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Where Am I? We Need More Diversity in Plus Size Advertisements

Photo: The Militant Baker

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When is the last time you saw yourself reflected in an advertisement?

Growing up, I knew that I’d never see anyone like me on TV or in magazines. Until Lane Bryant featured Danielle Brooks, I didn’t think diverse representation was possible. Then more models of various body shapes, sizes, and ethnicities started gaining visibility. We starting seeing things like Ashley Graham’s unedited cellulite, Tess Holliday’s designs for Macy’s, or Jessamyn Stanley for Lane Bryant’s activewear collection. Women with bodies who looked like mine, and women with bodies who didn’t, but looked different than the Photoshopped size 2 models on every cover of every magazine. That representation matters. Diversity Matters!

Advertisements are a tricky thing. The goal is to make you want to buy, and selling an idealized image is what makes money. Or at least that’s how advertisers think. The Carl’s Jr. commercials with the sexy blonde shoving a burger into her mouth, the Victoria’s Secret commercials featuring push up bras on A cups and 6 feet tall women. The Lincoln car commercial with Matthew McConaughey’s sultry voice. All these ads are using conventionally attractive people—sex symbols— to sell products.

The plus-size market has taken to the same form of advertising.

As empowering as it is to see curvy women strutting their stuff in lingerie in a commercial that airs on most majors television channels and on the sides of your Facebook page, it also reinforces a notion of idealized images. While their models may be curvy, they do not make up the entire demographic of plus size consumers. The models are young, tall, and a size 16 at most. Plus size by industry standards, by not representative of the wide array of plus size consumers.

Diverse representation

But at the same time, advertisers believe that no one wants to see themselves represented in ads. They want to see what they can’t have, to make them believe that they can if they just buy the products.

Is that really true? Does seeing someone who looks nothing like you make you want to buy more?

I say, hard NO. If the people promoting it look nothing like me, then that means that the product isn’t for me. Consumers are young and old, short and tall, and shaped in all different ways. Sorry models, but you don’t represent all of us.

As consumers, we deserve to see ourselves represented. Social media movements won’t do all of the work. It needs to happen from an industry level as well.

How do you feel about plus size advertisements? Do you think there needs to be more representation? Let me know in the comments!

Images: Jade Beall Photography | MUA: Strawberri Gashes | Hair: ARKANEStudios

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Written by Dominique

I'm Dominique! I'm a fashion activist with a Bachelor's Degree in Apparel Design and Merchandising and a Master's Degree in Fashion Studies and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Bylines include V Magazine, the Observer, and theGIRLMOB. I like my pizza with bacon and ranch, I'm always listening to soca music, and I'm here for radical body positivity!

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  1. Thank God!! Someone speaking sense! There has been a big movement in plus size clothing for plus size women, but I also do want to see adverts featuring women who look like me!!

  2. Totally agree! I want to see what it going to look like on me! It may look good on a 5’10” size 14 but what about a 5’4″ size 24? I need to know before I buy it. I have a very realistic and comfortable relationship with my body. We all should.

  3. I TOTALLY agree with you. When I see plus sized ads, I immediately think, “those pretty big boned girls, not women, don’t have any rolls, stretch marks, etc. Those clothes aren’t for my body.” I’m nearly 57, have silvery stretch marks and scars, rolls on my belly and back. I have no tattoos or grey hair. I’m just an average fat lady. I’d fall over if I saw a true representation of plus sized or even average sized people in clothing ads. When I came to, I’d be a very happy fat lady to finally see the Truth in ads!

  4. I am short, 5’1″, overweight and over fifty. When I was young and thinner, I had to alter every piece of clothing I bought in order to make them fit. I have never seen an advertisement that represented me. Now, even less so. Yes, I would love to see older, shorter, heavier models. I love clothes and typically wear things that have a vintage feel because they flatter my body. Interestingly, in my 2os I didn’t have the money to dress in clothing shown in Vogue so I haunted thrift stores an learned to alter my clothes. Now, when I have the funds, I rarely buy anything brand new, because the quality of ready to wear is pathetic and I still have to hem and tailor all my outer wear. I would also like to see more beautiful, well made daily wear for us full figured, fluffy, vertically challenged ladies.

  5. Like the two ladies that posted earlier, my complaint is there is no representation for me never has been, I have medium tone skin, I am 5’2 inches tall over 50 and wear a size 12-16, depending on how its made, material, brand. Most of the clothes don’t suit my age, style, height or body. When I was thin I was to small to old, short for the little kids clothes I was buy. now I am still to short to large and still to old/grown up for the fashion. Most fashion is tailored for women 30 and under to be conservative or made for Sunday service, people that only garden visit the PTA, or bake cookies for their grand kids.

    Well I am neither I am single with no kids, and I still like to go out I am self employed and volunteer, in short I am a active woman but my clothes rarely reflect that. Unless I spend a fortune on an outfit I like and then have it tailored, I look less than my best! I feel like I have been forgotten again when it comes to fashion? Where do I turn when I want to see me? As usual I’m stuck looking in the mirror and saying maybe some day…

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