Fashion & Beauty

Fashion and the Plus-Size* Woman

ashley-grahamNow more than ever, helped with the tools of social media, women of all shapes and sizes are subjected to aggressive acts of body shaming online. Recently, Ashley Graham, the first plus-size model featured on the cover of  Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition, was instead treated with a barrage of criticism in what many thought would be seen as milestone for “plus-size” models. Many agreed with her “beauty” but rejected the notion that her body “type” ought to be celebrated on the cover of a magazine, much more a swimsuit cover!

Yet, if you think this is a 21st century problem, you’re wrong. The definitions of a “healthy body” and a “beautiful body” continue to be murky—especially when these definitions are dictated by the fashion industry.

In Beyond Measure, the organizers attempt to trace a historical record of stigma when it comes to how “plus-size” women have been portrayed or represented in fashion advertising. For example,

  • A 20th century photograph “A Ticket to Nettie the Fat Girl” equates greater weight with greater immorality.
  • Before the term “plus-size” was widely used, the term for women of this body type used by advertisers was “Chubbies.”

And just yesterday, news broke that a new ad by Lane Bryant celebrating the female “plus-size” body was rejected by major television networks because it did not “comply with broadcast indecency guidelines.” In response, Lane Bryant released the ad on the internet for the public to decide for themselves. “I don’t think these models are any more nude than any other models we’ve seen on TV,” a Lane Bryant representative told New York Daily News


Despite the reality of the range of women’s body types that we see in our day to day lives, it appears that the fashion and advertising industries continue to be resistant to those realities and wedded instead to upholding a rigid standard of beauty. Simultaneously, we continue to see “plus-size” women pushing back and staking claim to their place in fashion.

RELATED: When Women’s Bodies Get Censored on Facebook — An Artist Responds

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