Plus-size Models Positively Influencing Fashion Industry

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The fashion world's ideal of feminine beauty is currently in a state of transition, as its main arbiters have begun to feature models who look - however slightly - more rounded and well-nourished.

The fashion industry transition is still in the early phases, but fashion marketers can realize substantial benefits by featuring larger models without labeling them as "plus-size." Right now, the buying public is ahead of the industry, and women are responding eagerly to the sight of models who look like real people. Because the fashion industry still mostly follows its tradition of idealizing impossibly slender bodies, a label which breaks this pattern will draw attention above and beyond the actual designs that it is selling. Furthermore, since showing larger models is a somewhat revolutionary thing to do, a company automatically achieves an innovative cache for its label by choosing that type of marketing campaign. Customers will be excited by the products of a brand that is socially adventurous and they are likely to trust that its clothing offerings are also at the cutting edge of fashion. The Quebec edition of Elle recently featured its first plus-size cover model, and readers have responded with enthusiasm. Last year, seven French Vogue fashion articles used model Crystal Renn, whose 38-inch hips make her a size 8 and thus a "plus-size" model in the exotic world of couture. In June 2013, Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue and arguably the most influential fashion dictator in the United States, put Kate Upton on the June 2013 cover. While Kate Upton doesn't exactly qualify as a "plus-size" model, her curvy figure is reminiscent of 1950s celebrities, and using her on the cover represents a significant departure from the standard stick-like fashion model image. Anna Wintour stated in her editor's letter for that issue, "If the high-fashion world seems incapable of figuring out what to do with her … then that's its loss." Another instance of slow but steady progress is seen in the earnings of models for Ford, an agency which pioneered plus-size models in high fashion beginning in 1998. According to NY Magazine, as more doors have opened to these models, their earnings have increased from from $125 per hour to $15,000 per day. In addition to simply using models who look more like the average American woman (who currently has a 37.5 inch waist), more designers are actually making larger clothing. Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren all offer plus-sizes. This may be at least partly a response to the increasing visibility of celebrities and actresses who don’t fit the fashion model image, for example Octavia Spencer and the singer Adele. Whatever the reason, larger women are being noticed as an important part of the fashion market. The Wall Street Journal points out that “Industry wisdom argues that heavy women don't buy as many clothes as thin women. But some businesses have found they will — when the clothes are delectable and fit well." The article gives persuasive statistics, including a study which found that new plus-size customers spend 25% more in each order and are 66% more likely to talk about their purchase via social media. Moreover, a Cornell University study shows that "plus-size women hold 28% of apparel purchasing power in the U.S., while their spending accounts for only 17%.” This is a unique moment of opportunity for clothing lines who want to be part of promoting a healthier body image for women while nourishing their own business prospects at the same time.  

Betsy S.

Betsy S.

Washington, United States

I’m a professional content writer working exclusively through Scripted, and I have experience researching and writing on a broad range of topics. My employment background includes market consulting, real estate, non-profit organizing, healthcare-related social work and communi...

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