What do you get when you put three plus-sized models in their underwear on the cover of Italian Vogue? It seems one of four reactions:
1. “How outrageous that those models are even called ‘plus-sized’. They look average to me.”
Yes they do. But not for models. In fashion, any woman larger than size 10 is exiled to the Siberia of the modelling world: Plus-sizia, an arid land where unemployment is high and job opportunities are scarce. The number of plus-size models in the modelling world is inversely proportional to the number of size 10+ women in the real world. Somehow, the fashion industry has re-calibrated ‘average’ to mean ‘tall and extremely slim’, evidenced by the fact that the sample-sized garments supplied to magazines for photo shoots are a ‘standard’ size 6-8. Never bigger. No wonder plus-size models (that’s 10+) are forced to wander around fashion shoots naked or in their underwear. Which brings us to reaction number two…….
2. “How insulting to put those models in sexy knickers! Why aren’t larger women ever shot in fashionable clothes or any clothes at all?”
Two reason for this. In fashion magazines, larger models are most often photographed naked or nearly naked because the designer gear won’t fit them. See point one. But there’s something else too.
Velvet D’Amour is a well-known American plus-sized-model recently interviewed by fashion journalist Patty Huntington for her Frockwriter blog. Asked why she thought larger models were so often photographed this way, Velvet laughed, noting “99.999% of the artists interested in working with me wanna get me naked, not that I blame them. It is quite the odd dichotomy that as a society, fat is viewed with derision, yet should one go out on a limb and include a genuinely voluptuous model, nine times out of 10 they will do so by harkening back to the Renaissance. Rubens and the like, are seemingly our only reference points for a larger body.”
On the subject of the overly sexual way larger models are often photographed, Velvet thinks we’ve been programmed to find flesh risqué because curvy women have been relegated to men’s magazines while women’s mags have fed us “ a steady diet of rail thin, white, tall, youth for the most part.” Yes but I think it’s also worth noting that this is Italian Vogue. They shoot EVERYONE half-naked and sexy. At least they didn’t discriminate.
3. “How irresponsible to use models who are plus-sized. This promotes obesity.”
Very true. Every time I see my favourite female artist Adele or watch the gorgeous Chrissie Swan on The Circle or notice Magda Szubanski on the cover of the Australian Women’s Weekly, I’m seized by the urgent desire to put on weight. You? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Because it’s poppycock. For every one of those glorious, talented women, there are millions of size 8s on every TV show, billboard, magazine cover and in every music video, movie and advertisement we see. If looking at a woman of a certain size had a direct effect on our weight, there’d be no obesity problem.