Sports Illustrated model, influencers on being plus-size in fashion – the world is less fat-phobic now (thanks, Lizzo) but there is still far to go
- Celebrities like singer Lizzo are not afraid to show off their curves and there’s been a ‘size inclusivity revolution’ in fashion, reporter Gianluca Russo says
- Still, more needs doing, he argues. Models share with him their stories of the struggles they have faced and their lack of role models growing up
Size equality in fashion has come a long way from the days of Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret outwardly shaming those who are not a size 0. But the fight for inclusivity is not over yet.
It also outlines the issues plus-size fashion still faces, with actionable steps for how to fix them.
“There were so many stories that were untold and that hadn’t had their time to shine but that were so impactful on a personal level to me and to other people in this community,” says Russo. “I wanted to find a way to celebrate all these people who have contributed to this size inclusivity revolution over the years.”
But there is still plenty of room for growth, Russo argues.
Russo began writing The Power of Plus in Covid-19 quarantine during 2020. Famous models including Iskra Lawrence, America’s Next Top Model alum Toccara Jones, Gabi Gregg and Tess Holliday offer horror stories about working in a still-often fat-phobic industry.
They explain how those experiences are worse for those who are not white, a “palatable” size in the plus range and whose identity does not conform to their biological sex at birth.
“The modelling space as a whole often only feels welcoming when you fit neatly into one category,” Russo writes.
“Choose from the list of identities and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be deemed worthy of having a seat at the table. But if you exist somewhere between multiple intersections, far too often the doors remain closed.
“For plus-size hopefuls, that means the boundary has already been laid; your body is the obstacle to overcome.
“Add on another ‘difficulty’ – like gender, ethnicity, disability – and you’re disqualified from the race.”
Model Jordan Underwood says in the book they often have to “pretend that I’m a girl for the day” when booked for a modelling gig because of people working on the set being “really horrible about transphobia and misgendering”.
“People are so willing to use marginalised people if it helps their profit or supports their brand, but they’re not willing to do the work to make sure that they’re hiring people who are going to treat us properly,” Underwood adds.
But the book also highlights how the resilience of plus-size advocates has positively impacted not only the models trying to succeed in the industry, but people across the world who have historically been taught to hate their bodies through the images they see and the lack of clothing available to them.
“I think it would have saved me,” she adds.
Where does inclusivity in fashion go from here?
Russo highlights the need for fashion brands to ensure that inclusivity is reflected behind the scenes, which means hiring a diverse range of plus-size designers, photographers, marketing specialists and executives.
And it is not enough for fashion schools to merely offer plus-size design as an elective course.
Russo points to brand collaborations like Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty and Priscilla Ono x Eloquii, as well as designer Christian Siriano. All have made diversity not just a priority, but an inspiration and something to be celebrated.
“I hope that this book inspires people to keep pushing for change even when it feels like change is not happening,” Russo says.
“If you look over the past 30 years, there have been low points and there have been high points. We’ve gone backwards and forwards. Nothing is linear … it might take 30 more years to get to the point of size equality, but all that matters is that we’re in the fight together.”