In a country where the average woman wears a size 14, it’s hard to understand why anyone over a size 12 is considered “plus size” and forced to shop in a special section. Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the need to drop the plus and find new ways to empower women of all sizes.
Influencers on social media are pressuring brands and the media to end size segregation. One person speaking out is Australian lingerie model (she’s the face of Dita Von Teese lingerie) and Instagram influencer Stefania Ferrario, who kicked off a #DropThePlus campaign earlier this year. Acting on the belief that the term was “damaging in the minds of young girl,” Ferrario is calling for the fashion industry to lose the label.
Sports Illustrated model Robyn Lawley wears a size 12, and she earned some serious airtime in the fashion media for becoming the first plus-size model to feature in the magazine. However, even she shied away from the label in an interview with Time: “I don’t know if I consider myself as a plus-size model or not. I just consider myself a model because I’m trying to help women in general accept their bodies.”
It’s an interesting and divisive discussion, so we decided to chat with six curvy fashion influencers, including Torrid models Georgina Burke and Philomena Kwao and überblogger Gabi Gregg, to find out how they feel about the “plus size” label.
Gabi Gregg, GabiFresh Blogger
"Plus size is simply a term that helps us describe our body type, find clothing that fits us, and form a community of women who may look like us or have a similar set of experiences in society. I don't get why some are so against it; it's a value-neutral term that is helpful and important to many people. Labels help form identities: I'm black, plus size, and a woman. I don't want any of those terms taken away 'because we are all the same,' because the truth is we're not. Until the day comes when we are all treated equally and live with the same experiences, labels help us navigate our identities and communities, and this label happens to make finding clothing that actually comes in my size a lot easier."
Ashley Graham, Model
"The term plus size is a label, and I am not a fan of any labels. I understand that the term is used an identifier in the modeling industry—just the same way a client would request a redhead or someone with brown eyes. But, personally, I don't feel there is a need to label anyone by their size and say 'You have to shop in this separate section because of the number on the tag of your jeans.' The term plus size has been associated with my name since I was 12 years old, which I talk about in my TEDx Talk. When I was younger, I would tell people I was a model, and when they gave me a perplexed look, I'd quickly say, 'Well, I'm a plus-size model.' The fashion industry gave me the label 'plus size,' but I like to think of it as my size. Curvy women are becoming more and more vocal about the isolating nature of the term, and we are calling ourselves what we want to be called—women, with shapes that are our own."
Georgina Burke, Model
"I don’t think about the term plus size. It doesn’t have a negative connotation on me as a model or in the fashion industry. However, when it comes to sectioning out clothing or people outside of the industry, that’s when I don’t like the affect it can have it’s not warranted or needed by any means. You wouldn’t be asking me the question if you didn’t think it had a negative effect. People are people, and any labels are detrimental at the end of the day."
Nicolette Mason, Blogger, Editor, and Creative Consultant
"When it comes to clothes, I think it's important to have a distinction and signifier since it's just a matter of fact that not all clothes come in all sizes. Having a 'plus size' label on clothes is unfortunately still necessary—because women over a size 14, while making up the majority (at 66 percent of the women's market), are still drastically underserved when it comes to fashion. There's nothing wrong or offensive, in my opinion, about labeling those clothes plus size—and it is frankly a source of empowerment for lots of women who have been able to reclaim what has been a stigmatized term! Where this becomes problematic is when 'plus size' becomes a qualifier for people and their bodies regardless of context, and this happens to women in all situations and of all sizes, all the time. It feels regressive and reductive to constantly refer to women with references to their body, appearance, and size—not to mention dismissive of the many other identities we all embody."
Photo: Nicolette Mason
Tanesha Awasthi, Blogger at Girl With Curves
"In some ways, I think the term plus size is outdated, due to the fact that the average woman in the United States (and many other countries around the world) is a size 14—technically a "plus size." I've always identified as being curvy because of my shape, so I simply wear what fits my body, whether found in the regular, 'straight size' section or the plus section. However, as a plus-size fashion and beauty influencer, I'm empowered and extremely proud to be part of a group of women who are changing the perception of the fashion industry at large, as well as the general public, proving that style and beauty go way beyond size."
Photo: Girl With Curves
Philomena Kwao, Model
"Fundamentally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the term plus size. The real problem is the negativity around it and the way we keep trying to define it with respect to other people’s bodies, whether they see themselves as plus or not. Stripped down, it’s just a descriptive phrase used in the industry to describe clothing above a certain size, and I think we should just leave it at that and move past stigmatizing the term plus size."