Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Problem with Plus: When Skinny isn't the only pretty

Hi, I'm Whitney, and I've been plus size all of my adult life.

And I don't mind. I like it. I don't feel sick, and while my doc would like me to lose some weight (she always does) I feel fine. I work out. I eat right. I'm just a curvy woman. And...I'm very happy. 

Not trying to justifying anything, but simply stating facts.
"Plus Size" is defined as simply "Clothing of larger sizes." While the term for ladies is usually "plus" (any size above a typical 16), for guys clothing the term is usually "big and tall". Other terms used for plus size are Outsize, Extended Size, and the like. The reason we even have to use these terms is that there are still brands and merchandisers who do not cater to larger sizes. "The sizes beyond that point were considered to be “specialty,” and less in-demand than "straight sizes", says Liz Black, contributing writer on Refinery 29. Often, brands will use models close to plus to model plus size clothing (same as with regular sizes).

But even that is now changing. “A plus sized model, in the past, was a size 10-12 – up to a size 18 for fashion. Now, they are calling a size 8 - plus sized,” Director at MSA Models Anthony Higgins says. And that is a major problem, not simply for plus size models, but the plus community at large (no pun intended).

Let's face it; We now live in a world where thigh gaps are more coveted than Birkin bags and size 000 (yes, J.Crew now has a size TRIPLE zero) is the new desired size. It can be daunting to be a plus size.

Men don't escape the body issue either. Recently, The Cut, New York Magazine's blog, posted about the "Body Shaming" of this plus size male athlete, Prince Fielder, on the cover of ESPN's Body Issue. Some of the comments about this man's shape (forgetting that he is indeed an athlete and probably stronger than most of the mean people attempting to shame him) are simply ridiculous. 

But this is the world in which we live. Every day there is a new post or blog or article of a new, more painful way we harm each other just because very few of us fall into the "ideal" standard of beauty. 

Fashion is full of curvy models so gorgeous they will take your breath away, many who won't get the top contracts due to the industry's own fixation with bodies size 4 and smaller. It's like they are saying "There is only one kind of beautiful body, and it's about 5'8 (or taller) and a size 2. None of the other HUNDREDS of other body shapes matter."

[Side note: I'm gonna just throw this out there; does anyone else notice that the standard of beauty we are pushing for body frame and size actually resembles that of a pre-pubescent girl rather than a mature woman? I'm not saying that everyone must be attracted to curvy women, but c'mon. What does that say about our society's twisted desires, that we desire the undeveloped bodies of schoolage children rather than mature ones of adults? Just something to consider.]

I personally am exhausted from seeing the "Best Clothes for Your Body Type" guides where they either stick the "plus girl" (who is again usually a size 8 model, but I digress) in black or in a damn wrap dress, something ANY body type can wear. Either we have lost all creativity to dress the curvier woman or we simply refuse to attempt it while subtly whispering to the plus woman that "There is nothing for her to really wear, and we aren't going to make it either." 

The whole reason a plus section even exists is that, as stated in the beginning of this rant, there exists brands and companies who, for what ever reason do not make plus clothing. Otherwise such titles would be unnecessary. But I ask is that wise though, from a socially responsible, ethical, and yes, even business perspective. I mean let's think about it for a moment: when the average size of the American woman is size 14, but you only produce clothing for size 10, maybe size 12, and down, doesn't that cut out a great portion of your potential clients?

But here's the kicks part that fashion is missing about the plus community is one obvious thing; a lot of us don't want to be skinny. We don't want to lose our blessed ass-urances (wink) or our full cups. What we want is what most women want; beautiful clothes. 
Model Candice Huffine said it best, "You can call me any size you want, as long as I have amazing clothes to wear. Above all, you know, I want, like all other curvy ladies, beautiful, well-made, on-trend clothing that fits. If a label has to go in front of it, so be it, I suppose. I am all about the fashion."

The point is that skinny isn't the only pretty, curvy girls want to look good just like everyone else, plus is not a specialty size, and the style world better wake up or get lost in the voluptuous sauce.

What are your thoughts?