Mar 29th, 2017, 04:15 PM

Stuck Between Sizes—Normal or Not?

By Hedvig Werner
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/David Sims
An industry where women are one of two sizes—or just not part of the equation at all.

As a woman, do you identify as straight size or plus size? Perhaps you fit into one of the two categories, but unfortunately, it's not that simple for all women. By only having two categories, the modeling industry is limiting the way the general public view the female form. Primarily, there are many more body shapes than simply "normal" and "plus." Additionally, these same body shapes can exist at various weights and sizes. What's missing in the industry today is a wide variety of sizes—resulting in those between straight size and plus size have no true representation in the fashion world.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Succubus MacAstaroth

The modeling industry has certainly evolved over the past couple of years. Thanks to women such as Ashley Graham, model and body activist, the world's perception of beauty is changing—but there still hasn't been a complete transformation. The modeling industry isn't inclusive towards women that find themselves in the between sizes. What happens to everyone between a size 4 and a size 10? At this point in time, it seems like women have to fit into two clearly designed molds. A woman is therefore either categorized as "straight size" or "plus size." There are so many variations of the female body form, equally represented among womankind, so it's almost offensive to consider any of these body types to be "normal". In the end, there is nothing that is per se "normal", but since the industry provides these two categories—"normal" seems like the only plausible name for those that are underrepresented.

JAG Models, a "non-conforming" modeling agency founded in 2013 in New York, is most likely one of the only high-profile agencies in the industry to represent women of shapes and sizes not regularly featured in the world of fashion. The "WANNABE?" section of their website—their casting page—one finds no preferred age, measurement, or height listed for the type of model for which they are looking. In fact, the only body-related question asked concerns height. Checking the statistics portion of the model profiles at JAG reveals that it's possible to find women with, for instance, a waist circumference of about 28 inches, but also women with larger waists are represented. To put this into simpler terms, a 28-inch waist translates roughly to a size small or a medium. A traditional straight size model's waist measures usually at around 23-25 inches—traditionally, an extra small to a small. For comparison, Models 1 London, a large agency representing some of the biggest names in plus-size modeling, says on their website that "you must be at least 5’8″ and a size 14 to apply". A UK size 14 translates to a US size 10. However, plus size models who are on the slimmer spectrum are often asked to buy fat pads to wear during photo shoots, so as to appear larger in pictures. If women are still changing themselves to fit an ideal—even if it is considered a more "accepting" and "diverse" ideal—doesn't that defeat the purpose?

So when a model is too "slim" for a plus-size photo shoot, the agency might recommend that the model purchase fat pads, so that she can make up for what she is lacking in curves. What happens if a straight size model can't keep her hip size at bay? It might mean endless struggles, obsessive diet control, or even the loss of a career. When straight size British model Charli Howard could no longer fit the measurements her agency demanded of her, she was fired.  Following the experience, Charli Howard decided to speak out about her unfair treatment in a Facebook post that went viral. Her situation shows how strict the guidelines of the two firmly defined categories are. If a model falls outside of the agency standards, she might find herself no longer represented; and unfortunately, there's no equivalent of fat pads to make you skinnier. 

It's about time that the industry removes its labels, and from now on refer to the concept simply as "model"—no straight size, plus size, et cetera. Such a change could potentially lead the way to a more inclusive industry where all women can find themselves represented. It is also clear is that many plus size models feel the need to point out that they work as plus size models, and not just simply an everyday "model." It's interesting how the concept of modeling is so connected to the idea of the slim, 5'10'' girl, that it makes even models afraid to consider themselves models. In the end, every size is beautiful. It's a message that so sorely needs to come forth, but isn't there yet. It's not until everyone is represented that body activism can truly celebrate its victory. In the end, everything should be considered "normal," because what is a "normal size" anyway?