challenge the brands to give more diversity in the plus size modeling side of things, understand the challenge should be directed to the brands who are trying to hear you.  NOT THE MODELS.

Changes are being made and the industry is listening, but can they hear you when you are bashing the model’s size?  Some can, but not all… I may not like smaller models and try my best to showcase full figured models when I have the images to do so, but you will not hear me trashing a model because she is on the smaller side of plus. If a brand is skewing smaller, I take issue with the brand, NOT the model.

Being a size 12/14/16 does not take away from her being plus.  This does not take away her beauty.  This does not take away from the fact that she is a plus size woman- JUST LIKE YOU.

Imagine if you put a picture of yourself online and people began attacking YOU?  How would this make you feel?

At the end of the day, these models are women, like you and me. And they have feelings too.

SO here is a question:

How can we demand that society accept us and treat our industry with respect if we cannot accept ourselves first? The in between, fuller figured, and size 24+ alike?

Marie Denee
I am the owner of the Curvy Fashionista, sharing the latest trends and designers in plus size fashion, beauty, and accessories to keep you Curvy.Confident.Chic.! I am goofy, silly, playful, and a handful... but it is all in the name of fashion!
Marie Denee
Marie Denee

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  1. Kelly Brown says

    Marie, thank you so much for writing this piece. Since I’ve started posting more pictures of myself, and when I attended FFFWeek, I got so much flack for “not really being plus”. I’m a size 18, but I’m often told I’m not big enough to claim plus size. 

    The same situation happened about a week ago on Torrid’s FB Page for their new Stiletto Jean. The model was STONED for not being a size 24! This one picture of her received upwards of 800 comments since I last checked. 

    This is a huge issue that is running rampant – thank you for shedding light on this!

    • says

      I KNOW. And that FB page is the worst about it… SMH. I feel for the girls featured and the models as well. It’s part of the reason I wont rock their clothes (although I have a great jacket and dress from them)

  2. says

    Great point as usual.  I have seen more than my fair share of comments stating “she is not really plus size” or something similar.  Nothing at all said about the clothes but much to say about the model.  It is not fair to these ladies some who we bloggers have gotten to know personally, to see them be attacked so viciously by their own. I hope it changes but I see it like the industry as a whole.  It is a slow moving boat and though the wheel has been turned the horizon still looks the same.

  3. Lisa Nelson Toton says

    This drives me crazy
    alllllllllllllllllll day long. If people don’t like something – they
    need to get up off their butts and stop being critics and start being
    crusaders. DO SOMETHING.

    Laura and I hated that we didn’t see curvy
    women on
    tv. What did we do? We went
    and decided to try and create a reality show (Curvy Girls – airing the week of Sept 10 on NuVo). People told us – don’t
    bother – people have tried. It’s a million to one odds that you will
    sell a show. No one is going to put plus women on tv. And yet we sold
    our show. Then people tell us – well, you’ll see it air once – but
    shows with plus women never get picked up for a full season. Then we
    were picked up for a full season (in the reality world which is
    generally 6-8 episodes). People told us that people don’t want
    inspiring reality shows – they want drama. We argued and argued and
    argued (and people who know us know we can win gold medals in arguing) –
    and the show is going to be about inspiring others (of course there
    will be some drama – it is tv after all). My point is that if you
    don’t like something – you have to change it.

    In this situation
    – if you don’t like the size of models used – go and spend 500k to
    start a clothing line – cause that is what it costs (I know from
    experience). Spend all your time and energy and heart and soul and then
    have everyone complain about something or another. Especially model
    size. There is a reason companies use smaller size models. Business
    reasons. Consumer reasons. Look at Roaman’s – the biggest plus catalog
    company out there – their models are what – size 6 or 8? It is a well
    known and documented fact – women buy clothes more often when they are
    shown on smaller models. Use bigger models and watch the clothes sit.
    It’s just business ladies – not personal reasons. Clothing companies
    are in the business of selling clothes FIRST – making you feel good
    about yourself is probably followed closely after.

    From the
    time I was a teen until now – I have seen leaps and bounds of changes.
    So many clothing options. More acceptance. It’s not enough – I agree –
    but women need to ask themselves – well how can I change it? Write
    books with plus size protagonists. And movies. And tv shows. Get more
    plus women work in the public eye. Don’t complain – use that energy
    instead to ask – how can I help make a difference? What can I do?

  4. Chris Davis says

    The other issue with the social media aspect is the fact that there are so many fence-lines and more than a few bloggers “ride the fence” as to not take any certain stance. If there is a line to be drawn there has to be a level playing field, as you very well stated. The problem comes then with alliances between the groups and so comes a question of loyalty. With the freedom of social media comes the more than needed “extra opinion” and so starts the snowball effect. With so many differences in shape, height, and how a woman carries herself, so comes backlash in every form. So what’s the best course to flatten the landscape when there are no limits to platforms and everyone has a soapbox.

    • says

      Are you saying that you agree or disagree? I am trying to follow you love… or is it because of social media, that it has given way to the type of groups and cliques?

  5. says

    Thank you so much, I can’t tell you how good it is to hear something positive! As a 5’11” 12/14 model it can be challenging to keep your head up in an industry where at my size you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We’re just women trying to follow our dreams like everyone else. I truly understand where women are coming from, but if we’re really going to be a movement of body acceptance then that should include every body.

  6. says

    AMAZING points Marie! And just WHERE are the women who are a size 8-12 supposed to go? The mainstream industry STILL considers them to be “fat” (as ridiculous as that sounds)! They may not be “plus-size” but they are fuller-figured and we need to embrace them just the same. If we can embrace Beyonce for being a curvy woman (who wears like a size 2), why can’t we show support for women who are between a size 8-12? I don’t think that brands should use these models EXCLUSIVELY instead of models 14 & up, but that being said, I don’t want these women to stop getting work altogether! There’s room enough for women of all shapes and sizes. It’s funny, I was just reading through the comments on Erica Watson’s Huffington Post blog. She asked “Will the Kardashian’s Give a Real Plus Sized Girl a Big Chance?” She listed several models as examples of women the Kardashian’s should pick. It was a great article that was written without bashing women who are on the smaller end of “Plus” and it featured models who are ALL a size 14/16 and above. Would you BELIEVE that someone in the comments section said that all of us “were not all curvy, but it’s a good place to start”??!?!? Another woman critiqued us for not being “heavy enough”. When will this madness end?!! It definitely hurts us as a whole and I applaud you for speaking on this issue!

  7. says

    Thank you very much for this! As a size 16 girl and fashion blogger I sometimes felt that I wasn’t “big enough” for the plus size community but I’m way too big for the main stream. So like you said, what are we girls to do? We are in the same boat and have difficulty shopping sometimes. Should there be more models who represent the spectrum of plus sizes? Absolutely! But we shouldn’t be shooting down these models because they aren’t “plus size enough”. Gaining acceptance is going to take some time so in the meantime, let’s be happy that we have more options than the generation before us.

    • says

      Yes ma’am! We do have more options! ANd this I think has to do with the changes in social media, but then we also now have this… so it will be interesting to see how it evolves ten years from now!

    • says

      I understand you too. Im a size 16/18 but im more busty and not pear shaped so alot of clothes in plus stores are too big or don’t fit properly. We are all so uniquely different and should use our style to celebrate that and not tear us apart.

  8. Liz says

    I’ve been saying this same thing for a while too. I wear a size 14/16, and while I feel I’m plus size, and I certainly am compared to most women within the fashion industry, I’ve been told on multiple occasions by other plus size women that I am not “plus size.” Considering the fact that I shop in plus size stores and am typically wearing above a size 12 I certainly am plus size.

    We need to band together & stop tearing each other down! There is just NO reason to bring others down while you try to bring yourself up! I understand that the size 24+ woman would like to see a model with a similar build to herself, but that is just not likely to happen. And what if it does? Will people then be clamoring for an even larger model?

    I think we just need to support each other, straight size or plus size, and stop insulting other women’s bodies.

  9. says

    Awesome article!!!

    I want to see all sized women in the industry! But as a size 18/20 model and women, it IS a little frustrating that those sizes are the ONLY sizes that you see modeling. I want to see them, but I ALSO want to see models my size, as well as larger! I am for diversity in our models: in their size, shape and height. But we are not getting that, at least, not much of it.

    It’s the designers and the agencies, that keep pushing the smaller sizes plus model. And I want them to keep doing so! But I also want to spinkle in some size 18’s, some 20’s, even some 22’s, 24’s and a 26 or two! Seeing a stroe, ONLY working with models who wear a size 8-12/14, says to me that, the company is willing to sell me, a size 18/20 peice of clothing, but NOT good enough to use a woman who wears that size, in one of their commercials or campaigns.

  10. says

    I agree wholeheartedly Marie. I too have noticed various comments here and there around sizism and find it disappointing.

    While watching an episode of Joe Zee’s fashion series, he gave a designer a plus size model and she nearly had a fit. The model was a size 8. Can you imagine what these women go through, being considered not good enough from both ends? It is absurd and I know the feeling too well.

    Once upon a time all models started at a size 12. If you remember Marilyn wore between a 10 and an 18! Sizing has gone up and beauty industry’s sizism has increased with it.

    It is sad if people expressing their frustration at the industry, allow that to translate toward criticizing plus size models of Any size.

    I WOULD like to see retailer’s representing me in the images of the clothing they expect me to buy, like Keri atkins stated in her comment below. Let’s not forget those of us that don’t get pigeonholed into this is plus and this is not, I just hope for a better broader representation that INCLUDES people who look like me. In size, body shape and skin tone. That would be nice. Sizism is the issue, but first and foremost it’s the industry’s issue.

    I hope your article serves as a reminder to our community to not partake in the industry’s game.

    • says

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this! It really means a lot to have different perspectives represented because it lets others know it is bigger than this blog! Thank you!

  11. says

    This is an AMAZING article and I constantly I hear this debate as a plus model behind the scenes. I do understand some of the complaints from plus models and women sz 16+ about the smaller women that are used and padded/chicken wired up to fill out the clothes when there are beautiful women that can fit the clothes. However, the fact the fashion industry is booking women over a size 2 to represent their company is a huge step……About 6 sizes and up step….lol.

    The fact is we can’t please everyone and should team up and support what we do have. We can never grow and earn respect if we can’t support what we have. We (women size 8 and up) are the MAJORITY and should show the power in our numbers!!!!!!

  12. says

    Such a great post! I’ve said this many times on my page – there is not right or wrong when it comes to bodies. It’s not fair to lash out at anyone because of their size. It’s sad that we still have to have the straight size/plus size distinction. I like to think that someday it’ll all just be fashion. Thank you for sharing this!

  13. Sunday Omony says

    Thanks Marie! As a plus size model, I have had this happen to me many times. When I was between a size 12/14, some plus-size women wrote me messages or would post on social media sites under my photos and say that I did not represent a “real plus size woman” and that I am “just average with no curves”. haha. I agree that we have to unite and support each other. My goal is to promote positive body image and show that women with curves are beautiful. I appreciate you sharing this with your readers.

    • says

      That’s the same issue I have now! I’m an aspiring plus model (size 12/14) and I’m built more or less straight up and down. I love my body and have no problem get out in front of a camera or on a catwalk and making it do what it do. However, I often have plus models (16+) bully me and then agents tell me I’m too big. I’m so confused!

  14. Danika Brysha says

    This article makes me so so happy I cannot put it into words! I spent my entire life being told I was too big or that I was fat. I spent 10 years trying to lose weight to fulfill my dream of being a model. When I finally realized I wasn’t built that way and learned to love my body at it’s natural size (a 12/14) is when I was approached by an agency and signed. I now work full time as a plus model and fight the same yet opposite battle, constantly being criticized for being “too small” or “not plus sized”. I think we all need to stop comparing each other and deciding what something is or isn’t and just let everybody BE. I agree that there is definitely a lack of representation when it comes to showing a wide range of sizes, but it does not mean that those who wear a 12/14, or a 0/2 for that matter, are any less of a woman than anybody else.

    Thank you so much for this wonderful article and for drawing attention to this issue!


    • says

      I see what you mean. The straight industry is pretty much the same though. You are going to see a size 00/0/2 sell anything between a size 0-16. All we can do it give it up for companies like Torrid that have women of all shapes (size 12 to 18-ish) modeling their clothes.

  15. says

    Thank you for posting this Marie!!! I have too felt bad for being a smaller plus size via online comments and I know how the models feel. I have been bigger all of my life and had endured many years of childhood teasing and felt the pressures of society to be thinner just like any other plus size woman. And to now in my 30’s to be ostracized by other plus size women is even more heartbreaking. We really need to work together to make a change and not against each other. xo Karyn from Killer Kurves

  16. Jenjenboben says

    I wholeheartedly agree with your article. As someone who has been a lot of the time a 12/14 I could never really find clothing that fit me well in regular stores because a lot of the times, I was needing an X instead of an XL. I have been seeing a lot of people complaining about AdditionElle models being used lately because they simply aren’t fat enough. That’s total crap! Just because someone can’t relate to the model being shown does not mean that the model is not plus size when she quite obviously fits into the clothes!!!!! Some companies use much bigger models and I can’t necessarily relate to them. That being said, you would NEVER see me saying “that model’s TOO fat” because shit like that is never said….it’s a total double standard.

  17. says

    reminds me of a Spike Lee film where the light skinned girls with weaves fight with the darker natural hair’d girls…are people really really telling people they’re not fat enough? I had no idea…i guess I’m out of the loop…I mean once a woman loses so much weight they’re not plus anymore (Crystal Renn) they just drop off my radar…no ill will…i just lose interest. If this movement of true health, self love, and body acceptance is to be a successful one, we must all have pride in our community and embrase unity…thanks for always being a voice to get behind, Marie.

  18. Jubydoo says

    What happens to the girls in between the two main industries? Sizes 8-10? Talk about under-represented! We feel enormous in “mainstream” fashion and criticized for being a skinny b-tch by the plus size industry. Why can’t it be equal chance for all?

  19. Jasmine E. says

    WELL SAID!!! I love this article because its SO dead on! I myself had experienced the
    perils of size-ism in the industry when I went from a size 14 to a size
    10 (at the request of my agency). What a huge turn off! I appreciate you bringing light to the subject.
    Jasmine E.

  20. Gloria Lassich says

    Excellent article! While I think a diverse representation of sizes would be great, it’s wrong to bash these women just because they’re on the smaller side of plus. I personally am on the smaller side of plus, but I also have Sisters who are larger. As you said, it is the brands who need to listen. Again, excellent! :)

  21. @Huzzah85 says

    I agree with the fact that people shouldn’t be rude towards the models- it’s definitely not their fault that a size 12 model isn’t considered to be a mainstream model. However, this is something we should be outraged about in general.

    Of course there are some very obvious reasons for this: a woman who wears a size 24 isn’t going to feel represented by a model wearing a size 12. Additionally, a size 12 body type can be so wildly different to that of a larger plus sized woman that it makes buying clothes equally as difficult as if the model were a size 2.

    However, I am more worried by the insidious messages behind using smaller plus sized models in ad campaigns. As a community we campaigned for larger models, but that isn’t exactly what we got. Instead of something that promotes body acceptance, this trend of using size 12 models in plus ad campaigns tells our plus sized sisters what they should be. It hints at the message that even in the plus sized community larger plus sized women are freaks, and are too unattractive to be represented in main stream fashion.

    I know that many of you feel like our current state of plus sized fashion is a huge accomplishment, and it is, but that is not thanks to the fashion industry. Our strides have been made by ordinary beautiful women and bloggers of all sizes who have stood up in this adversity (that we all still face, btw) to tell the world that they are beautiful. I would LOVE for this courage and inspiration to be reflected by the brands that I choose to wear, too.

  22. Esther Nerling says

    To me , sexy is an attitude, and confidence is sexy….I have never had a man who gets close to me , comment on my body in a negative way….why we feel we need to justify our curves is about the lies we hear in society, that we should look a certain way.
    They are lies, which for some have led them to a destructive life style. Girls love yourself for who you are, your beauty inside is the most important , let that shine, go out in the world and sparkle!!!!

  23. says

    When you hear these sorts of complaints, I think it’s around the fact that most of the “straight size” models that you see are really very, very VERY thin. An “average” sized woman is a plus sized model, by definition. In a size zero world, a 12 is plus sized.

    I can understand the frustration of plus sized clothes being modelled by women who just don’t look plus sized (even if they are, by the industry definition). I want to see clothes on women who look like me.. I want to see diversity on the catwalks and in the catalogues.. when I don’t see that, I’m frustrated and sad – but I hope that when I voice these feelings it is never to attack the model…

    What’s making things hard for these models (and the rest of us) is the fashion industry’s obsession with women who are much, MUCH thinner than the average. You can open any magazine anywhere and see tall, skeletal women.

    Labels, when they deign to shoot a plus sized line using plus sized models, are so keyed into the “thin is in” aesthetic that they seem to often choose the thinnest looking girl they can find who is still technically a plus sized model.

    Any of us who don’t fit that mold are left out in the cold – both in the cataglogues AND on the racks, in most cases.

    I applaud and support and spend money with the tiny fraction of brands that don’t fall into this trap. I think by “letting my wallet do the talking” I am fighting the good fight far more effectively than I would be by trashing out some poor model for being “not plus sized enough”.

  24. Real_Woman says

    At 5’8″ at 135-140, I wore a size 12/14 in my teens & 20’s. I had a medium frame & not a plus sized body, as I do now at mid life. If a woman is 5’2″ or less & wears a 12/14, then it would make sense to consider her plus size. In real life, size12/14 for someone of my height, would not be plus sized! I never shopped in plus size stores before I wore a size 16.

  25. says

    Well said. I work in the plus industry, and it drives me nuts when people tear apart our models. I want to shout at them “she’s an 18!! She’s wearing the clothes! Yes, she IS plus!”. We need to stop this. Just because someone doesn’t look exactly like you doesn’t mean that she isn’t fighting the same issues!


  1. […] that a plus size model has been used, accusations began flying around that she is not plus size.  The Curvy Fashionista is eloquent on this point, sizism within the plus size community. Why are we tearing apart the smaller end of plus size? Plus […]

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