Size 12 is not a Plus Size

WARNING: These links have a parental advisory warning attached.  They’re a bit, um, risque.

When Lori linked to this article this morning on Twitter, with this commentary, “If these are plus size, I must be obese,” I clicked over out of curiosity.

Lori was referring to a photo in the November issue of Glamour magazine where seven plus-size models are photographed in the buff.  After following a series of links leading me to two more Glamour articles as well as a video interview of Lizzie Miller (the model who’s photo au naturel in the September issue of Glamour sparked so much buzz) on The Today Show, I just want to know this.  In what parallel universe is a 20-year-old woman who is clearly healthy and athletic, wearing a size 12 (at five-feet, 11-inches tall, by the way), which is well within the range of normal sizes sold in any mainstream clothing establishment, considered plus size?

She claims the photo of her in the September issue of Glamour isn’t even airbrushed.  Most women I know would give their eyeteeth to look like that.  In fact, her “belly overhang,” which was the focus of the conversation about her photo, is nothing compared to mine, and I’m a size eight.  Of course, I’m 37 and I’ve born three children, but still.  I find the labeling of these women as plus sized outrageous.  I realize that at a size eight, I wouldn’t qualify for the designer sample sizes either, but that’s exactly my point.  These women who are labeled plus sized are, in fact, quite normal sized.

One of the articles explains that because most designer clothes are only made in sizes 0 to 4, it’s almost impossible to clothe a model that wears a larger size, but don’t you think we could call models who wear a size 8 or 10 or *gasp* a 14 normal size or standard or something that doesn’t insinuate that they are overweight?

I realize that there is a difference between fashion industry standards and the designer merchandise that’s sold in stores, but I found this quote by Marshal Cohen from the September 21 article quite telling:

Let’s say you fit the most popular American dress size, a 14, and you want to wear high-end designer fashion. Good luck to you, because most designer fashion labels don’t make a size 14 (they stop at 10 or 12). That’s an aesthetic decision, not a business move, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for the market research firm NPD. “We know that larger-size women will pay almost anything for good-quality clothes that fit, and luxury brands could benefit greatly from serving that need,” he says. “But there remains a deep stigma against going plus-size in the high-end fashion market. Find a brand that’s willing to bet its image and licensing revenue by doing this, and you will find a progressive company.”

Seriously?  I would think that a brand that caters to normal size women would be sitting on a gold mine.

I appreciate that Glamour is committed “to featuring a greater range of body types in [their] pages,” but until they stop labeling these women as plus sized, I’m not going to get overly excited.

And finally, WHY do we need to photograph women in their birthday suits AT ALL?  What’s wrong with photographing lovely women of various sizes and colors wearing clothes?  Is it really that hard to make clothes bigger than a size 4?  Designers, please start making clothes big enough for these women so they can get dressed.  It’s a bit nippy outside.

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48 Responses

  1. yeah, I’m disgusted with it all myself. It’s no wonder teen girls have self esteem issues & eating disorders.

    I think these women are beautiful in the photo but they are not plus. That is the average size and I can’t understand why it’s not recognized as such, especially from designers. Give me a break.

    Thanks for writing this up Jo-Lynne!

  2. I too clicked over as soon as Lori posted that tweet and was APPALLED at the fact that those women were labeled as “plus size.”

  3. I agree that they should not be labeled “plus size.” “Plus size” should not even be a term in our vocabulary. Women arew what we are and we are beautiful for it.

    I, however, was not offended to see these women in their birthday suits. In fact, I loved it. As someone who spent years battling body-image problems and eating disorders, I loved seeing these confident women. I loved seeing bodies like mine that were celebrated for being beautiful.

    I’m not what Hollywood or the fashion industry considers “perfect.” I have small breasts but I have hips and a tushie. I have cellulite and I wish that my things were smaller. Yet, I also have a great appreciation for my body – especially after birthing a baby. Although I detest the label “plus size” (or any label for that matter), I applaud Glamour for celebrating the real woman’s body.

  4. It would have been better to just have the women in the magazine and not even bring attention to the fact that they are a little more “full” looking than a normal run of the mill model, but I DO applaud Glamour for outing the fashion industry for being discriminate when sizing their wares.

  5. hardly plus sized. did yuo hear about the designer who used “normal” sized lingrie models in his show and his style director quit?
    its like how everyone makes a big deal that kate winslet ‘rejects the hollywood body image’ blah blah blah when she looks completely amazing – and better than normal.

  6. Thank you for posting this Jo-Lynne! I have two little girls and am not looking forward to all the body image issues that they will face in the years to come. Yesterday I made my 6 year old watch the Dove clip showing how they take a normal looking person, make her up, photograph her, then photo shop her. I then got to explain how real people will never look like the people in magazines because the models themselves don’t even look like that.
    Anyway, I think the fashion industry needs a big wake up call. All women are beautiful just as God made them. To expect them to starve in order to fit some mold is detestable.
    And size 12 is definitely NOT a plus size. Women need to be able to feel good about themselves no matter what size they are.

    Sorry, I’ll get off my soap box now.

  7. I saw this article in my sister’s Glamour. The photo shoot featured is near the end of the magazine after pages and pages and pages of what Glamour referred to as “straight sized” models. You know, the size 0s and 2s. I found it laughable that they claim to be starting a “revolution” by featuring normal, healthy women as models, but they stick them in the back of the mag.

  8. I can’t remember where, but I saw this thing last week (or so) about Faith Hill and her photo being touched up to make her look younger and basically aneroxic. The whole idea makes me sick. I think this will stop when WE demand that it stop. If the sale of glamour magazine suddenly shoots through the roof because people are interested then maybe others will get the picture…. so to speak.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I needed this – today of all days. I just wrote a huge post about my weight and I’m a size 14. And, I’m about as ‘real’ as it gets!

  10. Amen.

    And why do all the models online have a size 2 butt? I mean who can tell if their butt will look good in that?!?!

  11. Lori posted a link to your blog on Twitter & I clicked over. I’m laughing. Seriously. I have issues. Lots of issues. I’m working my way toward a healthy 12 or 14, which is my skinny!! Fashionistas . . . bite me. Really. Bite me . . . there’s actually something to bite besides bone. Please. Men look at the stick women, but I don’t know any men who want to take those gals home to meet their mamas!

  12. Thank you for posting this. I am a size 12 and have always been. For me, this is normal. I have three daughters and have worried about teaching them to have healthy body images. So far so good. I think the key is to tell them regularly that they are beautiful–no strings attached–just because of who they are. I also think another key is that their dad should only build them up and never (I do mean NEVER) say a critical word about their appearance. In our family, if an appearance matter needs to be addressed, I come down as the bad guy and let my husband do the building up. How their father looks at them is absolutely critical as to how they will view themselves.

  13. I agree! It is disgusting. Not only are they labeled plus size, but as evidenced in the movie fat head you recently reviewed many would probably be categorized as overweight or obese. This is ridiculous what we human beings are doing to each other. We are destroying each other in society and raising our children with ridiculous ideas of what is normal.

  14. Sara, I was thinking about that – the new definition of obese as discussed in Fat Head – and trying to figure out how to incorporate it into this post. Obviously I gave up on that, lol. But yes, that’s part of the problem.

  15. I agree, these women look normal sized to me, not plus-size, and no need to go au naturel, they could have done fashion shoots with them, with clothes on. I think most designer clothing is not made for a woman’s body, but a body of a pre-teen boy – skinny and tall, no curves.

  16. Good rant. Seriously. We should all be protesting, shouldn’t we? As a woman who truly IS plus-sized, it’s so darned discouraging to see women who I’d love (love!!!!) to look like being called overweight. Ridiculous. And naked? Why? Ugh. This whole thing just ticks me off.

    Thank you for speaking up.

  17. Actually what is even sicker is the fact that first they strive to have that body, and then comes a day they want to have boobs and butt and they get them done 🙂
    By the way, I used to be a model, weighed 105 lbs, anorexic and was told I was too fat (that’s around the day I quit), now when I’m “plus-sized”, I’m actually much happier with my body.

  18. I’m 6 foot tall and wear between a 12 and 14. And when I wear a size 14 and tell people they can’t believe it? Why? Because I’m 6 foot tall. I would look so unhealthy if I wore a size 4,6,or even 8. I was a size 9 most of my life (before kids) and I look back and I looked too skinny. It’s sad that they put a mold on us females. Especially the tall ones! LOL. I’m very athletic and don’t consider myself overweight but to hear them consider a 14 a plus size is depressing! LOL
    Gee I guess I won’t be able to buy (or afford) designer clothes! Darn! LOL
    This was very interesting to read my friend. Thanks for sharing it. I’m going to go to the gym now! Hee! Hee!

  19. Thank you so much for writing about this topic, it is such an important time for women to stand up for themselves and reclaim the dressing rooms! Another powerful voice and advocate for woman’s fashion is, Gayla Bentley. Gayla, a fashion designer for modern women, will be appearing to stand up for all women in America. Please tune in if you can, she is an amazing, strong woman who is truly an inspiration to all women, no matter what their size is- “It’s Not About Size, It’s About Style!”

  20. It’s so true. I think it goes on the cusp of the RL ad that is being blasted and they have come out and have said that they TOTALLY and grossly re-touched to make a woman’s head bigger than her waist. I’d love to have untouched pictures of models in their frailty blasted around. DO you REALLY want to look at a 5’10” woman who is 115lbs?

    I am 5’10” and I wear a 12/14. People NEVER think that is the size that I wear. I went to the doctor yesterday and he took my blook pressure..in fact he took it twice. It was 105/70. He goes ‘I am just surprised at how low it is, considering your such a, well, bigger framed girl’. Whatever…I can run a 12km race, do yoga for an hour and outrun most ‘skinny’ girls.

    That’s why I posted by ‘exposed’ self on my website. That’s why I am crusading to bring women the realisiation that they are gorgeous. That is why I blog.

    Thank you.

  21. Sigh* Those women were all gorgeous, and will be so no matter what size they are. I’d kill for skin, hair, and a face like that! And to be that tall…

    Okay, so I know the point of all this was to celebrate women at every size, but I think that we also need to feature women who don’t look so “perfect” otherwise as well. I mean, we don’t all look like that!

  22. Oh my. Where. to. start.

    This whole thing ticks me off. I have long said that if I had lots of money I would manufacture cute clothes for plus-sized gals (myself included.) There is certainly a market for it and unfortunately now I understand why some brands don’t manufacture plus sizes.

    Kudos to folks like Tommy Hilfiger for designing clothes for real girls.

    It makes me mad to step into Lane Bryant or CJ Banks and see size 10 or size 12 models modeling the clothing they are selling. It is utterly ridiculous. Not every woman was born with a small frame. And, not every woman can be a size 0.

    Okay, sorry to rant.

    Thanks for this post. I enjoyed it!!!

  23. Food for thought … apples, pears maybe ?

    Glamour proports to be “featuring a greater range of body types in [their] pages,” but everyone one of these woman is at least 5’10” and very proportionately curved. Where is the range of body types there?

    And I agree in a house full of teenage children I prefer the models in the fashion magazine to be wearing clothes? Swimsuits anyone ?

  24. :::shrug::: I wouln’t take offense at the facts. At 5″11 and almost what… 180 lbs? (I don’t remember the exact weight she was) that model IS overweight. A size 12 IS a plus size. I would be seriously freaking out if my scale crept that high. She only looks good because she is so tall. People are seriously shocked when I tell them my weight (I am 5″10 too).

  25. A friend of mine designs and makes clothing for “plus-sized” women. She’s did my wedding dress and a whole new wardrobe for me. She’s fabulous in understanding real women and their clothing needs and designs beautiful clothing.

    I understand that many of us would shudder to think of us as “obese” but if you look around, we have our society full of people of different body types.

  26. Um, can I be plus-size? Because those girls look awesome..even naked 😉 That is the most ridiculous thing I have read in a long time. No wonder our youth grow up with so many self-esteem problems!

  27. So, I have mixed emotions about this whole “mainstreaming” of plus size. Glamour, Marie Claire, Reality TV and even newspapers are climbing on the plus sized band wagon because the shock value of it sells.

    I have to tell them a secret, being plus sized isn’t shocking…more than half of the women in the US are a size 14 or larger.

    This population of consumers has been ignored and criticized for so long that they don’t feel like they deserve to wear beautiful clothing. In my work I hear every day, “I will by designer clothes when I loose 20 lbs” or “why should I spend money on my self when I am so fat and ugly”.

    While these women are not quite plus sized, they are beautiful and they show women that hey, even if you have a little bit of body fat, you can be beautiful. The next step is to stop treating plus size women like a circus freak show and just integrate them into the normal pages of the magazines. That is when plus size women will be equal.

    I can say lots and lots more but I am going to hold my tongue.

    Catherine Wood Hill

  28. Ummm I would give my right arm to have that small of a belly overhang!

    I HATE that so many normal-sized women are called fat. I think the perfect, no-rolls-anywhere bodies of models are what is actually abnormal.

    And Marilyn Monroe was a size 12 or 14 – and everyone thought she was sexy!

    And don’t even get me started on the naked photos – PASS.

  29. Here here! I’m a size 12, and while I know I’m not at my ideal weight (and I wouldn’t go out in public in a bikini), I don’t think of myself as “plus” sized either. Seriously? How is a size under the average dress size considered “plus”. Whatever.

  30. Great post. Here via RTs. I’m 5’4″, size 12, and people call me slender on a regular basis. I’m still very curvy, but semi-athletic [just by virtue of dancing!] and would love for more people to know that this is NOT plus sized!
    Average sized is more like it. 😛

  31. I’m glad that people are finally talking about this, but it’s really not anything that hasn’t been said before. Until we, as consumers, stop fetishizing the people and images in the media that feed into the “thin is the only in” mindset, nothing is going to change.

    Someone above mentioned how Glamour put this article in the back of the magazine. It’s a perfect parallel to how “womens” or “plus-size” clothes are generally shoved into the back or basement of department stores.

  32. Thanks for this information and the links. I am starting to write more about plus size fashion on my blog because I’m on a quest for comfortable, beautiful clothing for plus size women. But I don’t understand why some consider a size 12 plus. Crazy.

  33. I agree wholeheartedly! I wrote about the September issue myself on my blog so I was very interested to see what they gave us in their November issue. I didn’t get what all the hoopala was about – and I’m with you….why did they need to be photographed in their birthday suits? What we really need is more magazines photographing real woman representing real, healthy sizes. And this needs to be done WITHOUT fanfare.

  34. Yesterday I was happy because I was able to buy a pair of size 10 Levis.
    I am usually a steady 12. (at 5’8 1/2)
    Then I remember “Oh yeah, a size 10 is still PLUS size to some people.”
    Thank you for writing this.
    Amen sister.

  35. I’d rather see one of those voluptous girls naked than a skeletal catwalk model who looks like she’s just out of a concentration camp. Why are we sold fashion with models so thin that their skin barely stretches over their bones? And who exactly is it that thinks that is attractive?

  36. ‘These magazines would change, if we all decided not to buy them.

    I am a plus sized grandmother who at 55 probably just lost a job (after working for 4 weeks) because I am not a 20 something size 2 who goes to the gym 7 days a week and doesn’t eat properly. Not much wonder our young girls are starting to want to go on diets by the time they are 8 or 9 years old.

    Stop buying these ‘glamor style’ magazines and start teaching our kids that people come in all kinds of packages and they are all special.

  37. Although I am all for a change in society’s twisted opinion of “beautiful,” we must remember that HEALTHY is the most important thing. If you eat poorly, don’t work out and weigh, say, 175, you may not perceive your self as overweight. But if your body WANTS to and SHOULD be 140, you are not healthy. I am an advocate of everything in moderation – junk food, exercise, etc. Please take care of yourselves properly!

  38. My mom always taught us everything in moderation, that means exercise as well. I recently read a study about heart issues with regular marathon runners. There is such a thing as over exercising, just as damaging as being over weight. Fashion world sizing does not reflect the average women’s body. I eat healthy, exercise regularly, but I’m still considered a plus size (darn hips)…that’s just the way I’m built and I’m happy with my body. I think there are some clothing designers that are seeing the issue and taking it upon themselves to fix it. I found a company a few years ago when I was swimsuit shopping called Hydrochic, founded by two moms who were all about selling clothing that fits you as you are. I liked that, it’s positive. They carry all sizes and have actual plus size models for their plus size fitness apparel, which is also nice to see. I hope there are more companies like them out there.

  39. Thank you so much for this article. I have struggled with my body image most of my life. I was always taller than other girls and boys, and a bigger frame. As an adult I wear a size 12, and a 36DD and think that I am huge because of what is considered “plus size” by the fashion world. I have decided that I am happy with my body, I can run in 5k’s and beat skinny stick thin women, I can be proud of that. I would also like to point out that the fashion world is full of gay men, who obviously do not like women, so what do they know what an attractive woman looks like. The women who are supposedly so beautiful are tall, bony, masculine features such as shoulders and flat chests. I think it is time for these people to go away. Shame on Glamour Magazine for saying these women are plus sized. They should have ran an article ridiculing the fashion world for calling these women plus sized.

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