Diversity in the modelling industry is still very new. It’s not hard to tell that a lot of the big fashion houses are simply succumbing to the pressure to be inclusive as opposed to actually wanting to be diverse. You can tell this by the sheer fact that even the plus-sized girls have to look a certain way.
From pure observation, the perfect plus-sized model has very little body fat in her face, an hourglass figure and some degree of muscle definition on her stomach. It’s very rare to see plus women that don’t fall into this category. Something you may not know about this is that the plus models actually have very similar standards to meet in terms of measurements as the ‘regular’ models do- just at the other end of the scale.
Now that we’re seeing slightly more plus-sized models on runways and in magazines, attention has turned to, well, everyone else. Where are all the mid-sized models?
Mid-sized boards are just starting to become a thing at some model agencies. The first mid-plus size board I saw was at Milk Model Management in London. It didn’t go down well. I’ve not spent much time thinking about how I would implement a mid-size board with as little outrage as possible but it probably wouldn’t be this. The girls were pretty slim for the most part and they were put on the curve board with the hashtag ‘inbetweeny’. It was just not the smartest move. A big part of this issue is that the line between mid and plus is a little blurred. The bigger issue is that these girls are still being treated as ‘less than’ regular models.
For anyone who doesn’t know, go and look at a model agency website. In general, you will see: Mainboard, New faces/development, Classic, Digital and Curve. The issue starts here. By putting models on different boards based on size, you are asking for problems later down the line. When introducing mid-size models, even with their own board, you’re entering questionable territory. The smaller end of the mid models will probably be in, what I call ‘the 26-28 waist club’. In the real world, these models are a size UK8 with a relatively low body fat percentage and most people will view them as ‘slim’ or even ‘skinny’. In the modelling world, they are not regular enough to book a regular job and are still miles off being classed as ‘plus sized’. This is based on a single inch in some cases, something which unless you have been raised in the fashion industry, you would probably never notice.
A few years ago when there was absolutely no leniency, there was a joke about how measuring up at a 36” hip was about the most audacious thing you could do. No one would book a 36” hip. Now, a 36 is not groundbreaking but it is usually accompanied by a very small waist and chest measurement. This is the next stage of ‘progressiveness’. One or the other, but not the waist. Something about having a small waist really will make or break your career. Agencies and brands are becoming more willing to ‘work with’ a larger hip or chest measurement, but your waist must be a 24.
We see plus-size models like Ashley Graham and Barbie Ferreira far more often now. However, the fact that their presence on the runway and in campaigns is still treated as something spectacular suggests there’s still a lot of progress to be made.
IMG took the measurements of all their models off their website, but that is not going to stop designers and directors from casting tall girls of a very petite build. It also seems there is very little room for plus models to have a ‘new face’ stage, you only ever see models that have a Vogue cover and 50k+ instagram followers. The industry may be taking tiny steps in the right direction but, the playing field is not nearly level yet.