Amanda Czerniawski decided to go undercover as a plus size model in order to find out how the industry feels about them and whether our common ideals are really changing for the better.
The Temple University sociology professor put her findings into a book Fashioning Fat: Inside Plus-Size Modeling, released on 23 January.
Her findings were interesting. Czerniawski discovered that the concept of an “ideal” weight actually came from the insurance companies, rather than doctors, who devised a ‘weight table‘ in order to assess health risks, around the beginning of the 20th century. Through the decades, the ideals for models and mannequins have got thinner and slimmer, though conversely the average American waist size has gone in the opposite direction over the same period of time, thus the market has now demanded a new kind of model: the ‘plus size’, which is considered to be any size above 10.
According to Czerniawski , “It was this great transformation for them—so many of them took on this mantle of body acceptance,” she said. Like traditional models, these women “are taller than the average woman, they’re proportional, they have greater symmetry in their faces.”
Yet during her period undercover, she realised that the modelling industry, “still reduces them to curves and numbers on a tape measure. They’re not women—but breasts, bums, and hips.” Models are put into size divisions, so anyone above a 6 is classified as an “in-betweenie” or plus size; high-fashion models are usually an American size 00 to 2.
Models are forced to closely track their measurements, and ensure their skin is perfect. The typical look is thin face, curvy body.
size models are being used by major brands these days such as Dove and appear regularly in Vogue and its counterparts. But despite this, Czerniawski believes the industry has to go some way before they are within the realms of healthy body image promotion.
“It’s not real, and that’s something that needs to be addressed,” she says. “As a consequence, you have the ordinary woman flipping through magazines saying, ‘Wow, here is a plus-size model. We’re the same size, but oh my goodness, I don’t look half as good as her.’ There’s a greater awareness about all the manipulations that are occurring, but I don’t think we really have internalized that because we are bombarded—it’s difficult to really process all of what we see every day.”
Check out the book here.
photo credit: Fashion Times