Plus-Sized Models Are Big Right Now, But Their Dress Sizes May Be Shrinking

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In the fashion industry, designers traditionally produce sample clothing in sizes zero to four. So, any model larger than that—size six and up—falls into the “plus-sized” category. As our culture shifts to embrace different body types and celebrate individuality, and as more and more women find themselves shopping for larger sizes, curvy, plus-sized models are increasingly in demand in an industry that once belonged only to the super-skinny.

Industry Change

The fashion industry is growing and changing to accommodate today’s bigger waistlines. According to a 2012 National Center for Health Statistics data brief, almost 41 million American women age 20 and older are considered obese. That’s a lot of women shopping in the plus-sized department. As retailers struggle to combat the effects of today’s recession, they can no longer afford to ignore this huge market segment. Many retailers are opening specialty stores that cater to larger-sized women and use plus-sized models exclusively in their advertising campaigns and promotional events. For example, H&M recently launched Fashion to Figure, The Limited created Eloquii, and Hot Topic opened its Torrid shops. There’s even an annual Full Figured Fashion Week in New York City.

 Plus Size Model -Robyn Lawley

Branching Out

It’s not just plus-sized brands that are employing plus-sized models. Curvy girls have gone mainstream in recent years. They regularly appear on the pages of fashion magazines as part of special columns and features about fashion for larger women, like Marie Claire’s regularly appearing “Big Girl in a Skinny World”. In 2009, Glamour famously printed nude photos of plus-sized models to an overwhelmingly positive reader response. Some of fashion’s top designers are using larger models now, too. Robyn Lawley, a gorgeous size 12 who’s graced the covers of French Elle and Vogue Italia, just signed on to become the first plus-sized model at the center of a Ralph Lauren campaign.

Robyn Lawley Plus Size Model For Ralph Lauren

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Talent Management

Many top modeling agencies now maintain plus-sized divisions in order to meet the industry’s growing demand for different body types. The W Curve division of Wilhelmina Models boasts talent that’s appeared on runways, in French and American Vogue, and in Cover Girl ads. There are also a growing number of boutique modeling agencies that manage only plus-sized talent, like IPM Model Management, whose models have worked for designers like Calvin Klein and Michael Kors and graced the pages of Glamour and Essence magazines. An April 2012 press release from La Mode Modeling Academy in London states, “there are lots of companies promoting fashion shows which require plus-size models and we’ve seen a surge in demand over recent months.” They attribute this trend to a culture that’s “all about keeping it real” and companies promoting clothes that can be worn by average-sized women.


While today’s culture celebrating body-type diversity and the ability for consumers to voice their opinions through web sites and social media have undoubtedly increased the demand for plus-sized models who more accurately represent today’s women, PLUS Model Magazine warns that plus-sized is being downsized. The magazine notes that a decade ago, the average plus-sized model was between a size 12 and 18, but today, most agencies’ plus-sized girls are between sizes six and 14, still smaller than the average woman. So, while the demand for larger models is definitely on the upswing, only time will tell just how big will be considered beautiful in the modeling world of tomorrow.


This article was written by Ty Whitworth, a freelance writer based in Santa Monica, CA, for the team at; be sure to visit them to view their plus size clothing and other items.

H & M PLUS Size Fall 2012

H & M PLUS Size Fall 2012

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