Today on the catwalks you can see models with different skin color, figure and proportions. But the world of high fashion has not always been so loyal to "non-standard" models, whose parameters did not correspond to the established 90-60-90. Most of these girls often faced ridicule and misunderstanding in everyday life. Everything changed when the fashion-industry introduced the concept of "plus-size model". The world was swept away by a wave of body positivity and girls with magnificent figures were invited for shoots by world-famous brands.
The concept of plus-size: how it came to be and what it means
The first clothes for plus-size women were made in the 1920s by Lena Himelstein, designer and founder of the Lane Bryant chain of stores in the United States. The clothes ranged in size from 38 to 56 inches. Initially the clothes were created in small quantities and did not receive any publicity. It wasn't until the mid-1950s that models were filmed and placed in Lane Bryant's official catalog.
Gradually the plus-size trend was gaining popularity, and designers began to follow the example of Lena Himelstein. They realized that average women do not like overly slim tall models on the catwalk. So fashion designers turned to plus-size models, whose non-ideal shapes were more accepted in society. Plus-size girls started cooperating directly with retailers, designers and magazines, and in 1970s model agencies started inviting them.
The first agency to specialize in models with non-standard parameters was Big Beauties Little Women. Its owner Mary Duffy was a feminist fashion expert, spokeswoman, entrepreneur, writer and motivational speaker. She has worked on developing beauty concepts for women with non-ideal parameters. As a young woman, Mary worked as a plus-size model herself, which prompted her to create the agency.
The origin of the term plus-size is also interesting. For reasons of political correctness and politeness, designers and model scouts did not call girls with parameters greater than standard fat. They came up with a more elegant formulation: plus-size, that is, "one size larger". The plus-size category includes girls with a size range from size 46 to 56, but the most popular in the fashion industry are size 50-52.
Inside the category of plus-size models there is also a classification according to shape. Designers find their own demand for a variety of shapes - "triangle", "apple" and "pear". Much depends on the brand concept and the specific style. Curvy girls are considered ideal - "shapely girls" with a pronounced "waist-thigh" transition. Such is the most famous to date plus-size model Ashley Graham. She began her career at age 19 as the face of the popular mass-market brand Lane Bryant. Graham later appeared several times on the covers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Elle.
New plus-size faces at Fashion Weeks
Today, the wave of body positivity and self-love is supported by a huge number of new girls. They are becoming bloggers on social media, actively discussing topics related to self-acceptance and have followers in the thousands.
The CEO of modeling agency Women Management and founder of the Curve W360 category for plus size girls, Natalie Cross-Coytton, says they've recruited about 30 models through social media this year:
The fact that these girls have an audience that listens to them and loves them is a real way for brands to understand their importance. Brands strive to be modern and embrace society as a whole. Traditional models will always exist, but they’ll be increasingly surrounded by models with a different physique. It's just a reflection of real life.
Paloma began her career by starring for beauty brand Glossier. In 2018, she appeared nude in a body cream ad, which caught the attention of New Yorkers. She has also starred in Nike campaigns and has been in the pages of British Vogue. But the real success in her career was her participation in the Fendi show at the Paris Fashion Week.
French model Odile Gautreaux was first spotted during the Ester Manas show, a fashion finalist at Hyères in 2018. The brand designed an oversized collection. Gautreaux represents the modeling agency IMM in London. The girl has already managed to star in advertising campaigns for Nike and L'Oréal Paris.
Alexis was just a regular girl from Atlanta until the IMG agency found her on social media. The girl has fiery red curls and lots of tattoos, which definitely makes her bright and noticeable. Perhaps this is what contributed to her participation in two Marc Jacobs shows: she modeled for the Spring 2020 and Fall 2020 collections. Because of this popularity, Vogue dubbed her the "New Marc Jacobs Muse." She also participated in shows at the London Fashion Week.