Plus size campaigners, we owe you big time. The fashion industry has finally realised that there is no monolithic formula for beauty and by ignoring anyone who isn’t size 0, they’re missing out on some pretty big business opportunities (yeah, apparently that isn’t as obvious as you’d think). Social media has allowed women such as Tess Holiday to become celebrated for their beauty. Studies have found that seeing plus size models makes women feel more body-confident, and people are realising that big does not necessarily mean unhealthy. (Seriously, I am living proof that a small clothes size does not make someone the epitome of fitness and health.) Louise Green even credits the label with allowing her personal training business to take off. Her clients are told that they ‘don’t belong’ in the fitness world, she claims; ‘I want to show plus size women that this is BS. But first, we need a common (plus-size) bond’.
Simultaneously, we are beginning to realise how, just as we all monitor our physical health, we should be monitoring our mental health too. In some ways, the plus size industry directly aids this; it increases self-esteem, makes judgment-free fitness accessible to all and makes plus size women less socially isolated. All noble stuff- but if 21 years of life as an over-analysing cynic has taught me anything, it’s that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The movement is simply the latest (and cruellest) weapon against women’s physical and mental health
In the deep dark underworld of the modelling industry, anything above a size 4 is often classed as ‘plus size’. For us non-models, it might seem like things aren’t as bad. Yet while high-street clothing tends to begin categorising items as plus size from 14 upwards, with the average UK woman being a size 16, there is still a large disparity between reality and fashion-fuelled fantasy. BEAT estimate that there is 1.6 million Brits suffering from eating disorders. Labelling the average UK woman as ‘plus size’ may encourage a spike in this number because it portrays what is normal as something niche, atypical and worthy of segregation. In many ways, the movement is simply the latest (and cruellest) weapon against women’s physical and mental health.
Even when the models are more reflective of ‘real’ women, they’re…well…not
Any variation in the fashion industry is progressive and wonderful. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Even when the models are more reflective of ‘real’ women, they’re…well…not. Is it just me, or do plus size models and celebs always seem to have perky breasts, tiny waists and cellulite/stretch-mark free bums? Suspicious. This is on top of their already perfectly symmetrical faces of course. This is not to say that plus size women always have cellulite and stretch marks and never have naturally perky breasts nor pretty faces, but we must recognise that just because models are plus size, it doesn’t mean they aren’t photoshopped and airbrushed like crazy, just as their size 0 colleagues are.
‘Plus size’ (I can’t see anything ‘plus’ about her but there ya go) model Charlie Howard proved so with this Instagram upload, accompanied with the caption ‘Whenever I opened magazines, the models and celebrities I saw didn't have cellulite […] It wasn't until I got older and saw other women's bodies that I realised HOW BLOODY NATURAL IT IS.’ Essentially guys, seeing is no longer believing. Shit just ain’t that real anymore. Everything you know is a lie. If you need to take 10 minutes from reading this to have an existential crisis, now is a good time.
Isn’t what we need from the fashion industry something else altogether?
So isn’t this what we need from the fashion industry something else altogether? Surely appreciating women’s bodies’ for their extraordinary capabilities, rather than either objectifying them as the latest trend or segregating them altogether, would be more progressive? No matter how many different labels you introduce for women’s bodies, no two will ever be or look the same, so can’t we just give it up already?
Let’s get the full range in every shop, stop singling out specific body types as trends and get down to the real business –understanding physical and mental illness in relation to weight and size.