Over the past few weeks, major brands such as Lane Bryant and the UK-based Evans have debuted plus-size empowerment campaigns; however, some fans were quick to note that none of the models in these campaigns appeared to be over a size 16.
While there’s still much buzz and speculation about which plus size models would be great additions to the Victoria’s Secret angel roster, my concern is with the plus size women that we still aren’t seeing being represented in most mainstream empowerment campaigns: women sizes 18+ and women of color.
I spoke with a few women in the plus size fashion industry including model/host/entertainer Chenese Lewis who first suggested that I cover this topic.
“A long time ago, I tried to do a project with models over a size 18 and had a hard time finding quality pics because all of the bigger girls were being too overly sexual,” says Lewis.
What she is touching on here and that when it comes to high fashion visibility for women size 18+, there are still not a lot of opportunities. Lewis herself was the first woman crowned Miss Plus America in 2003 and went onto to land a gig with Torrid as a size 22 but she found that after that she worked mostly with indie plus designers because of her size and height.
With the exception of Tess Holliday who has worked for Torrid, Simply Be and H&M+ among others just this year alone, the majority of 18+ visibility is from indie designers and small businesses.
Chrystal Bougon is the owner of plus-size lingerie boutique, Curvy Girl Lingerie in San Jose. She regularly casts models and her own customers sizes 22-26 to model for her online shop. Bougan says her customers really connect with the “Joci” and “Jeanette” because of the size 26 model in the photos.
“I find that my customers and social media followers respond like crazy,” Bougon says of her 18+ models who are often not hourglass shapes either. “My customers love seeing our customer and models that look like them.”
But the excuse often heard from the mouths of big brands is that plus size women don’t want to see women who look like them; they want to see women who are “aspirational.”
As someone who designs a size inclusive line, the positive feedback about my models spanning my full size range just doesn’t support these claims. To me, this excuse seems like a replication of exactly what the straight size fashion and beauty industry do to enforce traditional standards of beauty.
Editor-in-Chief of SKORCH magazine, Tiffany Kaelin-Knight books models sizes 18+ and echoed my sentiments.
“It is very important to me to book models 18+ for SKORCH because this industry needs diversity,” says Kaelin-Knight. “We need to see how clothing is going to look on someone that represents larger than the industry standard. SKORCH sees beauty in everything, no size, race, or sex limits.”
I think that’s something that all of plus size women can relate to who fall on the larger spectrum of plus. With so many of our options being online only, I know I’m not the only one who has bought something online off of a size 12 model and been totally disappointed in how it fit on my 22/24 frame.
Like many indie brands, magazine like Volup2 and SKORCH are helping to create visibility for plus size women of all sizes. SKORCH partnered with Torrid to do an all sizes shoot showing the same swimsuits on women sizes 12-32. And the preview photos alone sparked a huge buzz.
“We had three size 22/24 models all with incredibly different body types,” says Kaelin Knight. “Not only is it important to show different sizes but our bodies are so varied with shape that I know personally I would want to see what someone looked like with a bigger bust and belly as opposed to completely proportionate.”
Photographer and former plus model herself Nikki Gomez only shoots plus size women and agreed that we need to see more visibility for women size 18+.
“I strongly believe women everywhere need to see larger size models in the media,” says Gomez. “It’s important for young women growing up to see a diverse representation of beauty. That theory is the main motivation behind my photography. To expand the public’s perception of beauty one image at a time.”
So I decided to begin on a quest to find a list of professional models that to my knowledge are a size 18+ who could helpfully had big brands bridge the gap with the rest of their customers. I asked around on social media for suggestions and scoured agency websites.
Are you ready to see our roundup? Take a peek…
Ten Plus Size Models Size 18+ We Want To See More Of
Although this list could’ve been longer if I included the many plus size bloggers that double as models, I decided to try and focus strictly on people who are models with already established portfolios or runway work. While I recognize this list still leans towards the smaller side of plus overall, it’s a start for the conversation of more 18+ visibility.
What do you think of our roundup? Did we feature a few of your faves?
Which of these models would you love to see more of?
Let’s discuss in the comments below!
Alysse Dalessandro is a plus size fashion blogger, writer, social influencer, designer, and professional speaker. After graduating with a double-major in Journalism and Gender Studies from Loyola University Chicago, this entrepreneur is best known as the owner/designer for body positive fashion brand and personal style blog Ready to Stare. Her brand has become a haven for those whom fashion has otherwise ignored. It's a space where individual style is celebrated and breaking the rules is encouraged. Alysse has been featured on Good Morning America, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post and more. She recently walked in dapperQ's fourth annual queer fashion show during New York Fashion Week.