Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While this statement is true, the fashion and beauty industry has been often criticized for creating a cookie-cutter standard of how society will accept beauty, especially when it comes to size.
In 2013, creative director and head designer at Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, ruffled a few feathers when he stated his disinterest in curvy women on the runways of New York Fashion Week. In his book, “The World According to Karl”, the fashion icon writes, “No one wants to see a curvy woman on the runway.” He was definitely not alone with his idea of beauty in the fashion industry. During an interview with The Daily Mail in 2015, Patrick Couderc, managing director of Hervé Léger, stated that he doesn’t want women who are past a certain age, “voluptuous,” “committed lesbians” or women who “lack sufficient class” wearing the label’s famous bandage dresses. He was later released of his position.
Fast forward to 2016, where we can now pick up Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and see the beautiful and voluptuous Ashley Graham on the cover of the magazine in a two-piece bikini, serving up sexy at its best. We can also feast our eyes on the latest Ebony Magazine (March, 2016) and see four beautiful plus-sized woman (Gabi Fresh, Jazmine Sullivan, Danielle Brooks, and Chrisette Michele), of various brown skin tones. When one looks at the history of magazine covers that spotlights the world of fashion and beauty, they would definitely be convinced that the industry is changing for the better and realizing that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors and should be celebrated on magazine covers.
“The shift was inevitable,” says Ariel C. Williams, Editor-in-Chief of Slay Culture. “Plus size women have been forced to sit out magazine covers, runways, fashion shows for so long because the industry didn’t see a place for them. But thanks to social media and popular websites like The Curvy Fashionista, the industry has been continuously getting a real dose of ‘fashion fierceness’.
Gwen DeVoe who is the Creator and Executive Producer of Full Figured Fashion Week also agrees that the shift was going to happen. “Events like Full Figured Fashion week, an annual fashion week dedicated to the plus size consumers, have given a little push to the change of the industry.” She also feels that brands are beginning to realize the enormous buying power of the plus consumer. “Everywhere you look, plus size women from all walks of life are proving that they too are worthy of being called beautiful, athletic, and fashionable and want to dress as such.”
While this change is welcomed with open arms many are concerned with whether or not plus sized women promotes a healthy image to young women. When model Ashley Graham was announced as the featured model for the Sports Illustrated cover, it was met with backlash from former supermodel Cheryl Tieg. During interview, with Sib Scoles of E! News stated, “I don’t like that we’re talking about full-figured women because it’s glamorizing them because your waist should be smaller than 35 [inches]. That’s what Dr. Oz said, and I’m sticking to it,” she explained. “No, I don’t think it’s healthy. Her face is beautiful. Beautiful. But I don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.”
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]“Portraying and sharing positive stories of plus size women excelling in various walks of life does not promote an unhealthy image,” says Gwen DeVoe.[/mks_pullquote]As a woman that caters to women of various skin tones and sizes, CEO and Founder of Nude Barre, Erin Carpenter feels that health cannot be determined by size. Recently she provided her flesh tone tights to Jazmine Sullivan for the historical Ebony Magazine cover. “I think more and more you are seeing curvy celebrities and influential women showcasing that they stay healthy from nutritional choices and daily exercise. Being skinny does not always mean one is healthy.” Instagram has been an open window to women plus size women who showcase their healthy eating choices and flexible skills like Instagram sensation, Jessamyn Stanley. Her yoga poses have garnished her more than 164K followers. “I think that showcasing plus size women is awesome, and can help other women and girls make better choices to avoid eating disorders because they are trying to keep up with what they deem as body type norms.”
“I can tell you that seeing more curvy women in magazines and on magazine covers promotes a healthy self-image. The thought that “you are okay just as you are” has given all women more confidence about their bodies and self-image,” says Mrs. Montgomery (PA), April Taylor. She also adds, “I’m not a size two, but seeing more curvy women doing their thing, has encouraged me to compete in the upcoming pageants because if they can do it, then I can do it!”
When society sees women who are healthy and not considered the “standard beauty size”, then their image will take on the reverse effect of unhealthy therefore having a positive impact on society.
“Portraying and sharing positive stories of plus size women excelling in various walks of life does not promote an unhealthy image,” says Gwen DeVoe. “In fact, it is encouraging to see that being plus size is not a death sentence and drives home the point that you can still enjoy and participate in life while living in a plus size body.”
The expansion of beauty standards in the fashion industry is a refreshing change that keeps people wanting more.
“Overall these changes will help with self-esteem issues, eating disorders, and overall women’s empowerment,” says Erin. “Seeing women that look like you in campaigns, on TV, and media inspires all women to conquer to world.”