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Is size 12 really plus-sized?

  • New York Fashion Week runs February 9-16
  • Why not push the modeling industry to use models who actually wear a size that you can find in the store?
Is size 12 really plus-sized?

Editor's note: Dianna Hill is a producer for HLN's Morning Express with Robin Meade.

The 2012 New York Fashion Week is officially underway. For those of us who can’t get front row seats, we’re bound to waste some time at work on the online slideshows, commenting “Love it”, “Hate it” or “Where could someone really wear that giant headpiece/see-through dress/8-inch stilettos?” The sad truth is that hardly any of us could squeeze our right thigh into the clothes created for professional models.  

Photos circulated online this week of a Romanian model with a 20-inch waist and a BMI of 13.6!! She claims she eats “loads and loads" but just can’t gain weight. That may be the truth, but any nutritionist would likely agree that she’s dangerously underweight. It hasn’t stopped her from being a successful model, though, even earning the title of “Human Hourglass”.

It’s that kind of attitude in the fashion industry that led a group of models to form the Model Alliance this week. They’re pushing for a variety of reforms, like private changing areas and financial transparency, but they also spoke out against the pressure for models to stay unnaturally skinny. Here’s an excerpt from their site:

"Model Amy Lemons, who started modeling women’s clothing at age 12, reached instant supermodel status when she graced the cover of Italian Vogue at 14. But just three years later, as the gangly 17-year-old began to fill out physically, her New York agent advised her only to eat one rice cake per day; and, if that didn’t work, only half a rice cake. Lemons got the hint, "they were telling me to be anorexic -- flat-out."

I applaud the Model Alliance for bringing the issue to the forefront, but why not take it one step further? Why not push the industry to use models who actually wear a size that you can find in the store? I would argue that a healthy size 6 woman would actually fill out the clothes better than a stick-thin model and sell more of them.

I’m not letting the plus-sized industry off the hook either. Recent photo spreads celebrated the beauty of plus-sized models. Good for them, but there’s still one problem: The models they featured aren’t plus-sized either!!! Most of them wear between a 10 and a 14 -- all sizes you can find in a traditional store. And no one is waltzing into a plus-size store to shop unless she really can’t squeeze into that size 14.  

Now, I’m not one to argue that big is always beautiful. I think we should all be working on healthy eating and exercise habits. I’m a size 12 and my BMI is always teetering back and forth between normal and overweight. But I have found a way to be happy and confident in my skin.

It would just be really helpful if I could tell what an outfit is really going to look like when I pull it off the rack. 

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