Size categories in the modeling world

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In the modeling industry, most designers make clothes in sample sizes 00 to 2, meaning they automatically expect all the models from modeling agencies to be that size. However, what happens when it comes to the models that are considered “plus sized”?

“Plus size” clothing is a term that is generally applied to an individual that is above average to larger in body size. This clothing option can be seen as very resourceful, but sometimes is given a negative stigma.

Kjerstin Gruys, assistant professor of sociology at University of Nevada, frequently explores the relationship between physical appearance and social inequality and said the titles are nothing new.

“The plus-size clothing sizes have been around for a very long time, ever since we had ready-to-wear clothing,” Gruys said. “But they weren’t called plus sized, they were called ‘stout’ women, or ‘chubby’ girls.”

Even if plus-sized women aren’t referred to by these nicknames in a professional sense anymore, they are still used in an informal way to describe them off the record and can heavily affect their self-esteem.

“The qualifications for standard sized models is so narrow,” Gruys said. “All standard sized models are in the same range of body type that is tall and extremely fit. The interesting thing about it though is that models starting at a clothing size 8 automatically get categorized in plus size.”

Shannon Grace, manager at the Torrid in Flint, Michigan, a store that

Kayla Robinson

Shannon Grace, manager at Torrid in Flint, Michigan.

specializes in plus-size clothing, said instead of only gearing towards the more petite sized models, it’s definitely beneficial to have a store that caters specifically towards women of this size.

“I feel like typically, a lot of plus-sized women don’t feel like they have a place where they can go into and have the entire store be about them,” Grace said.

Even though there are stores that exist like Torrid, Gruys also said the scale for when categorizing models into different sizes is still very narrow in general.

“I think that these labels distinguishing plus sized from standard size are problematic,” Gruys said. “Bodies exist on a size and shape spectrum. Trying to draw a line and saying everyone to the left is one thing and everyone on the right is another, has implications to it; not just psychologically, but in terms of inequality as well.”

With this, some stores are not as accommodating, like Torrid is, at making sure women of all sizes feel like they can find clothing to fit their body types. Some don’t even offer Extra Large sizes.

Kayla Robinson

Nick Waligora, store manager at Pitaya in East Lansing, Mich.

Store manager at Pitaya in East Lansing Nick Waligora said although they don’t offer the largest possible size, they still make it as manageable as they can for women of all sizes.

“I know it’s harder to find sizes that are plus-size appropriate, but a lot of our large styles are pretty flexible from the fabrications we use and the vendors we buy from,” Waligora said.

The pressure to be a certain size has even led models such as Aftyn Williams to take a break from modeling in general.

Kayla Robinson

Aftyn Williams, former model.

“Most of the discrimination happens behind closed doors where models aren’t involved; however, when I ran for Miss Teen Michigan in 2013, I knew that fitness was going to be a factor in the competition, so I dieted and exercised for two months leading up to it,” Williams said. “I dropped 15 pounds, making me a size 4; the smallest I’d been in years.”

Along with that, Williams also said she’s even experienced not feeling “small enough” to be what the modeling world ideally wants.

“When I first met with my agency in Chicago, the man had me walk for him and he took pictures of me from every angle,” Williams said. “He finished the examination by telling me that I needed to lose five inches around my waist and that he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to book me by then.’ That’s just the way it works in the modeling world and it’s not gonna change.”


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