fashion

'Last week, I walked in the first ever curve runway show. This is what I want you to know.'

This post deals with eating disorders, and could be triggering for some readers.

Last week, I walked in the first ever Australian Fashion Week dedicated curve runway. 

The show was presented by my agency Bella Management and was the brainchild of founder Chelsea Bonner, a longtime body image crusader.

Whilst it was a beautiful, supportive and uplifting experience, it hasn’t always been this way. This is what I want you to know. 

Watch Mamamia's lifestyle writer attend The Curve Edit at Australian Fashion Week. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

I remember my first runway. Vividly. I was 15, and I clomped down a catwalk to none other than Snoop Dogg’s 'Drop It Like It’s Hot'. 

What should have been a proud and exciting moment was marred by the fact that only 10 minutes earlier a stylist had criticised the size of my hips and the difficulty they were giving her in dressing me.

"Your hips are quite a lot wider than your waist aren’t they?" she said as she wrangled a belt that wouldn’t do up.

Whilst it wasn’t the catalyst for my years-long battle with disordered eating, it was a moment that I carried as my career progressed; a sense of unwelcome and an acute awareness of the space my body took up. 

I was reminded that I needed to fit into clothes. Not the other way around. 

Years passed and I began working as a "curve model". A confusing thing to navigate with a clear emphasis on my size, having only just emerged from the worst of my body image woes. 

I was heavily insecure but desperate to be accepted by an industry that wasn’t even sure if it wanted me. I found myself working in London, once again on the runway. 

I’ll never forget the embarrassment I felt as I changed into my outfit only to find I had been given a pencil skirt and crop whist the other models wore lingerie. I was the biggest model there. The shame multiplied when I was told at lunch to stay away from the bread and only eat salad.

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Working back in Australia found me walking in fashion weeks in my hometown of Melbourne. Whilst I loved the excitement of the runway, I often felt that my inclusion was something of an afterthought. A box to tick or a chance for a brief pat on the back. 

My looks were limited - stylists often only had options that weren’t in my size but in fact oversized or in stretchy fabrics. I watched from the sidelines, yearning as the "straight size" models were given beautiful designer outfits exactly in their size as I feigned confidence in an oversized kaftan.

After slogging away for a good decade, I managed to develop enough of a presence to be invited as a guest to Fashion Week. A big coup for anyone, but especially as a curve model. 

Despite this, I still felt out of place. I remember sitting front row - exceedingly aware that I was being showcased clothes that would *just* fit me. I scanned the sea of guests and runways longing to find someone in a body I could relate to. I felt out of place.

It speaks volumes that someone who is statistically the size of the average Aussie woman - white and able-bodied too - felt left out. How could our perception of what was beautiful and fashionable be so narrowminded? 

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Last Thursday I walked in the Curve Edit at Australian Fashion Week. It was the first runway of its kind - a dedicated show for models and fashion over an Australian size 10.

There were no comments about what we could or couldn’t eat. No subtle digs about our bodies and their size. 

We had six fabulous designers - 17 Sundays, Saint Somebody, Embody Women, Vagary The Label, Harlow and Zaliea Designs who provided samples to fit our bodies just as they were, not the other way around.

Listen to Mamamia's fashion podcast, What Are You Wearing? On this episode, hosts Deni and Tamara chat about Australia fashion's fatphobia problem. 


Our bodies were celebrated, shown off and championed. I saw tears from models, bloggers and guests, who sighted it as the first time they felt welcomed into a space that was forever exclusionary. 

Diversity and inclusion in fashion is integral. 

It tells young people that they are worthy, that they are beautiful and deserve on-trend, stylish pieces. It allows the designers of plus size labels to be seen and have their hard work appreciated. Many of these designers have been working away for decades, with little recognition or support from the wider fashion industry. 

It also shows high street designers that booking a model in a larger body is not a scary thing. We look bloody good dammit! 

It shows them the sheer demand for larger size ranges. People over a size 10 want options, but they often also want the cutouts and crop tops just as much as the size six's. 

Size inclusion ensures models like myself will never have to go to such extreme, unhealthy measures to be involved in the industry. They can show up just as they are, and that is more than good enough. 

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Being a part of the Curve Edit and seeing so much colour and diversity on the runways last week filled me with a sense of optimism about the future of Australian fashion - a feeling that has often escaped me in previous years. 

I’m hopeful that it will encourage inclusion across ALL runways and campaigns moving forward. And true inclusion too, no tokenism from brands and fashion festivals simply wanting to boost their press or make a quick buck. 

Inclusion because you truly believe in the power of making everyone feel accepted. I can’t help but feel emotional thinking about how different my teens and early 20s could have been, had I witnessed people over a size six be celebrated on a runway. Perhaps it could have saved me from years of being at war with my body. 

It’s taken a long time to get to the point of feeling validated and worthy within my own industry. It is not lost on me that as a size 12-14 I haven’t experienced half of the exclusion that those in bigger bodies have; however, there is no doubt that my experiences within the industry and my history of disordered eating go hand in hand.

I can’t change the past or what I went through, but I can sure as hell show up and be the person my 15-year-old self needed back then. 

I’ll just make sure to remind her that she should never have to change her body to fit into her clothes. 

For more from Jess King, follow her on Instagram here.

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] 

You can also visit their website, here.

Feature image: Instagram/@jessraeking/Getty.

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