Is Using Plus Sized Runway Models “Irresponsible”?

Well, no, probably not. Though one Australian journalist seems to think it is!

The Australian department store Myer hosted a ‘Big is Beautiful’ show during Sydney’s Fashion Festival yesterday, during which they, unsurprisingly, used plus sized models. Because it was a ‘Big Is Beautiful’ show. Which prompted Damien Woolnough to remark in The Australian,

‘Most of the models looked healthy but some looked obese. While most fashion festivals ban models for being too skinny, why is it OK to see fat women on the runway?

There is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media, as seen by the positive response to a plus-size shoot with Lawley in this month’s Vogue Australia, but obese models send just as irresponsible a message about the need for healthy eating and exercise as models with protruding clavicles and ribcages.There is a place for women of all sizes in the fashion media, as seen by the positive response to a plus-size shoot with Lawley in this month’s Vogue Australia, but obese models send just as irresponsible a message about the need for healthy eating and exercise as models with protruding clavicles and ribcages

Models have always been thin and tall because clothes look better on them.”

Well, I guess that’s kind of the point to a show like this, isn’t it? There isn’t really a huge need for anything to show us that “very thin can be beautiful!” because it’s common knowledge that clothes look great on very thin people. Sure, in a parallel universe it might be irresponsible to only show overweight people – if in that parallel universe the cultural standard were “it is beautiful to be overweight.” That would be an unhealthy message, in rather the same way “it is beautiful to be underweight” is an unhealthy message. But shows like this “big and beautiful” one are still an exception to the rule, and if they do anything, it’s only to make people feel a bit more okay about not being a stick thin model.

That said, I wish that there could be a show for “normal sized people who doctors categorize as being a healthy weight.” That would be a fun show!

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    • Lo

      A word about body shapes (not necessarily sizes). Models tend to be thin and tall because they’re the only ones who can get away with whatever bizarre flappy thing designers think is cutting-edge. When it comes to real clothes you could wear in public, the coathanger figure isn’t always the best option (gaping corsets and V-necks, skirts that require buttocks; I’m looking at you). My dream runway would feature differently-shaped models – people who carry their weight in different places and so suit different types of clothing.

    • Cynthia

      How about fashion weeks that also feature designers who focus on non-standard sizes? Maybe a petite-focused designer might use 5’3″ models on her runway, while plus-sized designers could use models who’re all size 16. Heck, what about plus-petite designers who could use 5’3″, size 14 women?

    • Jan

      So many decades and finally a decent fashion show only to be ruined by the Media! A) that guy (what world is he in?) and B) the media actually making it a story!! Just ignore him… the ladies looked fabulous!

    • Trina L. Grant

      As a fairly tall, slender woman, I think the waif-like models who obviously starve themselves and/or purge are far more dangerous a body image to project than ‘plus-size’ women. Remember, the fabulous Marilyn herself was said to be a size 14. That is hardly the idea the Australian writer had in mind when referring to what body type is aesthetically pleasing and what appears to represent healthy lifestyles, yet not that long ago, and even to this day, she was the epitome of sexiness and beauty.

      There have been time periods in history where the voluptuous woman was appreciated and even glorified. I can’t remember, but I believe it was the Baroque era(?). To suggest women strutting about with backbones and ribcages showing as if they were representing starving children is better in any way than the mostly typical Western woman is irresponsible of Woolnough.

    • Frank

      Damien Woolnough – how gormless can you possibly get, mate?! We’ve had anorexic models on the catwalks for the last 30 years; bones showing; emaciated; and looking more like a “World Vision” ad for Ethiopian drought victims – and now you think that showing more realistic women is a “problem”?

      Whatever planet yoyu come from, mate – they are missing a fool.

      I watched the fashion show and the models did not look “obese”.

    • Carl

      How about fashion for your feet… Summersox, the socks you wear under your feet not over them

    • Shawna Walker

      No that is ridiculous!! Plus size means all sizes and fashion needs to get it together and stop ostracizing a population of willing and eager consumers. Our buck spends just like the rest, and we actually have more of them since the average size of women in America is 14. Do the math! The sad part is that designers are looking through muddled goggles and are reflecting only what they see around them. Which must be skinny and hungry? Women of today are innovative, shapely and financially stable. So let’s get it together!

    • Kaye Hutchins

      “It’s common knowledge that clothes look great on very thin people.” What an insipid comment.

    • Liv

      I agree with this article, in its most basic idea. There shouldn’t be fat models, just like there shouldn’t be underweight models. At the end of the day, the clothes are the most important part, and having them look lumpy or ”wrong” is just as likely with either extreme of figure. This is why slender models have always been used before, because the models are just moving hangers. Seriously people, get a grip.

    • Chelsea

      First off, poppycock to the mention of there being a place in fashion for women of all sizes. There isn’t. I don’t EVER see average looking women of average height as models. All I can say is free your mind and the rest will follow.

    • Tracy M.

      What looks good on a thin woman doesn’t hold true to a plus size and it makes me frustrated that most of the designers think with a thin woman in mind and if they do have extended sizes they don’t have a good enough fit model or they just go with the mentality of “put a tarp over that monstrosity”. Believe it or not that isn’t the answer.

      I am a curvy plus size girl and a designer (jewelry though) and would love to collaborate with someone to come up with a line for a true curvy girl who wants to be fashionable. I have a “free people” boho kind of style but of course they don’t have plus sizes, so I tend to get things and re-make them with the help of a tailor. Not to mention, I don’t find it irresponsible to market to people who exist. I exist even if you don’t want me to!

    • Alex

      Its the one thing nobody ever GETS. Its not about you, or the public, or how skinny models make you FEEL. It’s about fashion as art. Would you showcase a picasso in a room with no lightbulb? No? Well then why would you showcase a YSL on anything but a hanger to show the beauty of it’s lines and detailing. Runway models are walking mannequins. Clothes hangers. They’re there to showcase the outfit, NOT compete with it. Its not about them. Nor is it about you and your self esteem. It’s a business industry, that survives on showcasing and selling the art of its designers.

      • Venus in Furs

        As an artist and viewer of art, I say art is absolutely about me, and the public, and how it makes us *feel* when we look at it. You said yourself: fashion is about showcasing the art of designers.

        You say models are just hangers, but I say presentation is everything. The models are coiffed and made-up–often elaborately–making them every bit as much a part of the art as the clothing. Together, they make an artistic statement. A statement that makes us (the public) feel something (awe, envy, delight, confusion, nostalgia, etc.).

        If the designer didn’t want to engender feelings, she would keep her work locked in her private drawing room rather than parade it down a runway.

    • D

      No, its healthier to show plus size models, since most plus size models are a healthier weight than most regular runway models since the modelling industry values unnaturally thin models. Most Plus size models are average sized , there are plus size models who are a size 8 10 or 12 since anything over a size 4 in the modelling world is plus size.

      Also models that size give women and girls an unhealthy body image and promote eating disorders,
      Many models are underweight and have died from eating disorders since the industry encouraged them to lose weight eg. Ana Carolina Reston, and Luisel Ramos.

    • MeggyWeggy

      What alternate universe? Women of that size were preferable to broomsticks two hundred years ago. It’s just the culture shift from laboring in the sunny fields to laboring in the office chair that changed thinness from a sign of poverty to a hallmark of wealth.

      Not that making one or the other disgusting is appropriate – there are times for each individual when one can be too fat or too thin, and weight becomes a health issue. But some are naturally thinner or heavier, and showing off women who live happily as they are in any fashion context is alright in my book.

    • Gabi

      Of course its not irresponsible. beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Please see our latest post on this topic here

    • atamsmom

      Ok here is my theory for what it is worth. I have been the slightly overweight and the slightly underweight child at different ages. I have also been that “healthy weight” person that everyone seems to think is the only weight you should be.

      HOWEVER, I am 5’10″ and big boned but the proper weight for me is (or last I checked was) 125-140 lbs. At 140 I look like the emaciated typical runway model that every designer prefers. Well I say this to all designers. IF you are incapable of designing clothing for ALL sizes then you are practicing bigotry and discrimination every time you show your clothing lines. And you should be ashamed to call yourself a “designer”.

      If your clothes do not look good on all sizes then it is a limited design for sale to only the top what 1 maybe 2% of the world. And if I was a rich, spoiled, doped up on cocaine, or heroin, or speed, then I too, could look like your precious models. But I am not, I am now an overweight female that wishes to look nice but the only thing that can be found is sacks that have no flair and no design and no penache. Why because there are no TRUE designers out there to outfit the REAL people of this planet the ones that work everyday to pave the way for those rich, spoiled, drug addicts that you serve.

    • Patricia

      ” While most fashion festivals ban models for being too skinny”Really?? please do tell, which fashion festivals are you referring to, Mr. Woolnough? Fashion professionals worldwide threw tantrums when the whole “maybe having borderline anorexic teenagers strutting down the runway is not such a good idea” issue came up. And most of them do not comply to basi health standards. Especially in Couture shows.

      And btw, clothes look better on tall and skinny models because they are MADE for tall and skinny people, who happen to represent, what 5% of the world population? So maybe if more clothes were made for the rest of the 95% of us, you’d see that these allegedly fat women are actually normal women.